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Cadicott, RW 2017, 'Freedom camping politics and policy: a case study of four Australian local communities', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright RW Caldicott 2017


Freedom camping is a practice whereby domestic or international travellers occupy by deliberate choice a recreational vehicle (RV) as a mode of accommodation in an open space that is not bound by market-based commercial norms and camping and/or caravan park-based regulations. This thesis describes, critically analyses and explains the public-policy process concerning freedom camping in four Australian local government communities. Pragmatic and reflexive knowledge-making underpin this grounded multi-methods research. Perspectives of 41 local, state, national and international-level informants are critiqued. Their voices are interrogated against discipline specific literature including planning and policy, tourism, recreation and leisure, additional to threads of my own RVing experiences.

The thesis presents four significant findings: First, there is market failure of freedom camping supply; second, the disjunct in scales of tourism policy expose the complexity of Federalism; third, community intervention is closing freedom camping policy and practice gaps; and finally, there is no clear or sequential emergence of planning approaches and policy models for tourism, recreation and leisure studies. Four major contributions are made to the fragmented RV and tourism policy-studies literature. First, an original taxonomy of caravanning aids international understanding of the “other” in RVing. Second, conceptualising the history of freedom camping since Federation (1900) identifies four legislative periods - enabling, constraining, acknowledging and facilitating/trialling – to reveal how camping supply and demand is shaped by societal influence. Third, the local government case study explains community engagement with freedom camping through reference to power relations, decision-making and public policy theory. Fourth, incremental amendment to an existing framework for the study of planning and policy in tourism, recreation and leisure acknowledges power as the fundamental root of policy studies. Returning power to the centre of analysis strengthens the model’s analytical power. To develop a formal theory, Glaser and Strauss (1967) suggest to start with a substantive one. Through a model this thesis delivers such an evolution in theory though it remains firmly rooted in praxis.