A Ballarat councillor says the city’s controversial free camping for campervans and motorhomes is “not dead in the water” despite no new site being determined after the Pioneer Park site was shut down in March.
Councillor Vicki Coltman said discussions were underway to find a new site to allow recreational vehicles to stay in Ballarat for little or no cost.
“Right from the beginning of this proposal the council have made it clear we are not opposed to the idea of freedom camping but we do believe Pioneer Park was not the best representation of our beautiful city,” Cr Coltman said. “The idea is not dead in the water as such. The council are looking at other sites in surrounding townships which will bring economic benefit not just to the city, but also boost townships on the outskirts of Ballarat.”
Cr Coltman said it would be unviable to establish a freedom camping site in the heart of the CBD.
Ideas floated so far included opening a site in an area like Miners Rest or at the council run caravan park in Learmonth.
Cr Coltman said while there had been issues with people illegally camping in the park after it was closed patrols of the site by council officers and community members had led to a reduction in this behaviour.
It comes after the editor of Caravan and Motorhome on Tour magazine, Fred Wright, criticised the council for its lack of free camping sites for recreational vehicles. Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia’s Grant Tillett maintained Pioneer Park was the best option.
Mr Tillett interviewed about 3000 holiday-goers who used the freedom camping site over the 12-month trial. He said about 70 per cent said they would not have stopped in Ballarat if it wasn’t available.
“These people came to Ballarat because we had the option of free camping available to them,” Mr Tillett said. “Without a free camping site we are losing thousands of visitors ever year who spend money in Ballarat.” He said recreational vehicle travel had “exploded” in recent years.
“Ballarat was a front-runner in this type of travel but now it is lagging behind.”
The issue has long been surrounded in controversy with caravan park owners alleging their businesses had been negatively impacted and claims people were overstaying the two permitted nights and not meeting the self-containment water and toilet measures during the trial.
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