'Vanpackers' warn: welcome us or lose us

GET on board or miss out!

That’s the message that keen vanpackers Kevin and Christine Phillips of Port Fairy have to the south-west tourism industry and local government about the burgeoning vanpacking sector.

The couple, who have been vanpacking throughout Australia for the past 25 years, said it was a well-established tourism sector and the south-west was missing out on hundreds of thousands of tourism dollars by not being more accommodating of it.

Many of the 66,000 members of the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) enjoyed vanpacking outside caravan parks, finding good overnight stopover places in commercial publications that catered for the sector, the retired couple said.

However, one publication known as the vanpackers’ bible listed no stopover places in Warrnambool and Port Fairy, Mr Phillips said.

“Port Fairy is missing out hugely.”

The couple said they liked the freedom of vanpacking, often staying in beautiful locations away from urban areas. 

Many small towns welcomed vanpackers and promoted themselves as RV (recreational vehicle) friendly towns. 

The Phillips’ positive experience of vanpacking led them to run a motorhome park at their property on Albert Street, Port Fairy, for about seven years during stints between their own holidays away.

However, they said Moyne Shire Council had forced them to shut it down in the past 12 months.

Mr Phillips said their motorhome park had provided power, water and a toilet for $10 a night.

It had been used on average by about five motorhomes a week and had been more of an altruistic gesture for vanpackers than a commercial venture, the couple said.

“We cannot expect it somewhere else if we do not do it ourselves,” Mr Phillips said.

While not paying caravan park fees, vanpackers still made a significant contribution to the local economy by buying groceries and fuel locally, Mrs Phillips said.

“Port Fairy is missing out hugely,” Mr Phillips said.

He said vanpackers had little need of the facilities provided in caravan parks because many  motorhomes had toilets and showers.

CMCA members also had a code of conduct that called for them to leave no trace of their stay.

The Phillips had imposed a 72-hour stay limit on their motorhome park but said it had been discretionary.

Moyne Shire mayor James Purcell has said he supported overnight camping at roadside stops but councillors at both Warrnambool and Corangamite councils have raised concerns about the trend.

Warrnambool City Council’s local laws manager Ian Fitzgibbon said his department would continue to investigate ways to reduce free overnight camping in public areas.

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