Motorhome owners in limbo as council tells them to leave
IT'S been home to grey nomad workers for more than 18 months, but now a Gladstone Regional Council order has left many motorhome residents with nowhere to go.
More than a dozen couples left the Gladstone Showgrounds over the weekend, before a council deadline to permanently vacate by Gladstone Show Day on August 7.
One former resident, David Finn, who had moved from Port Augusta in December, said it was the council that first told him there was permanent accommodation available at the showgrounds.
"When we first decided to come up for work, there wasn't a caravan park that could fit our 40-foot motorhome, so a lot of us rang council, and that's how we ended up here," Mr Finn said.
The couple is formerly from Gladstone, and Mr Finn works as a fitter and turner in town.
He's been fighting the notice to vacate since the council told the Gladstone Show Society in February the residents had to clear out - or the society would cop a maximum $181,500 fine.
At that time, Mr Finn said more than 30 residents - including a marine pilot and a vet who moved to Gladstone for work - approached show society president Noel Reddacliff in a bid to continue tenancy.
The issue was then raised at a council meeting, and councillors voted to take action unless the residents vacated.
Mr Finn said each motorhome owner paid $150 a week to the show society for their site.
That's despite the fact that the commercial operation contravenes the showgrounds' Community Purpose zoning.
"They've been happy to take our money for the past 18 months, and it would be hundreds of thousands they've made off all of us," Mr Finn said.
"And council's been happy to turn a blind eye. But now suddenly they're cracking down, and we can't get any help."
They've been happy to take our money for the past 18 months, and it would be hundreds of thousands they've made off all of us
Council did ask the show society to outline what action would be taken to help the residents relocate, but Mr Finn said there hadn't been any.
"The trouble is there is still no caravan park in the Gladstone area that can accommodate our size of motorhomes," Mr Finn said.
"Wild Cattle Creek could take us for five weeks, but that's it, and the one at Benaraby has no vacancies for at least 12 months."
Mr Reddacliff declined to comment on the process. But he insisted the show society had replied to every communication from council.
When Gladstone Show Society first received council's request that camping cease in February, director of planning Leisa Dowling wrote that council had already raised the issue with the society in July 2012, and also in 2007.
"It is disappointing to note that to date, no record can be found of a reply," Ms Dowling wrote.
But on Sunday, she confirmed an action plan was submitted following the meeting, and said the council was happy with the society's response.
"We wanted to make sure that it wasn't left until the last minute and people weren't left in the lurch," she said.
Ms Dowling said it was possible that motorhome owners had put onto the showgrounds by council.
"It's fair to say there was a difficult housing accommodation situation, and council had eased up things like caravans in backyards to ease that situation," she said.
But Mr Finn said that council had to take responsibility for the situation.
"A lot of us came here because Gladstone Regional Council ran an advertising campaign, telling us there was plenty of accommodation, plenty of work," he said.