Healthy Parks, Wealthy People

Victorian National Parks Camping and Accommodation Fees – Regulatory Impact Statement
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) has released a proposal for a user-pays approach to charges for camping and roofed accommodation in parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria.
Victorians are invited to provide comment on the regulatory impact statement by 22 November 2013.

I just emailed the following response to the Victorian Government/DEPI (Department of Environment and Primary Industries) in relation to the Victorian National Parks Camping and Accommodation Fees Regulatory Impact Statement. If you feel strongly about these fee increases then I suggest you provide comment by the above date.

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As a regular park user and author/publisher of some of Victoria’s most popular bushwalking and rockclimbing guides I would like to voice my strenuous objection to the proposed increases to camping fees within our parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria.

Having read the proposal I cannot help but be impressed at the Victorian Government/DEPI in having created one of the most confusing, inconsistent and badly worded documents that I’ve ever read. Was this proposal rushed or is it deliberately obtuse?

There are so many issues regarding these proposals that it’s difficult to know where to start. Firstly, however, I have to say that I’m astounded at the size of the proposed increase in camping fees. A fee of almost $50 for an individual to stay one night at a campground designated as having a ‘high’ level of facility and service is simply outrageous. If these massive fee increases are intended to drastically lower the number of overnight visitors to our parks and reserves then you are definitely going about it the right way. Especially affected will be those in our society who are less well off. My suggestion is that instead of promoting ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People’, Parks Victoria can change its message to, ‘Healthy Parks, Wealthy People’.

Many park users are travelers who don’t plan ahead but simply ‘roll-up’ to various campgrounds. So who thought it was a good idea to confine those park users to an online booking system upon arrival at the campground? A smart phone and a credit card appears to be the only solution but plenty of people still don’t own a smart phone (although if you confine our parks to wealthy users then this may not be such a problem!). Unfortunately even those with smart phones are not always going to get reception. I hope that Parks Victoria will take a lenient view of all of those (roll-ups, gray nomads, etc) that will end up breaking the law through no fault of their own.

One certain result of these proposed campground increases will be that many park users will turn to bush camping to reduce their costs. Unfortunately this will result in an increase in environmental damage. This proposal indicates that substantial bush camping fees will also be introduced. As a regular bush camper I cannot wait to hear exactly how this will be policed. It’s simply not fair that an already overworked and greatly diminished Parks Victoria staff be turned into a rural version of Melbourne’s ticket inspectors.

Cheers,

Glenn Tempest

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Written submissions should be forwarded by 5:00pm Friday 22 November 2013 via either of the following:

Post
Camping and Accommodation Fees
Land Management Policy Division
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
Level 3, 8 Nicholson Street
EAST MELBOURNE VIC 3002

 

Online
Email: camping.RIS@depi.vic.gov.au

DEPI RIS Page link: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/forestry-and-land-use/visiting-parks-and-forests/national-parks-camping-and-accommodation-fees

Fact sheet: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/205971/Victorian-National-Parks-Camping-and-Accommodation-Fees-Regulatory-Impact-Statement-October-2013-Fact-Sheet.pdf

RIS executive statement: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/205519/Victorian-National-Parks-Camping-and-Accommodation-Fees-Regulatory-Impact-Statement-October-2013-Executive-Summary.pdf

RIS statement: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/205517/Victorian-National-Parks-Camping-and-Accommodation-Fees-Regulatory-Impact-Statement-October-2013.pdf

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One Response to “Healthy Parks, Wealthy People”

  1. David Turner November 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    Spot on Glenn. I’d like to share my submission on the topic:

    Thankyou for the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes to camping and accommodation fees in Victorian National Parks.

    As a regular visitor to National Parks, my position is that there must be provision for free camping in Victorian National Parks at all campsites designated as Very Basic and Basic. Furthermore, all walks with persons not utilising Mid service level accommodation or higher must also be free. I cannot support any of the three options identified – Option 1 Full Cost Recovery, Option 2 Market Rates, nor Option 3 Increased Revenue. The current fee structure must therefore be retained. The rationale for this is threefold.

    1. Historical Purpose of National Parks.

    “The fundamental idea behind the Parks is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in the process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.” President Franklin D Roosevelt.

    National Parks was a radical idea born in the United States in the 19th century. During the early 1860?s, the United States’ most famous natural landmark was Niagara Falls. In the preceding decade, every overlook had been bought and was owned by private landowners who subsequently charged a fee for the public to visit. Congress feared that if nothing was done, equally significant places of beauty (such as Yosemite Valley in California), would be next. During 1864, John Conness, a junior senator from California, introduced a bill which proposed something unprecedented: setting aside a large area of natural scenery for the future enjoyment of all. An area within the Yosemite Valley was transferred to the State of California on the condition that the land be preserved for “Public Use, resort, and recreation.” The National Park concept was a truly democratic idea – that the magnificent natural wonders should be available not to a privileged few, but to everyone. The overarching principle in establishing National Parks was simple. These stunning treasures of nature are public domain and must be accessible to all which by inference means free of charge. It is this ideal that we must uphold in perpetuity.

    2. Funding the Appreciation of National Parks.

    The United States refer to their National Parks as “America’s Best Idea”. Americans quickly developed a national pride of the natural wonders they enjoyed and which they believed rivalled the great manmade structures of Europe. It is undeniable that the United States treasures their National Parks dearly. The current budget for National Parks in the United States is $2.6 billion. That is approximately $8.25 per year for every person in the United States. Comparing Victorian funding makes for an alarming comparison. The Victorian budget currently collects only $3.15 per year per Victorian. The Victorian Government itself recognises and asserts the fantastic nature based recreation that our National Parks provide. This concept appreciation however seems not to be supported financially. Indeed the Deakin University 2010 report ‘Research report for Parks Victoria: Camping and Accommodation Product and Pricing’ confirms that the majority of sample visitors support the principle that the Victorian Government should directly fund services and facilities in campgrounds. 87% of visitors surveyed believed that there should be the provision of free services and facilities in National Parks. 83% believed that it was imperative that some free camping grounds are retained. 81% believe that National Parks services, facilities and camping should be funded by the State. The Victorian Government needs to demonstrate its appreciation and fund National Parks for the benefit of all.

    3. Financial and Well Being Value of National Parks.

    Protected areas play a significant role in businesses and communities that surround them. A tourism Victoria 2008 report entitled ‘Victorias Nature based tourism strategy 2008 – 2012? estimates that $960 million is contributed annually to the state economy via these environmental areas. It was identified that two of the larger National Parks alone – Grampians and Port Campbell – contributed a massive $436 million to the Victorian economy. With such a substantial financial benefit to Victoria, it is hard to comprehend how the Victorian Government cannot fully fund National Parks. Not only do business and communities benefit from National Park visitation, but so does the Victorian treasury through substantial taxation. This link should justify the Victorian Government investing in National Parks without needing to resort to a user-pays system.

    Parks Victoria’s ‘Healthy Parks Healthy People’ is an award winning campaign that is internationally renowned. It promotes the mantra that National Parks and nature are a vital part of improving and maintaining health for both individuals and the community. Its clear vision is to connect people and communities with Victoria’s superb Parks. ‘Parks are free and they are for everyone‘ is a principle explicitly promoted on the Parks Victoria website. The Victorian Government needs to support the statutory authority’s vision. A literature review performed by Deakin University in 2008 entitled ‘Healthy parks, healthy people – The health benefits of contact with nature in a park context’ concluded that over 200 international studies demonstrated that contact with nature makes people physically and mentally healthier. Every aspect of human wellbeing has been shown to improve during contact with nature. The studies concluded that the physical, mental, spiritual, social and environmental components of health are greatly affected by experiences with nature. The Victorian Government needs to impart due recognition for the essential role National Parks play in preserving, maintaining, and promoting the health of all Victorians, and recognise that free camping and services in National Parks is the correct strategy in achieving this.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me via email for any further discussions relating to this matter.

    Kind Regards,

    David Turner

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