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NRMA park to evict 300 casual tenants

The NRMA's Ocean Beach Holiday Park will evict more than 300 long-term casual van owners as it prepares to redevelopment the Umina Beach site to make way for cabins, temporary van and tent sites.

Long-term casual van owner Mr Gary Squires of Baulkham Hills said he had received a formal notice of planned eviction from park owners recently.

"No one had seen it coming," Mr Squires said.

"The casual tenants are those who own caravans and annexes which are permanently parked at Ocean Beach and are normally on-sold in-situ.

"None are registered and few could be made roadworthy.

"Three years ago the park was bought by the NRMA and at last they are revealing their business plan for the park's future.

"It does not include casuals.

"In one swift stroke, tenants were notified that they can no longer sell their vans except for removal from site and they can expect to be asked to leave within a year or two."

Mr Squire said he would be lucky to get $2000 from the sale of his van.

"For many tenants who have only modest means, for many who are retired, this is a painful blow, which slashes the value of their assets and leaves them with the problem of where to go, how to get there and, of course, considerable cost," Mr Squire said.

"And all this, at the worst possible economic time.

"I purchased the van onsite in February, 2007, investing up to $20,000, now I would be lucky to get $2000 if it has to be relocated.

"We are now faced with a huge dilemma of selling up and losing our investment or getting rid of and destroying the van at a greater cost to its sale price."

NRMA spokesperson Mr Nic Frankham said the first stage of the park's redevelopment was expected to take place next year.

"We have notified the park's long-term casual occupants about our plans for a staged redevelopment of the holiday park," Mr Frankham said.

"The staged redevelopment is planned for the first half of next year to improve the site and to deal with the high demand of visitors wanting to holiday at the park.

"We have given the long-term casual occupants of the park plenty of notice to relocate their vans.

"Under the terms of agreement with the long-term casual occupants, we are required to give a minimum of three months notice.

"However, we are giving the occupants as much notice as possible with around 12 months to prepare for other arrangements."

According to Mr Frankham, there may be an option for long-term casual occupants to relocate within the park but this was not guaranteed as redevelopment plans were not yet finalised.

"The staged redevelopment of the holiday park includes a mix including camping and caravan sites with the possibility of new cabins," Mr Frankham said.

"Over the past few months the park has seen an increase in demand for tent and van sites as this gives families an affordable holiday in these hard economic times.

"There has been many incidences where park management have had to turn down families wanting to holiday at the park due to a shortage of sites.

"We have endeavoured to do the right thing by our current long-term casual occupants by giving them plenty of notice.

"If we can increase the number of people visiting the region, that's a good thing for the entire region."

Mr Frankham said all 309 long-term casual vans at the park would not be evicted at the same time, but rather in stages as the park was redeveloped.

"It is not known what area of the park will be redeveloped first as the plans have not been finalised," Mr Frankham said.

"Potentially some van owners could stay at the park for a few more years but we are simply giving owners as much notice as possible to vacate."

Mr Squire said the park's latest move was "typical" of a large company.

"The NRMA may have the legal right to do what it has done, but it has shown itself to be typical of big enterprise, making decisions from the safety of city board rooms where the effects on people are not recognised or considered," Mr Squire said.

"Communication with senior NRMA officials has made that clear.

"Another example of what has become of the NRMA since it ceased to be a members' association.

"The NRMA, through its management team, argues that the organisation is looking after its members, the motorists of NSW, by providing increased accommodation for motoring tourists.

"But they are forgetting that most of the casual tenants at Umina are NRMA members also, some of them life members.

"And why did the NRMA buy the site in the first place, choosing to 'look after its members' by sacrificing over a thousand members of the existing community with 300 sites?

"Sadly, the truth appears to be more straight forward and less altruistic; it is about money. "The NRMA clearly believes its business plan will provide a better return."

According to Mr Squire, the park would struggle in the holiday off-season when long-term casual van occupants were not there to support it.

"The casuals, as well as full-time residents, have always provided a balance with the holiday-makers who hire cabins or camping sites, or who tow their own vans and stay a few weeks at most, usually during peak times," Mr Squire said.

"It is the casuals who have set the tone of community and who have provided the backbone of the park's income during the off-season times when tourists are few.

"Are they taking into account the long winter months when the only life in the place comes from the presence of the casuals and the only income is their regular rent payments?

"We are just ordinary Australians seeking a bit of paradise away from our stressful city jobs, who have been staying in our vans on weekends and during holidays for so long that we have formed home-away-from-home communities with our neighbours and with the businesses in the park and in the township of Umina."

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