VISITORS to Great Ocean Road destinations have again been told to plan ahead rather than arriving at night ad hoc and camping or sleeping in vehicles in unauthorised locations.
Parks Victoria is worried that Port Campbell National Park and Bay of Islands Coastal Park are under threat from illegal camping and fire risk.
Rangers will patrol the parks during summer holidays to deter and penalise illegal camping.
“Don’t just turn up at nightfall without a plan of where you are going to stay,” warned ranger-in-charge Darren Shiell.
“These parks are very narrow and are placed under enormous pressure from visitors during December and January. Overnight staying just compounds the pressure of day visitors.
“Unfortunately, park rangers often find overnight visitors leave litter, unattended camp fires and bring dogs into the parks disturbing native wildlife. Unattended camp fires pose a significant threat to other visitors and local communities.”
His comments come after south-west debate about unauthorised camping by vanpackers and motorhomes — regarded by some as “freeloaders” while others believe they are good for the region and should be encouraged with low-cost parking facilities.
Mr Shiell said visitor information centres in main towns could provide accommodation advice and coastal towns such as Peterborough, Port Campbell and Princetown had multiple options for car-based campers. “Within a 28-kilometre stretch there are six caravan parks,” he said.
“I ask everyone to remember that Port Campbell National Park is a fragile environment and to please help us protect this wonderful area.”
Port Campbell Progress Association treasurer John McInerney said it was common for visitors to arrive in the area without arranging accommodation, only to find motels and many camping grounds booked out.
However, there were alternatives including the Port Campbell Recreation Reserve which had low-cost sites available, he said.
Mr McInerney said it was debatable whether visitors who slept in their vehicles brought income to local towns, but he believed they contributed through food and fuel purchases.