The news out of Tasmania this past week, that there is to be a reworking of the stance on free camping has no doubt been a hot button issue. From radio talk back shows to Facebook chatter, everyone has had lots to say.
There does seem to be agreement on a lack of understanding by the legislators that there are three distinctly different markets here, that of caravanners who want to stay in parks as they require the facilities that they offer, like hot showers and amenities, then the RV Market, that are fully self contained and don’t require those facilities – and a third market who use both.
The legislation asks that Councils look at their area and audit the percentage of free camping to no more than 10% of all camping offerings within a 60km radius so as not to unfairly disadvantage caravan park owners. If the number goes above 10% councils must charge for the sites or prove they provide a public benefit.
I spoke with Mayor Greg Howard of the Dorset Council in the North East of Tasmania, a beautiful temperate part of the state that saw RV’ers using camps right through to late June and commence touring again around September. Dorset covers some 3,500 square kilometres with only two caravan parks in the area, one owned by Council. There are three Council owned free or donation camping sites with facilities as well as recreation grounds with toilets and water, and the kilometres of stunning coastline where people pull up and camp fully self contained.
Mayor Howard said that for Dorset things would remain exactly as they are now and continue that way. The people of Dorset appreciated the value RV’ers provided to businesses in our area and there was no competition to trigger the legislation.
Local business owner Angelina Hemphill of Tin Timbers Cafe in Branxholm said that visiting campers spent money in our small town, repairing tyres, buying fuel and groceries and dining out, and were a large part of their turnover.
The Mayor of Meander Valley Wayne Johnston said on Tasmania Talks that the previous council had implemented a ‘no free camping’ policy which had a negative economic impact on the area, causing a financial loss. He wanted to turn that around and get campers back into the Meander Valley, spreading the benefit to local businesses.
The Tasmanian Treasurer Peter Gutwein, had this to say ..“… No camping sites have closed or are flagged to close … In most circumstances, there is likely to be no change at all, which enables free and low cost camping to occur and councils can now be exempted from the rules that apply if it is in the public benefit to offer free or low cost camping”.
So there you have it, we don’t yet know how it will affect other councils, but offering camp sites with donation boxes is one possibility. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the days ahead and we’ll keep you posted. You can read the full text of the policy here.