Rod spoke on the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.
The public currently has the right to fish, bird watch and undertake other recreational activities except camping on crown land.
This Bill proposes to permit camping on crown land and, create conservation areas and implement protections, regulations, and mechanisms to maintain the land, the local habitat and wildlife.
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (10:49): I rise to speak today on the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. Over the past few weeks many constituents have raised the same question: what does this bill mean in reality? Well, first it is important to note that under the existing legislation the public can currently access licensed river frontage for recreational activities such as fishing, picnicking and hiking, but as it stands, this excludes camping. The licences that the bill refers to are Crown frontage licences. Licensees pay $68 for this privileged position, and it enables them to use the Crown land and the river frontage for a specified purpose such as grazing. The aim of creating such licences is to improve the water quality, control erosion, improve farm productivity and support the native environment. To be clear, a licence does not remove the public right to enter and remain on this land for approved recreational purposes such as birdwatching and fishing. What this bill proposes is to extend that right and enable camping on licensed Crown land river frontages. In summary, this bill is committed to guaranteeing access to fishing and camping on Crown land that has grazing licences and river frontage.
In reaching my decision I looked towards the current arrangements in state forests with licence-holders. Currently in state forests where camping is permitted farmers with grazing licences and campers use these areas in harmony. To my knowledge there has never been an issue with this, and I cannot see how extending this to Crown land would result in anything but a win for the public. In reaching this conclusion I acknowledge that people have been illegally camping on Crown land for years. In order to be better able to regulate and manage this it is important that appropriate mechanisms and policies are implemented. I wholeheartedly agree that a thorough public consultation process on the draft regulations is needed, as licensees and local landowners will be affected.
In particular it is essential that proper regulations are put in place to manage the disposal of waste, camp fires and other environmental protections. As a community we have an obligation to promote and engage in good camping behaviour. We understand the effects of bushfires and the impact that littering has on our local wildlife. To mitigate this, the proposed bill will make it an offence to leave camp fires and barbecues unattended on licensed water frontages in regulated fire areas, including state forests, protected public land or national parks. In addition, the size of the camp fires and barbecues, as well as the area surrounding them, will be regulated to ensure sensible and safe camping.
Further, to uphold the regulations and to ensure that campers act responsibly, I acknowledge that the fisheries officers, Parks Victoria rangers and authorised officers from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning will and must actively police the behaviours of campers and licence-holders on Crown land. In addition to this, the public will be allowed to report illegal behaviour to a 24-hour hotline. It is clear upon reading this bill that it proposes sufficient policing, management and community consultation to properly implement regulations that consider the impact of camping on locals and licensees on Crown land.
In addition, the bill also provides to create and modify several parks, reserves and conservation areas around Victoria. The creation of the landscape conservation areas will provide necessary protection to our native flora and fauna to better educate local communities on indigenous vegetation and habitat, and Victoria’s natural wildlife landscape conservation areas will be allowed to include dedicated community use and education areas. The creation of the Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park will see several existing parks, reserves and Crown land merged together to better facilitate and manage visitors drawn to our coast. The inclusion of additional visitor facilities will not only boost the local economy but also enable the local community to better enjoy, experience and learn about their local environment.
As has been mentioned, initial and ongoing consultations with the community have been positive and will ensure that this area remains environmentally sustainable for the local wildlife. What is reassuring about the proposed modification and creation of parks, reserves and conservation areas is the inclusion of express instructions on how they are to be managed and regulated. It is important that our native landscapes are preserved and protected from imported flora and fauna. Further, what is particularly important is that proper and sufficient measures are taken to protect our wildlife and their habitat from fire. Victoria’s devastating history with bushfires has taught us that we need to do better to maintain and manage our natural environment. As such, I am pleased to see this has been included in the landscape conservation areas.
In summary, upon reading this bill I believe it proposes sufficient protections, regulations and mechanisms to ensure Crown land parks, reserves and conservation areas are maintained. In addition, it proposes significant benefits for the local wildlife—the indigenous flora and fauna—and enables the local community to enjoy, experience and learn about nature in a safe and regulated format. It is on this basis that I commend this bill to the house.