IN a boost for tourism, Richmond Valley Council is trialling a small free camp at the Casino Showground to cater for owners of fully self-contained vehicles who prefer not to stay in established parks.
Known as “freedom campers”, the self-sufficient travellers use caravans, motor homes, camping trailers or recreational vehicles with the capacity to sustain themselves. Many freedom campers seek low or no-cost places to park overnight, with minimalist facilities.
The specifically-marked area at the Showground is limited to 12 vehicles for a maximum stay of 48 hours each. The Showground is already served by a dump point, however, all vehicles have to be self-contained, meaning owners will need to be responsible for their own water supply, sink, shower, grey-water storage, toilet and rubbish removal.
The camping sites will be managed in accordance with Council’s rules and regulations, and will be monitored by Council rangers, who will regularly patrol the area.
General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said the Council agreed to the trial to encourage freedom campers passing through town to “linger longer”.
Mr Macdonald said anecdotal evidence suggested many freedom campers using the Summerland Way were stopping at the Braemar State Forest rest area, and only passing through Casino on their way to Queensland.
He said this meant many local businesses were missing out on important trade.
“Following representations from the Casino Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Council has been looking at ways to grow the tourism pie for the benefit of the community,” Mr Macdonald said.
“This involved the investigation of a range of camping options to attract visitors regardless of their accommodation preferences.
“Encouraging more travellers to stay overnight can only benefit the local economy through the purchasing of local goods and services.
“We would like to think that what is not being spent on accommodation by freedom campers is being used to purchase food and retail goods and spent on transport needs, such as fuel and tyres.”
Mr Macdonald said Council was confident the camping site would not have a negative impact on existing accommodation premises as these travellers were not stopping in town anyway.
“Our Discover Richmond Valley team already advises visitors to use local accommodation providers, including holiday parks, however, we believe freedom campers could add a substantial contribution to the local economy,” he said.
Bookings can be made by calling the Casino Visitor Information Centre on 6660 0325, or by emailing email@example.com Travellers are encouraged to book during the hours of 8.30am and 4.30pm.