Camping discounts end after ‘strategic’ success

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DISCOUNT packages at some Mornington Peninsula foreshore camping grounds have been withdrawn because of their success.

The mayor Cr David Gill said the cheaper packages for pre-and post-peak times were designed to “activate” Rye and Sorrento.

“This activation has occurred and, to ensure both new and return campers have equal access to camping sites along the foreshore, [the discounts] have been discontinued,” he said.

“For income reasons other discounts have continued in areas [such as Rosebud] that have lesser off-peak occupancy rates.”

The mayor’s comments follow complaints from regular campers at Rye and Sorrento that they are being hit with site fee increases for next season while campers at Rosebud are not. (“Fee hikes make for unhappy campers” The News 10/7/19).

Many families, some camping for long stays at Rye over more than 50 years, feel they are being discriminated against by a restructuring of the fees and removal of before-and-after peak season packages. They say the fee restructure by the council equates to a 50 per cent increase.

The mayor said the council was spending $7 million on the foreshore “with many improvements under way”. He said the council’s 2019-20 capital works budget included $550,000 for “reconfiguration works” of the Rye camping sites which will include power, water and fire service upgrades.

But long-time camper Lee Conway said the capital works project would force many campers out of the Rye East camping ground. “Council is asking those campers to help fund a capital works project via increased fees for improvements which will not benefit them. How is this reasonable?”

Mr Conway queried whether the council had a strategy to “attract new campers based on increasing fees to a level where it is no longer affordable for many families to return”.

“Is this how they want to turn over visitors?” he asked.

“Do they prefer to attract people for short-term stays because they are slugging the repeat customers and making it unviable for families to stay for longer periods?

“What is their strategy to manage a potential downturn in tourism numbers and income in the quieter pre-season and post-season periods?

“Do they prefer that during October and November that these sites attract an influx of ‘schoolies’?”

Mr Conway said a line item on page 57 of the council’s 2019-20 budget reading: “Foreshore camping fees off season – pre-package (return campers all locations) $300” had been dismissed by shire officers as an “administrative error” when he queried it.

“That would only be a $700 saving, but it might be the difference between someone going camping and not,” he said.

The shire’s property and strategy manager Nathan Kearsley said the line was a “typo error” which should have read: All Rosebud locations. He said the cost of providing foreshore camping across Sorrento, Rye and Rosebud had a break-even budgeted income this financial year of $3.25 million.

“The overall net cost of maintaining foreshore reserves across the peninsula is in the vicinity of $7 million per annum,” he said.

Cr Gill said discounted camping packages were still available for camping sites at Rosebud. “There has been no change to any of the off-peak weekly rates,” he said.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 16 July 2019

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