Law firm lobbies against camping laws

A LAW firm is lobbying the government on behalf of farmers concerned for their businesses to make some changes to proposed legislation to allow camping on Crown land near rivers.

Farming groups fear the proposed new laws could cause environmental and economic devastation near Victoria’s water systems.

The new laws would allow people to access land through private properties (across government tracks).

For farmers who have licenses to use these waterfronts for livestock grazing, the potential issues are significant.

Property principal of marshalls+dent+wilmoth lawyers Andrew Power said the firm’s agribusiness clients were tremendously concerned about the effect of these proposed laws.

“There are many environmental, biosecurity and legal liability issues,” he said.

“For decades, the waterway ecosystems have been finely balanced with farming activities.

“But the proposed regulations have no practical solution for monitoring, regulating or prosecuting camping activities.

“It could be disastrous for livestock farmers when they already face significant environmental and economic challenges.”

Mr Power said farmers could be liable for any damage their livestock caused to humans.

“For example, it’s common for calving mothers to protect their young,” he said.

“Human waste is a threat to livestock because of the high chance of disease.

“Then there’s the risk of injury to livestock due to dogs, broken glass or holes dug by campers.

“On top of that, farmers must endure the threat of fire outbreak and water contamination.”

Under existing arrangements, farmers must keep licensed Crown land free of pests and weeds, undertake fire protection, clear rubbish, pay rates and taxes and build fences when required.

It’s feared campers may cause issues such as littering, property damage and fire hazards.

The current licence agreements would require farmers to continue to bear these responsibilities, including the financial cost.

“We’re lobbying the government to include key measures in the new regulations which would help protect farmers, their livestock and livelihoods,” Mr Power said.

“For example, creating and delineating an increased number of campgrounds throughout Victoria (on a rotating basis) with basic facilities including proper emergency access tracks, signage, toilets, mobile networks, campfire areas and rubbish bins.

“Other measures should include a live phone application for check-in requirements at campsites, reducing the 28 maximum camping period to seven days, designating camping grounds at least 500 metres away from houses, and compulsory camper training in biosecurity and fire hazards.

“We’re also lobbying the government to build more safe tracks to minimise the risk of campers entering private farming properties to access campsites.

“If campers are injured on private property, there’s a risk of escalating insurance premiums, which will significantly add to the burden already shouldered by our primary producers.

“We’re asking the government to address this issue as well.”

The consultation period for the proposed regulations ended on Monday.

To find out more, or to work with marshalls+dent+wilmoth lawyers to develop a farm risk policy, phone the Benalla (or Melbourne, Mornington or Williamstown) office on 03 5746 4500, or visit www.mdlaw.com.au.