16 June, 2023
Free camping RV trial has commenced
The day of the trial for the RV free overnight camping behind the Coo-ee Heritage centre finally arrived last month.
The Gilgandra community can now watch on
keenly over the next few months to see what
impact there may be and perhaps formulate their
own perspective on the success or failure of the
Gauging what the impact of the trial will be
on the Gilgandra region during and after its operating
period is going to be complex.
will be collecting data over the period of the trial
to measure the success of its key objectives. The
data collection will form an essential component
on the assessment of what travellers in recreational
vehicles provide for the region and what
they also require from it.
It has been apparent for some time that the
quantity and frequency of caravans, campervans,
reactional vehicles, and self-contained
motorhomes travelling through the township and
region have been on the rise.
Arguably the pandemic
increased the number of these kinds of
vehicles and travellers on the roads, although the
general trend of registrations and ownership has
been on the rise according to the ABS and the
latest report from the Caravan Industry
Association of Australia
Producing data and information on the quantity
of caravan purchases, registrations, and general
ownership numbers is tricky.
A simple snapshot
of the state of the industry and the number
and demographic of owners/users of caravans,
RV’s, campervans etc., is difficult.
The total amount can fluctuate due to a lot of
changing variables. Initially international border
restrictions during the pandemic and the inability
to travel overseas seemed to create an increase
of caravan ownership; this problem seems to
have shifted to the high cost of travelling overseas
even though borders are open.
cost of fuel is ever present; while the high
cost of living, rising interest rates on mortgages,
and even things which are harder to quantify like
a desire for a change in lifestyle for some people/
families, have also contributed to the purchasing
of recreational vehicles.
The council in its media release (published
last week) alludes to this trend when it outlines
that one of the proponents of the free camping
trial is the benefit received by “leveraging
increased region travel”.
The pandemic had such an enormous effect
on businesses and economies that even a year on
from the last of the lockdowns the recovery is
still ongoing. It is also uneven across industries,
and some are finding it easier than others to
return to pre-pandemic levels of output, performance,
It could be argued that out of the key objectives
outlined by the council the most consequential
are: “there is a direct benefit to
Gilgandra businesses through increased visitor
numbers and associated spend, and visitors who
utilise the overnight parking area become advocates
for the Gilgandra region.”
The current economic environment is a challenge
for everybody and the additional business
revenue and stimulus to the Gilgandra region is
without a doubt a positive and welcomed benefit.
However, who receives this benefit is still a
complex and contentious issue.
When speaking to some of the local caravan
park owners it became clear that for them, the
idea of another free camping option is not a welcomed
one. Further, they argue that the already
existing free camping options around town are
having a detrimental effect on their businesses.
They readily voiced their frustration upon
seeing these sites full when driving through
town and when returning to their businesses are
reminded that their park is only being used at
half of its total capacity.
The several locations around town where free
overnight camping is available are frequented
regularly by travellers. The owners of those businesses
are positive and welcome the benefits
provided by additional patrons spending money.
On regular occasions two to four RV, campervans,
or caravans with two or more - although
sometimes only one - people will eat, have a few
drinks, use the bathroom amenities, and sometimes
even donate money to the local cancer
When broached about the communication
from the council prior to the commencement of
the trial one caravan park owner said that council
initially sat down with them and discussed
the council’s plan for a free overnight camping
site about three-years-ago. They had also
received a notification from the council with a
reminder of the trial the morning of the trial
Although the initial discussion was some
time ago, it is understandable that the bushfires,
pandemic, and floods considerably delayed the
trial and therefore the need to liaise with business
The owners of the caravan park
were reminded that the council had recently
exhibited a public notice for the trial for at least
28 days, of which the council only received one
submission raising concerns.
Programs and initiatives can be highly beneficial
to communities while acknowledging that
not everyone may be satisfied or accepting of the
situation. Communication and consideration are
clearly paramount issues and are ongoing processes
that can be improved at any time.
This trial will also take time for the proposed benefits to come to fruition. A few hiccups or challenges may occur over the next few months but that is not uncommon for a trial.