'Like having your heart ripped out': Caravan park owners told they're losing their business by email

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The owners of the Omeo Caravan Park in East Gippsland say they were left stunned after the local council told them by email that it was not renewing their lease.

Lou and Sandi Beltrame moved from the Mornington Peninsula to take over the caravan park in 2008 and last month celebrated their 12th anniversary of running the business.

But last Saturday morning they received the email from council saying it would not renew their lease when it expired next year and would take over management of the park.

“The reason is that the council has determined that the management of the leased area is to be brought in house and managed by council directly,” Ms Beltrame said.

In the email, the couple were told they would need to vacate and remove any improvements.

“We’ve planted trees, put in cabins, we’ve put in garden beds, we’ve built up a clientele,” Ms Beltrame said.

Fire-ravaged region

The council’s decision comes as the East Gippsland tourism industry deals with the back-to-back crises of last summer’s bushfires and the collapse of tourism due to coronavirus restrictions.

Last summer, large parts of the region were destroyed by fires that burnt for three months, destroying more than 320,000 hectares.

Ms Beltrame said they had earned “very little” income for the past six months and had planned to recoup their losses during Christmas and Easter next year.

“But now they’ve taken that off us as well,” she said.

Meeting with council

Jodie Pitkin, council’s general manager of place and community, said the letter was sent to the Beltrames by accident and she apologised “unreservedly”.

“The letter was prepared as part of an ongoing review of tenancy arrangements,” Ms Pitkin said.

“We have since met with the park managers and have agreed to work together over the coming months.”

Ms Beltrame said she still expected to lose her business but was open to managing it for the council for a period.