THE drive to make Mildura a RV- friendly town is in motion, with Mildura Rural City Councillor Mark Eckel (PICTURED left) spearheading the campaign under his Economic Development and Tourism portfolio.

It’s been a historic week for the long serving Cr Eckel who, after 15 years of support for new dwellings to be built on small lot subdivisions, something that ran contrary to the Mildura Planning Scheme in the Farming Zone, has received some redemption in the form of an amendment to the ‘MOIA’.

Although treating every application that came before him on its merit, Cr Eckel was a prominent objector and longtime campaigner to see the MOIA-2016 ‘Amendment C89’ overturned.

“I was delighted to see the Minister’s decision to amend the regulations, which will hopefully now the pave the way for homes to be built,” he said.

“It coincides with my, and other Councillor’s move, to see Mildura designated as an RV-friendly town, which is now firmly back on my agenda.”

Cr Eckel is now turning his focus to another matter that he has been championing for a number of years – making Mildura a premier destination for retirees travelling in their camper vans and RVs.

“Our current situation further highlights the deficiency in us not being able to offer retirees and other travellers who have RVs the opportunity to comfortably stay in Mildura, and for our businesses to benefit from their patronage,” Cr Eckel said.

“As a result, Council is undertaking the development of a Tourism Recreational Vehicle (RV), Caravan and Camping Strategy.

“The aim is bring the recommendations and actions to Council as soon as possible to encourage and maximise our municipality’s attraction in the drive tourism market.

“My concern however is that there probably isn’t time for Council to put the motion into effect before the next Council elections due in October, with public consultations needing to take place before any decisions are reached.”

Cr Eckel said that Mildura now more than ever, needs to make every post a winner in the wake of the coronavirus impacts.

“The difficult times are going to be ahead when the JobKeeper program is phased out in September and so it would be good to have this initiative implemented this year,” he said.

“The COVID-19 is really the factor that polarised my interest in pursuing this again and I believe it’s something that needs to be revisited as a matter of urgency.

“In addition to that I also recognised that Mildura Regional Development and its CEO Brett Millington have a proposal for a ‘Nomad’ campaign and the chair Geoff Thompson encouraged me to pursue a strategy. More than ever before, we to capitalize on tourism trends and a market that Mildura has virtually turned its back on.”

Cr Eckel said that the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia CEO, Richard Barwick, has become a close associate over the years, supporting the concept that given Mildura’s geographic location, it could become the most visited RV location in Australia.

“Richard has said that Mildura could be the ‘jewell in-the-crown” of the RV industry, given our geographic location and outstanding array of offerings,” Cr Eckel said.

“The projected figure on caravans, motor homes, camper trailers in Australia, is expected to be 700,000 by the end of the year and there were 30,000 plus RVs sold in Australia during 2016. It has been reported Jayco makes a new unit every ten minutes.

“Our municipality takes up 20,000 square kilometres with towns, parks, river and touring routes into NSW and South Australia and we must be more innovative to capitalise on every opportunity.”

Councillor Eckel said that in the ensuing months, the consultation for a strategy will be looking at locations that could be designated for the RV’s to overnight and indicated that changes to current Council by-laws will need to be made to allow for this provision.

“Previously a site in Merbein had been earmarked adjacent to Chaffey Oval and in Red Cliffs the site of the former railway station was suggested, something that met with some opposition.

“Today however, there has been a change in attitude and several of the local caravan park owners are now onboard and support the concept of RV friendly sites in Mildura.”

Councillor Eckel said that there were several other potential locations that are ready to roll in Mildura.

“The Mildura Clay Target Gun Club (MCTGC), with a recent federal grant of $1.2million, is working toward creating a world-class asset, and it’s an ideal location for an RV overnight stay in a bush environment that’s close to the city, and that’s something their committee is very enthusiastic about,” he said.

“Similarly, the Red Cliffs Golf Club has also implemented an initiative to see RV’s utilise their space, and the committee of the Merbein South Community Hall, have also expressed their interest.

“I’m confident that this time around we will achieve a positive outcome. I think with Mildura Regional Development’s support and enthusiasm, we will get this off the ground soon,” Cr Eckel said.

“We will have an independent consultant at arms-length to Council, who will conduct the public consultation process. Let’s hope we can expedite the process and make this a reality as soon as possible for Mildura’s sake.”

Another seasoned proponent of the proposal is Mildura resident and RV owner, Alan Cameron, (PICTURED right) who has spent a lot of time researching the benefits of the sector to Mildura, and he’s confident that things can finally move forward.

“Mildura is a premier destination for RV’s, but it hasn’t been marketed as such,” he said.

“I think however that we are very close to the point of having that addressed, and this could be well be the start of something.”

Mr Cameron spoke to the Weekly at the Clay Target Gun Club, which he said was the perfect spot for an RV stopover.

“However we need to change by-law that basically says the only place you can stay overnight in our municipality is in a caravan park which meets the requirements of the Victorian Tenancy Act, that’s is the first thing to do.”