Mansfield Courier

Murky waters on camping laws

■ Government’s flip-flop leaves farmers’ river frontages in the dark

- By SHAUN McMAHON

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.”

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