Murwillumbah’s historic showground is set to be opened up for overnight camping for caravans and recreational vehicles (RVs) in a bid to boost tourism to the town and surrounding hinterland villages.
Tweed Shire councillors last week endorsed a plan paving the way for the showground to be used by such vehicles and their occupants, many who predominantly visit the Tweed Coast then drive through Murwillumbah on their way to Queensland via the Nerang-Murwillumbah road.
Tourism operators say recreational vehicles don’t stop along the way, so the opportunity for visitors to experience the panoramic Tweed Valley and rural villages such as Uki and Tyalgum is missed.
The plan was driven by mayor Gary Bagnall who instigated a report on the ‘Recreational Vehicle Friendly Town Inititive’ last year, which led to council formally asking Destination Tweed to see if the hinterland and remote areas of the shire could benefit from the RV market.
Cr Bagnall said he had been trying for years to ‘trap’ the RV market in the Tweed as it was worth millions of dollars in economic spinoffs for the shire, and many councils across the state took advantage of them by having their showgrounds or other facilities ‘ready to roll’ for them.
He said there had been ‘entrenched resistance’ to such an idea by opponents in council who preferred to see the vehicles use and pay for council-run caravan parks.
He said it became an issue recently when RV campers used the Stotts Island picnic facilities to stay overnight for free.`
‘There was a move to prohibit them but I put up a (successful) notice of motion to upgrade the facilities there and let them stay,’ Cr Bagnall said.
Murwillumbah Showground Reserve Trust members had also approached council seeking an expansion of uses for the ground to include caravan and camping.
Recent talks were then held between officers from the tourism body, council, Crown Lands and the trust to look into the proposal.
But a minor technical legal hitch preventing the grounds being used by campers not involved in official events there was soon resolved by the parties, with the word ‘recreation’ to be added to any future trust request for showground reservation to Crown Lands, so camping is permissible.
A staff report says the showground’s total area of around 10 hectares would restrict camping by RVs to a maximum number of 20 sites.
Cr Bagnall told Echonetdaily that if RV vehicles were ‘pulled in’ to Murwillumbah with the option to stay at the showground, they would then want to ‘explore the whole caldera’.
Destination Tweed said in its report to council that ‘at a minimum, if there is no parking facilities for RVs in Murwillumbah, they will continue (as they currently do) to drive through Murwillumbah and the rural areas and onto Queensland’.
The vote for council to continue the process to expand the use options for the showground trust was carried 5-2 (Crs Warren Polglase and Carolyn Byrne against).