April 2010

 

Authority pours cold water on reports

SHOWGROUND BAN ON CARAVANNERS DENIED

By DENNIS AMOR

THE NSW government has poured cold water on reports that caravanners and other travellers will be barred from showgrounds in the state.

According to media reports, the government-imposed ban follows protests from private caravan park operators and pressure from a government department which runs profit-making parks on Crown land.

One angry caravanner protested to Caravanning News: "It would be an outrage to prevent us using showgrounds. Many travellers, including grey nomads on a tight budget, can't afford to stay at caravan parks which can charge up to $40 a night.

"We rely on rest areas and showgrounds because they have no bells and whistles and are far cheaper than commercial caravan parks."

Land and Property Management Authority (LPMA) spokesperson Natalie Christie denied a blanket ban on tourists was being imposed.

But she told Caravanning News: "Showgrounds must have approval to operate as a caravan park or camping ground from their local government authority."

According to a story in northern NSW's Tweed Daily News, showgrounds across the state are set to suffer a loss of income because a ban on tourist camping at Murwillumbah showground will be applied state-wide.

It claimed this was a new policy of the former NSW Department of Lands, now the Land and Property Management Authority.

The newspaper said a working group had taken advice from lobbyists including the Caravan and Camping Industry Association (CCIA) and the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA), which argued that showgrounds did not pay the same rents or meet the same standards as private caravan parks.

Members of an on-line caravanning forum questioned the wisdom of the CCIA and CMCA supporting the ban. "I thought these organisations were supposed to be on our side," wrote one.

Mr Barry Baillie: level playing field

Mr Baillie: level playing field

But CCIA chief executive Barry Baillie stressed to Caravanning News that the working group's decision was aimed not at individual caravanners and travellers but at councils.

"What the working group said was that if you are going to use a showground for overnight camping then it needs to comply with the law. Some showgrounds are operating outside the regulations," he said.

And he claimed the problem was "gaining momentum" because the CMCA's friendly towns program encouraged local councils to provide camping areas which were often showgrounds or other land which did not comply with the regulations.

"If they want to use showgrounds for regular overnight camping they need a DA from the local council and permission from the land owner, which is in most cases is the Department of Lands or the Land and Property Management Authority," Mr Baillee explained.

"They also need to comply with the local government caravan park and camping ground regulations and if they do, then they are issued with an approval to operate from the local council."

Mr Baillie agreed the working party's action would not be well received by many caravanners and travellers, but he stressed its decision was not aimed at them but at councils.

He admitted the CCIA could be seen to have a vested interested in the working group's decision.

"But what we would say is that it should be a level playing field," he said. "The law is set up and regulates what you can and can't do in a caravan park or an overnight camping area. All our members must comply with that.

"What we are saying is that if there is another operation down the road that's competing then they must comply too. It's not a matter of competition, it's a matter of compliance."

The CMCA's projects and member benefits manager, Phil Berry, claimed the Tweed Daily News story inferred his organisation advocated banning recreational vehicles from overnighting at NSW showgrounds.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said in a statement sent to Caravanning News. "CMCA advocates for the freedom of choice as to where to stay when travelling around Australia."

He said the use of Crown land was a key element to opening up more areas to RVs, providing low cost accommodation and curbing illegal camping.

"The results of the mentioned working party include the NSW Land and Property Management Authority (LPMA) committing to 'sustainable tourist destinations that cater for caravans, campervans, motorhomes, tents and other moveable dwellings' and introducing a process that enables sustainable tourist destinations to be legally opened on Crown land, such as showgrounds, racecourses, etc.

"CMCA has worked with showground or other trusts and local councils across Australia to open up areas to accommodate RV tourists.

"It is hoped LPMA's position will result in many more locations being opened in NSW."

Mr Berry said the CMCA was committed to working closely with the LPMA, showground or other trusts and local councils in NSW to open their land to the rapidly growing RV tourism market, whilst complying with the LPMA guidelines.

Tweed mayor Warren Polglase, a former owner of caravan parks at Chinderah and former board member of the CCIA, is apparently against the state-wide ban on showground overnighting.

He claimed the working group's "cavalier approach" was totally inappropriate to regional New South Wales. "The government has its own caravan parks on Crown land and I would say they have a severe conflict of interest," he reportedly said.

He warned the ban would affect people travelling to shows with large horse floats with caravan accommodation, and even people with pets.

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