Fee hikes put the squeeze on campers

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Fees up, tents down: Long-term campers Natalia Kiskomaromi, Joanne Kiskomaromi, Jenni Arnel and Cooper Conway at their regular Rye site. Picture: Yanni

REGULAR campers along the Rye and Sorrento foreshores are being hit with big site fee increases while campers at Rosebud are not.

Many families, some who have been camping at Rye for 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 Mornington Peninsula Shire Council equates to a 50 per cent increase.

The council wrote to campers last week saying pre-peak and post-peak season packages would no longer apply and that fees would now be based on a weekly tariff to “balance the demand for and the popularity of campsites in Rye and Sorrento”.

The letters show weekly pre-season (October-December) powered site charges are up from $550 in 2018-19 to $1015 in 2019-20. Weekly peak-season (Christmas-New Year) charges for the same period are up from $2340 to $2580 and post-season (January-April) $998 to $1740.

Long-time camper Lee Conway said fees for his family – which stays the whole six months – jumped from $3888 (October 2018-April 2019) to $5765 (October 2019 to April 2020).

“In the past, pre-and-post seasons were offered at packaged rates of $550 for pre and $998 for post-season (2018-19),” he said. “This was to ensure that council maximised capacity across the foreshore in the traditional quieter periods, thus increasing local tourism and generating an increase in economic benefit.

“These packages are now not being offered at Rye and Sorrento, thus directly increasing our costs by $1637 for just these two periods.

“This mostly affects long-term campers who camp on weekends from October to April each year and four to six weeks over Christmas and New Year.”

Mr Conway said the long term campers were “people who identify as part of this community, and who have helped build this community over many years”.

“They spend significant money in the local shops and restaurants and, in many cases, have also relocated down on the peninsula as a result of falling in love with it.

“The weekly increase of $40 a week during the peak period isn’t my major concern as it will add only about $300 to the total bill for campers. It’s the removal of the packages for the long-term campers that is unfair and unreasonable.”

The fees are due in September – before the start of the camping season – putting pressure on the campers, mostly families, who will have to come up with the extra $2000.

“We paid deposits for January-April earlier this year expecting the fees to be similar, or with a CPI or small increase, but were not told of any significant increase,” Mr Conway said.

“They should have at least told us so we could have made informed decisions on coming here.

“Now, if we want to try to find alternative camping site, it’s too late.

“It’s extremely unlikely we can now find alternatives that will allow us to stay the whole season. Not even the council could find us options for the whole season at Rosebud without making us move spots regularly.”

Campers at Rosebud and other sections of the foreshore are exempt from the increases. “Surely it would make more sense to provide a smaller increase across the board for all campers,” Mr Conway said.

While acknowledging that spots vacated by traditional campers would fill quickly with newcomers in the busy peak periods, the long-term campers say the increases will mean “significantly fewer” will stay on over the less busy post-peak six weeks up until April.

They say this will hit local businesses which rely on campers’ seasonal trade.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 9 July 2019

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