Background

What is happening?

  • People will be allowed to camp on river frontages currently licensed for grazing following the removal of the prohibition on the activity from the Land Act 1958. Camping will continue to remain prohibited on licensed frontages adjoining lakes, lagoons, marshes and swamps.
  • Implementing the change will involve a thorough public consultation process where all views will be considered and will particularly focus on the development of regulations to help manage camping, fishing and other recreational activities, and to protect natural and cultural values and agricultural interests while enabling camping and fishing on licensed Crown water frontages.
  • It is recognised that not all river frontages are suitable for camping, for example because of their significant environmental and/or cultural values or the narrowness of the frontage.

Why is it happening?

  • This change implements part of the Victorian Government’s 2018 ‘Fishing and Boating’ election commitment to further encourage families and friends to spend time together in the outdoors.
  • People can already camp on unlicensed Crown land water frontages and the changes will mean that there is a consistent approach to camping on both licensed and unlicensed water frontages. 

When will the changes commence?

  • The changes to allow camping on licensed areas and the Land (Regulated Watercourse Land) Regulations will come into effect on 1 September 2021.

How will the changes be implemented?

  • The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is developing new regulations to help manage recreational activity on the frontages. A thorough public consultation process will commence on EngageVic at the start of March 2021, through which all views will be considered.
  • Ultimately camping and campfires will generally be allowed on licensed river frontages subject to certain restrictions. Where these activities, and recreational activity more broadly, can occur will be regulated through the new regulations. 
  • Once the regulations are finalised, the Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) will lead a program to improve access to public water frontages for recreation, which will include providing infrastructure and signage and other information to facilitate access.
  • Initially, this program will focus on improving access to several sites in northern Victoria that are considered to be of particularly high value for recreational fishing. Further information is available on the VFA website – www.vfa.vic.gov.au

Are people currently allowed to access river frontage Crown land?

  • Yes. Many forms of passive recreation are currently permitted on licensed river frontages, such as picnicking, birdwatching, fishing and walking.
  • Camping can currently occur on unlicensed river frontages but not on licensed water frontages. 

So, can people legally camp on river frontage Crown land now?

  • If the frontage is licensed to a landholder, no.
  • If the frontage is unlicensed,yes but only under certain conditions (for example, your camp site must be more than 20 metres from a waterway).

If we can camp on river frontage Crown land now, why does the law need to change?

  • People can already camp and light campfires on unlicensed Crown frontage but not on licensed frontages.
  • The government is keen to increase the opportunities for families and friends to spend time together in the outdoors. Camping will only be permitted in areas where the activity can occur in compliance with the new regulations.
  • For example, the regulations will include provisions that prohibit camping within a specified distance from a waterway or a residence. For narrow frontages that are only approximately 20 metres wide, this will effectively exclude camping from those areas.
  • The regulations will also enable land managers to designate (‘set-aside’) areas where camping cannot take place, such as to protect sensitive natural, cultural or other values, or for public safety.

What is a water frontage (which includes a river frontage)?

  • The Land Act essentially defines a water frontage to include Crown land which has a frontage to a watercourse, other than certain land, including land which is leased, vested in a local council or under the control of a committee of management or a public authority.
  • "Watercourse" is defined in the Land Act to mean any river, creek, stream, watercourse, lake, lagoon, swamp or marsh.
  • The Land Act does not specify how wide a frontage is – i.e. how far from a watercourse a frontage extends. This is why the regulations will apply to what is referred to in the regulations as 'regulated land', which is certain Crown land up to 200 metres from a watercourse.

Why is it so difficult to know the boundary between Crown land and private property? 

  • It can be difficult in some locations to ascertain exactly where the boundary is between regulated watercourse land and private property, particularly where the frontage is narrow or where the watercourse has gradually moved. It is less likely to be an issue where there is an extensive frontage between the stream and the private property.
  • Mapshare can provide you with an indicative idea of where the Crown frontage is and the licensed area.
  • For further queries email: public.land@delwp.vic.gov.au

Are there examples of where people are currently camping on licensed river frontages?

  • There are various areas around the State where there are high quality fishing opportunities and where people have been camping on inappropriate sites.
  • There may be instances where licence holders have allowed family and friends to camp on river frontages. However, under the current legislation, this would be in breach of the licence conditions.

Regulations

What land will the regulations apply to?

  • The regulations will apply to what is referred to in the regulations as ‘regulated land’.
  • 'Regulated land' is used to refer to essentially all Crown land within 200 metres of the bank of a watercourse, except if the Crown land is:
    • leased or under a residence area right
    • vested in trustees or in a municipal council
    • under the control of a public authority (e.g. a water authority), other than the Secretary [to the Department of Environment, Land, Water or Planning] or Parks Victoria
    • managed by a committee of management under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978
    • part of a park or reserve that is subject to other regulations (e.g. national and other parks to which the National Parks Regulations 2013 apply).
  • Some of the proposed regulations will apply only to certain areas of the regulated land.
  • Regulated land does not include any freehold (private) land.

That’s confusing – where can I find information about where I can camp and fish?

  • The VFA is developing an App which will show general locations where camping is permitted and assist users to identify appropriate areas for access. Further information can be found on the VFA website (https://vfa.vic.gov.au/). However, because the boundaries between Crown land and private property are not necessarily clear on the ground, the mapping is indicative only and cannot be used to identify the exact location of property boundaries.
  • DELWP’s ‘Mapshare’ platform (https://mapshare.vic.gov.au/mapsharevic/) includes a ‘Public Land’ layer theme, whereby users can explore an area of interest and the types of land present, including licensed water frontages, direct management reserves (e.g. national parks) and private land.

    Note
    : Both websites are provided for information purposes only. Users of the sites are responsible for assessing the relevance and accuracy of its content for their purposes.

Who is the ‘land manager’ referred to in the proposed regulations?

  • Many of the proposed regulations refer to the ‘regulated land manager’. This refers to Parks Victoria or the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
  • As these areas are Crown land, the licence holder or adjoining land holder is not the land manager.

Can someone enter or cross my private land?

  • No. The enabling of camping on these licensed Crown land areas do not change the current situation for someone entering private land.
  • Access to freehold (private) land or leased land adjoining a Crown land frontage without the landowner's or leaseholder's consent is not permitted, and would constitute trespassing.
  • If someone is trespassing on your property call Victoria Police on 000.

What is the purpose of the regulations?

  • The regulations will establish a clear set of rules and appropriate behaviours for the recreational use of certain Crown land near watercourses, both licensed and unlicensed. They will, where possible, provide a consistent approach to the regulation of recreational use on that land.
  • The proposed regulations aim to:
    • protect the environment, including natural and cultural values, and water quality
    • support the recreational use of the land
    • protect the interests of licensees
    • manage fire risk.

What is in the proposed regulations?

  • The regulations establish a set of reasonable and responsible behaviours for those using the water frontages for recreation, including:
    • specifying minimum distances from waterways for camping and the disposal of human waste, soap and detergent, and the minimum distance from a dwelling for camping
    • protecting environmental values and revegetation areas
    • managing the collection and use of firewood
    • controlling the disposal of human waste and removing personal belongings when leaving
    • protecting visitor enjoyment (e.g. maintaining good order)
    • protecting licensees' interests (e.g. not interfering with cattle or structures, closing gates).
  • The proposed regulations also include:
    • tools to assist land managers to manage particular circumstances, including temporarily closing an area in an emergency and designating ('setting aside') areas for particular purposes (e.g. where camping is not permitted or where access is not permitted to protect sensitive natural or cultural values)
    • powers for authorised officers to enforce the regulations and to direct people to leave a frontage for safety reasons.
  • The proposed regulations will complement other laws which govern various matters such as Aboriginal cultural heritage, non Aboriginal cultural heritage, campfires, domestic animals, firearms, litter and trespass. It is not necessary to repeat these in the new regulations.
  • Authorised officers include authorised employees of the Victorian Fisheries Authority, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and Parks Victoria.
  • Many of the proposed regulations are similar to those which already apply to other Crown land.

What about biosecurity and compliance requirements for my farm?

  • The public is already able to lawfully access Crown land water frontages, including those where an adjoining landowner holds a grazing licence, for recreation such as fishing, picnicking and hiking.
  • There is no change to the current situation for someone entering private land. Access to freehold (private) land or leased land adjoining a Crown land frontage without the landowner's or leaseholder's consent is not permitted, and would constitute trespassing.
  • Where there is a regulated disease or pest outbreak, various legislation provides for quarantining infected properties, implementing Restricted and Control Areas, which can limit movements to reduce the risk of spreading. This includes prohibiting or restricting the movement of any vehicle onto or out of the property.
  • For adjoining Crown land, the proposed regulations also include the ability for the land manager to temporarily restrict access to deal with any emerging risks or issues, as well as to place permanent controls if required. Vehicle use on Crown land is managed through the Land Conservation (Vehicle Control) Regulations 2013.

Who is liable for any incident or injury on licensed Crown land?

  • It is expected that licensees would have public liability insurance since the public is currently permitted to access licensed Crown land river frontages now for various recreational activities.
  • Should an incident occur, each individual case would be considered on its merits through legal processes.

Can people camp where I have undertaken revegetation or riparian improvement works?

  • No. The proposed regulations prohibit camping on licensed areas that contains riparian management works. This is defined as any works to protect regulated land, including planting of vegetation and revegetation of land.
  • In addition to this protection in the regulations, the VFA app will identify those areas with ‘riparian management licences’ as not available for camping.

How will the changes and new rules be communicated?

  • To accompany the regulations, the VFA is leading the development of a code of conduct to promote appropriate behaviours, and a mobile App which will show where camping is permitted and assist users to identify appropriate areas for access. Further information can be found on the VFA website (https://vfa.vic.gov.au/).
  • Once the regulations are finalised information will be available on the Victorian Fisheries Authority and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning websites.

How will the new regulations be enforced?

  • The majority of people do the right thing but authorised officers from the Victorian Fisheries Authority, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and Parks Victoria will assist fishers and other visitors to frontages to understand the new regulations and the steps they need to take to comply.
  • The VFA will have a 24-hr phone hotline, 13FISH, to report any illegal or antisocial behaviour.
  • Matters such as trespassing should be reported to Victoria Police.
  • Excessive noise complaints should be reported to the EPA.

Why is there a new 'river access' sign on my road?

  • In addition to regulations, information and enforcement, there will be improvements to the access to river frontages at key locations, whether they are licensed or not, along rivers such as the Goulburn, Loddon and Campaspe.