Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum Trust to fight plan for new caravan park toilets

Plans to build a new toilet block at Camperdown’s Lakes and Craters Holiday Park have reignited debate over the caravan park’s location within the town’s historic arboretum.

In approving its 2018-19 budget on Tuesday, Corangamite Shire councillors gave the green light to spending $200,000 on the amenity block.

Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum Trust president Janet O’Hehir said the group would fight the move. Councillors, however, said the new toilet block would be available for all within the precinct to use.

Ms O’Hehir said the holiday park was a private business operating within the public botanic gardens and arboretum. 

She said the caravan park was leased for a “peppercorn rent” and that the lease contract had been prepared in secret with “no way of knowing what has been promised”. 

“All we know at the moment is that council is planning to gift $200,000 of public money to this private business,” Ms O’Hehir said.

“This proposed building will require a permit from Heritage Victoria. There will be objections and appeals again. This will mean resources, public money and staff time will be poured into the black hole once again.

“We do wonder what the communities in other towns in our shire make of $200,000 being allocated to a toilet block in a private business, when they have been crying out for better public toilets in their own towns.

“We also wonder what the operators of legitimate accommodation businesses make of public funds being gifted to this particular enterprise.”

Previous plans to develop the holiday park were withdrawn due to concerns over the site’s heritage significance. The caravan park operators signed a 21-year lease in 2013, but the business is now on the market. Holiday park director Anthony Meechan said in September that the caravan park would become unviable in the long term.

The entrance to Camperdown's botanic gardens.

The entrance to Camperdown's botanic gardens.

Councillor Lesley Brown said that “for better or worse” the caravan park was located within the arboretum. She encouraged the gardens trust to make use of community funding for projects such as improved entrance to the gardens and better signage.

“The allocation for $200,000 for the toilet block is for the future of the caravan park and will also be of benefit to the users of the botanic gardens,” she said.

Cr Neil Trotter said the whole complex was unlikely to meet ongoing costs without some sort of revenue stream. 

The council has previously said it would be “financially impossible” to move the caravan park to another site.

A conservation management plan was completed for the gardens and arboretum last year, which includes an action plan that sets out maintenance and conservation works.

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