THE bitter battle between South Gippsland Shire Council and site holders at the council-managed Long Jetty Foreshore and Yanakie caravan parks reached a head this week. May 31 marked the deadline to vacate for anyone occupying a site at the parks without a permit.
Speaking on Monday, the day before the May 31 deadline, Yanakie Caravan Park annual Rod Francis said that last weekend around 20 or so of the remaining 70 annuals began the slow process of dismantling their caravans and annexes in preparation for a move. He said he knew a number of people had placed their vans for sale online.
He estimated Yanakie would be left with only around 40 annuals and Long Jetty with as few as 30, which would, he said, cost Council – and the ratepayers of South Gippsland – substantially, as casuals tended to visit the parks only in the peak of summer.
Mr Francis said that the annuals had tried to reason with Council when it took over the management and introduced high costs and paralysing regulations to the caravan parks. The annuals got legal advice, which cost them as much as $50,000. They were advised to seek mediation, only Council, said Mr Francis, refused to mediate. The next step would be an injunction in the Supreme Court, but that would be extremely expensive for the annuals – prohibitively so, said Mr Francis, who doubts it will go ahead.
As it is, ratepayers are likely to be left with a bill of around $500,000 in lost annual income at Yanakie and $380,000 at Long Jetty Caravan Park, in Mr Francis’ estimations.
“And if Council goes down the same path [and takes over the management] at Waratah Bay Caravan Park, there will be more costs to ratepayers. Council can’t sustain the huge wages they pay their staff to run the parks,” Mr Francis warned.
“One wonders what the eventual cost of all this will be to the ratepayers in South Gippsland Shire,” said another Yanakie Caravan Park annual, Michelle Lambert. “All we want is the 70 annuals left to remain in the park and a ‘Best Practice Approach’ as a basis for discussion between the South Gippsland Shire Council and the Yanakie Caravan Park Annuals Committee.”
Annuals Ross and Tammy Dahlstrom said that since Council took over management of the park at Yanakie several years ago the park had lost its soul. “We built our cabin at the park a few years ago with the blessing of the council and spent over $25,000. When the council took over the park they wanted all cabins out by the end of Sept 2016 because they tell us that there cannot be privately owned cabins on Crown land. Why didn’t they tell us that before we built? We would have just kept our other structure instead of spending this sizeable amount on a cabin that is now worthless.”
“By killing off the park it is going to cost dollars to the local community, as many of us support the local shops, sporting clubs and businesses,” added the Dahlstroms.
Josie Goodsell is another angry annual. She seethed: “Well, when it is all done and dusted the council will be left with two empty parks to run. Not forgetting the enormous salaries they pay to the park managers and the council staff to run [the parks]. Watch out, ratepayers of South Gippsland! Someone has to pay.”
Mr Francis suggested people go down to Yanakie “and see how empty the park is and what’s happening to what was a very nice caravan park. There are only a few campers left. It’s starting to look like a ghost town.”
A spokesperson from South Gippsland Shire Council said on Monday: “Council is in the process of removing all people occupying sites at the Long Jetty Foreshore and Yanakie caravan parks who do not have any legal entitlement to do so. That process is ongoing and Council does not propose to make any further comment in relation to this matter.”