Tourists say van is Wicked

Backy Backson and Michael Mathuni, from Germany, just keep ‘Rollin’ along in their Wicked’ van.
Backy Backson and Michael Mathuni, from Germany, just keep ‘Rollin’ along in their Wicked’ van. Rob Barich

A DEAFENING row has erupted over the safety of the popular Wicked tourist campervans, but German backpacker Michael Mathuni and his mates were all but oblivious as they chilled out in Bundaberg yesterday.

Mr Mathuni said the campers had not heard a thing about the recall of dozens of Wicked campervans, which were taken off the road after being deemed unroadworthy.

“We’ve had the van for a week, and driven it from Sydney to here with no problems,” Mr Mathuni said.

“No-one has said anything about it being dangerous.”

Acting Premier Paul Lucas on Sunday said all, but four of the fleet of 86, popular backpacker hire campervans had been pulled off Queensland’s roads because they were not roadworthy.

He said Wicked Campers voluntarily withdrew 77 campervans and submitted the remaining nine for roadworthy tests — but only four passed.

Mr Lucas said he had written to other state governments to warn them about the problem, but John Webb, founder of the Brisbane-based company, had rejected the claims.

Mr Webb said Wicked Campers had 944 rental campervans operating in Australia, including 611 Queensland-registered vans on the roads.

“Wicked Campers takes the safety of its fleet very seriously and we have co-operated closely with the Queensland Department of Transport to ensure all our vehicles are safe,” he told AAP.

“We have recently voluntarily deregistered around 50 vans and are also in the process of introducing 500 upgraded vehicles over the next year,” he said.

“About 5% of our fleet has been voluntarily deregistered, which is generally in line with car rental industry standards.”

Mr Webb said he was not happy with Mr Lucas’s allegations and attributed them to the company’s appeal to younger travellers.

“We’re a good tourism operator and we’re going to keep serving these travellers safe vans and make sure they go out of Australia with good memories,” he said.

Earlier, Transport Minister Rachel Nolan said Wicked Campers were targeted after transport inspectors discovered major problems with vans in Cairns.

Mechanical faults included structural rust, defective seating, oil leaks and severe accident damage.

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