Rises in camping fees at Victorian national parks could be counter-productive, the Warrnambool Bushwalkers group says.
Group spokesman Lothar Satzke said some of the big increases, such as the $34-a-night charge to camp at the Burough Hut camp ground near Halls Gap, could discourage people from camping and reduce government revenue.
“At $34 a night, it’s cheaper to stay at a Youth Hostels Australia (YHA) hostel where I can have a hot shower,” Mr Satzke said.
While he understood the $34-a-night charge could cover up to six people, it would add up for smaller groups staying more than one night, he said.
Mr Satzke said $10 a night camping fees had also been introduced at campsites along the Great South West Walk, a circuit that begins and ends at Portland, that had previously been free. “Ten dollars a night is OK but $34 a night is a bit much,” Mr Satzke said.
He said the fees hike would cause financial risks for small clubs such as the Warrnambool Bushwalkers.
Some camping sites had to be booked well in advance and walk leaders might be unwilling to do so if they had to outlay substantial amounts of money, with the risk that some people might later withdraw from taking part.
Mr Satzke said he realised campers had to pay money for the camping facilities but some of the fee increases were too steep.
“We will be thinking twice about the overnight walks we go on and where we stay,” Mr Satzke said.
Parks Victoria said a revised fee structure was implemented from July 1 for camping in 197 of the state’s 680 campsites in national, state and other parks and reserves.
“New fees will apply at some sites, where there are already fees for camping in the park and some other areas where fees will be introduced,” Parks Victoria said.
Fees vary according to the facilities provided at sites, with those for “basic/very basic” camp grounds set at $13 a night and those for “very high” standard facilities at $59.20 a night, covering up to eight people, during peak periods.
Parks Victoria last year said the total annual cost of delivering camping and accommodation facilities and services within Victoria’s national and other parks averaged $17.8 million but only about $6.5 million was being collected in revenue from user fees and charges.
“The estimated shortfall of $11.3 million is neither fair nor sustainable,” Parks Victoria said.