QLD National Parks booking fiasco, have your say

Submitted: Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 15:13
ThreadID: 98254 Views:5717 Replies:16 FollowUps:12
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Recently, the Queensland National Parks Service decided that bookings and payments for sites in national parks would in future be handled via the internet or by phone through a centralised system rather than self bookings or registration with Rangers at a specific park. We travelled to central and northern QLD in July-August and experienced the problems that this change has caused first hand. I implore all people who camp in national parks and want to retain reasonable access to write to the Minister responsible for National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing, Steven Dickson MP, either email via the QLD Govt website www.cabinet.qld.gov.au or by writing to PO Box 187 Buderim 4556. Unless we nip this in the bud, other states will follow and we will be locked out of NP’s everywhere.

For those who have not experienced the new QLD system, the concept is that you book the dates and sites that you want at national parks on the internet or by ringing a 1300 number. Payment is made by credit card and a receipt is send by email. Sounds OK until you start to think which is probably not what some public servant in Brisbane did not do or they have no concept of camping and travelling in Qld.

From my experience and talking to both staff in QLD NP offices and people who travelled to a range of parks this year, the following problems are common;
1. The obvious problem is that when travelling in remote areas, people don’t have mobile phones or internet connections. It seems the assumption is that people staying in NP’s are sitting in an office or at home!
2. People don’t know when they will be at a particular park so book a week but only stay for 3-4 nights. This means that many parks/sites that according to the internet are booked out are only half occupied.
3. People don’t know when they will arrive or are delayed and need to change their bookings. NP staff are tearing their hair out dealing with these problems. (A staffer I spoke with at length said she was absolutely frustrated but could not/was afraid to object due to the job losses underway in Qld.
4. People are travelling and need to stay somewhere, if they are effectively locked out of the main camping areas they will bush camp probably without toilet facilities
5. The website does not work very well (I paid online but the system froze and did not complete the transaction). Also, the NP staffer told me not to use a mobile phone as the call could cost $10-20 due to waiting times. If an overseas traveller traveller is using a credit card to book 1-2 nights, it could cost more in bank fees than the camping cost.

It seems to me that the NP service is deliberately restricting the number of sites available and access to NP’s. One thing QLD is not short of is land. If NP’s are busy or crowded, surely they should make more sites available, not just not refuse entry. People are travelling and so will come anyway and probably camp in an inappropriate area.

Premier Campbell Newman has said often that his govt will listen to the people so this is our chance to talk to the them and tell them to go back to the previous system. Unless we nip this in the bud, other states will follow and we will be locked out of NP everywhere.

What to do? If you have had personal experience good or bad with the new Qld system please add your comments to this post. If you feel strongly about the matter, I encourage you to write or email to the minister as discussed above.
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Reply By: racinrob - Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 15:56

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 15:56
oe. Even the old system had many faults, for example a few months ago I went to the Auburn River N.P. near Mundubbera, no honesty box, to book in you must ring via your mobile phone which took ten or so minutes after shouting our credit card details out several times we booked in for two nights, there must be a better way ?
The upside was the new facilities and only a few day visitors.

AnswerID: 495682

Reply By: Patrol22 - Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 16:13

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 16:13
Just got back from a trip to Cape York and our group was 5 vehicles strong. We booked on line prior to departing for sites in the following places: Palmer Goldfields Reserve (Dog Leg Crossing), Elliot Falls, Chilli Beach and Hann Crossing. No bad experiences on our part but did witness a one case of a double booking at Chilli Beach. While the system worked for us I can see how issues would arise in some circumstances ....especially if a delay occurs in getting from one place to the next.
AnswerID: 495684

Reply By: Member - Michael P (QLD) - Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 17:02

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 17:02
This is not a new system.
Has been in operation for a few years now and I would suggest that the complaints file is quite large. That being said a few more complaints won't go astray.
AnswerID: 495686

Reply By: Member - Justin O (QLD) - Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 18:57

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 18:57
Have talked to a ranger or two and they don't like it either. It just doesn't work and there is a lot less camping permit compliance since the new system was introduced esp in the parks where there are no on site rangers. When senior bureaucrats were approached by senior ranger supervisors (in support of canning the system) they were told too bad that's how it's gonna be...suck it up. It was the previous Govt decision not the current ones.
AnswerID: 495696

Follow Up By: outback epicurean - Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 20:20

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 20:20
Hi Understand it was the previous government which is why I thought it was worth trying to get the new guys to make a change. No way the previous ones would have changed what they introduced.
FollowupID: 771305

Follow Up By: Patrol22 - Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 17:01

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 17:01
Decisions like this are invariably made by senior bureaucrats using powers that are given on the relevant legislation and attendant regulations. Pre booking has been a feature in many QLD parks for a number of years now and given the huge cuts to the QLD public service in recent weeks I'm guessing that the system may not get looked at again for some time to come. More complaints to the department may not even get read.....but complaints to the relevant minister's office or local member (if a Queenslander) may well get some action.
FollowupID: 771342

Reply By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 21:29

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 21:29
On our 2009 trip i planned to boycott the system, but did not want to miss out on any chosen parks after come from the far corner of Australia. We travel in an unstructured way and booking anywhere would not work for us. We also like to see if we can fit in before committing and paying as it ia not always easier to manoeuvre into a tight spot with an F320. In the end, we chose to book on line at two parks.

We booked at Mt Moffatt; there is no honesty box, and the Ranger station is off down a track further on than the campground. Heading for Girraween where there are limited caravan spots and with a long weekend coming up and school holidays i checked and it was filling fast. Even having booked, we had to get there early in the day to get a spot we could fit.

The system of no bookings and 'first in gets a place' may also present problems in popular parks with more pressure from more and more travellers. WA has moved to a booking system for a few key well sought after campgrounds.


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AnswerID: 495713

Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 21:44

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 21:44
I hate the system and will not go back to Queensland if I can at all help it.

We plan a trip to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The only bookings that we had to make were a place on the Mt Isa underground tour and a two night stay at Lawn Hill Gorge. Booked by phone from home. QLD NP booking site a rats nest and locking up.

We head out from Canberra and all goes well until Sturt NP near Tibooburra. We got held up one day by rain. Then when we get to Innamincka we find that our son has driven all the way from Adelaide with his two children to see us. Oops we cheerfully stay an extra night to see our Grandchildren who we rarely see. We are now two days behind schedule. No mobile phone access from Vodaphone and no internet since Canberra. So we shoot straight up to Mt Isa to try and get a spot on an earlier underground mine tour. Nope not luck. The only thing we can do just bypass Mt Isa to go to Lawn Hill to our booked camp site. No luck on the phone changing our booking. That was the third time I have booked the Mt Isa tour and had to forgo it. All because of this stupid system. We were unable to contact the QLD NP booking office before Mt Isa because we did not have any mobile access. We do not carry computers or anything giving us internet coverage and there certainly isn't any access between Bourke and Mt Isa for us.

Absolutely a bloody shame. I do not have many years left because of this cancer so I am doubly cheesed off. I am still hoping to finish my bucket list but with QLD requiring advance bookings I am buggered if I will get to my QLD destinations. Idiotic public servants who cannot think beyond the end of their pointy little glasses.

And to top it off Lawn Hill NP was almost damned bloody empty!!!!!!! All rushing and speeding for nothing. Booked out but almost empty.

QLD NP you can go to hell.

AnswerID: 495715

Follow Up By: outback epicurean - Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 22:29

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 22:29
I think you have summed up the problems very well. I hope you will take the time to send your response directly to the Minister.
FollowupID: 771312

Follow Up By: mikehzz - Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 22:46

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 22:46
Phil, Get yourself a Telstra prepaid stick for $100 odd a year and you will have internet in a lot of those places. I gave up on Vodafone pretty quick out there. Cheers
FollowupID: 771313

Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 08:31

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 08:31
Any idea of an email address and I will just copy whay I said and pass it on.

Hi Mike

Thanks for the hint mate. The big thing is Mike that I do not have nor need a suitable phone nor any portable internet compatable device, ipad, tablet etc. My old clunker of a mobile phone may not even take a telstra "stick" as you call it. You would also have to add the cost of the phone itself for me to get onto G3 or whatever it is.

Unlike the greater majority we have never been interested in automatically updating nor "keeping up with the Joneses". Certainly not technologically ignorant. Just not interested. I still like the old real rock and roll and Michael Weirdo Jackson is not the King. That is and always will Elvis. Understand me?? Ha

And I am certainly not getting one just for some bespeckled narrow minded QLD NP clown so that I can book a camping spot. Me angry??? Nah!!!

I though that you would know me by now mate.

We have the sat phone for emergencies.

Thanks anyway.

FollowupID: 771318

Follow Up By: outback epicurean - Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 08:58

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 08:58
Hi Phil

Go to the QLD Govt website, http://www.cabinet.qld.gov.au/

Click on the list of ministers and scroll down to Mr Dickson and there is a link to the email address that allows you to write to him and express your views.

Thanks for your efforts and help
FollowupID: 771319

Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 09:41

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 09:41

FollowupID: 771320

Reply By: Member - Ian G (NSW) - Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 04:46

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 04:46
Totally agree with all comments. Pre-booking sites does not work. That same Public Servant in Brisbane must also design the lay-out of the NP's in Qld. We recently called in to stay at Alligator Creek near Townsville and could not physically drive the loop around the new bollard-laden park without getting wedged on one corner. The design may have looked good on paper, but totally impractical. I estimate that it cost about $20 for the call to the 1300 number on my sat phone to 'do the right thing'. The call would have taken 20 minutes at least to answer all of the questions with a 'real person'. We had already unhitched and I was told that the site #16 was already taken so I would have to move and that there were only 5 spare spots left! We didn't move and just decided to wing it as it was almost dark - nobody came along and there were in fact 5 campers overnight and about 16 free spots! [A word of warning on Alligator Creek camping - it is now only suitable for britz vans and the like - you would even have a lot of trouble with a side-opening Camper Trailer because the sites are so narrow]. What is going on? We also missed out on a place at Porcupine Gorge as it was booked out, so we camped out on the road. People told us the next morning that there would have been at least a dozen spots left. In our 14 years of travel now, we can assure you it does not Work!! First In First Served is a better system. I know there are some exceptions like Lawn Hill and Cape Le Grande etc, but you expect it at those places. We just did 6 weeks in Tassie and the honesty system is still alive and well thank goodness. Friends just pre-booked all of their Cape York and has a totally disaster with that. They had to book either side of their expected dates just to assure a place as they had no idea what the road conditions would be like, whether they would make it on the pre-arranged dates, whether they could have been ahead of schedule, or held up for some reason. It ended up costing them double the NP price because of the system. Let's get back to the dust-bowl in the paddock - not worry about fenced off areas. We only want a safe base for the night to park & camp. We certainly don't need a computer designed campground that constitutes less than the size of a suburban carpark in a huge NP!

We are now revisiting old haunts from years back and the changes to the NP systems are for the absolute worst in some states. We need to get the spontaneity back in to our travel plans, not be dictated to by bureaucrats!! What about the hike in all of their fees as well!! I thought that the NP's were for the enjoyment of all aussies? It is sometimes cheaper now to stay in a Caravan Park in a small village with all of the facilities than it is to stay in a NP.

Happy Travels
AnswerID: 495722

Follow Up By: outback epicurean - Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 08:22

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 08:22

Thank you very much for your comments. Again, I implore you to cut and paste these comments in an email to the Minister as detailed above.

FollowupID: 771317

Follow Up By: merimay - Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 17:05

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 17:05
Mate, you are so spot on. Our recent Qld NP experience mirrors exactly as you have described. We also met other disgruntled travellers.
If other states go down this path it will be an absolute disaster.
FollowupID: 771343

Reply By: Member-Heather MG NSW - Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 05:52

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 05:52
The booking system doesn't suit us either because we tow a van and we never know whether the site will accomodate the vehicle...no point in paying for a site that we can't fit in or has overhanging limbs.
We would love to stay in National parks because of the walking tracks and have always paid where there is an honesty system but have seen many instances where others have 'free' accommodation so I guess I can understand why they have the booking system. It probably looks good on paper but is impractical in my view.
Instead we bush camp in alternative places usually or stay in a van park if there is no alternative.
We love the system in most of the other states where we can drive in and select a vacant site which suits us.

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AnswerID: 495723

Reply By: Member - Jaap (QLD) - Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 15:04

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 15:04
Agree 100%
It's is impractical when travelling in remote areas
For example at Kalpower crossing There is no phone coverage so how is one to book
Similarly with Cape Meville and other remote spots

The system may work for weekend jaunts from populated areas but not elsewhere

I think that it's just another way to keep people out of national parks The rangers don't want people in their parks
AnswerID: 495741

Follow Up By: Member - Justin O (QLD) - Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 22:18

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 at 22:18
Careful Jaap, we're talking about bureaucrats here not rangers,
FollowupID: 771364

Reply By: Aussie Noel - Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 09:13

Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 09:13
I do not think the question is how we pay but why do we have to pay. I paid a lot of tax last year,carn t I have a bush camp in a NP for free?
AnswerID: 495796

Reply By: tg123 - Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 11:50

Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 11:50
We spent 3 months in Qld earlier this year and found the prebooking system to be an absolute PITA - only OK if we knew exactly where we were going to be, when we were going to be there and had internet/phone coverage (ie very rarely!). Consequently we camped at quite a few private places which cost a lot more than a NP stay but at least we could roll up unannounced and bunk in!
This system is also putting more pressure on the remaining few free camp areas which counci's will eventually close due to degradation caused by too many using them.
NP's generally have fantastic camping spots but I believe there are people in high places who think NP's are for the conservation of animals, plants and habitat only and cannot coexist with people. Hence an unworkable booking system has been introduced to keep people out!
AnswerID: 495807

Follow Up By: Member - Justin O (QLD) - Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 17:58

Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 17:58
It's not the Rangers who want to keep people out. Rangers preferred the old system where they could talk to potential campers and provide info if requested. This was taken away when bureaucrats decided that rangers were spending too much time talking to Joe Public (the ones who pay their wages). So the bureaucrats introduced the on line booking system and you will notice on all the park guides and info sheets that the number to ring is a "13" number. Yep, that's right they don't want you talking to the ranger who know their park and likely any detailed info you might require.
FollowupID: 771431

Reply By: Member - Old Girl - Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 15:00

Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 15:00
We will never use the system ever again. Booked for a camper trailer a couple of years ago up past Yeppoon. The girl said no worries you will fit in. So we paid with credit card over the phone. Only to arrive after hours, only tent sites available. They still have our money.
AnswerID: 495823

Reply By: Member - Min (NSW) - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 11:00

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 11:00
I am horrified. The only NP I have ever booked for was Lawn Hill many years ago. We booked for 5 days but it was so beautiful that we decided to stay for an extra 2 days. I visited the Ranger, she checked the book, and sure, we could stay on.

I agree with everyone else: you don't know when you will be where. Anything could hold you up when you are travelling long distances. I would be prepared to book for Lawn Hill again and take the risk of getting there on time but no one wants to have that pressure of having to get to several places on their trip by set dates. It's mad.

These rules were made by people who go away once a year and stay in a resort or hotel. Everything in their lives is fixed, including their minds.

AnswerID: 495869

Reply By: AdrianJansen - Thursday, Oct 04, 2012 at 17:42

Thursday, Oct 04, 2012 at 17:42
If you thought the last system was bad, wait till you see how complicated they have made it now !

Now you have to register with QLD- NPWS for an account, with password, the full works, and then you can make a booking, on the most complicated system I ever saw. Bloody horrible.

And stupid bugs, like presenting the dates in American format, instead of Australian. Gah!
AnswerID: 496148

Reply By: Willykj - Thursday, Oct 04, 2012 at 17:58

Thursday, Oct 04, 2012 at 17:58
Can I give a different perspective. Travel to Qld most years and often stay in N/P's. We spent 10 weeks this year and went to Cape York. Last time we went to Cape York was 8 years ago & the previous system where you just rock up was a real problem in the popular parks.
This year we did a little more planning - booked online via our iPad - & it worked well. We liked that we had a guaranteed site when we arrived..
Spoke to the Rangers at most parks - they admitted that there were problems early in the season but it had settled down and was running fairly smoothly (we were there in August).
I like the system although I acknowledge if would be hard if you didn't have internet access and had to rely on telephone.
AnswerID: 496151

Reply By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Oct 09, 2012 at 07:26

Tuesday, Oct 09, 2012 at 07:26
Perhaps the Queensland bureaucrats should have a good look at the WA "Camp Host" system where volunteers with their own van reside for a few weeks/months at a time in a campground. In our experience (as campers) this system works very well - campsite bookings are generally not required but sites are allocated in a first come basis. Toilets and camp kitchens are kept clean and well maintained, fees are collected and the rules regarding fires, generators etc are adhered to. I understand that the volunteers are given training and that there is competition among volunteers to get a placement in the popular parks.

I believe that Qld National Parks already use volunteers in some of their NPs as caretakers, or to assist with wildlfe monitoring, surveys, weed and feral animal control etc. Maybe there is a system already in place that could be expanded a bit to provide for friendly and effective use of campgrounds.


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AnswerID: 496340

Follow Up By: outback epicurean - Tuesday, Oct 09, 2012 at 08:13

Tuesday, Oct 09, 2012 at 08:13

I agree this is a good idea and have seen it working very well in WA. Its certianly something to recommend to QLD.

thanks for your comments
FollowupID: 772038

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