14th Mar. 2013 - Free Camping on the Apollo Bay Foreshore
The Committee is aware that many in the community are concerned about the level of 'free camping', people sleeping in vehicles, on the Apollo Bay foreshore and along our coast.
Even before the recent conversation on the Otway Community Facebook page the OCC had been discussing with Colac Otway Shire the way to best respond to this concern.
From the OCC's point of view the main problems we have with people who use our foreshores is in areas away from where toilet and litter bin facilities are provided. Certainly in towns along our coast where free camping occurs the level of litter and waste around our main foreshore areas is no greater than in the past.
It seems to the OCC that while litter is a problem, even where bins are provided, there is no evidence that free campers contribute any more than other foreshore users.
Away from town centres, where there are no toilet and litter bin facilities, we have a greater problem with litter and waste but again it needs to be stated that it cannot be said that free campers contribute more than their 'fair share'.
The OCC is mindful of a number of issues when considering free camping.
- Fatigue when travelling & consumption of alcohol are two issues that would prevent people from being moved on;
- Free campers do provide financial input into local economies; in fact research has shown that 'back packers' or economy travellers stay longer and spend more overall than do international tourists on shorter visits;
- We do not want to send the wrong message to visitors that scare people off from our beautiful section of coastline; we live in local towns that have local economies heavily dependent on tourism;
- Many of the vehicle rental companies provide guides & brochures identifying the south west Victorian coast as available for free camping;
- There is potentially a loss of trade to caravan park operators; of which the OCC is one of the largest on the Colac Otway coastline as it operates the Apollo Bay Recreation Reserve & the Wye River Foreshore Camping Ground.
The OCC, like the Shire, realise free camping is an issue not only for our towns but also for the region and the nation as a whole.
In other parts of the country and in many other countries free campers are engaged and encouraged as an asset. They are catered for in some places with car parks doubling as overnight 'free camping' sites where nominal fees are collected based on the services provided.
The OCC will continue to work with the Colac Otway Shire to find solutions that best address the concerns of the community.