For a more effortless and secure experience on our site, please consider updating your browser

Jayco in tow Joanna Gash finds fuel, signage, broadband and mobile cover need immediate Govt response to keep Australian road tourism viable

July 09, 2008
Jayco in tow Joanna Gash finds fuel, signage, broadband and mobile cover need immediate Govt response to keep Australian road tourism viable

GSA Day 1

Nowra to Orange

By Joanna Gash Federal Shadow Spokesperson on Road Tourism

If you want to really research something, you have to start off with an open mind and I certainly did that, because my experience of caravanning can be summarised on a postage stamp.

The support extended to me by Go See Australia and Jayco Nowra, who lent me a caravan was unsurpassed. Brendan Nelson, Leader of the Opposition and Steve Ciobo, Shadow Tourism Minister, came to Nowra to officially launch my sojourn through the middle of NSW, South Australian and Victoria before coming home once again to Nowra.

The trip from Nowra to Goulburn was relatively uneventful although I certainly appreciated the presence of the caravan. Graham Wallace, CEO of Go See Australia prepared a very good schedule for our assistance. It showed distances and estimated travel times between locations which proved very helpful on Day One.

We travelled through Kangaroo Valley and up onto the Hume Highway without incident. The girls at the Goulburn Tourist Information Centre were helpful and courteous after first absorbing who I was when I introduced myself and told them what I was doing.

The first real difficulty we encountered was at Crookwell when we arrived.

The whole power grid was down and without power, there was no fuel to be pumped. The Tarago in which we are travelling had only a third of a tank of fuel and we had no idea of how far the power outage went.

The irony of the situation was that we had stopped to admire the wind farm turbines just before you get to Crookwell. It was a breezy day and we wondered why the propellers werent turning. We soon found out why.

Anyway, we made the decision to press on ahead calculating our fuel consumption would get us to at least Blayney.

The road ahead proved challenging with many sections being gravel.The road was narrow, winding, up and down hill and coupled with the head wind, we watched the fuel gauge needle rapidly falling to empty.

It was even more disconcerting because there were many places where there was no mobile phone coverage and very little passing traffic. After passing through Tuena, we took a very active interest in our fuel tank because adding to the anxiety was the lack of signposts to tell us how far we were from the next possible fuel supply.

Joanna works on her GoSee report on her laptop in the Jayco
Joanna works on her GoSee report on her laptop in the Jayco

By the time we got into Blayney, the fuel tank gauge had been on empty for about 20 kilometres and we estimated that we must have had about a thimble of petrol left. But that is part of the adventure and once refuelled (and reassured), off we went to Orange.

We actually made very good time. After stopping at the Information Centre in Orange whose staff were very good and very helpful, we found a caravan park to camp. Getting out of a warm car and into the bracing Orange air was invigorating and setting up the Jayco caravan for the first time was an interesting experience. One or two small items we need to buy but otherwise, all the bases were covered.

Dinner was at the Orange Ex Services Club and I was delightfully surprised to run into my local sports journo, Rob Crawford from the South Coast Register. Rob is the coach of a junior hockey team that was participating in hockey matches in Orange that weekend.

Overall, a good start to our journey and Im looking forward to the next leg to Griffith on Monday.

GSA Day 2

Orange to Griffith

By Joanna Gash MP

Day two of the fact finding tour started with striking camp in pouring rain.

Cold and wet is not an encouraging state to be in for a day trip. We found a few inevitable leaks in the canvas which can be expected of any new canvas until it shrinks.

We were visited on site by a television crew from Prime Television curious as to what could possibly possess a politician to go caravanning in somewhere with a reputation for being cold. The interviewer was from Queensland who had only been there a few short weeks but I must say, was intrigued by the caravan.

Ellen at the Griffith Info Centre
Ellen at the Griffith Info Centre

First destination was Molong which proved surprisingly interesting. It had seen better days but I have to congratulate the local tourism board in their promotional efforts. The road in was fundamental but Molong had lots of character.

The train station had been converted into the local library and when we arrived there were a number of caravanners from Victoria. They were travelling northward and in an effort to contain expenses had found private property to camp in.

This was a theme that is repeating itself in other places. As expected, the high cost of fuel was imposing economies in other areas. I am very concerned about the downstream effect on local economies if the road tourism industry is allowed to shrink.

The government has got to take some proactive measures to address this problem. From Molong, we went to Manildra, a town whose major industry is the starch mills.

Manildra also has a starch mill in my own electorate with that name and also produces ethanol which ironically helps keep down the cost of petrol. From there to Parkes where we visited the local information centre and whose staff were very friendly and helpful.

Parkes celebrates its Elvis week in January but wintertime, trade was predictably down. Parkes is on the Newell Highway and it was from that point that the previously invisible caravans suddenly became very visible.

Joanna and the Road Testing road tourism Jayco
Joanna and the Road Testing road tourism Jayco

In just two short days on the road, we drew the impression that road tourists prefer the major arteries. One thing that we did make note off was the need for more signage to tell you exactly where you were.

We had difficulty estimating our fuel consumption and for the second day running, got to the last town on almost an empty tank of fuel. There is a screaming need to standardise tourist signage.

On through to Forbes and beyond and the terrain was getting flatter. West Wylong is another town showing the signs of a bygone era. Tourism relies very much on presentation and to allow towns to show signs of dilapidation diminishes the very product townships are desperately trying to promote.

There's a lesson there for the State Government - support your councils by maintaining and promoting a positive image.

It was then on to Griffith via Rankin Springs, a tiny little hamlet on the main thoroughfare which once supported the local farming community - another relic of a bygone era which left nothing to induce you to stay.

The Jayco proved a breeze to tow and we maintained a good pace with little difficulty. We were now confronting longer distances with less and less distractions and even less attractions, for that matter.

Still, it takes all types and some people actually like undisturbed countryside. Developing a roads tourism policy based on a one size fits all is a big ask.

But we are getting valuable feedback from the folks we come across.Tuesday night in Griffith and a new day tomorrow.

There has been a lot of interest from the local media and tomorrow Stateline will be recording our next leg to Mildura. Haven't been there for a long time and it will be interesting to see what has changed.

Slowly but surely, we are getting a feel for the journey but there is no doubt that the cost of fuel is hurting and we haven't even begun to see the end of this yet.

GSA Day 3

Griffith to Mildura

By Joanna Gash MP

Jim (Balranald Caravan Park) and Joanna
Jim (Balranald Caravan Park) and Joanna

Leaving Griffith, we were joined on the road by ABC Stateline which will be broadcasting their report this Friday night, for NSW viewers.

The caravan park owner told me that the weather that morning (cold drizzle) reminded him of what the weather was like in Griffith 15 years ago.

I thought perhaps that we were instrumental in helping to break the drought because Griffith is on category 2 restrictions.

The Stateline crew arrived late due to being fogbound in Orange so our program has been delayed and weve had to make compromises.

While I was there, I called in to the Information Centre in Banna Street and ran into an old colleague from my earlier tourism days. Ellen worked in the industry with me when I was the Tourism Officer in Mittagong and we often met at conferences.

Tonight we are camping in Balranald and the caravan park owner, Jim, hails from Pambula on the NSW South Coast, just outside my electorate.

Once again we faced a head wind as we travelled to our first stop Hay via Darlington Point on the Murrumbidgee River and after two days of arriving on a near empty tank, we refuelled at every major stop.

Hay was an eye-opener. While we were having lunch, we spoke to one of the waitresses and asked her how things were. She had a revealing tale to tell.

Apparently the local hotel at South Hay would normally prepare about 60 to 70 meals each day. Now he is only doing 30 because the road touring business has dried up dramatically.

The caf in which she is working has cut back the hours of all staff and other businesses are going through similar experiences.

Getting rid of the fruit SA Border.jpg
Getting rid of the fruit SA Border.jpg

There is no doubt in my mind that unless the government does something urgently to address this problem, some townswill die.

The information centre was particularly hospitable and oozed country charm. They could not do enough.

Just to illustrate their positive outlook, we had earlier driven around behind the town and took a look at the so called mighty Murrumbidgee.It had dried to barely a trickle and looked no more than a large pond. Certainly I didnt see any flow and I wonder how the town survives with water that low.

The day seemed like one continuous drive. I had not been across the Hay plains for a long, long time and the road seemed to go on forever. The terrain just seemed to get flatter and flatter.

From Hay to Balranald, we seemed to be driving continuously uphill with little relief from the unending horizon. In fact so repetitious was it that we started welcoming every sign that told us how far we had to go.

We arrived in Balranald just after 4.30 to find that the Information Centre had closed so we went to the caravan park to book in.

Jim the manager was very helpful and we came across a number of touring campers who were interviewed by the Stateline team, all with a similar story.

I think we are starting to realise that the high price of fuel is here to stay and that we have to develop policies to get around that and still maintain the health of an industry upon which many country townships rely.

Im working on a concept now and will be fleshing it out as we continue to travel.

Tomorrow, Mildura, where we will have to make up some time so its an early start for us in the morning.

All I can say is that you can help country folk by promising to take your next holiday in one of these towns. You wont regret it and neither will they.

GSA Day 4

Mildura to Gawler

By Joanna Gash MP
The Murray locks and weirs system keeps pool levels high
The Murray locks and weirs system keeps pool levels high

YES there is water in the Murray and Yes river boats are still operating and YES I would certainly be back to sample the hospitality of the Murray River centres in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and their friendly people.

Today I was in three states and we have struck a chord. People seemed genuinely interested in what I was on about and wanted to contribute their opinions once we broke the ice.

Our first stop after leaving Balranald was Mildura and I must say how I was impressed with the city, especially the Information Centre. It is by far the best appointed I have seen so far and the facilities are comprehensive. I was particularly taken by parking space set aside for caravans and long loads.

Many places you are forced to park away from the town centre and so you are not encouraged to explore further. Local councils, who rely on the road tourism dollar, would do well to protect their source of income and look after their customers.

Again, when you are travelling a long distance between places, it would be comforting to know how far you are away. With petrol consumption proving to be so high, I would have felt more reassured in being able to calculate the rate of consumption.

Mildura is a surprisingly modern city, well appointed and attractive. NSW could well learn some invaluable lessons from its neighbour across the river.

We struck off towards Renmark in South Australia and the countryside seemed to become more attractive compared to what we had seen along the Hay Plains.

Crossing the SA border, we stopped at the fruit fly station and I had to surrender all my fruit except for some peeled carrots I had. The staff were very friendly and I think that is a key factor to a successful local tourism industry, even the officials who work for the government.

Renmark was another pleasant surprise especially with its setting on the Murray River. The Information Centre was friendly, informative but again could be improved by providing parking for the caravanner.

Renmarks neighbour, Berri, famed for its fruit juices was equally attractive and that part of South Australia I would thoroughly recommend as a must see stop over.

Three quarters of an hour down the Sturt Highway, the township of Waikerie, 175km from Adelaide, where the Murray River Queen is moored. Once a month she does four day cruiises or there are dinner and lunch cruises too.

At Renmark their is a popular two hour Renmark River Cruises experience which gets visitors on the water in comfort with koalas in the riverbank tress and scones with the afternoon tea. Waikerie is a nice little township with a unique and innovative Information Centre. What made it unique was that it was privately run and owned. The owner was especially helpful.
Houseboat Photographer David Scaletti & Tourism Victoria
Houseboat Photographer David Scaletti Tourism Victoria

The shop was neat and clean, well presented and she was very helpful and friendly. I thoroughly recommend the chocolate coated dried apricots, a specialty product of the town.

The name Waikerie is said to mean many wings, after the giant swift moth wei kari, the name given by the original indigenous community. Its an appropriate name, considering the teeming birds of the lagoons and wetlands that edge the river.

All the centres along this section of the Murray or known as the Riverland in South Australia. They are very positive and were delighted that we had made it quite clear that YES there was water in the Murray thanks to the locks system and Yes that the river boats are still operating and YES that I would certainly be back to sample their hospitality.

The Riverland has a modern fleet of cruise vessels which range the river from Blanchetown in the west, all the way to Customs House on the eastern State border.House boating in the Riverland gives a close-up of the river and every river bend reveals a new aspect of this spectacular section of the Murray River.

From Blanchetown to Renmark the Murray on the water experience is brillant thanks to the lock-system which keeps water levels up. There are some limitations now downstream in the section of the Murray to Murray bridge, but in Aussie-style the Murraylands centres are battlers and their tourism is making the best on every opportunity.

The Murray Region is served by tri-state touring highways linked to Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide. This is the tourism, trade and transport legacy the tough, taciturn race of river men of the Murray and Darling systems gave Australia.

After the expanse of South Western NSW, the dotted attractions along the Sturt Highway into our last stop for the day, Gawler, was a welcome relief. I felt a distinct difference between today and yesterday, between NSW and South Australia.

I just wonder how much influence individual state governments exert on their industries. There is always more that can be done but comparing what I saw in NSW with what I saw across the border, NSW has a fair bit of catching up to do in rural townships.

I am looking forward to meeting more people and getting some grassroots feedback. Already there has been some invaluable suggestions and I will be taking these up as I develop an alternative roads tourism policy.

Anybody who has an idea is welcome to contact me and I will be happy to listen to them. My caravan has my mobile phone number displayed very clearly, so if you are on the road and you see me, give me a call. And if youre not, my mobile is 0427 160 170 I would love to hear from you.

GoSeeAustralias Must see and do in the Riverland
Golfers should head to any of the regions five first-class golf courses Berri, Renmark, Barmera, Waikerie and Loxton.
Nature in its original state can be found at the regions numerous conservation areas, notably Bookmark Biosphere Reserve. Walk, canoe, ride or drive the 27 trails.
At Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre, wander out to the viewing platform, tasting glass in hand and gaze over the wetlands.
See the Murray from a different angle aboard a paddle steamer.
For a taste of local history, visit Loxton Historical Village complete with schoolhouse, bakery, blacksmith and bank.
Visit Olivewood Homestead where irrigation pioneers the Chaffey brothers once lived.
Call at Overland Corner Hotel (est.1859) that was once a major staging post for drovers. You may even see the local ghost
Visit the Old Customs House, 30km east of Paringa, one of the oldest buildings in the Riverland.
Get a photographic view of the river from the towering cliffs. Be there at sunset.
Take the kids to Monash Adventure Park, at Monash, with a giant maze, leaning climbing towers, flying foxes, tree house, Burmese Rope Bridge, basketball and quirky childrens play equipment.
The Lady Nelson at Mt Gambier Visitor Information Centre
The Lady Nelson at Mt Gambier Visitor Information Centre

Jayco pop-top caravan handles howling winds brilliantly

GSA Day 5

Murray Bridge to Mount Gambier and Robe

By Joanna Gash MP

Today we really tested the Jayco pop-top caravan. Howling winds, hail, sleet. Drove most of the way and it handled brilliantly.

Headwinds and hill climbs proved the greatest challenges but the combination of the Tarago and Jayco survived the test. Our tow car is a Tarago V6 GLX kerb weight 1840kg to 1930kg with a 65 litre petrol tank and a 6cyl engine which develops 340Nm at 4700rpm. Toyota rate its towing capacity (kg) with a braked trailer at 1600kg.

We cant seem to lower the petrol consumption no matter how hard we try. Still between 280 and 320 Ks per full tank. Weve also been doing our own fuel watch. Varies between 164.5 and 179.9 and diesel - well we wont go there.

Interesting to note the cost of staying at caravan parks on a powered site. On the first night was $17.50. Day 2, $19.50. Day 3, $21.50. Day 4, $24.00 and here at Robe on Day 5, $27.00.

Facilities for those of us without showers or toilets in the van are excellent. The early morning hot water shower really starts the day. The ease of setting up each night continues to amaze me as time to do so gets shorter and shorter.

Now to the roads. The NSW Government can take a lesson from South Australia as they are far superior, especially the Princes Highway which we travelled on most of the day.

The verges have much more scope to stop without getting bogged, plenty of room to pull over, terrific rest areas and rubbish receptacles. But why oh why is there no allowance made for the parking of caravans within and around the CBDs. Hate to be trying to find spaces in peak holiday times.

National sign posting is still a major issue as is distance to the nearest fuel location as not all small towns sell petrol. Its something to look at after the trip.

Met an amazing number of people yesterday and today, both in the visitors centres, the caravan parks we stayed in and visited. And with respect to the grey nomads, you are getting younger all the time.

Our neighbours last night were a family with a 10 month old baby, a six year and a10 year old. Been travelling fortwo weeks with still a week to go. They love it and say it teaches their children about Australia, the environment and creates close family ties.

One other couple had been on the road for some 4 months. Told me they started years ago camping in the back of a ute, then to a tent, then to a van and now to a self contained van.

They love going off road but also miss the companionship of others stayiong in the caravan park. Another young man came form Switzerland looking for work.

Tonight we are camping alongside Grandma and Grandpas camper van. Cant wait to meet them.

Whilst in Mildura we were stopped by a lady saying she was family of mine, asking was I really Jo Gash. Turned out she shares the same surname but hails from New Zealand.
Wine  tasting at Wynns Coonawarra South Australia
Wine tasting at Wynns Coonawarra South Australia

Asked me if I would watch her swim as she wanted to let her friends know that a Gash came to watch her. It never ceases to amaze me the varying reports and comments we get. Put all these people in Parliament and Australia could probably be a better place.

Tomorrow we go to Mount Gambier via Naracoorte and Penola. Time to do some washing and once again, the hardest thing Ive had to cope with is memorising the 7 digit code to get into the shower block and toilets.

GSA Day 6

Gawler to Robe and on to Port Fairy

By Joanna Gash MP
Yes you can have it with chips
Yes you can have it with chips

Last night we camped atseaside Robe on the Limestone Coast of South Australia which, aside from the fierce weather we drove through to get there was a great place to stop. The Limestone Coast isfamous for its crayfish.But Im getting ahead of myself.

We left Gawler to head to Murray Bridge where we intended to stop for the night but had a change of plans. Ive got to say that everything I saw in South Australia was impressive. SA does tourism far better than NSW.

It took us about two hours of driving through gale force winds and rain along the coast road buttheJaycopop-top caravanwas up to the task. No real difficulties were experienced not even any distinctive sense of swaying.

We stayed at a very well appointed caravan park next to what localshas been described as the lakes. The caravan park adjoins a beautiful sandstone mansion which is a replica of the west wing of a London house built by a wealthy immigrant last century. It is presently being used by the Youth Hostels Association people and I would imagine that in summer it would be a popular destination.

The facilities were very clean and tidy and the two young girls running the park, were very helpful and courteous. We walked into town for dinner at a replica English Pub and it reeked with atmosphere. The huge open fireplace was a welcome refuge from the howling gale outside.

The next morning we set of to Naracoorte on the Princes Highway where the main attraction was the caves and fossils. While the town was not dependent on tourism owing to a large meat works that was the focus of the towns economy, the shopkeepers were concerned at the drop in tourists owing to the price of petrol.

Spoke to some Japanese tourists who were travelling around Australia in a Kombi van, they had nothing but praise for the Australian hospitality.

From there to Penola in the heart of the Coonawarra wine growing district. Have to admit that we did visit Wynns Winery, (only to check out the facilities) and to buy that odd bottle of red, for the staff back home.

Being a former tourist officer I could not help but notice the diversion of attractions within the visitors centres themselves, such as promoting the history of the town both as amazingly real life exhibits tied in with an educational theme.

Penolas traced the local history of the town, especially the role played by Mary McKillop in Australias history.There are hopes that the Pope will declare Mary McKillop Australia's first saint during his current visit.

By the way petrol consumption has improved considerably, no headwind and able the stick to the speed 90-100kph on a constant basis.

I must not continue to rave about the visitor centres but credit due again to The Mt Gambier information Centre, our next stop,ample parking very informative staff, and totally run by the local council, (contrary to many councils, they see the benefit of the tourist dollar) their display centred around the replica of thebrig, the Lady Nelson.

The format was a walk through with interactive displays. The first step took you through the local country side, then the lives of the local aboriginal nation and, then in insight into life on the Lady Nelson. I must say the scene below decks was dark and confined. I had never imagined life on a sailing brig to be like that. I suppose Ive always had a romanticised view so seeing the replica was quite a shock.

Petrol prices still varied from $1.69 - $1.80.

We had some time so we made a spur of the moment decision that rather than staying for the night we would go to Port Fairy in Victoria. We only got as far as Portland where again I was blown away by the visitor centre and what it had to offer the tourist.

Observations? South Australia does tourism exceptionally well. The only downside being the vast distances you have to travel between regions with little relief from the flat plains. But the roads are great, well signposted and well appointed. NSW could well learn a lesson from them. Locally, (in NSW) just how much more we could offer our visitors, with the Shoalhavens history of boat building, dairying, forestry and rural history.

GSA Day 7

Portland to Colac

By Joanna Gash MP

It's often said, it's a small world and today was proof of the pudding. We had gone to a small town in Western Victoria called Casterton whose claim to fame was that it was the Kelpie capital of Australia.

Each year they hold a championship event specifically geared to the Australian Kelpie. I know in a farming community such as Western Victoria, these dogs are pure gold for farmers so I can see why this event is such an important day in the calendar.

As I was going into the information centre, which was run by local volunteers and smacked of country charm, I ran into a virtual neighbour. Kath Scully who, with her husband Jim, run the IGA Supermarket in Batehaven in my electorate of Gilmore. Jim and Kath were on their way to Western Australia and frankly they were the first carvanners we had seen for a couple of days. Eightweeks on the road for them and their new van.

The lady in the information centre was charming typical country and we were offered hot chocolate and a cake. The wind was bitter outside and the hot chocolate was a very welcome relief. I know that I wax lyrical about visitor centres, but they do play such an important part in Australian tourism. Again it was pointed out that numbers had seriously decreased at every stop we made.

Before leaving Portland, I had a long conversation with a woman just out of the shower, who asked me what we were doing, and proceeded to tell me that she was from WA and would be on the road for two months, just loved meeting people , she dived into her bag and showed me the list of people she had made friends with whilst her and hubbie were staying at the caravan park.

I find this to be a typical story wherever we stop. We also made time to visit a nearby coastal site formed from volcanic activity that gave the appearance of petrified wood but being the effects of the lava flow. We also made time to see the huge wind turbines and generators that gave enough electricity to service 35,000 homes!!!!!!!!

Makes you wonder why we dont have more of them especially in the Gilmore electorate (plenty of wind comes from there). Seriously, I will certainly be speaking more about this in Parliament.

Having time up our sleeves, and wanting to be spontaneous We decided that we would like to visit Port Fairy, which was a little off schedule but thats what road tourism is all, about VERY COLD, but met lots of visitors who came for a day trip only, travelling approx 200 kms round trip. Our van is drawing a lot of attention and people are now coming up to us to ask what we are all about. . Tomorrow I will take a bucket and WARM water and clean our Jayco as it is almost unrecognisable with the amount of mud and dust. Yes I know that is contradictory but we constantly pass through rain and drought almost in the same day.

Kath Scully from Batehaven at Casterton
Kath Scully from Batehaven at Casterton
Took some time today to see part of the Great Ocean Road, after reading a newspaper article about how the business people feel that quote Road crash Fuel prices blamed for tourist dip Tourist numbers along the great ocean road, have crashed to a 20 year low as the South West suffers from the effects of crippling fuel prices, traders claim. So it is not just what we are experiencing, as each visitor centre tells me the same story.

We visited Port Campbell, our next destination but as time was getting away on us, we struck out for Colac - more about that tomorrow.

Again towing the Jayco caravan proved effortless and so far we have had no problems. I have to remember not to touch the canvas sides of the fold down cabins when it is raining because until the canvas stabilises, water will seep in.

Thank you Jayco for the luxury of the small air conditioner in the van which has allowed us not to freeze during the night. Have not had to turn the fridge on yet. If you intend staying at a caravan park but you are running late (as we often do) call ahead and tell them youre coming. Its not that theyre over booked Its just that you might have trouble raising them after dark.

GSA Day 8

Colac to Ballarat

By Joanna Gash MP
Caravan Park Ballarat
Caravan Park Ballarat

After seven days on the road it was time to do the laundry so we decided we would go on to Ballarat for a housekeeping day.

Last night at Colac was again very cold and I have to admit that the park owner gave us a private shower and toilet, as to use his phrase; It might as well be used as the numbers have been so low, I asked was it the price of fuel?

Whilst it may have made some difference, he put it down to the fact that there was so little water in the lake, and the location of the park is alongside this absolutely awesome lake.

I took the time to sit in the brisk morning to watch the birds on the lake. Very distressing to see the sad state of this drought, certainly brought it home just how lucky we still are in the Shoalhaven.

Although our schedule is very tight it enables us to make many comparisons of tourism services from one part to another.

Ballarat seems entirely dedicated to day trippers from Melbourne and that is yet another niche market in the domestic roads tourism industry. It constantly amazes me that the visitor centres are so hard to find in many of the places we stop.

Were we not so determined to visit them I would have said bother this its too hard lets move on.

But whilst having a dig at Vic roads, the local councils are to be congratulated for the way these centres are operating, we in NSW have a lot to learn from them.

Ballarat buildings
Ballarat buildings
We stopped at Sovereign Hill and asked the attendant whether there had been a drop in numbers. He reported that there was little change if any and every day was busy.

Im beginning to wonder whether part of the economies being made are shorter trips closer to home. This is certainly what we are hearing from those at the caravan parks we speak to.

As an example one family parked alongside us tonight have decided to move home so that they no longer have to drive their children to school because of the extra cost.

This has implications for the tourism industry and although caravanning numbers might be down drastically, there seems a steadiness in the day trippers.

What some people dont seem to realise is the down stream effect on businesses that rely on roads tourism. It certainly has implications for regional and rural townships.

Eureka info centre ballarat
Eureka info centre ballarat
Ballarat is very impressive and the short tour we did indicated that it was business as usual for the town. I believe the make up of domestic tourism will alter as a result of the petrol crisis if it is allowed to persist.

When I think of businesses in small towns such as cafes, van parks, newsagencies, grocery shops and so on. What happens when they dont have the money to spend on their .investments.

All I can say to those in major centres, you can help by taking a holiday in one of these towns. Even if you short time it by a day, it is important that these people continue to get your support.

And yes I did wash to Jayco caravan and do the laundry and make the tea and even did the ironing.

GSA Day 9
Info Centre at Seymour
Info Centre at Seymour

Ballarat to Yea

By Joanna Gash MP

For the French Happy Bastille Day today. On the way to Bendigo from Ballarat, went through a small town with an equally small shop on the highway which was showing the tricolour.

As there was nothing else French around, figure it must have been a special occasion and it was.The Caravan park at Ballarat was owned by a family of seven brothers, They were certainly able to fill me in on what they saw the trends to be.

Road to Yea at Seymour
Road to Yea at Seymour

Had our first difficulty with the Tarago and caravan today when we checked into the park, very wet and slippery and no traction with the Tarago to pull either backwards or forwards. Learnt a few new choice words today.

Found out today that on Saturday the temperature was minus 6.7 degrees. Locals were telling us that this weather pattern was coming back to what it usually was after many years of unseasonable hot weather.

The net effect on this was that it made the vinyl on the Jayco very hard making it difficult to fold away. Took quite a bit of effort to fold up the beds and close the extensions.

Once the sun came up, it was OK but try it with cold, wet fingers its quite a challenge.

Continued on our fact finding tour and what is becoming apparent is that short day trips by metropolitan drivers have not been affected. It is the long distance journey and the small towns that rely on the trade that are suffering.

The policy I am developing will have to reflect the two worlds, as well as addressing the various components that make up road tourism.

Spoke at length to a bus driver who has noticed less groups chartering owing to an increase in fuel costs. It takes $450 to fill his bus every two days.

The drought continues to follow us as most of the river beds are totally dry - no wonder the farmers are doing it so tough.

Tonight we are camped at Yea on the edge of the Victorian snowfields and the air is still and chilly but a lot better than the wind chill of previous days.

Victorian school children are back at school today but still there are a lot of Melburnians coming home with young children.

Big Rest Station near Castlemaine
Big Rest Station near Castlemaine

Probably a pupil free day. Daylesford and Castlemaine are both picturesque little towns and very busy. Quite a contrast to some of the small country towns we saw in NSW.

It really is like chalk and cheese. Thankfully the winds and rain we have had to contend with seemed to have moved on so the cold, still air is much more manageable.

The thing I appreciate most with caravanning is that I dont have to live out of a suitcase. See there are some bonuses and if I am really lazy even the bedclothes can stay in sight.

GSA Day 10
Gippsland is a touring experience for all seasons
Gippsland is a touring experience for all seasons

Yea to Sale

By Joanna Gash MP

Into the outskirts of the Victorian snowfields today, from Yea to Sale, from mountains to plains (again).

Yea is a town that services the snowfields and much reliant on day trippers from Melbourne in the summer months and the snow trippers in winter. So the town is fortunate in having an all year market to service.

The caravan park we stayed at was basic, with many long term residents. Some had been there for 40 and 20 years, with their personal gardens and add on to add ons. The shower block was unique to say the least open air ceiling all around to let the fresh air in , at least you didnt have to worry about the mirrors fogging up , remembering of course that the outside temp was 2 degrees. However the water was hot!!!

Again we had an early start with the first stop at Alexandra where I took the opportunity to walk the town and meet some of its inhabitants. Met some local business people who echoed the concerns we had heard through NSW, SA and Vic. It certainly is a small world met a local from Bowral and my days on the local council, and another who had retired and worked with me in Canberra.

Tourism wise, its a very attractive part of Australia and I would encourage the day trippers to double their journey. Stay over night or two rather than a day and help a country town. Saw a dusting of snow on the nearby peaks of the snowfields but otherwise a nice sunny morning.

From there to Healesville stopping at a number of small little towns in between, each with something to offer even if its only a counter lunch at the only pub in town. Heaps of photo opportunities and the driving pleasant.

Picnic peace Walhalla courtesy Images of Gippsland
Picnic peace Walhalla courtesy Images of Gippsland

We decided to head home from Pakenham, along the Princes Highway, through Moe, Traralgon with an overnight stay at Sale where I will be testing a cabin.

Now I know some of you sceptics will say I succumbed to an easier form of sleeping, but there was a special request to test a self contained cabin. It was quite strange taking my stuff out of the caravan into a cabin.

We were quite at odds about the extra space. I won with the queen bed; Wal got the bunks. Our tour seems to have generated a lot of interest from local media which is proving a worthwhile exercise to highlight industry needs.

There is a strong case being made for a national standardisation system and national accreditation of staff. Many information centres are staffed by volunteers and the quality of the service, whilst enthusiastic and friendly does need polishing.

I see some opportunities for the federal government to contribute and I will be developing these ideas in the days ahead.

Sale Motor Village cabin
Sale Motor Village cabin

Please, do the nation a favour and go see Australia. Remember, your leisure time is probably someones job.

GSA Day 11

Sale to Eden

By Joanna Gash MP

On towards our final destination Nowra and HOME. Must admit our night in the cabin, as opposed to the caravan, made us realise that we are almost at the end of our trip.

Not a great deal of traffic especially coaches a comment echoed from each of the visitor centres that we stop to speak to. But we did stop to speak to a busload of pilgrims bound for the World Youth Day in Sydney at the weekend.

They were travelling from Melbourne to Eden and then on to Sydney.

Loved Australia, they were from the USA and very impressed with the Aussie country hospitality.

It also served to remind me that domestic tourism, especially road tourism, has many faces and each has its own unique demands.

We had been mainly concentrating on the caravanners, but road tourism is far more than that. We also called into to a few BBs and again, it is an entirely different product that requires a dedicated and specific approach yet it is another form of road tourism.

The information centres have provided a wealth of information and we got a really beaut idea from the one at Lakes Entrance.

But more of that further down the road.

Tonight we are camped at what has to be a best kept secret and as you have noticed I have refrained from naming the places we stayed at so as not to appear to be promoting one over the other.

But tonight I will break that vow, as this caravan park deserves to be mentioned. The Garden of Eden is just that (not telling more but do go and see for yourselves).

It is exceptionally well appointed, well run and absolute value for money. I would be happy to give it a five star rating. It even has provision for those travellers with pets a rare service.

One lady I spoke to who runs a BB in Lakes Entrance has found the going tough, mainly because of government regulation of one form or another.

The cost of compliance is killing her. She virtually gives about 20 nights accommodation to the government before she can start making money.

These are some of the issues I am discovering and I am looking forward to putting pen to paper and getting a realistic policy up and running. There has got to be some standardisation in the industry, of that I have no doubt and I have some ideas in that direction.

I would very much encourage people to contact me with their ideas to help me frame a roads tourism policy from which everyone can benefit.

Speaking to people on the road has been very productive and I have been asked when Im going to do Queensland. Well, I am looking forward to that opportunity but at this stage I cant say when.

When I was in Sale (Victoria), the manager of the caravan park we stayed at was from Kiama in my electorate of Gilmore.

In fact we came across quite a few people that we knew that shows that the average Aussie has the wander bug in them.

So dont be put off by the price of petrol. Take time out to visit this wonderful great land of ours. If you are waiting for the price of petrol to fall, you might as well wait for hell to freeze over. Get out now and enjoy yourself while you still can.
Touching base with a supporter
Touching base with a supporter

GSA Day 12

Eden to Nowra

By Joanna Gash MP

The more I travel the more potential I discover for local tourism and thats got to be a bonus for visitors on our roads.

There are some tourism offices doing very well and some that leave a lot to be desired but that is another matter.

We left Eden this morning and there is no denying the attractiveness of the country side throughout the length and breadth of the NSW South Coast. So much unrealised potential and as with everything else, some do it well and others less so.

While the journey may be scenic, I have some concerns over some parts of the Princes Highway.

As had been stated by the NSW Coroner into the inquiry into the Princes Highway, it is unforgiving and I would caution anyone towing a caravan in the more mountainous areas to exercise extra care.

New Yorkers going to Popes Gig
New Yorkers going to Popes Gig
Talking to some fellow travellers
Talking to some fellow travellers
             Prospective business opportunity for half the team
Prospective business opportunity for half the team
Hotel at Oberon with fuel price message
Hotel at Oberon with fuel price message
Tomorrow we are home in Nowra and thats when the real work will begin putting some sense and purpose to the information gathered on the way.

I expect I will be doing a lot more work with industry people in the months ahead and I am looking forward to that.

To all those out there, who are contemplating travelling . Do so. Dont leave it as long as I did. Go See Australia and visit those country towns who rely so much on your visit.

Yes, petrol costs more but go even if you have to cut a day off your trip to allow for the petrol. The cost of staying in the caravan parks ranged from $17 to $34 per night for a powered site. You can do yourself and someone else whose job relies on your holiday a favour. Go See Australia TODAY!

Joanna's Jayco Expanda custom fit for Australian family holidays
Whale watching Merimbula NSW courtesy Eurobodalla Coast
Whale watching Merimbula NSW courtesy Eurobodalla Coast

Phillip Banks of Jayco Nowra told GoSee today that the Jayco Expanda Joanna is using has a big following with families because of the flexibility of its generous accommodation and easy towing Australian design.

The Expanda pop-top is in the middle of the Nowra dealerships caravan range and with a tare (dry weight) of 1331kg is well within the rate manufacturers towing capacity for many popular family vehicles.

Editor's note: Caravans with extras fitted will be heavier than the standard tare weight.

The Jayco Nowra dealership is in the top nine of its type in Australia. Joanna's Expanda 16.49-1 has been hand-picked to meet her needs in a professional fit for Joanna's Toyota Tarago.

Toyota rate the Tarago to tow up to 1600kg. So Joanna has 269kg of load weight before she hits Toyota's towing capacity.

The Tarago is fitted with a Toyota factory drawbar which is rated to 1600kg. No Weight Distribution Hitch (WDH) is being used. But Hayman Reese recommends fitting a 250kg hitch.

Joanna's tow vehicle is:

Tarago V6 GLX kerb weight 1840kg to 1930kg. 65 litre petrol tank

The six cylinder engine develops 340Nm at 4700rpm.

Toyota says the towing capacity (kg) braked trailer is 1600kg.

Editor's Note also see: