Barmah faces a blow to tourism

April 21, 2017

BARMAH’S economy is facing a mortal blow with news the town’s caravan and camping park will close.

BARMAH’S economy is facing a mortal blow with news the town’s caravan and camping park will close.

Local publican John Powell said its loss would be the death of the Murray River town.

But he’s not giving up without a fight and has called an urgent public meeting at the Barmah Hotel for Sunday to galvanise locals into saving the tourist complex.

Moira Shire chief executive Mark Henderson told the Riverine Herald the lease of the caravan park expired on June 30 last year but was extended by negotiation with the current lessee until June 30 this year.

Mr Henderson said the shire advertised the lease in two public expressions of interest (EOI) processes — the first in May 2016 and the second in March 2017.

‘‘We received two responses to the first EOI, however none were received from the second,’’ Mr Henderson said.

‘‘Through the EOI process, we have been unable to identify a recommended long-term park operator.

‘‘Because of this, and the cost to ratepayers of future capital investment and tree safety, officers are recommending closure.’’

However, Mr Henderson added council had not formally considered the future of the park and until it made a final decision he was unable to comment further.

Mr Powell said Barmah had one pub and two caravan parks and with a permanent population of just 180 people, the town was totally dependent on tourism as a lifeline.

He said the Barmah Caravan and Camping Park comprised 50 annual site holders, four permanent residents, five cabins for hire and 13 powered sites for hire.

‘‘All of which were full for Easter,’’ he said.

Mr Powell said the town was a popular spot for tourists seeking boating and fishing activities along the river as well as visiting the Barmah National Park.

He also questioned why council officers would recommend closing the caravan park when funding had been given to restore the old punt on the river for tourists.

‘‘Why take away the place for people to stay if you want them to come here and look at these things,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s nothing else in this town. If we don’t have tourism, we have nothing.

‘‘If you want people to come up and see it, they need places to camp.

‘‘If you take 50 per cent of that away, the town would be dead.’’

Mr Powell described any decision to close the caravan park as ‘‘totally alien’’ to what councils want to do in promoting small towns.

He said the caravan park was full during Easter, Christmas and school holidays.

Sunday’s meeting at the Barmah hotel will start at 3pm and all interested parties are invited to attend.

There are also plans for a group of Barmah residents to attend the next Moira Shire Council meeting this Wednesday in Yarrawonga with the caravan park listed as an agenda item for discussion.

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