Local businessman Geoff McGuinness has recently canvassed other local businesses and found that many, like him, are “feeling the pinch” from missing out on the lucrative trade brought into town by free campers.
Mr McGuinness said while free campers are still coming to Cobar they aren’t arriving in the same high numbers as past years.
He said they also aren’t staying for two to three nights or even a week as they had previously been doing when the Newey area was available to them.
“I’ve noticed when I drive past the caravan park in the mornings going to work that their visitor numbers are also down,” Mr McGuinness said.
“We used to see lots more people walking down from the caravan park or from the Newey coming down the street and looking in the shops.
“They just aren’t doing that now and it’s hurting a lot of our businesses.”
Mr McGuinness said one business manager told him they’d recently done a comparison on their cash sales from last year and were down $30,000 in income.
He said the manager was concerned that they might have to put off one of their staff.
He’s hoping that a petition, signed by 45 local businesses, calling for council to develop one or more free camping sites in the Cobar Shire to attract freedom campers back to Cobar will be taken on board by council as part of their 2018/2019 Draft Operational Plan.
“Suggested sites include the Newey and the Old Res which would only require sealed roads and the provision/upgrading of public toilets,” Mr McGuinness wrote in his petition to council.
“These would also be used by the local population who utilise both of these areas for recreational purposes in summer.”
“Council all over regional NSW and Queensland are embracing free camping and Cobar is uniquely placed, because of our location, to take full advantage of the increase in revenue that would result in an increase in the number of tourists staying within the town.”
Mr McGuinness said he and other businesses operators believe a new approach is needed to advertise the town as a “stopping/meeting place”.
“More visitors staying longer could only be beneficial to the local, council owned, caravan park as well,” he said.
“With an increasingly transient and declining population, finding ways to attract freedom campers back to Cobar is, in our view, not a concession to local businesses but an absolute necessity if they are to remain viable.
“Keeping businesses open and attracting more businesses is crucial to the long term survival of our town,” he said.