CAMPING at Mornington Peninsula Shire-run foreshore reserves at Rye, Rosebud and Sorrento is continuing despite the latest COVID-19 outbreaks.
The shire says it has not changed protocols announced in late November to allow limited numbers of campers.
Campers were allowed in as from Saturday 2 January to avoid large gatherings over Christmas and New Year.
The shire’s property and strategy manager Nathan Kearsley last week said camping on the foreshores was “operating at about 40 per cent capacity and extra cleaning of the amenity blocks is in place”.
The shire was regularly reviewing its risk plan and making contact with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
“To date, there have been no specific updates or directives from the state government regarding camping,” Mr Kearsley said on Thursday 7 January.
Sally Baillieu, of Fingal, wrote to councillors expressing concern that the shire had not changed its decision to open the camping grounds “despite the change of [COVID-19] figures that were used to lift the ban in the first place”.
“State borders have been shut, and we are being forced to wear masks again and follow social distancing guidelines, yet campers are being encouraged to move in and socialise in small confined spaces and use shared bathroom facilities in an area that the rest of the population must access if we are to use the beach,” Ms Baillieu said.
“There are few masks down there, and despite [the shire’s] efforts, having to share bathroom facilities with strangers from across the state makes any efforts they go to virtually useless.”
Ms Baillieu was “definitely not against camping” on the peninsula, “… but I do question the economics of it, and the social costs that are not accounted for”.
While the economic benefits of camping on the foreshore – “a dubious cash cow” – could be a subject for future discussion with the shire, she was “most immediately concerned with the risk that the resumption of camping is putting us all in at the moment”.
“We already know there have been two local venues that are exposure sites. There are likely many others, given the fact that we are ‘Melbourne’s Playground’ right now, and we are populated with visitors from all over Victoria which is now riddled with exposure sites.”
Ms Baillieu said it allowing camping was an “invitation to disaster to knowingly endorse this situation and do nothing”.
The decision by the shire to allow limited camping Victoria recording 28 days of no locally transmitted cases of COVID-19.
The shire’s website acknowledges “confirmed [COVID-19) exposure sites on the peninsula” and provides a link to the latest DHHS information.
The shire states that its main priority “is to keep our community safe this summer” and lists rules for wearing face masks and limiting visitors to homes as being additional restrictions since 5pm Thursday 31 December.
When announcing the opening of foreshore camping on 27 November CEP John Baker “the overall easing of restrictions and in particular an increase in outdoor gathering numbers guided our thinking”.
“I’m delighted we can allow the camping tradition to continue on the peninsula this summer and I implore our campers to do the right thing to ensure a safe and successful season,” Mr Baker said.
Campers would be asked to observe such COVID requirements as a guest register for each site, comply with density quotients in amenity blocks and wear masks where appropriate.
“We have been cautious with our deliberations and believe we have reached the right balance between public safety and allowing the camping season to continue,” Mr Baker said.