It could be a disaster coming to a riverfront near you; and the Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says you might not be able to do a thing about it.
Unless you take the time to register your thoughts and concerns with the public submissions portal at engage.vic.gov.au/regulated-watercourse-land-regulations
Mr Walsh today visited the Torrumbarry horticulture enterprise of Andrew Crossman, whose family spent years fighting with Parks Victoria to get “almost permanent” campers off the riverbank in front of their farmhouse.
“Andrew tells me Parks finally did stop the camping but not before a large stretch of riverbank had been ‘virtually denuded’,” he said.
“The Crossmans agree there needs to be room for people to camp, and that most of them would treat the land well; but with flawed legislation the Andrews Labor government is using there are too many grey areas.”
Mr Walsh said a visit to Torrumbarry has certainly highlighted the complexities of changes to licenced river frontages regulations.
He said it was important to see firsthand and listen to valid concerns of farmers who will soon be faced with the task of managing public access on their licenced river frontages.
“The draft regulations in their current format raise more questions than answers,” Mr Walsh said.
“Questions relating to waste management, water quality, bushfire risk, vulnerable species, biosecurity, public liability and protection of stock need addressing.
“There will need to be some compromise by all parties to achieve an acceptable outcome.
“Looking specifically at the Murray, Campaspe, Goulburn, Avoca and Loddon through my electorate; there needs to be consideration to ensure public accessibility will not negatively impact on soil erosion, riverbank stabilisation, native vegetation regeneration and water quality.
“Currently licence holders are undertaking significant environmental rehabilitation on behalf of the state government, however if public access is not adequately managed, important restoration work could be put at risk.”
Mr Crossman said since Parks had blocked camping along the river in front of their home the whole riverbank has been rejuvenated.
He said they have seen native animals and birdlife returning along with the flora.
“We wouldn’t want to see that disappear again if we have too many problems with campers; but we realise they also need to have access to all sorts of places,” Mr Crossman said.
“And to be fair they should; but we are yet to see how this will all be managed,” he added.
“The other thing to remember here, and I am sure it is the same everywhere, is the importance of these campers to the local economy, in our case the Torrumbarry store/roadhouse and the pub, and that flow-on impact across our whole community.”
Mr Walsh said farmers are concerned the draft regulations fail to mention the landholder or issues such as trespass and public liability.
He said allowing public access on licenced river frontages is a complex issue and frustratingly; Labor has pushed through the legislation without comprehensive analysis of the consequences.
“Many fear; in the absence of adequate resourcing; including additional authorised officers, farmers will be left to do the policing, in effect becoming park rangers.”
Mr Walsh said while he is a supporter of public land access, he is adamant any regulations must be well researched, negotiated and balanced to avoid unnecessary conflicts between interested parties and impacts on sensitive environments.
He said that was why he could not stress the importance of registering your submissions on the legislation.
“Many landholders, such as Andrew Crossman and his family, hold a genuine commitment to enhancing dynamic river ecosystems and it is imperative the Andrews Government gets it right.”
Public submissions on the licenced river frontage draft regulations are closing soon and can be made to engage.vic.gov.au/regulated-watercourse-land-regulations