The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says the Andrews Labor Government had failed to provide a single cent of new funding under the 2021/22 State Budget to monitor and enforce new laws which allow camping on state-licensed river and water frontages.
At Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings this week, Mr Walsh said Environment Minister; Lily D’Ambrosio, also confirmed no funding or support for farmers who are now unable to obtain adequate insurance for the increased risks of pollution, fire and biosecurity hazards.
He said late last year, the Andrews Labor Government passed laws removing the longstanding prohibition on camping on licensed water frontages.
“Under these new regulations; currently being proposed by the Labor Government to take effect in September this year, people will soon be allowed to camp for 28 days within 200m of farmers’ homes,” Mr Walsh explained.
“During consultation on the proposed regulations, the Andrews Labor Government promised new powers would be given to Parks Victoria Officers to enforce new offences; created by the regulations such as interfering with livestock, damaging wildlife or native vegetation, or polluting the area with waste,” he said.
“However, during questioning over the Budget allocations to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) in the 2021/22 financial year, the Minister for Environment conceded no additional money had been allocated to Parks Victoria to enforce these new camping laws, and nothing will be provided to protect farmers and environmental groups licensed to use the land for agriculture and native habitat revegetation.
“The Minister told the Parliamentary hearing she was confident the new laws could be adequately managed under existing budget measures.
“This is despite the total budget of DELWP being cut by $601 million; compared to what it spent in the 2020/21 financial year.
“This is a slap in the face to around 10,000 Victorian farmers who hold these state-issued licences; and proves the Labor Government has turned a blind eye to the additional demands that camping places on these precious waterways and our environment.”
Mr Walsh said Labor has failed to recognise how the additional demands placed on these rivers and water frontages by camping will put at risk vital native habitats to pollution, waste and potential bushfires, and expose farmers to unnecessary hazards, biosecurity risks and potential liabilities.
“The Government has failed to get the balance right with their new camping laws and is leaving country communities behind – again,” he added.