It appears the Victorian Government has backed down in its bid to allow thousands of campers to pitch tents along 17,000 kilometres of the state’s waterways from September.
Two industry stakeholder groups have told The Weekly Times the Government has instead opted to open up about ‘25 pilot sites’ for campers on crown land water frontages from September.
It is understood those sites would first have to undergo biodiversity and cultural heritage assessments to meet the demands of environmental groups and traditional owners, who are concerned biodiversity and sacred sites, such as scar and birthing trees, are not damaged by campers.
The Herald Sun reports that the Government will then assess how the sites are managed and their impacts on waterways, vegetation and neighbouring landholders before making any decisions on extending the number of sites in the future.
Last November the Government passed amendments to the Land Act 1958, which cleared the way for it to draft regulations allowing any member of the public to set up tents and campfires from this September on up to 8,287 crown-land frontages, that are licensed to adjoining farmers and other landholders.
Many farmers were worried this would mean they had to police campers on mostly unfenced crown land river frontages adjoining their properties. They also feared they would be put at risk of legal suits as livestock wandered among tents, and that they would be left to deal with escaped campfires, rubbish and human waste contaminating their land and waterways.
However, the Herald Sun reports that it appears that it was ultimately traditional owners and environment groups who persuaded key Labor ministers to back down on a policy they say would irrevocably damage waterways.
These groups have called for a more strategic approach of working together to identify appropriate camping sites that are fenced off from adjoining landholders, had good vehicle access and contained no valuable native vegetation or culturally significant sites.
The Government is refusing to detail what action it is taking, with a spokeswoman telling the Herald Sun:
“We are delivering on an election commitment we made to Victorians in 2018 that has been welcomed by over 800,000 fishers and campers. The draft regulations – including how they’re going to be enforced – are still being finalised and we will have more to say soon.”