The Nationals in government will give power back to landholders to decide who can camp on their river frontages, while increasing penalties for people who flout the rules.
The Nationals have announced plans to address the Andrews Labor Government’s ill-conceived changes to the Land Act 1958 last year, which the government pursued despite concerns from farmers about the risks to biosecurity and personal safety, and the potential threat of litigation.
Member for Lowan and Deputy Leader of The Nationals Emma Kealy was contacted by a large number of concerned farmers who lease river frontages on the Wimmera and Glenelg Rivers when the changes were first proposed. Ms Kealy and the Nationals and Liberals stood with farmers in vigorously opposing the legislation, which came into effect in September.
She said under a Nationals Government, The Act and its associated regulations would be more balanced, with landholder permission a pre-requisite to camping, and licensees authorised to remove consent upon a reasonable belief there has been a breach of the regulations.
“Recreational users will continue to be able to access these frontages and have reasonable access for camping, however changes would be made to include preventative measures against biosecurity threats and potential environmental damage,” Ms Kealy said.
“Penalties applied to those who breach the rules could also increase and include the potential for seizure of fishing and camping equipment, vehicles and vessels.”
Ms Kealy said the suitability of sites that had already been identified for riverfront camping would be re-assessed, with existing leases reviewed to enhance the experience for the fishers, campers and adjacent leaseholders.
“We know from discussions with affected farmers that we need to strike a balance between access to public space and the potential threat to our livestock industry,” she said.
“This policy provides better protection of waterways and land as well as protections for licence holders, their stock and property.
“Landholders are understandably worried and remain uneasy about the threat of being sued.
“For decades an informal system has operated with farmers allowing campers when asked – they don’t have a problem with that, but the current rules are a free-for-all.
“The failings of the current laws are real and need to be fixed, and The Nationals in government will fix them.”