Residents prepare to fight after orders to leave caravan park
The residents of a waterfront caravan park are gearing up for the fight of their lives after finding out the state government sold it off to a private company that wants them out.
For 84-year-old Wally Sweetman, the thought of leaving the Caloundra Waterfront Holiday Park he's called home for the past six years is almost too much to bear.
He claimed to A Current Affair the residents had been given no indication this was coming - just an eviction notice.
Wally, along with other long-term residents, have been given their marching orders - despite collectively investing tens of thousands of dollars on their homes.
Jenni and Grahame McCullagh say they poured their life savings into their site - a minimum of $110,000.
Like most of their neighbours, they are on month-to-month leases, but claim they were assured it was a solid investment.
"Unless you did something horrendous, you were assured you were going to be here, at least until the end of the lease that SEQ Properties had with the Queensland government," Jenni said.
SEQ Properties runs the park, which has always been contentious due to its prime position.
In 2008, former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh reassured residents they were safe, with a 30-year lease issued to SEQ, containing a condition it would always remain leasehold land for a caravan park.
The site was even heritage listed.
But under a change of government in 2014, SEQ Properties applied to freehold the land.
Their application to buy the site was secretly approved under the current government in 2018, with residents claiming there was no community consultation.
It still has to remain a caravan park, but SEQ wants to make more room for holiday makers.
A total of 23 permanent residents have been told to pack up and leave, but they won't go down without a fight.
"It's not fair, it's just people with money with no respect for people who don't have money," resident Milo Doeblien said.
Since moving in four years ago, Milo says he has spent more than $75,000 building an annex to make his van into a home.
But come March, he'll be evicted.
"I can't tow this one, no wheels," he said.
"I've taken the wheel arches out to build the home into a nice home, a comfortable home."
Most of the long-term residents being evicted aren't able to tow away their homes.
They've been told they can sell them to others for removal, or relocate the vans themselves.
Since the eviction notices were issued last week, six people have already walked away.
But Jenni McCullagh is determined to stand up for her rights.
The park was historically bequeathed to the government, and she said she was unsure if they were legally allowed to sell it.
"I will find out what those documents said and how legal that land sale was," she said.
Lawyer Glenn Ferguson, from FC Lawyers, said the secretive sale by the government raised many questions.
"Should it have gone out for a tender, should it have been more widely consulted, that's the concern I see from residents," he said.
"My heart goes out to these poor people in this caravan park. I think a their twilight years, the uncertainty that surrounds them now is very unacceptable."
In a statement, the Queensland government said the owner has a responsibility to ensure long-term residents had appropriate accommodation.
"The government will not rest in assisting permanent residents who are losing leases due to the actions of the caravan park," the statement read.
However, SEQ claimed it was under no obligation to inform residents.
"There has never been any explicit or implicit promise of 'forever homes' during our pre-tenancy interviews," SEQ said in a statement.
SEQ is planning to bulldoze the site next year. They have told residents they'll waive the fee to re-instate their sites back to their original condition, but will offer no compensation.