HOW much has the South Gippsland Shire Council’s policy of ejecting annual leaseholders from its Yanakie and Long Jetty (Port Welshpool) caravan parks cost the ratepayers?
What is has been the human toll?
And, given the experience at those two parks managed by the council, will the new council extend the policy changes to their other caravan park at Waratah Bay.
These and other questions around the costs and policies associated with the shire’s caravan parks have already been discussed by the new South Gippsland Shire Council, at a recent briefing session, when a full report was presented to the council.
And it’s likely, according to the Mayor Cr Ray Argento, that a report will be tabled at the council’s first ordinary council meeting of the year, on Wednesday, February 22.
“We have been aware of the issues involved with the caravan parks at Yanakie and Port Welshpool and it was raised as a campaign issue in the Corner Inlet area during the election campaign.
“The report that came forward to us at a recent meeting wasn’t initiated by us, it was being prepared anyway,” Cr Argento said.
“In January, we’ll be conducting a tour to the caravan parks and there’ll be further discussion about which direction the council wants to head down.
“We want to get our heads around the decisions that have been made so that’s why we have been getting the background.”
Cr Argento said he wasn’t at liberty to discuss what was in the council report at this stage, but he admitted that he wasn’t altogether convinced about the reasons for having those discussions ‘in camera’ at this stage.
In the meantime, however, the shire’s bureaucracy is claiming an increase in the number of holidaymakers and causal campers using the two parks at Yanakie and Port Welshpool over the Christmas-New Year and into January.
“Both the Yanakie and Long Jetty Foreshore caravan parks are booked at close to capacity for the Christmas/New Year period, with a very limited amount of sites and cabins remaining,” said a shire spokesperson this week.
“Booking numbers are up for both parks compared to the same time last year, with more sites now available due to park layout changes that have occurred during the last 12 months.
“Council has undertaken more works in recent months to improve the general presentation and amenity of the parks. This has included park remediation, repairs and infrastructure improvements.
“The recently elected Council is currently considering its future priorities and directions, one of which will be its preferred approach to operating Council-managed caravan parks.”
The spokesperson also noted that both parks have had new websites completed, which went live just before Christmas at www.longjettycaravanpark.com.au and www.yanakiecaravanpark.com.au
However, unlike many commercial accommodation sites, like that offered by Inverloch’s Big 4 Caravan Park, provide interactive vacancy information online booking capability, the new websites offered by the South Gippsland Shire Council for Yanakie and Port Welshpool only provide an email opportunity without confirmation.
And unlike the Big 4 at Inverloch, which takes bookings over the phone until 7pm at night, the shire’s caravan parks turn their phones over to an afterhours answering service, with little more than message capability, at 5pm daily, even at this very busy time of year.
The shire claims its new policies are in response to changes made by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) via its Best Practice Management Guidelines for Committees of Management: Managing Caravan and Camping Parks on Crown Land and Improving Equity of Access to Crown Land Caravan and Camping Parks 2011.
But annuals ejected from the parks say the shire’s changes went well beyond what was required to comply with state government guidelines.