Stop the Mission Beach Council Caravan Park going out to private tender.
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Leasing out the Mission Beach Cassowary Coast Council Caravan Park marks the end of one of the last remaining council run caravan parks on the Australian coast.
There was once a time when council run caravan parks all along the Australian coast, presented an opportunity for ordinary Australian families to enjoy an affordable beach holiday. That lifestyle has come under threat over the past 2 decades. Large retirement funds have been poured into the RV lifestyle and the caravan park industry has acted very opportunistically. With site fees, even just to pitch a tent, getting into the $50 plus per night region, affordable holidays for ordinary working Australians for are becoming a thing of the past.
With the Australian economy facing an uncertain future, this unique park, one of the last bastions of affordable coastal camping, will become just another overpriced caravan park, the likes of which an increasing number of Australians simply can't afford to use. This will be a huge blow to tourism in Mission Beach.
This park costs very little to run and yet has the potential to turnover $400K to $500K per annum as a budget caravan park. The margin, I'm sure, is healthy albeit not huge. However a Council's mandate is not just about margin. It's also about providing their rate payers with good services in return for their rates and upholding the cultural and environmental integrity of the region it serves.
The current caravan park management has done an excellent job of running it, as did the previous management who were there for several years, building up a great deal of return trade in the process. Trade based on a community made up of many familiar faces who migrate to the same spot for 3 months, year after year. this move is set to destroy a transitory community of good people, who are vital to the economy of a small coastal village.
If a lessee is going to pay an annual lease equalling or exceeding what the council already recoups from the park, they're going to have to put up site fees considerably. Let's face it; the council won't put it out to tender if it means recouping less than they currently do. The annual lease won't be cheap.
There's a high end caravan park directly across the road that has a significantly lower occupancy rate and a far more transient customer base. Higher priced parks are far less popular with people who stay in one place for extended periods. A privately leased Council Park will struggle to sustain current occupancy levels with higher site fees. Charging higher site fees would not be economically viable without significant refurbishment. As a refurbished private enterprise, it will compete directly with the park across the road. This will result not only in the park being significantly less viable, but it will also be a blow to other Mission Beach businesses that currently enjoy significant trade from the council caravan park. Businesses that also pay rates to The Cassowary Coast Regional Council.
By creating a business based on a somewhat more transient customer base, consisting of more visitors who stay for much shorter periods, caravan movements in an out of Mission Beach could be increased significantly during the peak tourist season. This presents an increased traffic threat to the critically endangered Cassowaries for which Mission beach is known and from which the council takes it's name. It seems somewhat negligent that a council could make such a decision without careful environmental considerations and consultation.
Many visitors come to Mission Beach just because of the park and it's reasonable weekly rates. I for instance, spend my permitted 3 months at the park each year. I barely move from the village during that time and as a result, put around $8,000 into the local economy.
The park is full for 4 months of the year, with scores of other people doing the same. That constitutes at least $400,000 going into the pockets of council rate paying businesses over just 4 months of the year. Outside of the main tourist season, the park is popular with the overseas campervan hire tourists. That's a sector that very much props up the Adventure activity industry in Mission beach. A very large contributor to the local economy.
The park is one of the few on the FNQ coast that provides budget accommodation to overseas van hire tourists; Australia's biggest foreign tourism sector. Neither budget accommodation or adventure tourism alone ensures that Mission Beach enjoys a steady flow of tourism. It's a symbiosis between the two. If the dynamic of the park changes, it will attract tourism of a far more transient nature. Transient visitors do NOT consistently pour money into the wider local economy, partly because they spend a greater portion of their daily budget on accommodation; not on groceries, not on fishing charters, not on fuel, not on sky diving, not on bait and tackle, not on white water rafting. They invariably stay for shorter periods of time and bring supplies with them.
This is a very short sighted decision by a council that I always thought excelled in taking a fairly unique and open minded approach to tourism.
Not only is it a case of cutting one's nose off to spite one's face, it's also a case of cutting income from other businesses that pay rates.
The park is currently very well managed under the existing arrangement and there's no necessity for significant change. The council simply needs to refurbish existing amenities and put a small portacabin style bock at the northern end of the park. If CCRC made that small investment and contracted somebody to market the park and develop plans to diversify, it could remain a public asset for many years to come.
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