A regular visitor to Cobar and advocate of free camping, John Linton has offered a simple idea used in other towns that could be adopted by Cobar.
Mr Linton said an innovative ‘Stop and Shop free camping trial’, introduced by a Queensland council, has helped to save money for campers while at the same time makes money for local retailers.
“The Fraser Coast Council introduced an innovative scheme to increase the length of stay and amount of money spent in the region by grey nomads and tourists travelling in RVs or self-contained camper vans.
“Originally, travellers had to produce a receipt from a local business showing they’ve spent at least $10 to get free 20-hour parking in a designated long-parking area,” Mr Linton explained.
“However, the program has since been updated so that the $10 spend is no longer required to receive a free stay.”
He said the Hervey Bay Visitor Information Centre was the first site approved early in 2015, and four more ‘Stop and Shop’ Parks have since opened in the Maryborough CBD and six others near the Burrum District Community Centre.
“The scheme was introduced with the unanimous approval of all stakeholders, including local caravan parks,” he said.
In a report in local media Councillor Stuart Taylor said: “There was concern in some quarters that grey nomads might feel in some way insulted about having to prove they spent money in the area, but we found exactly the opposite, with people eager to show just how much they spend.”
Mr Linton said when visitors had to show receipts for $10 at the visitor centre to earn their 20-hour stay voucher, many actually showed reams of receipts proving they spent (on average) a minimum of $115.
“Some spent more than $1,000 eating out and taking tours.
“The council said this sort of hard evidence helped justify the initiative.
“We have had people who would otherwise have left stay in the area to spend money,” said Cr Taylor.
“We also see people staying an extra night once they discover what the region has to offer.”