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Government response to Crown land camping concerns

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Apr 7, 2022

CONTACTED for comment about the Crown land camping issues raised by Alan, a Victorian Government spokesperson said, “The public was already able to lawfully access licensed river frontages for recreation such as fishing, hiking, and picnicking.

“The new regulations that came into effect on September 1, 2021, address the additional permitted activity of camping in designated areas and help allow recreational users better understand their responsibilities when fishing and camping in these areas.

“There are existing rules about campfire safety that everyone must follow to reduce the risk of bushfires and protect the community and environment.

“There is a 24 hour hotline staffed by Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) authorised officers to report misconduct concerning river frontage camping. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks Victoria are continuing to work with authorised officers from the VFA to ensure compliance with ongoing support from Victoria Police.”

The decision to guarantee access to fishing and camping on Crown land that has grazing licences and river frontage was part of a 2018 Labor election commitment.

The public was already able to lawfully access licensed river frontages for recreation such as fishing, picnicking, and hiking, just not camping. They can currently camp in State Forests.

Following a thorough public consultation process involving licence holders, community groups and campers, the final regulations include controls for protecting cultural and environmental values, protecting health and safety including fire risk, protecting livestock and farming equipment, appropriate camping behaviour including for waste and litter, closing of access gates, etcetera, and protecting the public’s right to access public land.

The regulations governing the use of the land for camping will be enforced to ensure the best interests of licensees, livestock, the environment, and recreational users. Authorised Officers from VFA, DELWP and Parks Victoria will carry out enforcement activities to ensure compliance with the regulations and a 24 hour hotline (13FISH) will be available for licence holders to report any illegal or antisocial behaviour.

Campfires will not be permitted at all designated crown land river frontage camp areas. The site assessment process will determine if campfires are suitable.

Campers must follow the following rules in relation to campfires: never leave a campfire unattended, always put it out with water and make sure it’s cool to touch before leaving; never light a campfire if the day is a Total Fire Ban Day; pack a bucket so you can carry the water and put the fire out; and branches and logs on a campfire must be less than one metre long.

On the spot fines of $545 apply to those breaching campfire rules or a maximum penalty of up to $18,174 if the matter is prosecuted in court.

The maximum penalty for lighting or maintaining a fire during a Total Fire Ban is $43,617 and or two years in jail.

Before all busy camping periods FFMVic in partnership with other public land managers conducts public safety campaigns to make sure campers play it safe and know the rules for using campfires.

A comprehensive education campaign including a Code of Conduct and information that will identify the sites where camping can occur and how to camp safely in-line with the regulations have been prepared.

It is expected that licensees would have public liability insurance since the public is currently permitted to access licensed Crown land river frontages now for various recreational activities. Should an incident occur, each individual case would be considered on its merits through legal processes that would be managed by DELWP.

Member for Eildon Cindy McLeish said, “This commitment is not well thought out. They’re making it up on the run. Campfires not being put out are causing problems already, and there are biosecurity issues. People are also telling me about issues with campers regarding dogs and other animals.”

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