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Chapter Eighteen

Eco-Camping Australia

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Early on in our time on the road, I met and befriended a motorhomer from South Australia who shared with me a view of the nature of life on the road. We have both been active in trying to get the CMCA to implement a scheme like to one the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association has put in place to encourage people to equip their vehicle to enable them to camp without causing damage to the environment. The NZMCA scheme certifies vehicles and their owners when they have proved their environmental credentials. The usual response to our lobbying was that such a scheme was not necessary and would not work in Australia.

By 2004, we had accumulated a lot of evidence that such a scheme was needed and then a colleague motorhomer had an experience which made us realise that it was imperative that such a scheme be put in place.The scheme would need to be adapted to Australian conditions but the essential features would be the protection of the environment and the demonstration to the authorities of a commitment to environmentally sensitive camping.

We spent many months preparing and developing the scheme. We had the documents vetted by a National Parks manager and he assured us that the scheme was just what was needed.

Since we were both members of the CMCA, we offered the scheme to them and, after a deal of negotiation, the Board decided to let us launch the scheme in March 2005. Since then 2500 motorhomes have been certified.

With this success behind us, we realised that is was important to launch the scheme nationally and to make it available to anybody who could show that were committed to environmentally sensitive camping.

In January 2007 we founded Eco-Camping Australia to make this vision a reality.

It is our intention to provide three things

We realise that we have set ourselves a monster task but we both believe that the benefits to the environment and to the community will be worth all the effort we have to put into the task.

In mid 2006 the board of the CMCA had asked us to transfer the copyright of the scheme to them. In retrospect it is interesting to note that there was no consideration for us in the Deed they proposed. In fact one of the clauses in the Deed was that the CMCA would not have to recognise the authorship of the scheme. We were prepared to sign a Deed of transfer of the copyright but only if we were allowed to continue of work of developing and protecting the scheme. Months of negotiation led to an impasse. We were not prepared to let them nominate other people to take over control of the scheme because we had not found anyone involved with the scheme who had demonstrated the competence to do the work and they were not prepared to concede any move in our direction.

When we finally decided that we would not sign the scheme over to them, we decided to offer them a free licence to continue to operate the scheme under our control. They eventually refused that offer and then closed down our scheme and implemented a new one under the control of those we had assessed as incompetent. Indeed, the terms of their new scheme are so lacking in rigour and coherence that it is hard to believe that the authorities will give it any serious consideration. It is already obvious that some members of the club who were certified under our scheme are most unimpressed with the new scheme.

The new scheme called, strangely "Leave No Trace" which is the name of another organisation, relies on self inspection against a very limited requirement rather than inspection against a thoroughly rigorous specification by Inspectors trained and certified under a thoroughly rigorous procedure.

The declaration which must be signed includes some extraordinary requirements such as a commitment "to not use awnings, chairs or barbecues unless in a designated camping area". The existence of "designated camping areas" is vanishingly rare except in National Parks as most camp sites are identified by the absence of "No Camping" signs rather than the presence of "Camping" signs. The declaration also limits stays to five days except where a site is "otherwise posted". This "posting" is such a rare thing that it is effectively non-existent. Most sites are either time limited to 20, 24 or 48 hours or no limit is specified. Of the hundreds of sites we have camped in and the many hundreds of sites we have visited in our nearly ten years on the road, we have only once found a site specifically limited to more than a few days (that was Isla Gorge National Park which was limited to 22 days). These rules are reminiscent of the rules of the first scheme the CMCA introduced called "5 to 8 Leave No Trace". The primary rule was that one should not stop in a camp site before 5pm and not leave a camp site after 8am. This rule was seen by most as not applying at all times and the scheme was finally closed down because most people realised that they had committed themselves to obey the rule at all times which they could not do. The rules of this new scheme, some of which are equally impractical, seem to be designed to be broken most of the time, and this scheme will presumably meet the same fate as the previous one.

I can only reflect that another of my beliefs has been shown to be true. In today's world, those promoted to positions of power are often incompetent while having a conviction that their promotion "proves" that they are supremely competent.

I also reflect on the not uncommon inability of "organisations" to effective utilize the skills and talents of their volunteers. The CMCA must have an enormous number of highly skilled potential volunteers but the motivation to contribute is minimal in an atmosphere of the bad treatment of those who do volunteer. I have had numerous conversations with fellow members of CMCA on this topic since all this happened and most of them also express the view that CMCA has "lost the plot". It no longer operates as an association but rather as a business. We didn't join a business, we joined an association with a view to sharing good times with fellow members. I remember that I predicted in 2000 when the constitution of the club was change from an Association to a Company that no good would come from the change. It seems that I was right.

This unfortunate occurrence make it hard to maintain ones enthusiasm for doing worthwhile things. I hope that something good happens so that I will not continue to feel so unappreciated. I know that the opinions of such people about ones contribution is totally inconsequential but being kicked in the privates hurts even when the kicker is a person of no consequence. One of the actual outcomes of this episode is that I have decided to distance myself totally from the "powers that be" at CMCA. I plan to continue my membership so that I can continue to participate in the "real" CMCA, the "association" with other members.

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Created: 29/1/07 and last revised 2/2/08
Author: Robin Chalmers Copyright in all the material on this site is asserted by the author
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