South-west camp operators are feeling financial pain as schools start cancelling or scaling back bookings over fears about the impact on their budget over new overtime rules for public education teachers.
Princetown's Kangaroobie Camp operator Matt Bowker said he had lost one booking already and others were being cut back - a $100,000 hit for him so far this year. But he feared the impact would be greater next year.
After two or more years of the pandemic, the recovery school camp owners had been waiting for and needing is in doubt.
Under a new enterprise agreement, for the first time, teachers are entitled to time off in lieu for overtime but the unexpected fallout is hitting school camps.
Mr Bowker said the loss of income was considerable to his business.
"To this point, we have had one straight cancellation and a number of schools have cut down days or adjusted the time they're coming," he said.
While that would "not break them", his fear was what would happen next year.
"There's a number of camps that have been getting lots of cancellations and been pretty severely affected," he said.
At least one other camp contacted by The Standard said it feared it might be left with no choice but to close altogether if the fallout got any worse.
Mr Bowker said he believed schools would stumble through this year because they already had bookings.
"What I really fear is that at the end of the year, when all the schools do the count up of how much time in lieu they owe their teachers... we're going to get quite a lot of cancellations for next year," he said.
"The craziest thing is none of the teachers want it to affect school camps.
"It's become an administrative nightmare now."
Mr Bower said the government hadn't given schools any more money in their budget to cover the extra costs.
He said coming out of COVID-19 camps were helping kids to get back outside and active. "It's sad for kids and it's sad for the relationships teachers are able to build up when they come on something like a camp with the kids," he said.
Mr Bowker said schools with up to 200 children faced a teachers' bill of about $50,000 just to send them on camp for a week.
He said when the idea was first put forward, it looked attractive because teachers would get paid for all the hours they worked.
A school camp contacted by The Standard, who didn't want to be named, said the time in lieu issue came on top of insurance hikes which left it having to shell out about $1000 a week.
"It's ridiculous. We'll be lucky if we can still function by the end of this year," the owner said. "Coming out of COVID, and then knowing you've got this big debt of insurance hanging over your head each week.
"It's heartbreaking. We've put everything in to running the camp." The owners have taken on second jobs just to keep the doors of the camp open.
An Education Department spokesperson said it was providing guidance and support to schools to ensure students had access to camps and excursions in 2023 - including the extension of the Positive Start program, providing more free camps for students.
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