Poona Palms Caravan Park owner Don Wallace has witnessed a steady decline in bookings and has shut down 40 sites. Don questions the wisdom of free parks and forestry camping.
Poona Palms Caravan Park owner Don Wallace has witnessed a steady decline in bookings and has shut down 40 sites. Don questions the wisdom of free parks and forestry camping. Valerie Horton

Parks suffer as nomads camp free

CARAVAN park operators in the Fraser Coast are locked in a battle with free or low-cost RV parks, as towns across Queensland compete for grey nomad and backpacker dollars.

A trip through Gympie reveals the extent of the problem with free parks established at regular intervals along the Bruce Hwy.

The Fraser Coast Council has four free sites within its borders and another three endorsed for construction.

Poona Palms Caravan Park owner Don Wallace has watched as operators struggle against free options since he arrived on the Fraser Coast.

"When we came to Poona in 2004 there were four caravan parks in the Sandy Strait area, with an approximate total of 294 sites - of this about 229 were available for tourists," Don said.

"Today there is about 129 sites left with only 79 available for tourists - this clearly shows the dramatic effect low-cost camping's had on caravan parks."

Don said this meant 150 fewer families in the region during peak seasons of Easter and Christmas.

Happy Wonderers owner Chris Reeves said free parks caused a downturn in tourist numbers and forced him to reduce the number of staff he employed.

"When they brought this in Lisa Desmond told me it would not cost jobs but clearly it has," Chris said.

"It is also resulting in less accommodation choices because parks are cutting sites or closing."

Fraser Coast Regional Council advised free sites were at Tiaro Memorial Park and Petrie Park, Rosendale Park near Bauple and a site was being prepared in the centre of Bauple.

The council has also endorsed the development of sites at the Munna Creek Hall, Teebar Showgrounds and Claude Wharton Park at Brooweena subject to consultation with management groups and the community.