Queensland towns trialling free camping for spenders

An innovative Stop and Shop free camping trial, introduced by a Queensland council, saves money for campers while making money for retailers.

The Fraser Coast Coun­cil introduced an innovative scheme to increase the length of stay and amount of money spent in the region by grey nomads and tourists travelling in RVs or self-contained camper vans.

Originally, travellers had to produce a receipt from a local business showing they’ve spent at least $10 to get free 20-hour parking in a designated long-parking area. However, the program has since been updated so that the $10 spend is no longer required to receive a free stay. The Hervey Bay Visitor Information Centre was the first site approved early in 2015, with four more Stop and Shop Parks now open in the Maryborough CBD and six more near the Burrum District Community Centre.

The scheme was introduced with the unanimous approval of all stakeholders, including local caravan parks. In a report in local media, Councillor Stuart Taylor said: “There was concern in some quarters that grey nomads might feel in some way insult­ed about having to prove they spent money in the area, but we found ex­actly the opposite, with people eager to show just how much they spend.”

When visitors had to show receipts for $10 at the visitor centre to earn their 20-hour stay voucher, many actually showed reams of receipts prov­ing they spent – on average – a minimum of $115. Some spent more than $1000 eating out and taking tours. The council said this sort of hard evidence helped justify the initiative.

“We have had people who would otherwise have left stay in the area to spend money,” said Cr Taylor. “We also see people staying an extra night once they discover what the region has to offer.”

Visitors to the Fraser Coast can enjoy the Food and Wine Festival in June, the Fraser Coast Cultural Centre, explore Fraser Island, and much more.