snowy mountains 052The Victorian government has announced that it is intending to introduce charges for overnight hiking and camping in more than 100 of our state and national parks.

In addition to increasing existing fees at car camping spots that have basic services, there is a proposal to introduce “overnight walking” fees for Alpine NP, Baw Baw NP, Grampians NP, and the Great Ocean Walk. This would mean for instance you will need a permit for hiking and camping within the Alpine National Park. For example, it will cost $30 to walk from Hotham to Falls, plus a $10 admin fee.

The Government has prepared a regulatory impact statement (RIS) to assess the impact of introducing a user pays approach to camping fees for all parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria. It says ‘this is part of the Government’s efforts to make sure that Victorians continue to have access to these beautiful places and that the costs of providing safe, visitor-friendly facilities and services are sustainable and affordable’ and ‘these changes will provide longer-term financial sustainability for these special places’.

The new approach is expected to be introduced in Victoria’s parks and reserves from 1 March 2014.

People are invited to provide feedback on the RIS, which is available here.

Written submissions should be forwarded by 5:00pm Friday 22 November 2013 via either of the following:

Post

Camping and Accommodation Fees
Land Management Policy Division
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
Level 3, 8 Nicholson Street
EAST MELBOURNE VIC 3002

Online

Email: camping.RIS@depi.vic.gov.au

What do you think?

Please feel free to leave a comment below or on the Mountain Journal facebook page.

Some thoughts on the proposed changes

In considering how much to increase camping fees, the Department of Environment and Primary industry created a weighting system, based on a mix of considerations: efficency, equity, and effectiveness. After considering the implications of these 3 categories on possible fee increases, they suggested 3 options:

·         Full cost recovery

·         A system equivalent to rates charged by private operators outside parks

·         One based on improved revenue yield (which is the preferred option, called option 3)

Option 3 is expected to generate $15.3 million per year (camping fees at present generate around $6.5m, and the system is estimated to cost $17.8m to run on an annual basis). Implementing option 3 would mean there is a shortfall of $2.5m per year –  at present the annual shortfall is $11.3m).

The supporting documents make it clear that the funds generated from camping fees will go into managing the parks rather than consolidated revenue, so in that sense I would support the proposal.

However, if the government will now receive an estimated additional $8.8m a year in camping fees, a key question is whether they will commit to using the money they have now saved in other Parks related activity, or will it just get subsumed into the state budget?

It rates camping sites according to the type of facilities offered and has a sliding scale of fees proposed. For car camping style sites, these are mostly based on sites of 6 or 8 people, making them very expensive if travelling as a couple or family. I would argue they should have a basic per person fee for smaller groups

It proposes the creation of an annual camping pass for hikers and bike riders. This would mean that remote and backcountry camping will require a fee for the first time.

Some suggestions on what you might like to say in your feedback

·         The money saved from existing state budget by new camping fees should be re-invested into Park management, not subsumed into the state budget. Eg interpretive services, weed management, restoration activity, management of threatened species, etc

·         The system should consider a concession for card holders (students, unemployed, pensioners, etc)

·         The per person fee for remote camping (called Overnight hiker permits) is quite high. Overnight hiker permits in places like the Alpine National Park will be $10 per person per night, with a $10 booking fee per booking. It will be higher for Mt Buffalo and Wilsons Prom ($12.50 per person) and for the ‘Hotham to Falls Creek Crossing’ ($30 per site- with per person option not available). This could become very costly for people, especially given this is generally decentralised and non designated camping with low impact. A lower rate should be considered for camping in remote, unserviced sites.

·         There is no per person option for high quality sites, making camping very expensive for single people, couples and small families. A per person option should be introduced.

·         There should be some assessment of whether these changes will impact on the economy of regional centres and towns in areas around the key national parks

Parks where it is proposed that fees for camping would change from 1 March 2014:

  • Wilsons Promontory National Park
  • Cape Conan Coastal Park
  • Mount Buffalo National Park
  • Grampians National Park
  • Great Otway National Park (Western)
  • Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park
  • Buchan Caves Reserve
  • Croajingolong National Park, Peachtree Reserve
  • Lower Glenelg National Park
  • Mt Eccles
  • Discovery Bay
  • Lake Eldon National Park
  • Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Parks
  • Cathedral Range State Park
  • Hattah Kulkyne National Park
  • Wyperfeld National Park
  • Upper Yarra Reservoir
  • Little Desert National Park
  • The Lakes National Park
  • Plenty Gorge Parklands
  • Ewing Morass W.R/Orbost
  • Yarra Valley Parklands
  • Kinglake National Park
  • Brisbane Ranges National Park

Parks where it is proposed that fees for roofed accommodation would change from 1 March 2014:

  • Buchan Caves Reserve
  • Cape Conran Coastal Park
  • Gabo Island Reserve
  • Murray Sunset National Park
  • Plenty Gorge Parklands Nioka Bush Camp
  • Wilsons Promontory National Park

Parks where it is proposed that fees for camping would be introduced from 1 March 2014:

  • Alpine National Park
  • Baw Baw National Park
  • Bunyip State Park
  • Broken Boosey State Park
  • Cape Liptrap Coastal Park
  • Cobboboonee National Park
  • French Island National Park
  • Lerderderg State Park
  • Mornington Peninsula National Park
  • Mount Samaria State Park
  • Mt Buangor State Park

The supporting documentation says “it is Victorian Government policy to specifically consider the impact of proposed amendments to legislative proposals on small business in RISs. However, in this case, the proposed Determination primarily imposes costs on individual visitors rather than on businesses. The businesses likely to be affected by the proposed fees are private providers of camping grounds and some licence tour operators who utilise camping and accommodation in parks”.

This seems to miss the point that there may be economic impacts on business operators outside the parks who may be adversely impacted by any change in people travelling through their region/ town on their way to national parks.