Labor forced to backdown on waterfront camping plan

The Andrews Labor Government has been forced into an embarrassing backdown on its plan to allow camping on 17,000 kms of licenced river frontages in Victoria.

Labor camping plans were labelled environmentally irresponsible, grossly unfair and fraught with risk for farmers.

Standing up for Victoria’s agriculture industry, The Nationals together with Gippsland farmers highlighted the multiple biosecurity and public liability risks it created for licenced landholders.

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath said Labor’s backdown is a big win for farmers and the environment.

“Labor and the cross bench attempted to ram through these new state laws without any proper consideration or care for the consequences.

“Opening up all Victoria’s licenced waterways would put biodiversity and biosecurity at risk by allowing campers to trespass, light fires, defecate and stay for 28 days all within 100 metres of farmers’ homes.

“Many of these rivers are the drinking water supply for small regional communities – the public and environmental risks were just too great to open them up for unlimited camping.

“There are many public land camping sites and rivers available in Victoria – the Andrews Government should focus on better managing and resourcing these before introducing new ones.”

At a Parliamentary hearing last month the Andrews Government admitted it had failed to provide a single cent of additional funding in the 2021-22 State Budget to monitor and enforce its new camping regulations on licenced river frontages, before revealing it had cut 15 per cent from the Environment and Biodiversity budget.

During the hearings the Minister for Environment also confirmed there was no plan to support Victoria’s 10,000 farmers who hold state-issued licences to manage this land, and who couldn’t obtain adequate insurance to cover the increased risks of pollution, fire and biosecurity hazards resulting from Labor’s new laws.

Ms Bath said Labor arrogantly the ignored genuine concerns of farmers – however following pressure from farmers and The Nationals in Parliament, it’s finally admitted Labor’s new laws are flawed.

“While it’s important for Victorians to continue to have the opportunity to fish and camp on public land, The Nationals repeatedly maintain the stance that farmers and habitat should not be made worse off by Labor’s new camping laws.

“Parks Victoria is already significantly under resourced and it’s cannot adequately manage public land in Victoria in its current state.

“It’s inconceivable that Labor would expect hardworking farmers to take responsibility for the management of campers and also hold them responsible for the protection of river habitat.

“Victoria’s agriculture industry is world class and our food and fibre industry need to be supported, not decimated by Labor’s poor policy.

“The Nationals actively support recreation and camping on public land, but there must be resources and laws to manage and safeguard it to protect farmers, campers and habitat.”