Caravan park peak body argues holiday cabins should remain open for self-isolation

Keeping a safe distance: Leigh Turner with long term residents, Duncan and Nola Langham. Ms Turner said her priority was the safety of the park's permanent residents. Picture: Marina Neil
Keeping a safe distance: Leigh Turner with long term residents, Duncan and Nola Langham. Ms Turner said her priority was the safety of the park's permanent residents. Picture: Marina Neil

The peak body representing Australia's caravan parks has argued that self-contained cabins are ideally suited for managing the spread COVID-19.

It comes as hundreds of caravan parks announce they are shutting down to all but permanent residents and essential travellers at Easter.

The Victorian government has directed the state's caravan parks and camping grounds to close, while NSW Health has urged people to not to travel.

But Caravan Industry Association of Australia chief executive Stuart Lamont said the parks were being unnecessarily shut down, costing jobs and livelihoods.

"There are very clear instructions from various governments looking to stop the rapid rise of COVID-19 and to protect the public from community transmission. This is something as an industry we are committed to," Mr Lamont said.

"We support the need for swift action, but in the haste, public policy has not accounted for the unique and diverse accommodation options available within caravan parks."

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He said most caravan parks made their revenue from cabins featuring ensuites, kitchens and independent air-conditioning.

"Unlike hotels and motels which in some jurisdictions have been allowed to continue operating, there are no shared hallways or elevators. Caravan parks are generally spacious gated communities within nature, where you can park directly alongside your cabin - they are ideal for self-isolation," Mr Lamont said.

"While we understand that many industries were suffering due to necessary restrictions, this decision has been made without a proper understanding of what a caravan or holiday park actually is," Mr Lamont said.

In addition to cabins, caravan parks also provided a safe space for motorhomes and caravans which have on-board bathroom and cooking facilities, and without the need for common amenities.

"There are estimated nearly 80,000 caravanners on the road across Australia right now and through closing caravan parks these people will be forced to find public places to park their vans and unreasonably travel from place to place, with no way of knowing where they've come from, where they're going or who they've been in contact with.This is completely contrary to the health objectives that governments are trying to achieve," he said.

The association has called for state governments to allow cabins to remain open within current restrictions.

"For tens of dozens of tourism operators this determination will be the difference between weathering this storm and being forced to close their business permanently," Mr Lamont said.

There are an estimated 13,500 cabins in NSW parks, 7,500 cabins in Victorian parks and 750 cabins in Tasmanian parks that are likely to be decommissioned.

"We absolutely support and agree that non-essential travel should not occur at this time, however for accommodating essential travellers, as well as providing appropriate and managed accommodation for those already on the road and unable to get home, caravan parks have the record keeping ability and social distancing practices to be a practical part of the solution, not accentuating the problem," ," Mr Lamont said.

"This is consistent with the federal government's objective of keeping people in work wherever possible and the national cabinet's determination to manage the health and economic fall out concurrently."

This story Why caravan parks can stop the spread of coronavirus first appeared on The Canberra Times.