A weekend-long fishing competition, which usually attracts hoards of Latrobe Valley residents, has only made a fifth of its normal ticket sales following imposed campsite fees at Golden Beach.
The Australia Day Weekend Fishing Competition at Golden Beach regularly attracts about 500 keen fisherman, but this year only 100 tickets have been sold for the event which begins tonight.
Competition board chair Brendan King said camping fees imposed late last year by Parks Victoria were the reason behind diminished numbers of campers and in-turn, entrants.
Mr King said each year the competition directed all funds raised towards Golden Beach fire brigade and the Veronica Maybury Memorial Reserve community club.
Last year both clubs received about $9000 each from the competition.
To make matters worse, the competition’s major sponsor has also withdrawn.
A Facebook page dedicated to rallying to regain free campsites on the Ninety Mile Beach shows arguments from angered former campers who are now unable to accommodate their families on the sites because of the newly imposed restriction on how many people can stay at a campsite.
Mr King said the competition had lost one family of more than 50 people who came from across Australia to camp at Golden Beach each summer.
“They’ve split up the sites and they’re charging for them and they’re making a maximum of six people per site,” Mr King said.
“We were getting people from right across Australia but Gippsland is the majority and definitely people coming down from the Valley.
“I had a chat with the proprietor of the Food-a-rama down there and on estimates she’s going to lose about $10,000 or $15,000 for the weekend.”
Parks Victoria regional manager Andrew Marshall said fees went back into maintaining the previously free campsites
“Upgrades to sites at Paradise Beach and Golden Beach are currently underway,” Mr Marshall said.
“The works will further improve the camping experience and protect the surrounding environment.
“Even a basic site with minimal or no facilities requires ongoing maintenance to ensure it is a safe environment for campers.”
Tickets can be bought at the event on the main beach and are priced at $15 for adults and $10 for children.
For those who would rather watch, the admission price includes entry into a raffle to win the major prize.
Competition categories are open to those who fish off the beach, paddle bait out or fish from a tinny.
Prizes are given for the biggest fish caught in each category as well as secret weights in each section.