Murky waters on camping laws
■ Government’s flip-flop leaves farmers’ river frontages in the dark
THE State Government is forging ahead with debated changes to laws which will allow campers access to Crown land river frontage.
The confirmation follows much confusion after the Weekly Times recently published an article which outlined changes that the government labelled misleading.
Objections from farmers, who lease much of the frontage for grazing, have noted the impact the changes would have on their animals and operations.
The new regulations will come into play from September 1, with a statement released by the government this week confirming the number of sites to open is currently being determined.
“Camping will only take place on suitable sites, with a rigorous assessment process applied to ensure sites will be safe for camping, with environmental and agricultural impacts considered as well as any impact on Aboriginal cultural heritage,” the statement noted.
“Up to 27 sites along the Goulburn, Broken, Ovens, Campaspe, Loddon and Murray rivers are currently being assessed with hundreds to follow.”
The public can already lawfully access licensed river frontages for recreation such as fishing, hiking and picnicking, but not for camping overnight.
The proposed changes would allow this, but with the recent announcement, may only apply to certain ‘sites’ and not the entire 17,000km of Crown land as previously anticipated.
“We’re reviewing potential sites to ensure environmental and agricultural concerns are considered and we’re partnering with Traditional Owners to ensure Aboriginal cultural heritage is protected,” said Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio.
“We’re striking the right balance to make sure riverside public land is protected for generations to come.”
The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president Emma Germano said the announcement represents a positive step forward, but farmers are in the dark until further information is released ahead of the implementation of the regulations.
“Ensuring camping is only permitted on appropriate sites and agricultural impacts are considered is a step in the right direction and recognises the potential impact of this change on agriculture,” Ms Germano said.
“It’s pleasing to see the enormous efforts and hard work of not only farmers, but all impacted stakeholders is beginning to pay off.”
“Now we need to see the detail on the actual rules before they begin in a matter of weeks.
“We can’t understand and implement what we don’t know.”