Council flip-flops on RV plan
SOUTHERN Downs Regional Councillors yesterday decided there needs to be further investigation before they can rubber stamp making towns in our region “RV Friendly”.
Despite just passing a recommendation to apply for RV Friendly Status for a number of towns four votes to three at committee level last week, after a story the Daily News ran on the front page councillors have been bombarded with phone calls and emails.
At the general meeting yesterday councillors unanimously voted to defer the decision to investigate the potential economic impacts.
Cr Denise Ingram admitted the decision at the Community Services committee meeting, which was voted against by Crs Neil Meiklejohn, Ross Bartley and Jo McNally, had sparked “a lot of concern in the community”.
Mayor Ron Bellingham said he found it “extremely disappointing” there seemed to be a culture of division within the tourism industry after local caravan park owners claimed they would be disadvantaged.
“We’re all Australian, we’re all travellers ... I’m concerned by the guidelines we have to rigidly conform to (to get the RV Friendly Status).”
As reported in the Daily News on Saturday, the RV Friendly tag is an initiative of the Campervan and Motorhomes Club of Australia (CMCA), which now has more than 58,000 members Australia-wide.
To become RV Friendly, a town must meet a number of criteria set by the CMCA. In return, the town will be publicised as RV Friendly across Australia in the CMCA’s magazine and website.
There will also be a flyer placed in the closest visitor information centre which will explain all of the RV-Friendly features the town has to offer travellers and will list all of the caravan parks in the town, with contact details.
Deputy Mayor Peter Blundell said a good idea would be for the SDRC to get in touch with other councils who have become RV Friendly to see what positive or negative impacts it had caused.
“For me, we’ve obviously got two sides that have firmly-held beliefs,” Cr Blundell said.
Cr Cameron Gow, who at the committee meeting was in favour of making towns in the region RV Friendly, said if there was going to be an investigation, he wanted it to be thorough.
“If we’re going to pull this to bits, I’d like comments on access to 24-hour services, I’d like maps provided near the shopping centre,” he said.
“A list of service centres across the region ... where are our access points to potable water, do they cost any money, are they coin-operated?
“Do our taps have locks on them around the region? The RV Friendly town signs, are they going to come under planning issues?”
Engineering Services director Peter See said council had two areas where people could camp for free in the region – Dalrymple Park in Allora and Jim Mitchell Park in Dalveen.
Cr Jo McNally requested that the Stanthorpe and Warwick chambers of commerce be invited to any meetings to give other businesses in town a say on the potential positive or negative impacts of becoming RV Friendly.
Meanwhile, the Daily News has been inundated with calls, letters and emails from furious motorhome owners hitting back at accusations of freeloading levelled at them by local caravan park operators.
Incensed grey nomad Barry Powell, who criss-crosses Australia in a fully self-contained motorhome, sent in a copy of a submission he made to a government study on the importance of travellers like himself to the economy.
Mr Powell said he went to the extent of marking RV “un-friendly” towns on a map and told other travellers he met to shun them.
“I have a disposable income of more than a thousand dollars a week but will only spend it where I am made welcome and most definitely only where I choose to spend it,” Mr Powell wrote.
“Under no circumstances will I be bullied into spending where I choose not to.
“The most relevant statistic I have found is the one which shows how much the income increase of caravan parks has exceeded the CPI in the last decade. I promise not to aid this in the future.”
Equally angry was Ian “Mitch” Miller, who along with better half Jackie, enjoys life on the road in their RV ‘Jamit’ and who took an exception to being told he was after “freebies”.
“We personally pay rates in three jurisdictions – two in Queensland and one in Tasmania,” Mr Miller said.
“All travellers in said jurisdictions are using ‘public’ facilities that our rates are providing to them free (such as) public toilets, dump points, parks, gardens, rest areas, water fountains and barbecues.
“How would you feel if my jurisdictions legislated that you could no longer use the public barbecues as that ‘competed’ with the local takeaway, bakery, pie-shop, cafe, restaurant or pub?”
Mr Miller also lashed out at council regulations banning RV owners from “camping” overnight in public rest areas with the threat of fines, pointing out that most travellers like himself spent between $500 and $1000 a week in the communities they passed though.
“Don’t deter them from your jurisdiction or businesses or influence them to bypass you and spend in a more “enlightened” area,” Mr Miller said.
“The ‘grey nomads’ are just hitting the roads – thousands to come.”
Numerous other grey nomads contacted the Daily News, with several pointing out that research had shown caravan parks were not losing out despite the growing popularity of fully self-contained homes on wheels.
Local tourism campaigner Graham Buchner said there would be “no change” to caravan parks’ business as a result of adopting the “RV Friendly” status and warned grey nomads would “boycott” the Southern Downs if we were perceived as being unwelcoming.
The Daily News also caught up with grey nomads Kevin and Lyn Eaves from Tasmania, in the Rose City on a 12 month trip around Australia, who had spent money on groceries and other essentials during their fortnight stay in the region.
“If we get to a little town we usually stay at the caravan parks because they are usually cheap,” Mr Eaves said.
“(Council) should work in with the caravan parks to make the town RV Friendly – if you are not happy with somewhere you tell everyone,” Mrs Eaves added.
The debate follows a visit to Warwick and Stanthorpe by the Campervan and Motorhomes Club of Australia (CMCA) which is on the scout for a venue for its national rally in 2012, potentially worth more than $2 million to the host town.
Warwick Chamber of Commerce president John Randall said the chamber would meet with key stakeholders in the next week to try and determine a position.
“Personally, my phone rang hot over the weekend from both sides of the argument, it’s important that chamber does have a position on it,” Mr Randall said.
RV Friendly requirements...
For a town to be considered “RV (Recreational Vehicle) Friendly” a town must provide:
access to 24 hour medical and pharmacy services
parking within close proximity to the general shopping area with groceries & fresh produce
service centre for basic vehicle repairs
a Visitor Information Centre and town map with essential services
access to potable water
access to a dump point for toilet waste (Warwick would need to install one, most towns charge a small fee for this)
provision of short term (24/48/72+ hour) parking
provision of longer term parking within 5-20km of town centre, at a reasonable rate
‘RV Friendly Town’ signs erected within the town