SHOULD visitors be able to camp for free in Bass Coast?
Councillors aren’t sure and the commercial operators of caravan parks aren’t keen on the idea, for fears they’ll lose business.
So is it fair if councils take money from the operators to lease land, while allowing campers across the road to set up on grassland for free?
That’s the question Cr Julian Brown wants answered, after the councillor says he and residents have seen seeing an increase in free camping.
The Bunurong Ward councillor received unanimous support from his colleagues at Wednesday night’s council meeting, when he brought up a motion for shire officers to prepare a Caravan Park/Camping Policy at the March meeting.
The policy will specify whether free camping is allowed in the shire and if so, guidelines on appropriate locations for the camp sites.
He said there are two main types of free camping.
“The first is when individuals select their own, unique spot to stay in Bass Coast. This may be a car park overlooking a beach, say in Inverloch or Kilcunda or any other location,” he said, adding that there might only be one caravan staying the night.
The other type was a more organised site, where space is set aside for campers and sometimes with basic facilities.
“Such sites are often posted on free camping websites, and may include a donation to stay.”
He cited a recreation reserve as an example, but said it was further complicated if there was a committee other than council managing the site.
“Is there a written formal permit that designates the area as a free camping area?
“If there is an incident on site, who is going to be responsible? Will it be the management committee, will it be council, will it be both?
“I believe this may be a risk that needs to be clarified.
“You are either a formal camping site or you are not,” he said, adding that businesses want to see a level-playing field.
Cr Stephen Fullarton said caravan parks have strict regulations and it “costs a lot of money” to comply, something that provides a “very good” income for the Bass Coast Shire Council.
“We can’t be seen to be providing a free service right next door,” he said.
Cr Geoff Ellis pointed out South Gippsland has two free camping sites and said there had been suggestions to have free camping sites in Glen Alvie and Kernot.
Council prohibits camping on council land or in a public place or on private land without a permit. Camping without a permit could result in a fine of up to $1500.