Tamworth-based retirees Jeff Myers and his wife Chris have been regular visitors to Mylestom on the mid north coast for the last decade, staying about 70 days a year in the quiet seaside village and spending their money at the corner shop and the bowling club.
They have an on-site caravan at the Reflections Holiday Park Mylestom, which they bought off a previous owner, and they pay a flat fee of $5000 per year to rent the spot where the van resides.
Theirs is one of about 30 such vans, generally old and no longer mobile, owned by people whose occupation agreements with the park entitle them to stay up to 180 nights per annum.
Jeff said about half are retired couples from the New England region and the others are families with kids from Coffs Harbour.
But now it seems that Reflections would prefer them gone, if not immediately, at least via natural attrition.
Last month, Jeff received a letter informing him that should he wish to sell or transfer the ownership of his holiday van, it would need to be removed from the park.
He’s heard of this happening in other places, such as Evans Head, with the stated reason being to free up the spaces for short-term tourist accommodation.
“They’re legally entitled to do that,” Jeff said. “But it doesn’t make financial sense. Their income from this site, should they get rid of us, will be $3000 less.”
He based this calculation on Reflections Mylestom only having 100 per cent occupancy of its powered sites during four weeks over Christmas, therefore the lost revenue of $5000 from him would only be offset by an additional $2000 at the high season rate of $63 per night.
“That will be their loss for each site,” he said. “If it was Port Macquarie, or a really busy centre, I would understand it because they would run at 100 per cent occupancy a lot of weeks in the year. But we’re talking about North Beach, which runs at 60 per cent occupancy. If they take the semi-permanents away, you’ve got 30 extra caravan sites that aren’t going to be occupied. If they were to build 30 cabins on those sites, those cabins aren’t going to be occupied.
“Because it’s not that popular a caravan park.”
Jeff suspects it is a statewide decision that is being implemented regardless of local conditions.
“We feel it’s just somebody sitting in an office in Newcastle saying this is what we’re doing. And not looking at individual parks.”
However, Reflections CEO Steve Edmonds said this argument was wrong.
”Jeff Myer’s statement that Reflections will lose money if holiday vans are converted to powered sites is incorrect,” he said.
“During the last financial year, powered sites yielded $9000 per year each compared to Jeff’s calculation of $2000.
There’s going to be a social and economic effect, apart from what it’s doing to usJeff Myers
“This means that when comparing holiday vans (at $5000 per year) with powered sites (at $9000 per year), powered sites yield an extra $4000, being almost double the amount.”
In response to a further question to clarify whether that $9000 figure was an average across all 37 of the parks operated by NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust, Fairfax Media was told it was specific to Mylestom.
Jeff also argues that another major ramification will be how the loss of the holiday van owners affects the turnover of North Beach Bowling Club and the local store.
“We’re nearly all members of the bowling club,” he said. “Out of the 30, I think there’s five that aren’t. We go there on a Friday or Saturday night, have a drink, have dinner.
“There’s going to be a social and economic effect, apart from what it’s doing to us.”
Jeff said the letters were sent out with no consultation, no forewarning and no contact details for follow-up inquiries.
“It was just a case of here’s the letter, just arrives in the mail.”
He added that one of the van owners paid $70,000 to buy her caravan six months ago.
“They would have known six months ago that this was on the drawing board. Yet they were quite happy to let her spend $70,000 on the basis that the money will be blown. Because you can’t move them [the vans]. Basically, they go to the tip.”
Jeff feared the letter was just the beginning of a process that would see all of the holiday van owners told to vacate their sites within the next 12 months, but his attempts to inquire proved fruitless.
When Fairfax Media approached Reflections for comment, we received the following assurance from the CEO Steve Edmonds:
“The letter that the holiday van owners received at Mylestom on 13/08/2018 is not asking Holiday Van Owners to leave the park.
“It is stating that new Occupation or ‘Lease’ Agreements will not be issued for new people to come to the park, buy a current holiday van owner’s van and re-lease that site in the new van owner’s name.
“Should a holiday van owner wish to leave the park and sell their van, the site they have been leasing will revert to a powered site if allowed under the Plan of Management.”
The current Plan of Management for Mylestom dates back to 2012, prior to the amalgamation of North Coast Holiday Parks, South Coast Holiday Parks and Inland Waters Holiday Parks under the corporate banner of Crown Holiday Parks in 2013.
However, Reflections said there were no plans to update the Mylestom Plan of Management in the next year.