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24 January, 2024

Progress Association has some success

The Clifton and District Progress Association’s (C&DPA) lobbying efforts on behalf of Clifton to reduce camping fees at the Clifton Recreation Ground have bore fruit, with Councillors agreeing to lower the prices for the rest of the financial year.

At the January Council meeting, Councillors agreed with the recommendation of Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) officers to drop the price of overnight camping per night.

For caravans/camper vans, the price has been dropped from $25 to $20 and for non-powered tent sites, the price has been dropped from $20 to $15.

Data from TRC shows visitors have decreased by two-thirds in just one year.

The C&DPA noticed a decline in business for Clifton last year as price rises for camping in Clifton saw visitors choose to go elsewhere.

Before the price hike in July 2023, powered sites were $14 a night and unpowered sites $10 a night.

Many instead choose to stay at the free camping area in Nobby between Tooth Street and the railway line.

C&DPA President Margaret May said her organisation is pleased with the outcome.

Ms May wrote to TRC last year, a letter which was published in the Clifton Courier.

The recommendation put forward to Councillors, included the two drops in prices as well as:

  • That Council consider staged increases of $2.00 per year over the next three years to overnight camping fees at the Clifton Recreation Reserve.
  • That Council investigate the management arrangement over the campground at the Clifton Recreation Reserve

Nine Councillors voted for the recommendation, while Crs Carol Taylor and Kerry Shine voted against it.

Several Councillors expressed interest in the possibility of a third party taking control of
the campgrounds, therefore taking the costs out of Council’s hands, as well as the income.

“Clifton is really feeling it at the moment,” Cr Sommerfield said.

A report presented to Council by Sally Egan, Manager Parks and Recreation, showed the income from the campground in the 2022/23 financial year was $31,950, compared to an expenditure for the camp area of $38,267.

This is a loss of $6,317.

Similarly, in 20221/22 the loss was $7,546.

From July to November 2023, when this most recent data was available, the income was $11,290 and the expenditure $21,355, a loss of  $10,065.

During the meeting, a Council officer said the strong adverse reaction to the fee increase by campers is partly due to prices being too cheap for too long. 

The cost associated with operating the campgrounds no longer includes a dedicated caretaker position.

The Council staff member responsible for maintaining the campgrounds is now based in Greenmount and takes on other responsibilities in the Greenmount area.

The data that is perhaps most startling is the decline in visitor numbers, comparing four months of 2022 to 2023.

From July to October 2022, there were 778 paying visitors to Clifton showgrounds.

Over the same four months last year, this figure fell to just 238, a drop of nearly 70 per cent.

The report was compiled with the assistance of the C&DPA.

President Ms May said the Management Committee of the C&DPA and Anne Glasheen met with Parks & Recreation members of the TRC at the recreation grounds. 

“After a look around and discussions, the suggestion was to put in a submission with a number of proposals that could be presented to Council to be voted on,” Ms May said.

“We acted on this and prepared a very detailed and well researched submission with a number of proposals and sent it to Parks & Recreation Dept. who then presented it to the TRC meeting last week (17 January).”

Campers have voiced their displeasure with the cost of the campgrounds compared to the facilities available on the popular web service WikiCamps.

Ms May said discussions will be taking place regarding fee collection from campers, which could involve a third party.

“Other issues will be discussed including future involvement in the management of the facility involving all stakeholders of the recreation grounds,” she said.

“This, in our opinion, is a good outcome and if the comments on Wiki Camps and the Recreation and Showgrounds sites are anything to go by, Clifton could/should have an increase in the number of visitors to our town. 

“Campers/travellers/nomads were making very negative comments about by-passing Clifton when the price hike was announced previously but since putting up the new fees and the outcome, there are nothing but positive comments with Clifton being on their lists again.”

Aside from financial implications, another factor that influenced TRC’s decision to raise prices is competitive neutrality.

The TRC report says there is a legislative requirement to be considerate of
anti-competitive practice particularly when there are private providers nearby to Council facilities.

A Council officer mentioned there have been complaints in the past from a nearby private business.

Although there is not a caravan or tourist park in Clifton itself, the Spring Creek Caravan Park is nearby.

Beside reducing fees, there were two other options looked at by TRC.

One was making no changes and the other retaining the existing fees and improving infrastructure.

Improved infrastructure would include park furniture - tables, benches, barbecues, upgraded replacement of toilet and shower facilities and minor renewal work to improve amenity.

This is estimated to cost $25,000 to $50,000.

At this stage, the Progress Association is satisfied with Council’s response to its concerns about the campground’s role in Clifton.

“I know C&DPA had noticed a significant drop in visitors to the Info Centre over the last few months and are hoping now that Clifton can have increased visitors to our town again,”
Ms May said.

“So, fees reduced, plans in place for controlled gradual increases in the future, improvements to come in addition to the “cosmetic” improvements, investigations and negotiations into fee collection and management of the facility with
all stakeholders involved, I’d say (is) a very positive outcome. 

“I’d like to thank the Management Committee of C&DPA, Anne Glasheen, the Dept. of Parks & Recreation and of course TRC for their time, efforts and responses to this issue.”

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