The first thing Angela Hocking noticed as she walked towards the normally pristine Dandos campground in The Otways was the stench.
- Campers left piles of rubbish behind after visiting a south-west Victoria forest this Easter holidays
- Neighbouring farmers are outraged and say they’re worried about environmental impacts
- Authorities say they spend six hours daily picking up rubbish from tourist hotspots
The rubbish strewn along the path warned the farmer that something was amiss — but nothing could have prepared her for what sat waiting.
“You get there and it just hit you in the face,” Ms Hocking said.
Ms Hocking runs a cattle farm with her husband across the road from the campsite in Gellibrand.
She’s about 168cm high and the rubbish pile at the end of the path that greeted her was only a few centimetres shorter and at least three metres wide.
She couldn’t believe her eyes.
“I was shaking,” Ms Hocking said.
“I thought to myself, ‘I have never seen this down here — this is ridiculous’.
“I mean, it’s been bad, but this is getting beyond a joke.”
The Dandos campsite is nestled sweetly alongside the Gellibrand River in south-west Victoria, a little more than hour’s drive from Melbourne.
It’s a popular site for campers looking to get in touch with nature, according to Ms Hocking, and is seldom without a visitor throughout the year.
But come the Easter long weekend, demand grows notably.
“Looking down from the farm, we saw so many cars entering the site, it was like the Monash freeway peak hour all weekend,” she said.
The site doesn’t have permanent bins and campers are asked to take their rubbish with them when they leave.
But this Easter long weekend that didn’t happen — and the results are pungent.
“It was a warm afternoon when I found it and this wall of trash was completely flyblown,” Ms Hocking said.
“My husband and I spent the weekend picking up trash along the side of the road down to our paddocks, getting it out of our paddocks.
“In the long-term, this impacts those who live in the area permanently,” she said.
Nothing but footprints
The Colac Otway Shire has been working to keep residents informed of the clean-up effort, which lands in the lap of the Environment Department.
David Roberts is the district manager who looks after the south-west on behalf of Forest Fire Management Victoria.
He said the dumping of rubbish in such pristine green areas made no sense.
“Leaving rubbish behind at campsites is at odds with why we go to these beautiful locations — to enjoy the natural surroundings,” Mr Roberts said.
“The time and cost of cleaning up rubbish diverts our crews from other maintenance tasks and impacts funds for priority projects.”
The piles of rubbish have since been removed, according to the environment department. But that doesn’t mean the problem is solved.
Consultation is underway for upgrades at the Dandos site, however there are no plans to introduce rubbish collection as part of the works.
“We urge campers to consider their impact on the environment and respect their fellow campers by keeping campsites clean and taking rubbish with them when they leave,” Mr Roberts said.
Ms Hocking said permanent bins needed to be introduced to the site, and that a small camp fee could help off-set the cost of such an addition.
” I think at the very basic entry level, fixing the issue is really to have some skip bins put down there on major weekends,” she said.
“Just having some big facilities around there that will accommodate for the quieter times of the year even.”
Dumping a big issue
Illegal dumping of rubbish has long been an issue for park rangers in the state’s south-west, with tourist towns like Lorne and Apollo Bay of particular concern. .
The Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority estimated that visitors leave, on average, approximately 10 bags of rubbish in Lorne each day – plus an assortment of hard rubbish.
The authority said its staff spends six hours a day collecting rubbish and removing items from reserves and beaches.
That’s in addition to its contractors collecting close to 100 rubbish and recycling bins from the foreshore area.
For Mrs Hocking, she just wants people to show her backyard a little bit of respect.
“We all know what you should be doing about your personal hygiene in terms of Coronavirus, not to mention the gastro virus alert that’s been recently issued by the Department of Health.
“To have a disgusting trash pile like that left behind, it’s just embarrassing.”