Government accused of unfair competition


The NT Government has rekindled a long running dispute about Blatherskite Park competing unfairly against privately owned caravan parks for customers.
Bendan Heenan, owner of the multi award wining MacDonnell Range Holiday Park, says Planning Minister Eva Lawler gave an exceptional development permit in September last year to the government-owned Blatherskite show grounds, allowing it to accommodate up to 30 caravans or motor homes.
Mr Heenan says the intention had been for Blatherskite Park to be used when all other caravan parks are full.
However, he says not only are sites apparently being made available at any time, but he has observed 65 to 70 recreational vehicles being accommodated there.
Mr Heenan says the move is in conflict with “competitive neutrality” which on a Territory Government website is described in this way:–
“Government businesses may compete with private sector businesses in a variety of markets.
“When this happens, government businesses should comply with competitive neutrality principles to ensure they don’t have a competitive advantage because of public ownership.
“Where a private sector business believes a government business has an unfair competitive advantage as a result of public ownership, a complaint can be lodged.”
Minister Lawler, who signed off on the exceptional development permit, provided the following response when asked for comment by the Alice Springs News:If concerns exist regarding the use of the property then these matters should be brought to the attention of the Development Consent Authority.”


  1. This argument has been discussed at VERY great length around Australia over the last few years.
    There are many travellers who do not wish to pay the “bells and whistles” prices at caravan parks with all the extras such as pools etc.
    These travellers will pretty much ignore towns that do not provide the cheaper options and the majority of businesses suffer because of a couple of caravan park owners!
    Towns that provide the cheaper camping options benefit by having visitors stay, often for many days at a time, and spending money in the town.
    For the benefit of the majority of businesses let’s keep the cheaper option going at the show grounds.

  2. Eva [Lawler] should be fully aware if Blatherskite park exceeds its limit. The park has a manager. Get a survey done on why caravaners etc like to stay there, not wait for a complaint.
    She and her staff need to get out and about more often to see what’s happening around town.

  3. In reply to Ginny: There are so many free parks outside of towns and along the roadsides all around Australia if you want to stay for nothing.
    The town caravan parks pay for rubbish removal, high rates, council regulations and provisions they have to have and the extra amenities they provide for their guests.
    Blatherskite is a show grounds with not enough amenities (and not as clean) for 60 or more caravaners.
    You want to stay cheap go back to the roadside stops. It’s not about the Big 4 or Wintersun or G’day Mate caravan parks being less than full.
    It’s about good sense and good town management.
    How would you like it if after 30 years of hard work getting a good clean caravan park up and running just to be undermined by the NT Government?
    I have been to so many parks and Alice Springs has some of the best in the country.
    So no-one should be allowed to come in and take their business and their good names.

  4. It does appear Minister Lawler was happy to use her authority to make a decision, but now alerted to the negative consequences private operators are facing as a result, wants to handball responsibility to the Development Consent Authority.
    Not really what we elect our local members for.

  5. Well here we go again and what a great way to get Alice Springs some adverse publicity as well as misrepresenting what competitive neutrality is really about.
    If a GOVERNMENT body / council etc is competing with private enterprise in SIGNIFICANT business (and there is severe doubt that a camp site would be considered significant in terms of the law) then they must apply full cost calculation when assessing what to charge for their services.
    That does not necessarily mean they must charge the same level as a full service business such as a caravan park.
    In most other states the argument of competitive neutrality has been discredited but not in Alice apparently.
    Not being familiar with the local situation, but I assume the showg round is leased to a show committee or some such and therefore the camping is not being run by a GOVERNMENT body even though it may be on leased government land.
    Smart business people in the accommodation industry in most towns work together to increase the size of the pie overall so that everybody gets a bigger slice of the pie and everybody benefits, including the caravan parks and other businesses by bringing more tourist into the area.
    The attitude being displayed in Alice is counterproductive and will spread all over the media including social media and reputations are hard live down.
    Frankly who cares if there is more than 30 rigs in the show grounds as from experience the hardest thing to do in Alice is to find a vacancy in a caravan park.
    The Chamber of Commerce and other business organisation need to developing the size of the trade rather than listen to one voice howling foul play in the wilderness.
    We the RV consumer and tourist have heard it all before and quite frankly, are sick and tired of this constant whining by a minority in the industry.

  6. With the numbers of tourists in Alice Springs, 30 rigs at Blatherskite Park when not needed as overflow is next to nothing.
    Does Mr Heenan think his facilities are like they have at Blatherskite Park?
    Surely he knows they are quite different, hence they suit different markets.
    The people choosing Blatherskite park at times when they could get a site in your caravan park were never going to be your customers, Mr Heenan.
    Let tourism continue to benefit ALL businesses in Alice Springs, a town where we found customer services in businesses we visited was exceptional.

  7. Mr Heenan, it’s about freedom of choice.
    Modern RVs do not require all your facilities or amenities, and councils and politicians have to balance the issue as to whether to support your industry’s 3% or all the other 97% of the district’s businesses.
    In this case there are two clearly separate markets, you have your customers who desire all the bells and whistles and the others who need or desire NONE of them.
    There’s room for all.
    You only want the LOT. It’s called GREED!

  8. We stayed at a private van park with our dog. Only van park that would take dogs.
    There was no pay for six and stay for seven, amenities were overcrowded and often dirty.
    I lined up till 11pm one night to get my washing done.
    We loved Alice but the van park worked out very expensive for us as we stayed two weeks.
    Won’t be back again until we can stay at the show grounds and we have a bigger van now.
    It would be very hard to get our van in that van park as the sites were small.
    If the van park says they are only seasonal …i t’s like everywhere.
    Bet there is plenty of room in Victoria or South Australia now. Van parks in Cairns and Northern Queensland will have sites galore after end of October till mid April or later.
    If Alice Springs wants the tourist dollar they had better wise up.
    Karol Fisher
    Bundaberg Qld

  9. To the best of my knowledge there are very few (safe) free or cheap campsites in the NT and to be honest it’s part of the reason we no longer go there.
    We lived there for 30+ years which means we’ve pretty much seen it all multiple times anyway but we still have friends up there.
    Mr Heenan needs to realise because we have caravans or motorhomes we’re not all wealthy and cheap or free camps are very important to many of us.
    When we go to the NT we stay in caravan parks for safety but know we get as many km in per day as possible so we don’t have to spend nights on the road.
    We’ve stayed in Mr Heenan’s park once but it was way too expensive.
    The NT needs to look at free or cheap sites in safe areas, especially if people are travelling with a caravan, meaning no one is in their car overnight. Mr Heenan, you’re part of the damage being done to tourism in the NT.

  10. Gilbert, is there any other business type in Australia that can get councils to legislate to try to force consumers to buy product from one specific type of business?
    Answer: NO, not one, not ever!
    Thousands of businesses in this country have closed their doors because consumers no longer patronised them. Why didn’t councils legislate to force consumers to buy from those businesses? Answer: Because it’s about free trade and freedom of choice by the consumer.
    Would you give in with a whimper if suddenly there was legislation to force you to buy from a specific business type whether you wanted to or not? Answer: No!
    If you want to try to force me and other people who travel, to buy from a certain business, you are out of luck!

  11. In reply to Ginny: I agree wholeheartedly with your point of view. Lots of people love to travel but that does not mean they are rolling in dough.
    Some powered sites are up to $100 per night. That is expensive if you don’t plan on swimming or using the BBQ facilities and tennis courts.
    The people who choose the cheaper option will spend their money in town on things like petrol, essential supplies, restaurants, local arts and crafts etc.
    Isn’t that a bonus for the entire town, and not only the owner of the “multi award winning MacDonnell Range Holiday Park” which was built on Aboriginal land in the first place?

  12. Oh, here we go again, every couple of years this bloke who is the chairman of the NT Caravan Parks Association comes along with the same old [argument] trying to cause ANY and ALL alternatives to an expensive caravan park to be closed down, and using the same old and tired arguments.
    Mr Heenan: If we as travellers wanted to stay at your place, we would book in and pay the tariff you ask and enjoy the facilities you offer.
    However, as we, and most other grey nomad travellers, do not need children’s playgrounds and camp kitchens and cold-water swimming pools etc. etc. then we prefer to go somewhere where the tariff is consistent with the facilities needed and used by us
    When are you going to learn that if you offered discounted tariffs for those clients who do not want all your Big-4 bells and whistles, then you might get heaps more travellers into your backyard, rather than those travellers using someone else’s backyard.
    Ozzie Traveller.

  13. If I were to open a car park, including car wash, does that mean council must close its free or low cost car parks due to unfair competition?


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