Are Victorians happy campers? It depends on who you talk to ...
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Are Victorians happy campers? It depends on who you talk to ...

Helen Nicholls with her son Tom, husband Mark and son Jake have camped at Walkerville for many summers.

Helen Nicholls with her son Tom, husband Mark and son Jake have camped at Walkerville for many summers.Credit:Simon Schluter

Should campers on public land be able to reserve the same site, year after year?

Age reporter Carolyn Webb posed this question last week when she wrote about the heated issue - an issue that has reached boiling point at at least one sought-after coastal campsite that recently switched from allowing automatic renewals to a ‘‘first come, first served’’ booking system.

We asked readers to tells us about their own camping experiences in Victoria. The responses have been mixed.

Read the responses or leave your own below:

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We used to camp at The Mueller River Estuary near Point Hicks before it became part of Croajingolong National Park. The Parks people reduced the number of camp sites and then fees hiked up. It now costs nearly $30 per night. This is for a pit toilet, no rubbish collection, no water, no showers and no camp fires. I feel that this is excessive in the extreme and very unfair on Victorian families and pensioners. The Andrews Gov once promised a review of National Parks fees but nothing has happened. Name: Phil Dunstan

We camp a lot in Victoria and think that ballots are really fair. It's open to everyone and the decision is final and out of your hands. We missed out on a place in Wilsons Prom this summer but we camped there in November which was fine for us. We entered the Cape Conran ballot and we are going there next week. I don't like people who book out multiple sites for big groups as it takes out the joy of camping for everyone else. Big groups can take over whole camping grounds and sites and take the joy out of the place for others. Ballots mean that if you enter you have an equal chance, same as everyone.. I do have to say that I think exceptions are ok for families that have special needs and requirements. I'm not sure how a process for this would be managed as people would take advantage of it. I think though for the family with their 2 sons in this story I would be very happy for the to have an ongoing booking as I can imagine it must be one of the rare times in the year that they can go somewhere and relax/unwind and spend time in nature. Name: Jacinta

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We have booked a site at Walkerville for 14 years, with 7-8 other families booking sites in the vicinity. Our group of 20+ children have grown up together, and look forward to this time - not just as a beach holiday, but as a special time with annual rituals - paella night, dinner at the Fish Creek hotel, the Foster market - and a sense of community. We don't have a holiday house and without the drawcard of friends our teens would have stopped coming long ago. I'll be sad to lose this opportunity to be with friends we may only see once a year. Name: Prue Walker

People who often complain about about camping renewers at Rosebud only come for one or two years then disappear and then complain like the lady in the article. We all had to wait to get our sites at Rosebud and renew annually. We also pay a lot more money than you reported in your previous article where the camper said $1600. Did you check with the office? In fact on the Rosebud foreshore you are looking at just under $2500 for the season. Renewers provide a guaranteed income for council. Name: Not specified

I regularly take my family camping in Victoria's national parks. I am extremely pleased to see the government promise more public campsites, as they are a really valuable experience especially for city dwellers. My main complaint is that there doesn't seem to be any rules around people using radios/amplified music at camp grounds. With portable speakers this is becoming more common, even for 'walk-in' sites. When we're camping in the bush, in close quarters, listening to the neighbour's radio is a damn nuisance. Perhaps you could look into this? Thanks! Name: Nataniel Wolfson

Jim Billings and his close mate Ando have spent nearly 40 years camping at Walkerville.

Jim Billings and his close mate Ando have spent nearly 40 years camping at Walkerville. Credit:Simon Schluter

I personally believe that long term campers should have first chance to book again for the following year. For them this is a second family and a community that they catchup with every year. To suddenly lose this would be heartbreaking. When we camp, we tend to try different spots as we are not tied to particular areas, and we find the regular campers are always the friendliest and most welcoming. Name: Not specified

Victoria is simply too small and its population too large. Wild areas are few in comparison and are packed at the slightest whiff of a holiday or long weekend. Hardly a relaxing experience. May as well stay at home in the burbs! Name: JMR

People try to ‘own’ public camping sites everywhere we go, which is unfair. Name: Not specified

The Age has highlighted an annual issue of getting a 'premium' spot in campsites owned by Public Bodies. Why should anyone be offered first choice to keep others out of 'their' campsite on Public Land. Just because they are regular visitors does not give them privileges over other Australian residents. Perhaps we would be there for 30 years if we could get a 'premium' spot. Shame on The Age for emphasising the disabilities of one 'entitled' family. I am sure there are many unentitled families who also have challenges. Name: Simon Jackson

I’m on the foreshore committee down on the Peninsula. I’m also a regular camper and this issue has been confronted on a regular basis. My perception is that it’s about the bottom line. You have 90 per cent of campers that take the same site each year and this could be passed down through generations. They camp whether it’s rain, hail or shine. The 10 per cent are ballots and if any regular gives up their site it goes into a ballot. Peak period you have to take the site for six weeks. For those wanting to come in to camp do not want six weeks. The regulars commit for the six week period not matter what the weather will be, so the council has an income stream. If you open the sites up to ballot and it’s a bad year weather wise, those who book will leave and never come back and you’ve lost your regular income stream. It’s not rocket science it’s about money. Name: Dale

Hi. Our family and another family have from time to tried to get a camping spot over school holidays in Pt Leo Reserve but as there are very few spots open to lottery we have never succeeded. Yet you can see empty sites at some dates. Seems guests are re-booking for a whole period but only staying part of the time. So a few are getting all the benefits of this public land to the exclusion of others. Is there any state oversight and transparency that the lottery is done in a correct way? Not to mention the boat club at the reserve. You need two members to endorse you. Name: 'Not a happy camper'

Been thinking and talking to people about if campers have the right to pre-book year after year. The best solution I could find was letting pre-bookings happen for three years then opening up the booking to first in first serve and the new campers could than do a three year stint. A bit of give and take by all. Name: Not specified

Selfish people booking sites year by year before other public get the chance. All camping sites should be available at booking times. While it may be nice for those who have been on-booking the same site for many years, it IS public land and therefore is available to all, not just a few. Site managers or Department advisers need to up their game and not allow this disgraceful manipulation of Government booking systems. Name: Not specified

It's cheaper to go to Bali. And that's where we would like all this blow in riff raff to go rather than come to Walkerville. Name: Not specified

I’ve faced this exact ‘ownership ‘ issue when I tried to re-book, as per ground rules, a site I got through a cancellation , only to be told that the site ‘belonged’ to the long term campers. On public land. Their rules as written were that current occupiers could re-book for next year , however what actually happened was very different. Name: Not specified

Exactly as you've reported. As an 'outisder', someone who only moved to Victoria about 25 years ago, we long ago gave up trying to enjoy any Victorian beach areas even though we were from Tasmania and the coastal areas and beaches were something we really enjoyed. Name: Not specified

It's public land and therefore the public deserve a fair chance of booking. Name: Phil

The problem is the total failure of governments to override selfish local government authorities, and provide enough desirable camping sites. The failure to provide expanded camping access to a hugely increasing population is a betrayal of the inexpensive camping ‘beach and bush’ birthright of all Australians. National Parks should also provide camping grounds, lots of them, not effectively restrict access to adult bush walkers. The bush and the beach are vital for children. Name: Not specified

I have been going to Walkerville south camp ground for close to 30 summers. We go for the community, we know our neighbours and we look after each other. This new system will end that, pure and simple. Perhaps in the interests of equity there should be a maximum stay of say two weeks, which will free up sites. But to destroy a sense of tradition and community, which is the whole point of the Walkerville experience, is to put at jeopardy the mental health of all these campers. It is going to be highly stressful trying to book at 9am on May 1. Some will succeed whilst others will not. It is a blunt axe indeed that they have decided on without any consultation. Name: Debbie Page

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