Point Louise is just north of the Green Head settlement on the coast of WA, 2-3 hrs north of Perth. It is a favourite beach for freecampers travelling north and south along the Indian Ocean Drive, which hugs the coast as it meanders through the beautiful white sand hills. It is a beautiful drive, a beautiful stop and quite popular recreation area even out of season due to its sheltering reef and sandy beach. It is also made more popular by the fact that it is one of the very few campsites publicly available where families can stop-up and rest conveniently for free along the open coastline.
I have written before about the lack of rest stops, freecamps and public recreation area’s along the west coast, particularly when compared to the east coast or sunrise side. While this can be attributed to population, it is also largely governed by the undue influence of local councils who have an unhealthy relationship with caravan park proprietors.
I never could understand why caravan park owners should have such a say over the provision of rest area’s and recreation area’s for the general public… particularly travellers and locals alike. Western Australia is a vast state in which tourism is a growing industry. Attracting travellers is an important business for the state and local councils… Why then do they not do more than legislate to restrict recreational activities and public camp areas that would bring valuable custom into their regions?
Not everyone who travels uses caravan parks, vast numbers of Grey Nomads and travellers have no interest in having a holiday at a caravan park, as with many locals. Some enjoy a sojourn in a town where there are services provided… but not all need this, or even want to use these places. As a fisherman will buy a boat to fish the sea, an independent traveller and camper, be they Grey Nomad or not, buys a self-contained caravan or RV to explore independently. A sailor does not buy a boat to live in a marina, nor does a person who buys a full self contained and equipped caravan or RV do so, that they may live in a caravan park. It really is not rocket science.
Yet persistently we find that a local caravan park is pressuring councils to restrict rest area’s and free camping area’s up to 50klm within their location and sometimes further. This, in the common misconception that people will use their caravan park instead. Not so! Most freecampers or travellers will just move on, particularly those who are freecamper life-styler’s. Yet it is these very travellers who bring much needed custom into a town in so many other ways. The fact is that Western Australia badly needs more rest area’s and freecamps if it wishes to attract more travellers. Not only for 24 hr stops, which are the most practical for a township, but for longer periods for the purposes of recreation in the region.
The sunrise-side does it much better in the provision of freecamps, rest stops and low cost camp area’s for longer terms catering for the locals, as well as for independent rec’ activities and life-stylers who travel. These places to camp and play can readily be found in National Parks, Forestry’s, along Travelling Stock Routes and reserves and recreational area’s set aside for townships and travellers alike. This is what attracts the traveller to a region, particularly our international “wicked campers” our Grey Nomads and our recreational sportsmen & women. Not all these people require the services of a caravan park.
Sitting around a campsite at happy hour we hear many tales, stories and recounts of adventures. Grey Nomads see many things… like one traveller who told of a photographer who turned up with a bag of rubbish, dumped it, took a picture and it was no surprise to see the same shot turn up in a regional newssheet in the following days as evidence of the litter left behind by freecampers. The crime is that the mongrel left the rubbish for the Grey Nomads and Rangers to clear up after them.
We all know that some of our international travellers often have no sense of social responsibility… “wicked campers” have a reputation for a reason and many Aussie travellers will pull up these young adults who know no better. In my entire experience of camping I have only come across two incidents where I would gladly have reported the activities of other travelling free campers but I dealt with them at the time as do many responsible and public minded people. It is however about time we identified some of the practices such as that particular photographer and journalist, other legislators who clearly have a commercial bias in regards to their own businesses, and the same locals who favour singular businesses over others in a town who would benefit from the custom of travellers.
We took the time out to catch up with one of those wonderful Ranger’s and Officers, who I often refer to as modern day bushrangers. Those intrepid gentlemen who tour our parks and reserves, camp sites and roads ensuring the safety of the pubic in general. John ‘Lunchbox’, as he refers to himself was a delight to chat too when he rocked up to Point Louise to check on the camp. He spoke to us about pubic safety, the protection of sensitive area’s and of the work these Rangers do. He was concerned for those camped outside the designated area and the risks they undertook, this often because of the lack of public amenities for the traveller and local alike. We have met a few “John Lunchbox’s” on our travels and always enjoyed a chat but seeing the commendable work put into the Point Louise rec’ area and freecamp, I wanted to commend the Department responsible and suggest that they provide a few more of the same along the wonderful strip of coast that is Western Australia’s. Tourism after all is big business.
These Rangers as far as I’m concerned are essential front line workers. They are front line along with our Fire Dept… front line along with our Police and front line along with those who take care of public safety. One thing I noticed when we travelled through the USA camping, was that over there these same Rangers command more respect than they do in Aus’ often over and above the Police Dept’, yet aside from having to deal with bears, our guys have a much harder job over a much vaster region. Like the Police Dept’ (our Police and Rangers are primarily a State concern where as in the US it’s more a County concern) they often cover immense distances within their jurisdiction and yes… dealing the crocodiles up north is not easy. Aus’ is a damn sight bigger than Europe and our States a damn sight bigger than the States and County’s in the US.
Our Rangers, whether they are State or local employees are concerned with State and National matters, they often have to deal with the fine line of governance. That line of authority that crosses between Council, State, Road Dept’, Harbours and Marine and National Parks and Heritage and over East, Forestry. They see the abuses and where the need is for services. They have to enforce policy and deal with the public in regards to this and it is not made easier by the practices of local councils trying to force recreational activities into a box that is contained in the services of a caravan park.
What’s needed in WA if they wish to succeed in attracting tourers and travellers, is more structured, public recreational reserves, more freecamp areas for locals and travellers alike to prevent and control the type of abuses that occur due to lack of facilities for recreational activities. Particularly those practices that damage the environment and offer hazards to the public because facilities and rec’ areas aren’t readily available, developed or provided. People just want to enjoy their recreation and lifestyle in the manner that they choose, traveller and local alike.
In Australia we are fortunate to be able to enjoy our freedoms, we enjoy our lifestyles and we enjoy our Land… No one commercial sector should be telling us how to live our lives and structure our recreation and lifestyle. Why then do we allow a sector, the caravan park proprietors in particular, to dictate to Australians in the way they do?
It is perhaps the strongest argument against local governance and its abuses that I have ever come across.
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