The Meander Valley Council voted to ban free camping on all council reserves at its November meeting.
Under the Camping on Council Reserves policy, the council will not allow camping on “parklands, sports fields, reserves, council land provided, or managed, by [the] council for the purpose of recreation”.
However, there is a provision in the policy for the council to lease out areas to community groups, or offer camping on special occasions for a “nominal fee”.
The issue was raised at the council meeting, because of a current breach in state-governed National Competition Policy, according to Meander Valley mayor Craig Perkins.
According to the 2012 Review of Council Recreational Vehicle Overnight Camping Services, it is illegal for councils to allow free camping on council-owned land.
The paper states that councils must “price its services to reflect costs”.
You might want to thumb your nose at the law, but we have a responsibility to uphold it.Mayor Craig Perkins
The Bracknell Reserve and the Deloraine Racecourse have been hotspots for recreational vehicles in Meander Valley, according to general manager Martin Gill, drawing complaints from private caravan park owners in the area.
Cr Perkins said the council had a legal responsibility to ban the practice.
“We have adopted a policy that recognises what the state requirement is for the National Competition Policy,” he said.
“We aren’t able to provide free overnight camping – we have to apply a cost recovery model otherwise we’re in breach of the law.
“You might want to thumb your nose at the law, but we have a responsibility to uphold it.”
Cr Perkins said the council would likely liaise with the government about a future easing of the laws.
“There was a strong view from many councillors that overnight camping provides economic value to rural towns, but at the same time we had to acknowledge the current legal arrangements.
“We’ll consider whether we want to take this up with the government and question if we could have incidental overnight staying, that is low impact and low numbers and adds value to the town.
“There needs to be some flexibility in that arrangement.”