A DOUBLING of overnight camping fees in the Mount Eccles National Park has locals concerned visitors will wipe the park from their plans.
Fees for unpowered sites in the park, which is co-managed by Parks Victoria and the Gunditjmara traditional owners, start at $43 in the off-season and $48 in the peak period for a maximum of six people. Prior to July 1, rates were set at $24.60 in the peak season.
Camping fees for parks around the state were overhauled based on recommendations from a regulatory impact statement released last year. The overhaul groups camping facilities in parks across the state into four categories, based on the facilities they provide.
Prices at “basic/very basic” campgrounds were set at $13 a night and those for “very high-standard” facilities at $59.20 a night.
Sites in the central area of the Grampians National Park start at $34 in the quieter winter months and $37 during the busier summer period, while sites in the Lower Glenelg National Park and Discovery Bay Costal Park both start at $34.
One local resident told The Standard of concerns that a new online booking system was discouraging travellers in campervans from making unplanned stopovers.
“We’ve got Victoria’s best-kept secret at Mount Eccles and it appears Parks Victoria are doing nothing to promote it. They are just pricing people out,” the resident said.
A Parks Victoria spokeswoman said camping fees had increased statewide following community consultation during 2013, after a detailed regulatory impact report.
“Camping and accommodation fees across the state have not changed significantly in the past decade, and as a result fees did not represent the true cost of maintaining and providing the services,” the spokeswoman said.
“There are around 680 campgrounds in parks and reserves managed by Park Victoria which attract 2.2 million visitor nights each year.
“The cost of maintaining them is about $17.8 million each year. The revised fee structure helps offset part of the annual shortfall in delivering camping facilities.
“The standard of facilities across the state would have suffered unless changes were made.”
The spokeswoman said the new online or telephone booking system also allowed travellers to secure their campsite before they travel.
“Prior to July 1, visitors were not able to book at Mount Eccles. The new system allows them to book online or on the phone in advance, guaranteeing a site,” she said.
“Local staff have reported there is no noticeable change in the number of campers you would expect at this time of the year.
“There have been advanced bookings already, with schools that have previously stayed at the park returning.”