Court drives a spike into free camping
THE days of free camping at Kershaw Gardens appear doomed - but not before the Christmas and New Year holidays.
In a judgment delivered on Thursday, the Planning and Environment Court ruled against Rockhampton Regional Council and in favour of a caravan park operators' group.
A mid-February deadline has been set for the campers to clear off.
Since late 2014, the council has let self-contained recreational vehicles camp up to 48 hours for free at Kershaw Gardens.
The free camping irritated some caravan park owners, who complained of losing business.
The Caravan Parks Association of Queensland went to court last December, asking the council and State Government to stop all operations at the Moores Creek Rd site.
After multiple Planning and Environment Court hearings, Judge Michael Williamson was persuaded a development offence was committed at the gardens.
He said the council could not resume using the land as a "tourist park" without an effective development permit allowing so.
Judge Williamson's decision could also be appealed.
But if Thursday's decision stands, the council must remove any signs identifying the gardens as a tourist park by 4pm on February 15.
The council must also tell the Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia that overnight camping has stopped, and publish notices explaining the camping ban.
Judge Williamson said his orders didn't mean the land had to restored "to the condition it was in" before the offences happened.
He also said there was no need for signs to go up saying that RV accommodation use was unlawful.
The council previously told the court no development approval was needed because the camping was "accepted development".
Last month, council barrister Nicholas Loos said people would not go "on holiday" to Kershaw Park but it was instead a "rest area" for travellers.
But a town planner, Steven Reynolds, said in court documents it was abnormal to have RV overnight camping in a regional centre's major recreation park.
"I have never experienced such a use being carried out in a regional centre such as this."
Court costs are still to be decided.