Home' The River News : November 26th 2014 Contents 12 - The River News, Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Q. Why have you postponed the river
front caravan park redevelopment?
A. There's two issues with the park that
have brought us to a standstill: tenure of
land and commercial viability.
With regards to land tenure, the river
front redevelopment would require a lease
over Crown land.
Under new provisions in the Crown Land
Management Act 2009, the State Government
can take control of this land at any time.
The reason that this has become an issue
is that no one has tried to do anything like
this on Crown land since the changes in
The Government wouldn't take control
of this land for no particular reason, but
because of a more conservative approach to
financing, the risk turned out to be too high
for the banks.
We pursued finance in a comprehensive
manner, but the answer was the same across
As for commercial viability, the project
cost has increased by more than $1 million.
This increase makes it impossible for us
to make a profit from the caravan park.
A common misconception is that we've
run out of money. That's certainly not the
The cost of the project has increased to
such an extent that it doesn't make it viable
for us to invest.
It's not that it's not as profitable, it's that
it would be a loss for us forever.
In other words, it's not that it's making
less money than we'd hoped. It's that it
would be making a loss.
Q. Where did the $1 million shortfall
A. The extra infrastructure required to
meet State Government approvals increased
our project cost by 25 per cent.
There were also increases in costs be-
cause of the substantial delays we faced
in the approval process, and the resulting
difference between when we hope it will be
built and when we thought it would be built.
The development approval process took
more than 18 months, and cost us over
This shortfall has come about after al-
ready absorbing much of the unexpected
costs we came across.
Q. Did you try to avoid this shortfall
by making savings elsewhere?
A. Yes. We cut back on items that we felt
were luxuries rather than necessities, but
we are keeping all the key elements of a
resort-style caravan park.
It was items that we noticed as a busi-
ness, but were not necessities to running a
caravan park, as most people wouldn't even
notice it when they drove in.
In other words, the compromises would
not make a noticeable difference to the cus-
We've cut back on the non-essential
items to make this caravan park as viable as
possible, and we would spend more money
over time to get back to where we wanted
However, we still came up with a $1
million shortfall after all of this, and after
agreeing to operate with less profit.
We also sought grant funding before and
after this issue, but were unsuccessful.
We're still exploring grant opportunities.
Q. Couldn't you stage the project and
provide a smaller park (less cabins and
sites) in the meantime?
A. To run a caravan park, you need a cer-
tain level of infrastructure, and that level
of infrastructure doesn't markedly change
whether you have one caravan site or 100.
Most of the cost of the project is that
initial infrastructure -- things like the septic
system and stormwater drainage.
In other words, there are high fixed costs
regardless of the scale of the project.
It's not viable to run a smaller caravan
park with such a high cost of infrastruc-
The more sites we have, the more rev-
enue we get to cover the cost of the infra-
Also, the proposed caravan park would
be a tourism attraction.
People will come to Waikerie because of
the caravan park, and they will stay because
of the town.
Q. When is the Waikerie Caravan
Park closing, and why?
A. The June 2015 deadline is to meet the
demand for the lifestyle village.
Sales are going very strongly at the
We sold a display home in July, and we'll
have more homes arriving before Christ-
If we don't put deadlines on things and
have timeframes to aim for, things tend to
Q. Why is the lifestyle village con-
tinuing to grow if there is currently no
replacement for the existing caravan
A. The lifestyle village will still go ahead
because we have to keep our promises to
We want the best outcome for the town,
but we also are a business, and we need to
ensure that we run profitably, because if
we don't the caravan park will shut anyway.
Shutting a caravan park with no replace-
ment is the worst-case scenario for us.
It means that The Edwards Group is
shutting one of its major businesses.
However, we've promised our 40 lifestyle
village residents that they'll be living in a
village, not a caravan park.
They want to see the new caravan park
go ahead as much as anyone else.
Q. If The Edwards Group already has
unpowered and powered sites available
on the river front, why not move the
existing cabins across the road to keep
the caravan park going?
A. There is no infrastructure in place on
the river front to accommodate the cabins.
To put cabins on that land, we'd have to
put in fresh infrastructure, and we'd have
to get fresh approval for that infrastructure.
Also any changes to the overflow park
would require new approvals, because we'd
be changing the nature of the land use.
The planning and building approval pro-
cess would be costly in terms of both time
and money, and would be unnecessary if the
proposed redevelopment -- which took more
than 18 months to gain approval for -- can
Q. Will the overflow park be open for
the Christmas break?
A. Not at this stage. Historically it's only
been opened at certain times of the year,
when there is need for the overflow park
We haven't found that recently in terms
of caravans, except for Easter.
Over Christmas, our bookings for cara-
vans are not big enough, so we weren't
opening the park for it.
At this stage there are no plans to open it
over Christmas, because there's no need to.
That's what's happening regardless of
Q. What about Easter next year?
A. It is unclear at this stage.
If we can open it we will, because it
would be good for us as well as the town.
However, I am still hopeful that the de-
velopment for the new caravan park will be
under way by then.
If that is the case, we will not be able to
open the park because of the construction
If there is no movement on the develop-
ment, we will obviously look at opening
the park if there is sufficient demand for
When we open that section of caravan
park, we open the toilets and laundry, we
turn the power on... there's a lot of monitor-
ing that goes into it as well.
That costs a lot of money, and we need to
have a certain amount of guests to make it
The people over there who stay want that
feeling of comfort and security.
We want to know that the caravan park
is controlling who is coming in and out, and
that caravanners are having the holiday
experience that they want.
It's a difficult thing for us to manage, and
that's why having a sole caravan park on the
river front is so important.
We'll see what happens with the rede-
velopment, and make a decision early next
year. There'd still be time for bookings at
Q. What is your response to criti-
cisms that closing the overflow park
over Easter deters regular visitors from
returning to Waikerie?
A. People who come into Waikerie do so
because they love the town.
If they can't get in for whatever reason
that year, they'll try again the next year.
Every year at Easter, whether the over-
flow park is open or not, we have to turn
If we can get the new caravan park de-
velopment going, not only will the people
who come be able to have a high standard
of accommodation, it will also attract new
segments of the market who will want to
come to Waikerie.
Q. What is your understanding of the
importance of having a caravan park in
A. It's absolutely vital to the town.
That's one of the reasons why we are work-
ing so hard to get a caravan park built.
I've been around caravan parks my
It's a family business. We've operated
parks around South Australia, and we know
how important they are to the local com-
We currently bring in 15,000 visitor
nights per annum to Waikerie. If the new
park goes ahead, we expect this to double to
30,000 visitor nights per year.
Q. How committed are you to over-
coming the redevelopment's obstacles?
A. Myself and Ian have invested more
than three years of our lives into the rede-
velopment of the caravan park.
We, more than anyone, want the project
to go ahead.
When we decided to postpone it, that was
one of the worst weeks we've ever had.
We did everything we possibly could
to avoid that announcement, because that
wasn't something we wanted to do.
We're still exploring every option that's
available to us, and we're working with
council to create a solution.
Q. Is there a deadline on achieving
A. We don't have a deadline, we'll just
keep working until there is no hope left.
If I can stand in our brand new caravan
park that we've just opened, you won't get
the smile off my face for years. That's how
happy I'll be.
Stephen Edwards has invited locals
to contact him via phone (8380 9009
or 0439 459 463) or email (stephen@
edwardsgrp.com.au) if they have more
questions that they would like to ask
Stephen Edwards answers frequently asked questions
ABOVE: Edwards Group of Companies chief executive officer Stephen Edwards (left), chairman
Ian Edwards, District Council of Loxton Waikerie (DCLW) Mayor Leon Stasinowsky and DCLW
CEO Peter Ackland welcomed news of State Government approval for the $7.2 million caravan
park redevelopment in October last year. BELOW: The project's concept plan.
Caravan park crisis: a special report
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