The Victorian government is under increasing pressure to delay the introduction of free camping on licensed river frontages.
- More than 120 farmers protested against free camping along licenced river frontage
- Farmers are concerned campers will leave gates open and litter riverbanks with human waste and rubbish
- Farmers are concerned they will be liable if campers are injured on the land they lease
In the strongest display yet of their opposition, Victorian farmers took to the steps of State Parliament yesterday calling for more time and a re-think before the new camping laws take effect in September.
The government passed legislation in November which will give campers free access to the land farmers use under grazing licences.
More than 120 farmers and supporters trekked to Melbourne’s CBD today demanding the government hit pause on the changes.
Judy Caldwell said she helped organise the rally “out of sheer frustration”.
“We’ve been forced to come down here which we didn’t really want to do,” she said.
“But having been down here and seen the enthusiasm from parliamentarians, I feel they’re going to support us and try and get this overturned or at least make the regulations acceptable for campers and farmers,” Ms Caldwell said.
Coalition and Greens MPs spoke at the rally, however government MPs did not address the group.
The government received more than 1,100 submissions after a consultation period that closed in April.
“We will continue to encourage families and friends to spend time together in the outdoors,” a government spokesperson said.
Farmers are concerned they could be sued for liability if campers become injured or caught up in bush fires while camping on the land they lease from government.
“Because who is going to be accountable when there’s an accident, when a bull bowls someone over, when there’s fires, there won’t be enough resources to deal with it,” Wodonga landholder Julie Tyrrell said.
“We’ve had property stolen from our sheds and we’ve had a lot of rubbish left on our riverbanks as well and people need to be accountable for this,” Ms Tyrrell said.
“It’s been rushed through and hasn’t been thought through,” Will Paul, from Glenfalloch Station at Licola, said.
Sue Ryder farms at Tawonga, in the upper reaches of the Kiewa Valley in north east Victoria. She said legal issues and liability concerns were major concerns.
“We personally would like to see the government look at opening up areas that are already used as free camping areas,” Ms Ryder said.
“Build toilets there, build firepits there, make sure the rubbish is collected from those sites.”