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It has been revealed hundreds of new camping sites could be opened along the banks of Victorias rivers from September first. Already, almost 30 sites along the Goulburn, Broken, Ovens, Campaspe, Loddon and Murray rivers are being assessed.

However, there is serious concern from many local landholders who claim the new regulations will give the public carte-blanche access to their land and make their livelihoods unworkable. Currently, farmers pay a license fee to manage and graze their livestock along river-front land bordering their properties. They say that if gates are left open to provide access for campers, farmers are concerned they will be left to deal with the rubbish and waste, as well as running the risk of the loss of stock.

The Victorian Government, however, says it has consulted extensively with local communities and is currently finalising new regulations governing recreational use of Crown land river frontages. Well over a thousand submissions were received during the consultation process. Considerations during the consultation process range from potential impact on aboriginal cultural heritage and sites, environmental and agricultural issues as well as the safety of campers.

Regulations will be enforced by several government agencies, including the  Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victorian Fisheries Authority and Parks Victoria.

The spokesman said the plan would take into account the feedback and concerns of all local communities involved and seek to provide a fair balance between recreational opportunities, environmental integrity and native cultural protection.

The government said the plan would reflect the expectations of the entire community, providing a fair balance between providing opportunities for recreation whilst ensuring the environment and Aboriginal cultural heritage are protected. Part of the protection package includes a 24-hour hotline (13FISH) for the public to report illegal or antisocial behaviour.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said the government was striking the right balance to ensure riverside public land is protected for generations to come. Minister for Fishing and Boating, Melissa Horne, added the government was delivering on its promise to open up more sites for camping alongside rivers.

"We know Victorians already love to enjoy the outdoors in different ways, including fishing. Applying this rigorous assessment process will ensure that people are safe and our environment is protected”, she said.

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