Unhappy campers asked pay to stay at more than 100 Victorian campgrounds

FAMILIES will have to pay to stay at more than 100 of Victoria’s national park campgrounds for the first time, under a Napthine Government plan.

And the cost of camping at premium sites where fees already apply will be hiked from an average $37 a night to about $59 a night.

The Government is proposing the user-pays model – likely to be phased in from March – which it says as fairer for taxpayers and more sustainable.

The first stage would see 11 of Victoria’s free park campgrounds introduce fees of about $19 a night on average, while 24 parks that already have fees would see increases.

The other 98 parks or reserves in Victoria would have camping fees by 2015 under the plan, which is expected to raise at least $13.5 million a year.

Families will have to pay for Victorian campgrounds. Picture: Supplied

Families will have to pay for Victorian campgrounds. Picture: Supplied

Environment Minister Ryan Smith said Labor mismanagement had left a $178 million Budget blackhole at Parks Victoria that had to be filled.

“We found that out of 133 camping grounds, only 24 campsites charged a fee for the use of the facilities,” Mr Smith said.

“The cost of providing and maintaining these facilities (is) outstripping the revenue generated by more than $10 million each and every year.”

The Government will release the plan for public feedback today.

Large group lodges that hold dozens of people, like those at Wilsons Promontory, would also be hit with increases of up to $90 a night.

Estimated camping fee hikes around Victoria

Estimated camping fee hikes around Victoria

The plan is likely to create a mixed response, particularly from businesses near national parks and budget travellers looking for cheap accommodation.

Last night, one of Melbourne CBD’s cheapest hotels was offering a twin room in late October for $39 a night.

But the Government says it will put all money raised from new fees into parks services and facilities, which would give campers a quality experience.

Mr Smith said the fee structures would be comparable to other states, and would keep parks to “the highest quality”.

“These modest changes will not affect Victoria’s status as one of the most affordable states with regards to camping in national parks,” he said.

A regulatory impact statement on the Government’s plan, including modelling done by Deloitte Access Economics, will be released today.

Wilsons Promontory lighthouse walk. Picture: David Geraghty

Wilsons Promontory lighthouse walk. Picture: David Geraghty

The report says of the 2.2 million overnight stays at campsites each year, about 570,000 of those are at “basic” Victorian campsites with no showers nor permanent rangers.

There are about 54,000 overnight stays at premium-level sites with hot showers and full-time rangers.

The report warns that there could be less visitors if fees increased, but that the consequences of no action would be that “Parks Victoria will not be able to maintain campgrounds and roofed accommodation to the current levels leading to closures and reduced services”.

Another option put forward in the report was a fee structure based on private camping operators’ charges.

Jerusalenm Bay at Lake Eildon. Picture: Andrew Tauber

Jerusalenm Bay at Lake Eildon. Picture: Andrew Tauber

Originally Published at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/unhappy-campers-asked-pay-to-stay-at-more-than-100-victorian-campgrounds/story-e6frg6n6-1226744817948#sthash.dCOYWdLG.dpuf

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