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Podcast: Camping on licensed Crown river frontages causes divide between farmers and fishers

A simple policy change to allow camping on public land -- Crown river frontages -- has become a divisive issue among farmers and recreational fishers.

Fishers say it's public land and everyone should be allowed to enjoy it. But the sites in question are licensed to nearby farmers for livestock grazing.

Farmers are worried about the impact of the camping policy on their businesses and homes.

Farmers Judy Cardwell from Mitta Mitta and Belinda Pearce of the Kiewa Valley lead a protest to Melbourne last year over the issue of camping on licensed Crown river frontages. Picture: Mark Jesser

Farmers Judy Cardwell from Mitta Mitta and Belinda Pearce of the Kiewa Valley lead a protest to Melbourne last year over the issue of camping on licensed Crown river frontages. Picture: Mark Jesser

Who will clean up the mess? Who is blamed if someone gets hurt? What impact will it have on biosecurity?

You could already fish, walk, and birdwatch freely along licensed Crown river frontages. Then in 2018 the Victorian government promised they'd open up that public land to camping.

In November 2020, the state government amended the Land Act to allow camping on more than 8000 Crown land river frontages that are licensed to adjoining landholders -- that's 18,000 kilometres of riverbank.

We're actually providing a public service by looking after that land. That's traditionally been the relationship: you look after the land, you can graze it. The fishing lobby makes a big deal about that the licenses are not that expensive, but there's also the responsibilities that come with that.

Belinda Pearce - Kiewa Valley beef farmer

The move raised questions about the political power of recreational fishers.

But in the nearly 4 years since the election promise, that number has been revised down through an assessment process -- 23 are currently open.

Farmers have been fighting the law since day one.

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This story Farmers and fishers feud over riverside camping in Victoria first appeared on The Canberra Times.