THE Melbourne Cup long weekend traditionally marks the start of the summer tourist season in South Gippsland.
With that in mind, accommodation providers across the shire have been busy making their preparations.
South Gippsland Shire Council’s caravan parks coordinator, Jock Wilson, is confident that both the council-run parks will be well patronised this summer.
Council would not release figures, but the official word from Council was that “Yanakie and Long Jetty Foreshore caravan parks are gearing up for a busy summer period, as bookings begin to fill ahead of the peak season.”
The caravan parks team, said Mr Wilson, were busy over the winter and spring periods preparing the parks for the expected influx of visitors.
“Our peak season begins this week with the Melbourne Cup public holiday, and we are expecting to see both parks well attended,” Mr Wilson said.
He said the parks had undergone a period of rejuvenation during the quieter months.
“The Yanakie and Long Jetty Foreshore caravan parks are both located on Crown Land, in the spectacular Corner Inlet area of our shire.
“Council is very much aware that the opportunity to experience the beauty of the natural environment at an affordable cost is a key attractor for our visitors.
“The recent spring weather conditions have spurred on new growth within the parks, so we are working hard to make sure the parks look the best they can before the busy period commences.
“Council has also expanded the product mix offered by the parks and with a number of short-stay and seasonal permit opportunities available, and we are receiving strong interest in from travellers,” Mr Wilson concluded.
Not everyone shares his optimism, however.
“It will be an absolute shambles,” is the dire prediction from annual site-holder Rod Francis, regarding the Yanakie caravan park this summer.
Council’s takeover of the two caravan parks in recent years continues to attract criticism. Long-time permit holders such as Mr Francis argue that the council has been unreasonable in enforcing regulations at the parks and has raised fees to extortionate levels. As a result, permanent site-holders have left the parks in droves. Mr Francis said that there are now only about 30 annual site-holders where once there were 120. “By Christmas, there could be even fewer. I’m not sure that I’m going to stick around.”
Mr Francis said that he had been part of a class action against the shire council, but that had been dropped after the costs started to become prohibitive. He had hoped a compromise could be reached through negotiation, but Council, he claimed, has been unwilling to mediate.
Mr Francis is sceptical that the improvements made under council management to the infrastructure of the caravan parks at Yanakie and Long Jetty will result in substantial increases in casual visitors to the parks. He is just hoping that the new lot of councillors, whose names should be known next week, will handle the caravan parks very differently.
In the meantime, everyone shares the same wish for good weather this weekend – and all summer – and excellent patronage at the local caravan parks and elsewhere across South Gippsland.