When Clarence Valley Council (CVC) approved overnight stays for recreational vehicles (RVs) at Maclean showground in 2014, it was perceived that campers would spend money in Maclean; two-years on and the Maclean Chamber of Commerce says that’s exactly what has happened.
The chamber’s September meeting minutes put it this way: “These travellers are an incredible boost to the town’s business community.”
Back in 2014, then chamber president John Riggall said the chamber had estimated that each camper would spend around $70 per day, which equated to around an extra $5,000 a week finding its way into the pockets of the town’s business owners, if 10 RVs made the overnight stop each day.
The chamber’s current president, Peter Gordon, said “businesses right across the board” were now benefitting.
“It’s not only buying groceries,” he said, “they buy batteries, they buy tyres, they buy fuel.
“There is even a chap in town with an engineering business who is getting work doing repairs on caravans, tow bars and boat trailers.”
The Maclean Services Club runs a regular bus service that transports patrons from and to the showground, too.
While the evidence is only anecdotal, Mr Gordon said it’s noticeable by observing the goings-on in the CBD.
“The grey nomads, you can see them, they almost wear a uniform,” he said. “They’re up and down the main street and they’re certainly spending money in the town.
“They’re looking in windows; they’re looking in real estate windows.
“Their dress, I call it their going ashore gear; they’re the right age for people to be looking for somewhere to finally roost.”
While CVC has not collected figures on the Maclean experience, it has some relatively accurate figures derived from RVs camping at the Grafton greyhound track during the last two Jacaranda Festivals.
The council’s environment and planning and community director, Des Schroder, said that campers from about 200 RVs spent around $100,000 in Grafton during the festival period.
“Rex Williams from the Clarence Valley Ramblers (RV club) collected receipts, which verified $80,000 of actual expenditure,” he said.
“Broken into components, the average spend per RV was $500: $235 on motoring needs (including fuel), $160 on groceries and $51 on accommodation.
“And they also spend on entertainment, medical and other bits and pieces.”
However, in Maclean, the initiative has become “too successful”, Mr Schroder said.
The terms of approval for Maclean per night was for 10 self-contained vehicles equipped with home-like amenities, including kitchen and bathroom facilities and living and sleeping areas.
Other forms of camping, such as “caravans, camper trailers, tents, bivouacs, etcetera, will be directed to other approved facilities in the area”, the CVC guidelines state: “motor vehicles or trailers are not permitted to use power or connect to taps … [and] the maximum stay permissible is 72 hours”.
The Maclean Show Society collects the $10 overnight fee per vehicle and is responsible for monitoring the number of campers.
Mr Schroder said CVC is “looking at how to regulate [the RV overnight stay] operation more efficiently”.