Camping on licensed river frontages in Victoria is a step closer after legislation to enable the change passed the Upper House of State Parliament. Key points:Parliament’s Upper House passes a bill to remove the prohibition on riverfront campingThe State Government extends the deadline for developing accompanying regulationsThe Lower House must now reconsider the bill with the updated deadlineIt was part of an election commitment designed to “guarantee access to fishing and camping on crown land” to “further encourage families and friends to spend time together in the outdoors”. However, the change recently became the subject of much concern among agricultural communities. Farmers often hold grazing licences for land between their properties and the state’s waterways, and say allowing campers on this land will be detrimental to biosecurity and animal welfare. Farmers see a ‘fait accompli’Pearsondale farmer Geoff Gooch is also the chair of the Maffra and District Landcare Network.He said the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill was vague and “it was a fait accompli” before it even went before Parliament.Mr Gooch farms along the Latrobe River in Gippsland, and said he already shared the river frontage with fishers.”We can’t deny pedestrian access to the riverbank, but to allow camping is just a problem … it’s creating more problems than it’s worth,” he said.Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president David Jochinke said attention would now turn to negotiating regulations that protected agriculture and the environment.”We are bitterly disappointed that the concerns of farmers have been ignored and we will hold the Government to their commitment to consult meaningfully with the VFF in the development of the regulations,” he said.Rocky road through Parliament The legislation was introduced to the Lower House in November last year. With regulations yet to be developed, the Government said an amendment added to the bill before it cleared the Upper House yesterday would extend the consultation deadline to September next year.It will now be referred again for the Lower House to consider the new amendments.In the Upper House yesterday, the opposition unsuccessfully sought to provide farmers the right to grant or deny permission to campers. The Upper House of Victorian Parliament during debate on the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill.(Supplied: Parliament of Victoria)”Would we feel comfortable if people set up camp out on our nature strip, be it large or small?” Nationals member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath asked. “Yes, that’s ridiculous … but on one level it still has the same meaning.”Legislation is always for the 5 per cent of the population [who do the wrong thing].”However the bill found support from Jeff Bourman, of the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party.Mr Bourman told Parliament he was “confused” about how the bill had become controversial to the Coalition since it last voted in the Lower House in November last year.’Voting without the detail’Greens MP Samantha Ratnam also voiced concern about the lack of consultation around this proposal and moved an amendment to the same effect. “Today we are being asked to vote on this change with absolutely no detail but with the assurance that the Government will sort all that out between now and September next year,” Dr Ratnam said.”I really don’t feel that is acceptable.”Labor member for Eastern Metropolitan Sonja Terpstra said the legislation would formalise arrangements and harmonise rules that were already in place.
A bill guaranteeing access to fishing and camping on crown land and river frontages is a step closer to reality, despite opposition from some quarters.