Camp fees ‘will hurt’ regional towns along the Murray River

CONCERNS: Residents are concerned the draft Red River Gum draft management plan will affect tourism along the Murray from Wodonga to South Australia.

CONCERNS: Residents are concerned the draft Red River Gum draft management plan will affect tourism along the Murray from Wodonga to South Australia.

Camping restrictions, possible fees and bookable sites will hamper tourism along the Murray River and hurt regional towns, believes one Border businessman. 

Ray Fitzpatrick of Big Mumma's Kitchen said a Parks Victoria River Red Gum draft management plan risks destroying tourism along the Murray from Wodonga to the South Australian border.

The plan establishes a ‘no camping’ buffer zone adjacent to Cobram township while also limiting camper numbers, applying maximum lengths of stay along the Murray.

In the draft Parks Victoria said they would investigate providing a booking system and implementing fees when needed at areas including Cobram’s Big Toms Beach.

Jet Skis would be banned on waterways between the Ovens and Murray rivers, including Williams Creek and the Williams Bridge area. 

Mr Fitzpatrick said if fees were introduce or camping limited, the town and wider region would suffer.

“We rely on that tourism and people could get turned off from coming,” he said.

“It’ll be hard – it puts a lot of pressure on, especially on businesses.

“Even though the town is growing we still rely on tourism to keep us ahead through the leaner months.

“It’s as far as Wodonga, so there will be a big impact for you guys up there as well – it will make it hard for us.”

Mr Fitzpatrick said Cobram relies on the Murray, with last year’s summer the most profitable in four years because of the full river. 

He said there was little consultation and the drop in session held on Monday from 4pm to 6pm was hard for people to attend. 

Ovens Valley MP Tim McCurdy said he would be receiving a briefing from Parks Victoria this week on the matter, but there hadn’t been enough discussion or clarity on the issue. 

“It will have a huge impact on regional towns,” he said.

“For many the tourism industry is their income, if they are going to start closing down beaches or restricting access – that’s no on.”

A Parks Victoria spokesman said the draft plan seeks to ensure visitors continue to enjoy the River Red Gum landscape.

He said free camping would remain the main form of camping in the region, but there was a proposal to better define campsites to address community concerns. 

He said at three crowded locations, bookable sites with fees were being considered in the draft.