Free camping forces park closure

A Tasmanian caravan park owner says he has been forced to close his business because local council is not abiding by it’s own free camping bylaws.

Gavin Imlach, owner of Latrobe Mersey River Caravan Park, says the town’s free camping area has become a free for all, and its directly impacting his business.

“We haven’t got the occupancy required to cover expenses,” he says. “We have people book in, but when they realise there’s a cheaper option they move on”.

“Our only option has been to temporarily close the park.”

Latrobe Council currently offers a low-cost camping option at a car park on Cotton Street, with a voucher system in place for those wishing to use the site.

In Imlach’s opinion however, the voucher system is being poorly managed.

“It was originally managed by the council, then when they were unable to manage it they passed it on to a local Lions Club – but they’re powerless to enforce anything.”

With bills to pay and a lack of occupancy, Imlach says closure was his only option until a resolution can be reached with council over its low-cost camp area.

“I’ve been petitioning the council to take more action on the free camping site for five years,” he says. “They give me responses but not answers.”

“We’re not against free camping, we believe there should be more free camping areas for people who are self contained, but they need to be regulated.”

Latrobe Council GM Gerald Monson says the low-cost camping area was started by a previous council in response to a spate of travellers camping illegally on roadsides, and council has worked closely with Mr Imlach on numerous occasions over the years to find resolutions to his concerns, including implementing the $10 per night charge to use the council facility.

“We’re currently looking into a few options to receive payment for future visitors, such as an honesty box, but a decision has not yet been made,” Monson says.