Carmila campground’s battle with council for fair go
BUSINESSES are struggling under the pressure of competing against council camping grounds as tourism numbers flail.
Every afternoon Carmila Caravan Park owner Michelle Lynes sits back and counts the travellers bypassing past her business.
Within a 10km drive from her business is an Isaac Regional Council ratepayer-funded camping site, Carmila Camping Reserve.
"I can sit down there in the afternoon and see 10 vans bypass our park for the council site," Ms Lynes said.
"Ten vans a day, 365 days a year. It adds up."
Ms Lynes said running her business basically next door to the council site was becoming impossible, as coronavirus had almost destroyed the southern roadtripping market.
"I don't think council were doing the coast any favours by having a council run camping park,' she said.
On top of her staff fees, maintenance and business costs, Ms Lynes said she also paid $14,000 in rates to her competition, Isaac Regional Council.
Mrs Lynes said her frustration was shared by other private camping sites in Cape Hillsborough and Bowen who were in constant competition with government-funded sites.
Council chief executive officer Gary Stevenson said there were 772 site bookings at Carmila in the 2019-20 financial year, with campers paying just $12.50 a night per site.
Mr Stevenson said the council camping ground was not competing with businesses for the same tourists.
"The council facility caters to a particular market which is somewhat different to the private facility," he said.
"It is a basic camping ground, with no showers, hot water or kiosk.
"It is a beachfront reserve, which is valued by those who seek that type of experience."
But the council's basic beachside camping package has caused its own headache for Ms Lynes.
"Camping people come to my caravan park for water, showers and toilets," she said.
She said the campers could siphon off thousands of litres of her water in just a few weeks.
In April, Ms Lynes was forced to install vandal and tamper proof taps to put a stop to it.
Since the council does not have permanent staff at the campgrounds, Ms Lynes said she had been asked to police her competition's site, to make sure campers paid for their stay and did not trash the grounds.
"It was quite arrogant," Ms Lynes said.
Mr Stevenson confirmed the council had contacted Carmila residents about watching over their campgrounds.
"Informal discussions have been held with a number of people in Carmila over the years to explore potential arrangements for receiving bookings and payments and for monitoring campers' compliance with their obligations," he said.
Mr Stevenson said the council was open to discuss any concerns about the council's camping reserves.