Camping at the Mudgee Showgrounds will be restricted after a tourist park operator objected to a proposal to upgrade the ground’s facilities for short-term camping and caravans.
In a move expected to cut $15,000 a year from showground income, campers and caravanners will only be allowed to stay at the grounds if they are involved in events there, or if all the town’s tourist parks are full.
A report to Mid-Western Regional Council’s meeting last week recommended council determine the cost of upgrading the Mudgee Showground facilities for short-term camping and caravans.
But the manager of a family-owned Mudgee tourist park, Brett Swords, said the council-managed showground should not compete with tourist businesses.
“I am not against using the showground for a horse float or for overflow for big weekends, but we believe as ratepayers we like to be on a level playing field,” he said.
Mr Swords said with a total of 140 powered sites, including sites big enough for Winnebagos and large vans, Mudgee’s tourist parks had enough room for all but four to six weekends in a year, such as the Small Farm Field Days weekend.
It is totally wrong that council would own a caravan park, lease it to someone and then set up in opposition.
He said upgrading facilities for short-term camping at the showgrounds would be uneconomical, as most of the tourist parks’ income came from cabins and long-term tenants.
Cr Peter Shelley and Cr John Weatherley agreed council should not compete with businesses, especially when one of the tourist parks was owned by council.
“It is totally wrong that council would own a caravan park, lease it to someone and then set up in opposition,” Cr Weatherley said.
While agreeing council should not set up in opposition to businesses, Cr Russell Holden said the showground had been used for camping for more than 50 years and possibly since the 1880s.
Setting showground fees higher than those of tourist parks would discourage all but people who genuinely preferred the open space of the showground, he said.
“They can camp in Rylstone Showground, they can camp in Gulgong Showground. Why can’t they camp in Mudgee?” he asked.
Cr Holden, showground management committee chairman Cr John Webb and Cr Esme Martens argued that camping fees had been factored into the showground masterplan to offset the cost of recent improvements.
Cr Webb said allowing showground camping only in “overflow” periods, forcing campers to confirm all tourist parks in the town were full before they could book into the showgrounds, was “absolutely ludicrous”.
“How do we know when there will be an overflow?” he asked.
“People need security, they want to know they’re going to be able to book.”
Cr Webb said some travellers affected by a recent ban on camping in the showground had threatened to spread the word that caravanners and campers were unwelcome in Mudgee.
“I think the bad publicity to the town might even hurt the caravan parks more than the others,” he said.
Council has set fees for powered caravan sites at the showground at $31 a day. The fee for an unpowered site will be $24 a day. The fees are from $2-$4 higher than tourist parks.
Would-be campers trying to book at the Mudgee Showgrounds will be told other camping grounds are available which charge less.