New camp sites along the most beautiful rivers in north- east Victoria will not open in time for the September school holidays.
- New riverfront campsites in Victoria are not ready to be opened to the public today as planned
- Farmers who pay to manage the Crown land are desperate to know where the campsites will be
- Fisheries officers will be charged with policing camper behaviour
The 27 sites along the Goulburn, Ovens, Broken, Loddon and Campaspe rivers have been earmarked for camping by the Victorian Government.
But the river frontage Crown land is licensed by farmers, many of whom have serious concerns about granting access to campers they do not know.
The Victorian Government planned to have the camp sites ready for the public to access by today, September 1.
But COVID lockdowns have hindered the process of having the sites surveyed and assessed.
“As soon as COVID restrictions allow, neighbouring landholders who have got licences will have letters issued to them, emails, and even phone calls about undertaking the assessment,” environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.
“And then, of course, the assessment will determine whether that particular area is appropriate for camping.”
Ms D’Ambrosio said Aboriginal cultural heritage and vegetation would be assessed before public access is granted, but she would not reveal the locations being considered.
Fisheries officers to police campers
A 24-hour telephone hotline 13-FISH will be available to farmers to report any problems they experience with campers.
“I would be saying to those landholders to keep that phone number handy because if you do spot some misconduct, the Victorian Fisheries Authority will be operating that 24-hour hotline,” Ms D’Ambrosio said
She said the government was looking at establishing a register for campers but admitted a booking system had not been finalised.
“That will mean that hopefully on the very rare occasion that if a neighbouring landholder believes there has been some misconduct and they report that, it will be fairly easy for us to track the people in question.”
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Parks Victoria will also play a role in overseeing the new camping regulations.
Farmers in the dark
General manager at End Hill Proprietary Limited Dane Martin runs beef enterprises across multiple farms in Gippsland and north-east Victoria.
His properties access the Ovens and Macalister rivers which were both listed as places the government would set up trial camping sites.
“We’re feeling very much left out of the consultation process,”
“We certainly don’t know where the sites are. They’ve only said that they will be on certain rivers, which makes us very nervous as to what’s going to happen.”
Mr Martin said a letter had been the only contact he has received from the Victorian government on the matter.
“We’ve still had no correspondence with them, given all the submissions that we’ve put in,” he said.
The government received 1,100 submissions on the camping changes.
In May, more than 120 Victorian farmers, including Mr Martin, travelled to Melbourne to protest on the steps of Parliament House.
Among them was Mitta Valley dairy and beef farmer Cameron Paton, who owns 3 kilometres of river frontage on the Mitta River.
Mr Paton’s family has farmed in the area for seven generations.
“In 24 hours, the grass is dead from walking and driving on it,
“If they have access through private property and if they want to cut corners and drive out on your private property, are they going to repair the damage to the fodder?”
“There’s no rule to say that the camper can’t come in with bikes, dogs and guns and set up and squat when there are public caravan parks in the area screaming for attendance.”
Mr Martin said he wants to see the Victorian Government consulting with landowners and farmers.
“You’ve got to sit down and talk these things through, and they can’t hide behind the fact that there’s a pandemic on. Surely, we can a have Zoom meeting,” he said.
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