Australia’s caravan park crisis

We’re buying more new RVs than ever before, yet caravan parks continue to disappear. We take a look at some possible solutions.

The NSW Northern Rivers capital of Lismore once boasted four caravan parks for tourists, but as of this month there’s only one.

Geoff Smith had operated the Lismore Palms Park for 32 years, but when he couldn’t find a buyer he decided to close it for good.

The situation in Lismore where former parks now mostly accommodate semi-permanent residents is typical of regional cities and towns.

The number of RVs built and sold in Australia is at a near 20-year high, while the number of caravan parks has declined by 15 per cent this past decade.

The best tourist parks have been taken over by low-cost housing developers, meaning the chance of finding a decent beachside space in high season is next to zero.


Property group Ingenia Communities is one developer on the hunt and already boasts a portfolio of more than 61 sites.   The company is targeting key urban and coastal areas, converting tourist parks into what it calls “Active Lifestyle Retreats”. This means mostly permanent housing with just a few short-term sites.

Rod Caldicott, a researcher at Southern Cross University is something of an expert on the subject of caravan parks.

He also has a background in the business with his family opening the Traveller’s Rest Caravan Park north of Mackay in the 1980s.

He’s since studied and written papers on the life cycle of caravan parks, their evolution and challenges.

Mr Caldicott says government regulation is a major problem as it‘s not keeping pace with the times, making it difficult for people to open new parks or provide low-cost alternatives .

“Setting up a new park means jumping through hoops, and the cost of meeting changing regulation can be prohibitive.

“State governments have been slowly recognising this impost and are moving gradually toward reform,” he says, “Western Australia is the first.” 

Experts and park operators alike agree that caravan parks are not the money-spinners they once were.


There was a time when if you built a park, travellers would come, but what people look for in a park has changed.

For RV buyers and local councils alike, “free camping” is often seen as the best solution.   In some places the no frills sites with dump points are meeting the demand for additional space, however their establishment often causes anger in communities.

From Port Macquarie to the Pilbara local councils have devoted hours to debating the merits of free camping, with more undoubtedly to come.

Australia’s peak motorhome club has come up with its own solution, setting up its own chain of no-frills RV parks for members.

The Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) is opening its first site at Ingham in Queensland and says more will follow.

Link: Read the full story online in Issue 17.