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Wednesday, 9 Dec 2009

Big caravan parks response says - No such thing as free camping, it is just not user pays

Camper with million dollar  view Lake Hume Tourist Park, NSW
Camper with million dollar
view Lake Hume Tourist
Park, NSW

By Garth Morrison Editor GoSeeAustralia.com.au and GoSeeNewZealand.co.nz

There is no such thing as free camping. It is just not user pays. That in essence is the overall view of a big majority of caravan parks GoSee asked for comment. 

GoSee has a big, thoughtful, positive, sympathetic, informed response after asking caravan parks to respond to the recent GoSee free camping Information Article from a Grey Nomads standpoint from Gil and Lyn Larsson.

That Information Article which looks at Free Camping from a users point of view is posted linked to this discussion feature for cross reference.

Often caravan park owners and managers have personal experience of free camping as they were travellers themselves before taking on a caravan park.

Despite GoSees daily association with caravan parks and the caravanning industry the response to this opportunity to talk about free camping from both sides surprises GoSee in its size, the time taken on extensive, thoughtful written replies and the intensity of the many comments.

GoSee thinks dialogue on issues like free camping is essential and should be encouraged by National and State bodies across the tourism industry as the industry and travellers can only benefit from better mutual understanding.

GoSee is disappointed and concerned that apparently some caravan park owners fear that speaking up will cost them business through negative word-of-mouth and negative reactions from councils and other authorities.
Beach stroll outside Pleasurelea Tourist Resort Batemans Bay  NSW
Beach stroll outside Pleasurelea Tourist Resort Batemans Bay NSW

The extent of the response from caravan parks means this Information Article is edited. This is because some respondents obviously need to release understandable frustrations.

But the potential for litigation must be considered and this precludes unedited publication.

It is also notable that in such a big response so many caravan parks share the same views.

This is all the more notable as in a lifetime of using caravan parks in Australia and New Zealand the staff members of GoSee have never stayed in two caravan parks which were the same.

Many views are reported in this Information Article as one to focus this discussion. 

We include random pictures from all types of caravan parks which show the extensive services provided by caravan parks in general which benefit travellers. Many of these services are free and are not tied to accommodation charges.

All the caravan parks pictured  and placed at random contributed to this Information Article and they all reach out to travellers as supporters of this website which we believe carries a listing for every caravan park in Australia and New Zealand.

Here is what caravan parks (names supplied) think about free camping:

Caravan parks offer security
Backpacker dining room Gowrie Park Wilderness Village Tasmanian
Backpacker dining room Gowrie Park Wilderness Village Tasmanian

THANK YOU GOSEE for giving us the chance to give our point of view from a caravan park owners side.

We also travelled ourselves for 4.5 years and always stayed in parks as they offer the security that is needed.

Some were expensive, but others were quite reasonable in price. As our local groups now have cars and its not pin pointed at Friday or Saturday nights, lets go and see what's up the road. Caravan parks especially small parks offer safety and have a lot of say with the local trouble.

Small parks are not out there to rip off the tourist they are out there to make a living and cover costs. Maybe these free camp people should look at the safety side of their travels and give Inland tourist parks a go.

They do not overcharge and are happy to welcome anyone, usually they have travelled themselves.

Smaller inland parks have much to offer

G'DAY and thanks for the opportunity to offer some feedback on the free camping available throughout Australia - personally I think it is fantastic .
Pity about the pathetic attitude on rubbish but have found some people can't find a bin even if it's provided.

We like to offer the grey nomad and international visitors to our park incentives to stay longer here (2 for the price of 1 and % off) and often find they leave very relaxed and ready for more exploring of this great country.

Our park offers Green levels sites, clean ammenties, dump your non chemical toilet mix as we are working with the shire to, improve this.
Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort Queensland
Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort Queensland

Quiet, off the main highway traffic noise, good security with a guard dog and other measures. We believe that a lot of parks are offering these good qualities now and hopefully that more of the grey nomads will start using the smaller inland tourist parks, the areas have a lot to offer.

A lot of the free camping sites are left in a terrible condition and thats why a lot of areas now are changing to a non parking area.

A few states are starting to, say no to free camping 50 klms from the nearest town.

We are open to anyone who would like to question the small caravan park operators.

Rate payers foot Free Camping bill

BY USING rubbish bins, dumping waste and filling up water tanks they (Free Campers) are getting it for free but the ratepayers in the area are  paying for the council services so in effect rate payers are paying for it. 

If rubbish disposal, sewerage and water were free our rates would be a lot less.

The commercial caravan parks pay to dump rubbish, pay commercial rates for water and then trade waste for water leaving the property and pay head works and pedestal charges on rates bills 365 days a year so there is no wonder we will never see eye to eye! 

Our council has just hit us with another $16,000 waste water bill per year on top of the fact our water is metered and paid at a commercial rate for consumption.

I stay in hotels and would like to see rate payers pay all water, rubbish and sewerage charges for hotels to subsidise my holidays as well but I can't see that happening!!!

Government and agencies drive caravan  park costs through roof

Some of the facts that we (Queensland caravan park name supplied) have experienced over the last few years as an operator.
More than 50 per cent of the costs of running a caravan park are attributable to Government or Government agencies.

In the last year we have experienced the following.

Almost 25 per cent increase in electricity costs.
6 per cent increase in rates.
50 per cent increase in site based local government licence fees.
50 per cent increase in waste disposal costs.
Increase from $500 to $10,500 for onsite sewerage treatment licence fees.
Increases in vehicle registration costs above CPI.
Follow on costs associated with the (Queensland) state government’s asbestos frenzy.
Increases in the ever increasing net of OH&S compliance.
This is just to name a few.
In the same period our accommodation rates have increased only around 10%. Some of this is now negated as we have joined a caravan park chain and give a 10 per cent discount to members.

Long term free campers don't give much back
Barbecue area Howlong Caravan Park NSW
Barbecue area Howlong Caravan Park NSW

"BUDGET Conscious versus Bludgers" does not necessarily encompass every reason why people are inclined to free camp. 

There is a sense of resentment amongst long term free travellers that Caravan Parks on the whole are ripping off the general public and overcharging for nothing more than a piece of grass, and a little or no power and water. 

In reality the answer from the business owner is that the costs behind providing those facilities and services are increasing at such a rapid rate that the site fees we charge must also increase at the same rate so we can comply with the ever increasing range of new legislations pertaining to guests health safety and well being at both local and state level. 

In the past 10 years these issues have become more onerous than ever.

And how much do we charge for a site for the night???

$34.00 give 10% to MR Rudd = $30.60 and if you give a (chain) discount of 10% that equals $27 to me

Those who free camp long term are not spending in the local town they visit other than a trip to the supermarket which in our town is controlled by Woolworths who have 3 outlets and Coles who have 1 store, these profits do not filter back into our community. 

In my opinion the long term free traveller visits a town and uses all the amenities the town offers for free without giving much back other than the contents of their porta potties!!!

Free camping response up to the Union

I AM SORRY but these sorts of views are meant for our union body to respond to not individual businesses - remember, those who stand together may have a business left at the end of the day.
Caravan Parks  keep children safe and happy
Caravan Parks keep children safe and happy

No frills brings steady business

WITH REGARD to the article about free camping spots and what grey nomads would like, the following is my reply:
*For the past 2 years my price on powered and unpowered drive-thru sites/ slab sites has remained stationary at $22.00/ night for 1-2 persons; extras $2.00/person/night.

*Our caravan park is only small in size so can fill up very quickly.  

* Paying for rates/ water /electricity is what makes up the costs we charge -- all these have increased heaps in the last 2 yrs/ last few months even.

* Councils are the ones who normally stipulate where the free stops are located, and in the interests of fair trading usually make them at least 5 km out of town-- to give the caravan parks in that town a fair go!!

* At our caravan park, visitors grey water normally is collected in a bucket and emptied into a dump point connected with the amenities block -- we are not allowed to let it just drain onto the ground!!

* As our caravan park is only 2 1/2 star in rating you are not being charged for extras like pools, playgrounds, etc

* We need to make a little to eat and drink too, and to upgrade our facilities that we provide for the same such nomads.

* Most who stay with us return again year after year!!

Encourage Free Camping close to small country towns
Discovery Holiday Park Whyalla  SA foreshore, safe family experience
Discovery Holiday Park Whyalla SA foreshore, safe family experience

THANK YOU for the opportunity to reply to this controversial topic. As a park operator and the owner of a campervan I see  it from both sides of the picture. 

We need to encourage free camping close to small country towns. Many older travellers wanting to stay on free sites do support the local shops clubs etc and spend money that benefit the local economy. 

What is the point of having a caravan park if you do not have a town. Many small Australian Towns are dying and free or cheap camping nearby is a way to bring dollars to the local economy.

Maybe the local park misses out on a few dollars but what would the local park be without a town to fall back onto.

Tourists attitude to resources will drive prices up

FROM OUR OWN EXPERIENCE - having built and now own and been running a tourist park/resort since two years, I can imagine it is very difficult for other people to understand what this all involves.

We have come across people wanting free camping or a spot for as little as $5 a night. Running a tourist park is not a gold mine, nevertheless, tourists do not see behind the scenes.

It is interesting to see that people in possesion of 100,000 dollars worth of caravan or a motorhome (or more) are reluctant to pay $24/night (everything included, also laundry) and complain that that is too costly.

If people keep on being unreasonable with power, water and other facilities being offered, these (camping) prices will only go up.

For a $200,000 + rig why is $5 too much to pay to use a dump point?
Figtree indoor heated swimming pool Warrnambool Victoria
Figtree indoor heated swimming pool Warrnambool Victoria

I agree with the article as we have travelled and to make the budget last free camp out a fair bit.

As an owner operator of a small park we have tried reducing our tarrif for a year to see if that helps but it did not as the Australian travellers doing their round of Australia think being a small town it is not worth stopping at. 

The travellers with no time schedule who stop here I give a weekly rate to ($90) instead of $25 a night.

I get really annoyed with the big set ups that cost a house or two -( these guys pay the same as the pensioner trying to get around on the pension) and have everything that opens and shuts then come in here at 8 or 9 in the morning have a shower empty their waste in my dump point then sit around all day not even getting their car out to see our area then when recharged leave the next morning for another week of free camping - I would love to fit electricity meters to all sites and charge a base fee for the site and extra for the electricity used.

Some of these fancy rigs have big r/c aircons that just chew  up power, plus my dump point cannot be hooked up to the town sewer because of the chemicals some use so I have to have it pumped out regularly. 

If someone rings up asking if we have a dump point - I say yes but it will cost $5 which is refundable off their powered site if they book in for a night and they do not come - expect us to supply it for nothing!
Figtree undercover  barbecue Warrnambool Victoria
Figtree undercover barbecue Warrnambool Victoria

Nomads  needs understood but parks must pay

WHEREAS I can understand the need for the grey nomads need to be thrifty and those who indulge in free camping only use parks to empty their black and grey water, fill their water tank and to use the laundry. 

They do not take into account that the amount charged for a site is related to the amount of rent we are required to pay or the amount of compulsory insurances that we carry which are not applicable when free camping.

Look at the park before free camping - it's use it or lose it

NOT all parks are rip-offs there are many like us who are trying to survive, charging low rates to get customers in, however we can still drive by the river and see 10 or more campers there.

All we ask is that we have your support. When you drive into a small town do you check out the caravan park just down the road, or do you automatically go to the free camp sites? 

It is no wonder many caravan parks are selling up or changing to lifestyle villages - and when the council's remove the free camping or start charging fees, where will the camper go then?

Like the old saying "You don't know what you have got until it is gone!!"

 Council gives away it's services at the publics cost
Kurrimine Beach Holiday Park camp kitchen Queensland
Kurrimine Beach Holiday Park camp kitchen Queensland

I  think free camping should be outside of town limits with no services provided by tax payers.  

When I went around Australia in 2003 even National Parks where charging $7 per person per night and in most cases only a long drop toilet supplied. I don't believe free camping helps a towns economy in any way, they still have to buy food etc regardless.

What's next? Are councils going to start selling their own cheap fuel for those who want it or put in free cabins for those who can't afford motels.

I think a lot of parks are now putting in more cabins and doing away with caravan sites because of this situation.

Seems to me this bloke wants free caravan parking in town with all the facilities of a caravan park besides power and all supplied by the tax payer.

What other business is there that has to compete against a council giving away it's services at the publics cost.
Outdoor  barbecue Suffolk Park NSW
Outdoor barbecue Suffolk Park NSW

Do not under estimate the value of a caravan park holiday

I AM ONLY NEW to the industry but I would have thought there is still a place for caravan parks and not all are overpriced considering the many challenges park operators face.

I would of thought there is more than just putting a cost on services.

The many things I am talking about are meeting points to make new friends and gather knowledge on other great places to visit.

The security of knowing the park manager is looking after your belongings while you go on a day trip or out for tea. The added extras such as pools, camp kitchens, playgrounds, movie nights and local knowledge to keep the kids happy. 

My greatest memory of growing up is holidaying in parks with my family, making new friends riding my bike around the park knowing I was safe. 

Do not under estimate the value of a caravan park holiday when weighing up the cost, as a park owner is there to ensure everyone has a great experience and a relaxing holiday.

Walk a mile in a caravan park operators shoes
Powered site Poplar Tourist Park, Camden NSW
Powered site Poplar Tourist Park, Camden NSW

I object to being called a rip off merchant and feel Gil & Lyn should apologise for that. 

The fact remains that the people who use free camps don't and won't pay and feel that providing toilets, showers, laundry facilities, kiosk, power, water, gardens, driveways and security should all come for free or maybe they would prefer us to be not for profit organisations. 

Maybe Gil & Lyn would like to walk a mile in a caravan park operators shoes.

Put up cabins not Nomads

MAYBE it's time caravan parks closed and let everyone camp on the road. 

We probably need to look at more cabins and let the grey nomads clog the road sides and then we could have great facilities paid for by the ratepayers.

Losing out to Free Camping site

THANK you for bringing this interesting article on your web site to our attention. 

We are the new owners of a property in North West Tasmania. Only 300metres from our entrance we have a free camping site  which seems to attract every tourist on their way to Cradle Mountain, much to our detriment.

Over the winter months we have upgraded our facilities here, with a new 250,000 litre rain water tank, levelling of the powered sites, water and drainage to each powered site and are currently in the process of renewing our amenities block. 

Now that the quiet winter months are over, we were looking forward to a busy summer, but we are rapidly discovering that we are losing our income to a free camp site. 

In the future when the Caravan Park businesses have closed down, all that may be on offer to the caravanners are some basic amenities! Hopefully it won't get to that!

Facilities are a requirement for caravan parks
Fun for children Bright Accommodation Park Victoria
Fun for children Bright Accommodation Park Victoria

WHILST some travellers may not need all the facilities that a caravan park provides, we are still required to have them. 

Not all parks are expensive. Our sites are $12 per person, per night, off season.

Restrict Free Camping to out-of-town

FREE camping is fine out in the bush or on roadside stops between towns.

Free camping should never be allowed to take place anywhere within a town. It should be restricted to out-of-town areas.

"No power thanks" freeloaders

WHEN FREE CAMPERS patronise parks they want to only pay for non-powered sites in parks having first checked to make sure a park has a camp kitchen, a TV room, a pool, a games room, a laundry, a BBQ, etc but they only want non-powered sites because they “don’t need any power”.

They then often stay as long as possible the next day well after 10am check-out to continue to use all the facilities.

This applies more to backpacking free campers than caravanners.

Saying it’s the locals who drop all the rubbish is stretching it a bit. Free camping in showgrounds, football grounds, etc, should not be allowed while parks are expected to conform to Council by-laws, be registered as tourism businesses, preferably be accredited, conform to rules of OH&S, have private public liability policies, etc, and have to pay fees to various organisations to achieve this.

If all Councils worked together and free camping was restricted to in-between-towns and National Parks and the bush then everyone would be happy.
Solitary Island Marine Park Resort Wooli NSW
Solitary Island Marine Park Resort Wooli NSW

Win, win. Attractions, service stations, supermarkets, bottle shops and normal shops would still get their money from both those staying in parks overnight and those spending only business hours in the town.

Individual park operators who speak out could be endangering their business because of possible backlash so I believe the only way to address this situation is by organisations such as GoSeeAustralia, etc, pushing other organisations such as the RACV and CRVA and local and state and national government to get the balance right.

It’s amazing that Parks are so quiet (?) about this issue, given that it is becoming more and more of a problem. I suspect Parks are afraid to speak out for fear of word of mouth.

There really is no such thing as self-sufficient camping. 

THE classic argument against free camping is that these people REALLY DO USE local and caravan park facilities - i.e. the dump points, to have a decent shower, fill up their water tanks and do their washing. There really is no such thing as Self Sufficient Camping.

Also, when I go somewhere I pay my way and don't park in someone's back yard for free. It is a classic at the camping and caravan shows when they ask for free camping material. 

We tell them that next time we come to their city for an event we will come and stay at their house for free. 

That doesn't go down too well but that is what they expect from the areas they visit. As for hoons making all the mess - well of course that happens but lots of the free campers do the same.
The Lorikeet, ensuite slab site Arrawarra, NSW
The Lorikeet, ensuite slab site Arrawarra, NSW

You can't really separate the locals from the free campers.

The safety issue is another thing. We have just attended the QParks mini conference and we are required to make sooo many safety inspections and keep sooo much documentary evidence that it all takes time and energy.

Then you have all flavours of governments excessively charging businesses. As an example, the Queensland EPA late last year put up all fees for beachside facilities, like caravan parks, that use bio cycles, etc. from $500 per year to $5,000 per year.

Maybe this fellow and his wife are nice people who don't abuse the system too much but there are many many more who actively abuse the system yet want the facilities when it suits them.

If many of these people had their way e.g. opening up local showgrounds and schools to camping, we would all go out of business and they would be stuck with 3rd rate facilities and poor safety measure.

Dump points are  a service - not a right

WE have had rude tourists in motorhomes come in to reception and “tell” us that “they are here just to use our dump point and not to stay and they don’t expect to pay”.

If we say there is a $5 charge for the dump point we cop a filthy look before they turn their back on us without saying a word and leave.

The dump point cost us $2200 to install and we are always amazed by the pleasant and positive comments we receive about our dump point so it can’t be because its not up to their standard.
Surf beach comes with the Suffolk Park experience NSW
Surf beach comes with the Suffolk Park experience NSW

I won’t go into the ever increasing costs for any and everything that goes into running this park or the half a million we spent on it just last year alone.

And the backpackers, if you were to read our “guest’s comments” book you could see how polite and appreciative they are and this also reflects their behavior in our park and also how they treat and leave their sites.

To provide the park there  have to be charges

I truly see both sides of the fence. My husband and I spent a year on the road with our two children in 2005 in our self contained motor home, traveling around this amazing country of ours.

I agree that the majority of ‘free campers’ that use designated free camping spots are respectful and tidy. We did find however, that it was the ‘locals’ that used these spots as ‘hangouts’ that were leaving rubbish and showed disrespect for the area.

I do agree that having to stay in a caravan park can be expensive – however, as travelers you want to be as close the town as possible, and be reasonably safe, off the road, on a flat spot and running water and a toilet would be great. To own land that provides that costs money….hence as caravan parks we have charges.
Quorn Caravan Park South Australia
Quorn Caravan Park South Australia

Freeloading is not an option

IF you want a free site then you are going to have to provide for yourself.

Take your own rubbish away, deal with your own grey water/blackwater issues, because if you don't people will not stay in a place with toilet paper blowing around.

Shires and operators are under enough strain as it is without bludgers creating more problems. Freeloading is not an option these days.

Camp well away from watering points

WHILST no problems whatsoever with the idea of nomads trying to find free spots to camp, the article includes comments about staying near creeks and dams.

As a retired outback police officer, who drove hundreds of thousands of kilometres across northern South Australia on patrol, I would quite often come across people camping near waterholes, dams and other stock watering points, and often using water troughs as baths and for washing clothes - to find a watering point polluted by detergent, with thirsty stock animals having to wait for a drink, was quite common in those days (back in the 70s and 80s).

Just as importantly, and something a number of people don't seem to appreciate, are natural waterholes (in dry creekbeds).

Any disturbance of the water in these pools can cause extreme harm to local stock and wildlife. I would strongly recommend that all campers speak to local landowners/holders and ask permission.
Tennis starts the day Pleasurelea Tourist Resort Batemans Bay, NSW
Tennis starts the day Pleasurelea Tourist Resort Batemans Bay, NSW

You will often find that many outback pastoralists are quite happy with campers, provided they seek permission first. Seeking forgiveness afterwards will often be met with natural hostility. My message is simple...camp well away from watering points.

It makes sense to save a few dollars where you can

WE certainly understand why people utilise the facilities at free camping spots, it makes sense to try to save a few dollars where you can.

Some caravan parks charge a fortune and have so many rules and regulations that most of the time it is not worth the effort.

We feel as owners and managers of our park, we can amend or change the rules to suit our customers requests (within reason, safety is paramount). 

It makes a difference when dealing with the owners directly and not a Corporation with managers in place who uphold the rules and don't seem to care about customers requirements.

20km exclusion zone around towns and caravan parks

I do not have a problem with free camping, we actually go free camping quite a lot.

What I do have an issue with is when people free camp at your front gate or on the side road of your caravan park. I fully agree with the author in regard to locals leaving their rubbish behind. 

We were along the Bulloo, Darling, Cooper rivers earlier this year & the general rubbish that was obviously left by locals at weekends was disgusting.

Maybe one way around the situation would be to have a 20 kilometre exclusion zone around towns & parks.
Guests laundry Silver Creek Caravan Park Beechworth Victoria
Guests laundry Silver Creek Caravan Park Beechworth Victoria

Grey Nomads  valuable resource

WE pay one hundred and five thousand dollars per year rent to the landlord we only own the business and the lease we are not millionaires as they might suppose.

We pay all the rates and taxes all the electricity, gas, water and water rates. We pay for all the maintenance repairs and upkeep.

These free campers park in the visitors car park, sometimes they have the cheek to park right next to the ablutions and help themselves to our toilets and showers for free.

The more of these free campers there are the harder it is to make a living, if more of these grey nomads would use more of the caravan parks the proprietors would be able to keep the costs down. We do not rip off the poor pensioners they are ripping us off by expecting a free ride.

We consider the grey nomads a valuable resource that keep us going during the quieter periods, and as so many of the caravan parks are closing down wouldn't it be better if they could consider that the next time they pass our way, we may not be there because we can't keep going making a loss during the off peak times and only making a profit during the peak times.

We are involved in promotions that give pensioners a discount and free nights whatever we can do the save the industry and stop more caravan parks from closing down.
Spacious powered and unpowered sites Bright Accommodation Park Victoria
Spacious powered and unpowered sites Bright Accommodation Park Victoria

Editors Note: A byline on a GoSee Information Article indicates that it contains opinion

www.GoSeeAustralia.com.au and www.GoSeeNewZealand.co.nz are free touring websites set up by the Canberra based website building company ContACT Internet Solutions .

Both websites are designed  to provide an easy to use  free national source of information for travellers and the caravanning industry to assist drive tourism in Australia and New Zealand.

Our company policy is to recommend caravan parks for the security of travellers. Our staff members include long-term caravan park owners.

GoSee free camps when and where appropriate.

GoSee will not free camp to the detriment of a caravan park. 

When travelling GoSee pays its way. Usually this is at the commercial rack rate.

Also see:

Not Bludgers - small budgets mean economies say Nomads but if caravan parks respond to small needs they will be used more

For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia and Go See New Zealand Directory
Email: garth@contact.com.au

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