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Farm­ers raise concerns over new laws al­low­ing wa­ter­front camp­ing on li­censed prop­er­ties.

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Front Page - By LEAH AN­DER­SON-BYRNE

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 chris.padovani@vfa.vic.gov.au.

PHOTO: Kieren Tilly

PHOTO: Kieren Tilly

CONCERNS RAISED: Lo­cal farm­ers and landown­ers Cather­ine and Steve Craw­ford have raised concerns over new pro­posed laws al­low­ing campers on river­fronts.

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