Basic camp fees gone

BASIC camping fees for regional national parks like those on the Ninety Mile Beach at Golden Beach that have caused camper outrage have been scrapped.

More than 500 basic camping sites over 70 campgrounds in 19 parks throughout regional Victoria will have no fees.

The bookings system for these sites will remain in place until July 1. Customers who have made a booking between now and July 1 will be refunded automatically by Parks Victoria, but the bookings will still be honoured.

A basic site is defined as unserviced, with minimal ranger patrols and pit or no-pit toilets. From July 1, these sites will no longer require booking and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The state government has asked Parks Victoria to review all other camping options to ensure there was the right balance between affordable holidays and funding for new facilities.

According to Environment Minister Lisa Neville, the fees, put in place by the previous Coalition government, made camping expensive for families, affected school camps and buried Parks Victoria in red tape.

“We want Victorian families to have an affordable holiday and get a chance to experience our great national parks,” she said.

The review of camping fees has been welcomed by local MPs, who had called for it to happen.

Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull said the review needed to look closely at costs for off peak and shoulder periods in particular.

“While the popular areas were largely booked out over the peak period, what I am hearing is the rises in the shoulder and off-peak periods have resulted in a significant reduction in camper numbers,” he said.

“If this is the case, then it defeats the purpose of the rises out of peak season in our most popular areas.”

Mr Bull said there needed to be a certain amount of revenue raised to put towards maintaining and improving facilities.

“We need to ensure the funding gap is minimised between income from camping areas and maintenance costs, whilst making sure our prime camping locations are affordable for families to enjoy. It is about finding the right balance,” he said.

Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said a number of constituents had raised the issue of camping fees with him and he urged people to provide input when more details of the review are released.

“The rise in fees has been prohibitive for some people which has in turn seen a decrease in campers visiting and staying in our magnificent national parks in Gippsland,” Mr O’Brien said.