First tornado, then van families turfed after 30 years
THE strike of a pen from NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust has proved mightier than the tornado which took out most of the 16 long-term caravans at Lennox Head in 2010.
Long-term holiday van owners at North Coast Holiday Parks Lennox Head are being pushed out to make room for larger vans and RVs and to create a space for short-term tourist sites and group bookings. On July 19, NCHP gave the site holders a 90-day notice to vacate. They have until October 17.
The 16 families have ironically named their patch of paradise by Lake Ainsworth "Struggle Street". After 30 summers spent together, the families say the decision to do away with the annual sites means the "loss of a community".
Struggle Street's Australia Day celebrations with live bands were infamous. It was a place of communal nightly card games where life-long friendships were forged.
Yesterday, amid the sounds of drills dismantling 30-year-old mobile homes, grandparents who had watched their children and grandchildren grow up at the park couldn't hold back tears.
But for Rod Minnikin, who spent every summer for 31 years at the park, sentimental sadness gave way to anger.
"31 years we've been here," he said. "We've been given a letter to say we've only got three months to move and three of those weeks are school holidays when we're not allowed to move them."
"We just got a letter. No contact - nothing. Nobody has come up to us to say sorry this has happened. You'd expect after 31 years of never missing a payment, there'd be something.
"I won't be back after how they treated us."
Thirty years ago Struggle Street residents paid $600 for the annual site. This year they paid $6000.
According to a trust spokeswoman, the decision was part of an "ongoing investment program for the holiday parks under its control to ensure they remain sustainable, continue to meet the expectations of visitors and make a contribution to local economies".
University of Technology Sydney lecturer Helen Gilbert, author of the recent paper The Loss of Low Cost Coastal Caravan Parks, said the Lennox Head story was part of a national coastal trend.
"In the case of Crown-owned holiday parks like this, it's part of the government's push to redevelop parks," she said. "They feel they can get more income from redeveloping them into upmarket caravan parks for short-term residents for higher turnover."
Ms Gilbert said this trend had a significant social impact.
"With this displacement, there is a loss of community," she said.
But according to the trust spokeswoman, "under current legislation holiday van owners are only permitted to occupy their sites for a maximum of six months in any year".
"Holiday van occupancy is well below that of tourist sites and the reduction in holiday vans will open up those few sites for year-round tourist use," she said.
"Sites occupied by holiday vans have an average occupancy of around 10-15%, which is significantly lower than the occupancy rates for powered tourist sites, which on average is 45%.
"Holiday van owners that are required to remove their vans from the park will have the same opportunity to book a site that other visitors have. Holiday van owners will also have first option of occupying their present site as a tourist.
"The trust wants to ensure that even more families and visitors can enjoy their facilities like those at NCHP Lennox Head for holidays."