Caravan Industry calls for cabin accommodation exemption


Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAA) is calling on State Governments to review sweeping orders in some states forcing caravan park closures that will see self-contained cabin accommodation ideally suited for the management of the spread of COVID-19 sit empty.

Stuart Lamont, CEO of Caravan Industry Association of Australia, said that caravan parks located in most rural and regional centres provide valuable and appropriate accommodation options for essential workers and yet these are 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, and can put measures in place to address this," 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."

Caravan parks in many cases make most of their revenue from cabin accommodation.  Cabins are as self-contained as accommodation comes; they have ensuites, kitchens and independent air-conditioning systems.  

In many cases they resemble homes rather than studios which are commonplace amongst other forms of accommodation, with multiple living spaces, and that is why they are the accommodation of choice for many contracted workers undertaking important work in regional communities.

"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.

Australia's tourism industry has been crippled by the summer bushfires, and COVID-19 has dealt the industry an even more devastating blow.

The majority of caravan park businesses are owned by Australian families, and this directive will see many of these businesses close, putting so many regional Australians out of jobs – unnecessarily.

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

"Along with cabins, these parks also provide 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."

"There's also a strange contradiction occurring with State Governments – we've seen a surge in demand from departments making cabin bookings for patients, staff and clients while the very same agencies are trying to shut us down," said Stuart.

"Caravan Industry Association of Australia is appealing to Governments to provide clarification that self-contained accommodation within caravan parks be permissible 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."

There are estimated to be 13,500 cabins in NSW parks, 7,500 cabins in VIC parks and 750 cabins in Tasmanian parks, all of which will be de-commissioned as a result of the new rules. These cabins alone could provide vital self-isolation accommodation to Australians during this unprecedented time.

"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."

"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."

The Victorian, New South Wales and Tasmanian Governments have directed caravan parks to close to all except permanent residents and those with no place of residence.

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