The Draft Queenscliffe Tourist Parks Management and Operation Review, prepared by by Park Management firm Sustainable Park Solutions, includes 52 separate recommendations aimed at improving sustainability and guest experiences.
The report calls for improved amenities and reconfiguration of all parks. It also recommends metering of existing long-term sites for water and electricity and cuts to 12-month permits - from 45 to just 16 at Golightly Caravan Park and 78 to 15 at the recreation reserve and Victoria Park.
Some of the review’s most significant recommendations target the Golightly Park, which it described as being in a “stunning location” but with old and poor amenities. Proposed changes to that park include new toilets, showers, kitchen, barbecue shelter, fire pit, bike repair station, improved car parking and boom gates.
At present only 15 of Golightly's current sites are reserved for casual campers.
“The 12-month permit sites are in many cases in poor condition and the caravans and vans are well over 40 years old and poorly maintained,” the report said.
Recommendations for the 105-site Recreation Reserve and Victoria Park include a new manager’s office, the removal of two older cabins and installation of five new weatherboard cabins.
Twelve of the parks’ 105 sites have long-term permits.
For the 98-site Royal Park, the review recommends removal of the portable office, a new amenities block and improved kitchen and barque amenities. The number of existing sites should be reduced to allow for bigger, more uniform sites, it said.
In the 2018/19 financial year, prior to the pandemic, the parks together generated close to $1.8million before expenses in revenue. But according to the review, the average occupancy, nightly rates and yield of powered sites at all four are well below the Victorian average for tourist parks, chiefly as a result of Council’s inability to use dynamic pricing, seasonal packages and its “over reliance” on 12-month permit holders.
To address those issues it recommends a higher marketing spend across all parks, better technology to improve booking capabilities and staff efficiencies and the establishment of a separate business unit to run all four.
The estimated cost of the capital investment outlined in the review is $6.93 million.
“In summary, the Borough off Queenscliffe under the recommended operational and master plan changes will have doubled their return from the business and also have paid off the capital works at the parks after 12 years of full trading,” the report foreshadowed.
In response to the review, Council will immediately initiate a new compliance regime for long-term campers. Officers has also been directed to draw on the study to prepare a separate report on preferred operational models.
“The trigger for this review was really about getting the model right so that we best manage the parks into the future,” said Cr Fleur Hewitt. “At this stage we think it’s best to get the model right before we consider moving forward on wholesale infrastructure changes.”
The draft review, which cost $45,000 to complete, was compiled following extensive community consultation including an online survey which attracted more than 360 responses.
“I don’t think the council has the appetitive to borrow large sums of money to invest in the caravan parks,” said Cr Michael Grout.” I think we can improve our compliance and that’s what we’re doing now… we can also make some efficiency gains.”
The review can be found on the BoQ website.