by Michelle Gilmore
There is a misconception out there that “grey nomads” bring little to communities, staying where they can for free and living off the smell of an oily rag. But RV’s are big business, and rural communities like ours are reaping the benefits.
Visit the Kenilworth Showgrounds and you will see on their notice: “It is not advisable to park near the main ring during cricket season October to April.”
If you are a camper, it seems the odd cricket ball is the only disadvantage to enjoying the hospitality of this friendly town.
For $16 per night you can stay beside a creek, in a powered site, have access to showers, the local pool and it is only a couple of hundred metres to the shops.
Maleny Showgrounds also offer a unique Hinterland camping experience, with a stroll into town along the Obi Obi Creek – at a rock bottom price.
Kenilworth Hall Committee volunteers, Clem and Olive Hassall said the town has been providing the accommodation for years.
Clem said, “It goes right back to the early ‘60s. It was very, very small and only caravan clubs used it.”
It slowly became bigger and bigger, and has been operating the way it is now for the last ten years.
The hall and grounds also host the Chook Chase motorcycle ride in winter, the Quilt and Craft show in June and the Agricultural Show and Rodeo and Kenilworth Celebrates Art Show in September.
“It definitely helps town out a lot – campers buy a paper, coffee, pies or visit the bowls club at night,” Clem explained.
“There are motorhomes, antique motorcycles, caravans – an average of 34-odd vans, stay an average four days.
“One club visited and they collected every member’s receipt from the few days, including the fee here.
“All up they had spent $8000 in town, and that money is kept in town. There were 42 clubs here last year.
“They bring a lot of revenue – it is the only thing that keeps this complex going!”
A fact that has not escaped the Queensland government who released a toolkit for local governments to increase the provision of camping facilities, and attract more drive tourists to their regions last year.
In turn, Sunshine Coast Council recognised a real need for the widest possible range of accommodation options, and approved an interim policy for limited facilities camping.
It states that “limited facilities camping offers, and serves, a different tourism market to resorts, hotels, motels, holiday rentals and caravan parks”.
“The grey nomads are pretty good – we don’t have a riff-raff problem. It is a safe, quiet place with amenities – they can camp, and there is more room for the bigger fifth wheelers.” Clem continued, “They don’t want all the bells and whistles.”
And that is the crux of it – all the bells and whistles are already on their vehicle. This group of travellers are “self-contained campers” – which means “a person or persons who are camping within a structure or vehicle that holds fresh water, will collect and store all greywater and/or blackwater; and has on board cooking and sleeping facilities”.
The limited facilities policy means the provision of: rubbish bins; water access; toilets and/or dump point.
It also stipulates short-term camping – not exceeding three nights within any consecutive seven day period.
Olive said that Kenilworth Showgrounds attracts older travellers and family groups, “We had a query about an 18th birthday – and said to them ‘you realise it’s lights out at ten o’clock’? We didn’t hear from them again!”
“But the young ones we’ve had have been very good. The ‘older nomads’ are in bed by nine o’clock and everything’s quiet.”
Caravanning and camping is still booming and research shows families are a growing sector.
There is no doubt the showgrounds are meeting the needs of thousands of travellers – Maleny have recently upgraded their amenities, and Beerwah would like to be accredited as an RV Friendly Town (very scarce on the Sunshine Coast).
Meanwhile, the Kenilworth Hall Committee purchased the neighbouring mill property in 2013, they plan on setting up more powered sites by the river and for camping during events.
It will also allow more room for the pony club and staying out of the way of those cricket balls!
Kenilworth Showgrounds: 07 5446 0131
Maleny Showgrounds: 07 5494 2008