Hepburn Shire councillors are leading a charge to allow permanent residents to remain in the Daylesford Holiday Park after a number of tenants, including a couple in their 90s, were told they would have to leave.
On March 11 permanent residents of the park were given one year’s notice to vacate the premises by new owners who took over in December 2016.
The elderly couple have lived in the park for more than 30 years, while other residents have been at the premises since as late as 2016.
While council officers met with the owners to ask for the decision to be reversed, they have remained steadfast, saying the permanent tenants within the crown land park are unlawful.
Birch Ward councillor Kate Redwood said many of the residents would likely find themselves on the streets given the wait for public housing in Daylesford is currently more than two years.
“It may be legal to evict permanent residents from caravan parks, but it’s morally and ethically shocking,” Cr Redwood said. “We already know there’s a significant issue with homelessness in this district and what this is going to do is add 11 more homeless people to the people we already know are desperate.”
In 2011 the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning issued new guidelines saying crown land parks must not be managed for long term occupancy or permanent residency.
In a statement park owner Anthony Meechan said while he and wife Jodie Meechan empathised with the tenants, “we inherited this issue and by abiding by the law, we risk looking like the bad guys”.
“We have tried to be as fair and reasonable as possible and given residents a number of options,” Mr Meechan said. “These options may not suit everyone but our hands are tied.”
The residents have been offered annual site holder tenancies, which allow them to stay in the park 170 nights a year for up to 45 consecutive nights, or can otherwise remove their caravans or sell them as annual sites or back to the park owners.
The one year’s notice is also considerably longer than the legal minimum of 60 days.
In a statement, a DELWP spokesman stopped short of saying the permanent residents were required to be evicted from crown land parks.
However he stated “crown land caravan parks have an important role to play in providing short term, affordable holiday opportunities which support regional jobs and tourism, rather than providing ongoing long term accommodation”.
“DELWP recognises that this may be a distressing time for some affected tenants of the caravan park,” the spokesman said.
“DELWP is working with the Hepburn Shire Council and the Department of Health and Human Services to examine all available options and to make sure that there is access to all appropriate support.”
Hepburn Shire mayor Sebastian Klein has indicated he will write to the state government in an attempt to get a clarification or amendment to the legislation to allow the residents to stay at the caravan park.