The basic right to camp

A MOE man was shocked to find campsites he thought had been recently declared free still incurred an almost $40 per night cost on arrival.

Fees were imposed on formerly free camping sites at Golden and Paradise beaches last year, but Environment Minister Lisa Neville this month revoked the fees at “basic” campsites across Victoria.

This included Golden Beach, but has caused confusion about Paradise Beach.

Just down the road from the Golden Beach campsites, and with similar amenities, Paradise Beach is classified as a “mid” level site and requires bookings priced at $37.80 per night.

Upon arriving at Paradise Beach campsites, Moe man Frank Farrugia saw signs saying he must book and pay for the campsites.

“I’ve been going over there since I was five years old,” Mr Farrugia said.

“I’m nearly 71 and for me it’s absolutely ridiculous that a family that’s got three or four kids that want to go and do free camping take their own facilities and are being stung for that.”

Deciding the price was too steep, Mr Farrugia and his wife drove to the nearby Seaspray Caravan Park and secured a campsite for $30 per night with all amenities included.

Former state election candidate and free camping at 90 Mile Beach advocate Stewart Birkett said while he was rapt camping at Golden Beach was once again free, he believed there was little difference between “basic” campsites at Golden Beach and regular campsites at Paradise Beach.

“Lisa Neville said that all campsites with basic amenities will be free of charge,” Mr Birkett said.

“Everyone got excited and thought wonderful, both beaches will be free again but the legalities of the system have given us back 120 sites at Golden Beach, but it’s still charged at the Paradise Beach end.”

A Parks Victoria spokesperson attributed the cost differences to the variation in categories between the two beaches.

Parks Victoria definition of a “basic” campsite:

Unserviced, with minimal ranger patrols and pit or no-pit toilets.

Parks Victoria definition of a “mid” campsite:

No showers, partially serviced, some ranger patrols, booking service, pit/composting toilet, mostly undesignated sites.