Stakeholder consultation imperative with river camping backtrack

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath called on the Andrews Government to include comprehensive consultation with stakeholders after it backtracked on its plan to allow open slather camping on licensed river frontage in State Parliament this week.

“Following a significant push back from many parts of the community, Labor is investigating 25 pilot sites along licenced river frontages, however it is imperative that farmers, Traditional Owners and Landcare groups be involved in the planning process,” said Ms Bath.

“These groups must have input in the site selection criteria, in who and how camping sites will be monitored and what resources will be allocated for monitoring and enforcement.

“It’s abundantly clear that the regulations will not be finalised by the flagged date of September 1, therefore the Andrews Government must delay camping on licenced river frontages until farmers, Traditional Owners and Landcare groups have reached common agreement with government.

“The multitude of valid concerns raised on biosecurity, farm trespass, public liability, waste management, bushfire risk and environmental degradation must be addressed.”

Victoria has over 17,000 kilometres of licensed river frontage. Labor’s plan to open them up for camping was labelled environmentally irresponsible, unfair and fraught with risk.

At a recent Parliamentary Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC), the Andrews Government admitted it had not provided any additional funding in this year’s State Budget to enforce its new camping regulations, before also admitting it had in fact cut 15 per cent from the Environment and Biodiversity budget.

Ms Bath said 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.

“The draft regulations left Victorian farmers incensed when the Andrews Government made licenses responsible for managing campers who could light fires, defecate and stay for 28 days all within 100 metres of their homes,” said Ms Bath.

“Labor promised landholders powers would be given to Parks Victoria to enforce new offences such as interfering with livestock, damaging wildlife or native vegetation, or polluting the area with waste, but slashed the budget instead.

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

“Already under resourced Parks Victoria is struggling to properly manage our current public land – Labor must provide adequate resources and address stakeholders’ concerns before introducing new areas.

“Victoria’s agriculture industry is world class and our food and fibre industry need to be supported, not put at risk by Labor’s poorly executed laws.”