FORESHORE camping at Rye, Rosebud and Sorrento will resume on 2 January.
This is one month earlier than was anticipated when Mornington Peninsula Shire CEO John Baker emailed campers that sites would be closed until February.
It is estimated that the camp grounds will operate at about 80 per cent capacity to support social distancing and to ensure adequate space between sites. There will be no casual booking offered at this stage.
Mr Baker said the postponement was the “right decision with [COVID-19] restrictions still in place for the foreseeable future” (“Foreshore campers locked out” The News 9/11/20).
“We concluded this was the most prudent approach after careful consideration of the state government’s coronavirus roadmap and to ensure the health and safety of all Victorians.”
Last week’s decision to reopen early was taken “after undertaking a detailed risk assessment following the state government’s coronavirus roadmap announcement of Sunday 22 November”.
“The overall easing of restrictions and, in particular, an increase in outdoor gathering numbers guided our thinking,” Mr Baker said.
The state’s 28 days without any new COVID-19 cases would no doubt have influenced his decision – and pleased campers at 1136 shire-run sites which generate up to $3 million in camping fees.
Mr Baker said: “We have been monitoring the situation on a weekly basis with the health and wellbeing of our community, campers, visitors and staff at the forefront of our thinking. After reviewing the details in the Premier’s recent announcement and considering the risks, we concluded it was safe to resume camping, albeit with some ongoing COVID-19 requirements in place.
“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.”
Cr Hugh Fraser described Mr Baker’s decision to postpone the camping season until February as “a significant failure of community consultation and process”.
“[The decision] was not taken with the benefit of the DELWP guidelines that are currently being developed for non-council camping grounds, such as Capel Sound and Camerons Bight/Whitecliffs COMs, which currently are to remain open for camping,” he said.
“Equally, the decision to close council managed camping grounds was taken during the election period/caretaker period and when councillors were not in office.
“Presumably the decision was taken by the CEO under the COVID-19 emergency powers. Council ought now move to revoke such unusual special delegated powers embedded in the CEO’s delegation.
“The decision could readily have been delayed until councillors were sworn in or affirmed in office last Monday (16 November) and the matter considered in an informed way by council.”
Campers will be asked to observe a number of COVID-19 requirements, such as a guest register for each site, complying with density quotients in amenity blocks, and to wear masks where appropriate. They will also be encouraged to pack light and limit the use of extra equipment and kit to maintain a clear distance between sites. Amenity blocks will be cleaned more frequently.
Mr Baker said ongoing concerns about the intermingling of beach goers and campers remain “which is why the 2 January date was chosen”.
“We determined that the large numbers of people who gather on the beach between Christmas and New Year, plus New Year’s Eve activities, posed a significant risk of overcrowding in and around the campgrounds,” he said.
“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.”