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Farmers raise concerns over new laws allowing waterfront camping on licensed properties.
FARMERS Catherine and Steve Crawford have raised concerns about the State Government’s proposed Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill, which will change the law that prohibits camping on licensed river frontages, to allow people to camp without the consent of farmers and land managers. The couple, who’s property is located along the Ovens River, are pictured here with an Ultra-light firefighting unit which they say will be needed if unattended campfires get out of control in warmer months.
SOME local farmers are concerned about new proposed legislation that will remove the existing prohibition on camping on licensed river frontages.
As part of the 2018 ‘Fishing and Boating’ election commitments, the Victorian Government committed to ‘guarantee access to fishing and camping on Crown land that has grazing licences and river frontage.’
But Chris Pado Vani from the Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) said , it is important to note that the public is already able to lawfully access licensed river frontages for recreation such as fishing, picnicking and hiking, just not camping, and the public currently camp in State Forests in harmony with farmers who have grazing licences.
Tarrawingee farmers Steve and Catherine Crawford are “appalled” about the prospect of Victoria’s water frontages being open for camping.
Mr Crawford, 2nd lieutenant of Tarrawingee Country Fire Authority (CFA), is “particularly concerned” about the threat campers could pose in bushfire season.
“To propose such a scheme within 12 months of the worst fires we’ve ever had, is unbelievable,” he said.
“Fires in land locked locations are of great concern; we already have problems with people having dangerous fire set ups or not properly extinguishing camp fires when they leave and this will only make the risks that much worse.
“Access to these locations along the river is not always possible, posing risk to not only farmers, but entire communities”.
The Crawfords have a 22 hectare farm, where they produce pastured eggs and beef; as registered producers, they are concerned about biosecurity and animal welfare.
Under current state laws farmers must record the movement of people on and off their property to meet
biosecurity legislation and access national and international markets.
“I’m sure there will be regulations put in place surrounding trespass, what activities can occur on frontages, rubbish removal and fire for example, but the biggest question is what happens when campers break the rules?” Mrs Crawford said.
“At the moment camping is not allowed on river frontages.
“Instead, perhaps change the legislation so that farmers, who we shouldn’t forget actually pay a licence fee for the use of this land and manage it accordingly, can opt in to running camping facilities on river frontages if they choose.
“This would open up more land that is suitable for camping and the farmer was in a position to manage it.
“It would also ensure appropriate environmental waste measures as well as record keeping of those attending are kept.
“A blanket opening is ludicrous and dangerous and the negatives far out way the positives.
“I don’t know of any other private or business landowner who’s been asked to open their gates and let people freely pass through.
“This is our home where we have a young family; how would you feel if anyone was allowed to come and go as they please through your property?”
Mrs Crawford said parameters such as toileting within 100m of the river frontage pushes people back onto our private property.
“People will inevitably do the wrong thing; it’s almost a given, all the regulations in the world won’t stop people doing the wrong thing,” she said.
“We understand that it is a privilege to have river frontage and access to graze that land, but we do pay a lease for this right and are expected to care for the land accordingly.
“I wonder if the government have thought about the consequence of these lease holders giving up their lease and the financial implications that will have, not to mention the land management they will lose as a result.
“River flats are some of our most highly productive and valuable farmland.
“These are spaces that should be protected and farmers with the privilege of access to river flats should be supported and encouraged to care for that land with the upmost importance.
“If you open these spaces up to campfires, vehicles and litter, we are literally degrading some of our state’s, and probably some our country’s best farmland.
“There is currently plenty of beautiful land being locked up from recreational use; let’s shift our focus away from the land that feeds our country and open up the state’s gates not ours.”
Other issues raised by the Crawfords and other lease holders included animal and waterway health due to pollution from human faeces and litter, illegal removal of vegetation and firewood, trespass on private land, risk to road users and stock due to gates being left open, burden on farmers to manage the area, safety and wellbeing of animals, family members, workers and guests due to firearm use and trespass and liability of landholders under Victoria’s workplace manslaughter legislation.
For those who share these concerns, you can have your say via a
According to the VFA the Crown Frontage license authorises the licensee to enter and use a Crown water frontage for a specified purpose such as grazing or riparian management.
The public retains the right to enter and remain on the land for certain recreational purposes such as walking, fishing or bird watching.
What is being proposed is the removal of the prohibition on camping on licensed river frontages recognises that this activity has been occurring on many of these frontages for many years and allows for it to be better managed through regulations.
This legislation recently passed through the lower house of Parliament, and the VFA are working in partnership with the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) to develop suitable regulations to support camping at these locations.
For further information regarding this election commitment, please call Chris Padovani, Manager Fisheries Systems & Reform, VFA on 0427 353 233 or email email@example.com.
CONCERNS RAISED: Local farmers and landowners Catherine and Steve Crawford have raised concerns over new proposed laws allowing campers on riverfronts.