by Lousie Shannon, & Sharon Smallwood
A FUNERAL director, who has been campaigning for a driver reviver road stop at Proserpine for nine years, said it was essential motorists were given a chance to take a break in a bid to reduce fatigue and fatal accidents on the Bruce Highway.
Jeff Boyle, from the town's Whitsunday Funerals and Crematorium, said travellers currently had nowhere to pull over and, due to poor signage, they didn't realise the Proserpine business and shopping district was located just off the highway.
"People drive along and think this is Proserpine,” Mr Boyle said. "It's crazy.”
Mr Boyle said it was "a long way” from Mackay to Bowen hence Proserpine would be an ideal stopping point.
He said a billboard with a picture of the town could alert drivers to the location of Proserpine, and the fact there were local amenities and shops nearby.
"We've got nothing at the moment, and no one realises there's a town there,” he said. "You don't find out about (it) driving down the highway.”
In direct contrast, Mr Boyle said last week he saw 54 vehicles at the Bloomsbury rest stop "because that's the only place they've got”.
While Mr Boyle's main aim was to encourage people to stop driving and take a break, he said if tourists and travellers also then came into town, that would be a bonus for the local economy.
As well as a driver reviver he backed the facilitation of an RV stop and reinstallation of a tourist information centre.
Plans to establish an RV-friendly location at Proserpine were set to be discussed at an internal council workshop between councillors and officers this week as part of the finalising of the Proserpine Master Plan.
Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox promised last week an RV stop at Proserpine was still on the radar but had simply been delayed due to the impact of Cyclone Debbie on the region and council's resources.
Currently the nearest RV rest area to Proserpine is a 72-hour rest stop at Collinsville, on Railway Road, which permits self-sufficient vans and RVs, but not tents.
There is an offer of land for a Proserpine RV stop from Wilmar Sugar but this has not been accepted yet.
Mary Brown, deputy mayor of the Hinchinbrook Shire, was involved in establishing Ingham's progressive approach to catering for the new caravanning generation and had one piece of advice for the community of Proserpine.
"Give it a go,” she said.
Ms Brown said alongside her area's five established caravan parks, three RV centres had been successfully set up.
The Tyto Centre, two blocks from town, allows caravaners and motorhomes to stay for a maximum of two nights at a cost of $10 per van per night.
There is a dump point but no power and it is administered by staff and volunteers from the Hinchinbrook Visitor Information Lounge.
At Forrest Beach, about 19km west of Ingham, caravanners and motorhomes are allowed to stay under the same conditions - minus a dump point.
This site is administered by the Forrest Beach Progress Association.
Lastly there's the CMCA Park, established on flood plain land with no development potential, close to the town centre.
This is open to members of the Caravan and Motorhome Club of Australia only, at a cost of $3 per night, with a dump point but no power.
Ms Brown said data collected from dockets at this site alone showed a visitor spend in town of between $10,000 and $13,000 each week.
She said records showed the average spend in Ingham was $125 per stay per van.
Ingham has similarities to Proserpine in that it is a town on the national highway, built largely on the sugar industry but with natural attractions.
Ms Brown said understandably there were concerns from caravan parks in her region about how RV stops would affect their trade, hence the need for data collection and a trial.
"The most telling point for us was almost 90% of the original RVers surveyed indicated they would never have stopped in our town if we didn't have the Tyto site - so it's not a question of competing markets,” Ms Brown said.
She urged the Proserpine community, chamber of commerce and Whitsunday council to "come together in a spirit of collaboration and look at solutions”.
"Give it a go - and if it has no impact or a negative impact, review it," she said.
Mr Boyle agreed Proserpine needed the boost of people to visit and spend money at local businesses - all of which a driver reviver and RV stop might help to achieve - but he believed an RV stop on its own would not save lives.
"Accidents are happening all the time because people just don't stop,” he said.
"If we can make them stop, even for only 10 minutes, they've got a better chance.”
It is estimated more than 1.1 million people use driver reviver stops around Australia each year, with government recommendations urging drivers to stop every two hours.