Sunday 6 December 2015

Illegal Campgrounds

On a recent camping trip with friends, I found myself at an illegal campground. This was unbeknown to me until after check-in. I classify illegal as being a campground that has not taken the time to obtain any form of council licenses or approvals. Therefore, have not been able to obtain appropriate insurance cover.

Illegal campgrounds are more likely to not complete safety plans, nor emergency management or evacuation plans. On top of this, they are likely a cash business and not declaring any income or paying any taxes on that income. Legal campgrounds and caravan parks incur huge costs when establishing their businesses, not to mention their ongoing maintenance and compliance costs so I'm pretty sure this is not fair play.

All of these things are definitely serious matters but the single one thing that concerned me above all else about this campground, was its potential to create a possible negative environmental impact and health concern. Their latrine was a very deep hole only a few metres from a beautiful creek. It was perched on the creeks terrace. After giving this a bit of thought and being unsure what to do, I decided to write them. I asked if they would at a minimum seek an alternative location for their latrine. Possibly a portaloo up on the plateau closer to the campers. I received no response from them. A week later I wrote again and asked if they had any luck with an alternative. I got a short one line response from them, asking if I had I reported them to council?

One of the minimum requirements of most bush campgrounds is that they provide suitable toilets of some kind. That might vary depending on local council and the campgrounds proximity to a waterway. Some council might insist a campground build a septic system. Others may approve a composting toilet. Many of the free council campgrounds popping up have no facilities at all and require all campers be 100% self-contained, which means they must have a toilet in their caravan.

Council would unlikely allow a campground to dig a deep hole, right next to a creek which will be used by multiple campers over an extended period. Not without first assessing potential risk of sewage seeping and contaminating the water table or the waterway. They will also likely assess risk of flooding and the sewage pouring directly into the waterway. Council may advise on a better location or that there are no environmentally satisfactory solutions other than portaloos. Hooking a rural campground up to mains sewage may also be an option but less likely the more rural a campground.

All of this involves much paperwork, survey, cost and time.

Regardless of all the paperwork, survey, cost and time, there are very good reasons for these things. Mostly they are so our environment stays pristine and that the choices of a few do not affect the health and safety of many. It allows for us to know we can safely jump in a creek for swim on a hot day, without becoming ill. Legal businesses comply. Illegal businesses don’t.

Please be wary of these types of operators. Not only could the sewage seep into our fabulous waterways. These types of operators could pollute our camping community by making it harder for those campgrounds that do comply to be competitive and survive. Those that comply care about the safety of our families, their neighbours and communities. They care about us. These illegal operators don’t. They care about themselves.

NB: If you are truly remote bush camping and there are no toilets, please ensure you dig your latrine a minimum of 20 metres from any waterway. Dig your hole deep enough so that it will not be dug up by wild animals or trod on by the unwary. Ensure it is filled in properly before you break camp and please don’t forget to carry off your toilet paper for appropriate disposal in the campfire or a rubbish bin.

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