Described as a “bottomless money pit” by one councillor, the Tumbarumba Caravan Park is about to undergo another half a million dollars in upgrades, as Snowy Valleys Council prepares to take over the running of the troubled facility.
The next round of works include the construction of a new park entry, residence and office, the maintenance of the amenities building, fencing of the park, installing a dump point and developing an electronic booking system.
The works are proposed to be funded from an as yet unclaimed federal grant claim of $520,000. The council has already ploughed almost $1.9m into a project that aimed to provide extra accommodation for blueberry pickers, but has been plagued by budget overruns and delays.
The current lease runs out at the end of this month, and the council will install a manager at a cost of about $2400 a week.
The council is hoping the park will bring in about $8000 a week in revenue during peak season, with revenue being pocketed by the council once the existing lease ends.
The existing lessee was paying the council $5500 a year.
The decision to take on the running of the park follows a recommendation by an independent consultant, who urged the council to end its arrangement with the current lessee and employ someone until the upgrade work is finished.
Upon hearing the figures at last week’s council meeting, Cr John Larter said the council had little option but to end the lease.
“I don’t think the public listening to this would be in any state of confusion as to why we terminated the lease,” Cr Larter said. “It was absolutely ridiculous. It was farcical almost.”
Despite accepting the developments for the park look promising, Clr Julia Ham questioned why it was necessary to terminate the current lease.
“If I could just start by acknowledging the current lessees of the caravan park,” Clr Ham said. “This has been a tough decision for council and a decision that business-wise, we had to do to stop the losses at the Tumbarumba Caravan Park.
“It is a shame that it has caused a family stress and I just want to acknowledge that.
“It all sounds fantastic, but why couldn’t we do this scope of works with the lessees there?”
The council’s General Manager, Matthew Hyde, said the decision to terminate the lease was made separate to the development of plans for the park.
“There was a separate decision made about the ongoing lessee so there was a previous resolution about trying to negotiate a lease,” Mr Hyde said.
“Those lease negotiations failed for a variety of reasons and due to that failure, the termination of the ongoing arrangement was made and council has decided that moving forward, there is significant works that have to be done and we felt that the management of that under our own control during that period of time would be the best arrangement and council will make a separate decision about what happens after that.”
Cr Geoff Pritchard said the council should look at selling the caravan park.
“We have to ask ourselves the questions, why do we have the caravan park?” Cr Pritchard said.
“I can see this being a bottomless pit. We should look at selling the park to a developer, or someone like NRMA that knows how to run these parks.
“They would see it as an opportunity to develop a major park, and they have the ongoing management skills to make it work.”
Mr Hyde said the park was on crown lease, and a lengthy process would be required to sell it.
The council will consider a strategy for all its caravan parks later in the year.