Caravan park stretching their resources to cope
THE owners of the Mann River Caravan Park should be flat out counting their money after a hectic Easter holiday period of camping, hiking, bike riding and canoeing.
Instead owners Curtis and Hope Parker are looking at their vacant camping sites, cabins and houses made dormant by a State Government shutdown and looking at ways they can make stretched resources go further.
“The four days of Easter are normally our busiest for the year,” Mr Parker said.
“We make enough over Easter to get us through the winter, when there’s not a lot of people around.”
Their business has struck a perfect storm of disaster starting at the tail end of 2019.
“It was the drought, then the fires, then we had a flood,” he said.
“We were thinking Easter might get us out of trouble, then COVID-19 came along.”
Determined to make the most of the period, Mr Parker bought new canoes for visitors to enjoy the now free-flowing Mann River.
Instead they remain idle, a reminder of the bad luck that has dogged the business throughout the summer and Easter holiday period.
Mrs Parker said instead of looking after visitors she had been scouring websites trying to find out which State and Federal government assistance could come their way.
“I don’t know if we can get JobKeeper,” she said. “We have five casuals working for us, but I’m not sure any of them have worked with us for 12 months.
“We had to borrow so much money to get us through the Christmas period it’s really a struggle to pay it back.”
But other costs are also biting into the business’s finances.
“Power is the one bill that really kills us,” Mrs Parker said.
“Every day I go around the site looking for things I can turn off to cut the power bills.”
But the couple are not ready to throw in the towel.
“We’ve had tough times before and we got through,” Mr Parker said.
He said the store, which forms a key part of the couple’s business would come into its own along with the attitude of the local community, who wanted to support the business.
“The locals are great,” he said. “
They make sure they buy their petrol from us and come in to stock up on beer.
“The shop’s got just about everything they might need and we’ve got plenty of stock available now.”
Mr Parker said the added costs of getting fuel to a remote area made it hard to stay competitive with petrol stations in town.
“I take my lead from the Liberty in South Grafton,” he said. “At the moment he’s selling petrol cheaper than I can get it wholesale here.”
He said the 90km round trip to Grafton, plus the commitment from locals to their business were helping keep the business going.
“Really there’s a not a lot of money in petrol sales,” he said. “It’s more getting the customers in here to buy other stuff.
“With the support from the community we’re going to stay here. We’re not going anywhere.”