THE latest report on the South Gippsland Shire-run caravan parks of Yanakie and Long Jetty (at Port Welshpool) shows them to be ticking along nicely. Neither is yet making money for Council, but many improvements have been made and are continuing to be made and the parks are attracting favourable reports from visitors. In 2014-2015, their first full year of management by Council, the parks came very close to exactly meeting budget expectations.
The council officers responsible for the parks, Chris Van Der Ark, Manager Sustainable Communities, and Jock Wilson, Caravan Parks Coordinator, briefed Council on the performance of the parks last Wednesday.
Councillors, who in recent times have faced considerable flak from sections of the community opposed to council management of caravan parks, were thrilled to hear the upbeat presentation.
“There’s been quite a lot of loose talk. I’m glad we have the press here to hear this,” declared mayor Jeanette Harding.
Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks congratulated Ms Van Der Ark and Mr Wilson on doing “an absolutely brilliant job”. He said he had always known it would take more than a year or two to bring the caravan parks up to standard. “You’re achieving what I thought could be achieved,” he said.
Mr Wilson began the briefing by outlining the capital improvements Council has made at the caravan parks. At Yanakie these have included solar hot water, which has led to cost efficiencies, and the start of a rolling program of powerhead replacements. An old storage shed is being converted to a camp kitchen, the roads re-sheeted and a safety barrier erected between a bike path and the road. There are new balustrades on some of the cabins, unsafe trees have been removed and a lot of revegetation work has been carried out. There are plans to replace the playground.
At Long Jetty there are new cabins, the recreation room has been refurbished following damage by vandals, the front entrance has been landscaped and safety lighting installed, the office has been refurbished and vacated sites have been renovated. The park will also get a new playground in 2015/16 and two more cabins are due to arrive. A major scheduled project is the replacement of the outdated amenities block, and the barbecue will undergo refurbishment, including the installation of hot water.
Ms Van Der Ark gave a favourable report on the finances and occupancy levels for the parks in the last financial year.
Long Jetty achieved an income of $402,850, compared to a budgeted figure of $408,957. The expenditure was $460,384, compared to a budgeted figure of $466,185.
At Yanakie the income was $674,418, compared to $666,120 (budgeted) and expenditure $577,115, compared to $597,074 (budgeted).
The budget for this financial year sets the income at Long Jetty at $420,776, the operational expenditure at $386,692 and the capital expenditure at $584,879 (the majority to be spent on an amenities block); and at Yanakie income $527,643, operational expenditure $484,534 and capital expenditure $151,491.
Council budgeted last year for an occupancy rate averaging 30%. It came close to that at Yanakie and exceeded expectations at Long Jetty, thanks to contractors renting out cabins for a period.
As a program of enforced compliance continues to bring the parks up to regulatory standards, 40 permit holders have departed Yanakie Caravan Park, but there are still 87 on site, while at Long Jetty 28 have left, leaving 58 holders of 12-month permits.
The removal of non-compliant vans has opened up sea views at Yanakie and also created vacant sites which are large enough to hold more than one van, which is a financial bonus.
A marketing plan is in development. In the meantime the parks have been promoted online and in some print media. They have received good feedback on sites such as Trip Advisor and a recent special winter holiday promotion was successful.
Council last received an update in March. Public quarterly updates will continue to be provided to ensure Council and the community are kept up to date on the business performance and program of activities at the parks.