THE Victorian Farmers Federation and The Nationals were united in the opposition to regulations that permit camping on farmland river frontage at a rally at Parliament last week.
VFF president, Mirboo North farmer, Emma Germano told the rally of hundreds of impacted landholders the VFF was seeking a 12-month stay on the implementation of the regulations.
“Farmers, environmentalists and traditional owners all agree that these regulations are inadequate. Government should not be surprised by this,” Ms Germano said.
“Our riparian land is important for farming, important for the environment and important culturally. We know that after the persistent advocacy of all of you here today, the government is beginning to listen.
“We want a 12-month stay on implementation to allow proper consultation and the identification of appropriate, high-use sites for a pilot program.
“Today is another show of strength and resolve and the ball is now in the government’s court. Now they need to show that they care about the rivers, the environment and the farmers.”
Nationals leader Peter Walsh said farmers feared they would be exposed to safety risks of unattended campfires and the burden of cleaning up waste left by campers under the government’s proposed changes to camping on licensed river frontages.
The changes would see landholders essentially forced to act as park rangers and campground caretakers with the responsibility of managing and cleaning up after campers where their land held under licence abuts a river, he said.
“Questions relating to waste management, water quality, bushfire risk, vulnerable species, biosecurity, public liability and protection of stock have not been addressed by the Labor government.
“Does the Labor Government really expect our hard-working farmers to issue camping permits, protect livestock and farm biosecurity, rotate campers, clean up waste, protect habitat, perform bank regeneration works and manage their farms?”
Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region and Shadow Assistant Minister for Public Land Use, Melina Bath said landholders were incensed by the plans.
“Camping on public land should remain the responsibility of Department of Land, Water and Environment (DELWP) and Parks Victoria,” Ms Bath said.
“Unfortunately, as it stands under the Labor government, both DELWP and Parks Victoria aren’t adequately resourced to manage the current demand for camping on Victoria’s public land, including managing waste and checking for abandoned campfires.”
Gippsland South MP Danny O’Brien also joined the rally.
“These regulations show no regard for the rights of the landholders. They are asking farmers to allow the public open slather to their workplace,” Mr O’Brien said.
“I am getting more and more contact from Gippsland farmers with riverside licences who are aghast at what is proposed in the draft regulations.”
The regulations would allow people to camp for up to 28 days as close as 100 metres to homes from September this year. They also allow campers to collect half a cubic metre of firewood per day, despite farmers not being able to collect firewood themselves on land they licence for grazing.