by Lorraine Smith
The various Caravan Park Associations throughout Australia would have you believe that freedom camping is evil and that RVers should always be herded into caravan parks. Unfortunately, this is unfair to other businesses in town (and RVers - Ed).
I recently stayed at the Rocky Creek campground, about 8 kms out of Atherton (Qld) on the Mareeba Road. This is an extremely popular freedom campsite and, when I was there, it had up to 80 RVs on any one night – the limit being a 3 day stay. Nothing unusual about that you may say. Try telling locals around Atherton that freedom camping is bad for the district: Enterprising locals service this campground!
Free Enterprise in Action
There are deliveries from a pie van, milkman, fruit and veggie truck, honey man, seafood van and ladies selling home-made jams to raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. There’s also an ice cream van, a potato farmer selling his spuds from a ute, a pumpkin grower doing likewise, a van selling beef and so it continues. Not only that, if you move on from Atherton to Mareeba and stay at the Rodeo Grounds freedom camp, the same enterprising locals turn up there as well. I would think that if this revenue avenue was removed, some locals would be mighty upset.
I spent nearly two weeks around the Atherton Tablelands area and did not stay one night in a caravan park. I had to buy supplies locally in this time so many businesses benefitted from my stay.
Freedom camping does not necessarily mean free or no charge, it means having the freedom to choose where to camp. For example, Rocky Creek Campground is not free – it is by donation – but if I had to pay caravan park rates each night my enjoyment and freedom to spend my money as I please would be severely curtailed. The Caravan Parks Association call this freeloading.
Thinking Inside the Circle
The Caravan Park Associations do not think outside their circle. Nor do they think of the impact that the abolition of such freedom campsites would have on other businesses in town. Most freedom campers would not be customers of the caravan parks, anyway.
Ironically, closing freedom campsites has a detrimental effect on caravan parks as well, as their business also drops off as word spreads of the camp closure. Not everyone is a freedom camper, but caravan park patrons do tend to avoid “unfriendly” places. This happened in Barcaldine (Qld) and they are still trying to recover.
In the News
Very recently there was an article from Tasmania in The Advocate in which the Mayor of Kentish Council has noticed there are less freedom campers in his Shire. It is our belief that the blame for this can be laid squarely at the Caravan Park Association, the Tasmanian Government and the Regulator. “An economic regulator recently completed a study which concluded that any council-run camping site should provide transparent fees if it was in direct competition with a locally-run business, such as a caravan park.”
This decision by the Regulator means that any council running a freedom camp with a caravan park nearby must cost out the freedom camp as though it was a commercial enterprise. This has meant that many freedom camps in Tasmania that were previously free now have a cost. Of course the RV grapevine has worked overtime and tourists have stayed away. Statistics available have tourist numbers decreasing in all areas except Hobart (it is thought that this is increasing due to conference and convention attendance). The ferry figures are down as well, meaning RV tourist are staying away. Who suffers here? Both the town and the caravan park!
Recently we have had the case of a caravan park complaining about a Freedom Camp. It has subsequently been closed to overnight stays. There are no caravan parks close to this area but yet it was closed. Action such as this has further inflamed the internet savvy tourist and Tasmania will be the loser.
Fight for Our Rights
Travellers in Australia should not be forced by business or legislated by protectionist government policies into spending every night in a caravan park, which is the stated aim of the industry association campaign. We need to continue to fight for our rights to legally camp at places of our choice.
The RVing public – all of us – must speak up before it is too late!
We must also do the right thing whilst freedom camping and leave no trace of our visit. This will show that we are not the “freeloaders” that some would have you believe.
For more information visit http://www.freechoicecamps.com.au
For the full article download Issue 20 of iMotorhome eMagazine by clicking on the link below.