Camping issue solved if sports clubs opened up

A CALOUNDRA tourism operator has called for sports club facilities to be allowed to act as budget caravan parks to cut down on illegal camping in Coast car parks.

Bill Darby believes government red tape is holding back affordable caravan parks and forcing backpackers to flout parking laws.

His comments are in response to revelations a major campervan hire company has been telling its customers they can set up camp in a public car park next to Mooloolaba Surf Club.

"Camper van companies wouldn't be recommending customers camp illegally if, as a region, we provided more flexibility in regards to accommodating these travellers who are, like it or not, a growing part of this market," Mr Darby said.

The problem arose because there were not enough affordable caravan parks and Sunshine Coast Council made it too hard to establish campgrounds, he said.

"A lot of councils around the state have found ways to access pub

lic land at affordable prices to encourage RV travel and the Sunshine Coast isn't one of those areas.

"The State Government, the council and a lot of sporting clubs have the facilities that would suit itinerant campervan and RV overnights but there are complications and costs in getting those areas as a permitted use in council zoning.

"There's a blockage there and we need to look at how we can be more flexible in allowing (those) places that otherwise aren't used at night to provide those facilities for RVs."

Australian backpacking founding father Michael Higginson said fining illegally parked campervans would only hurt the Coast's tourism market.

Mr Higginson started Australia's first backpackers in Byron Bay and the first four in Cairns, and raised his children in Tanawha before recently moving to Gayndah.

He returns to the Coast regularly and believes backpackers will go to more affordable areas if they are hit with fines. "What would you do if you were a traveller and you got a fine," he asked. "You'd move away and you'd tell your friends."

Social media has made reputations more important and Mr Higginson says a bad experience could be extremely damaging if shared online. "In the world of social media it can happen in no time at all.

"Some of the information is wrong, but bad news in the backpacker industry travels 10 times quicker than good news."

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