Last Friday, Andrew Knight, OV’s CEO was interviewed by ABC journalist, Natalie Kerr, regarding the relaxing of restrictions in Victoria from June 1. Some of the audio was used in state-wide news grabs yesterday.

Andrew was asked, as the CEO of Outdoors Victoria, how he felt about the reopening of campsites are on June 1st. His response of course was very positive. He was very happy to share the news that around 1500 Parks Victoria campsite locations are opening up, as well as regular caravan parks, with certain restrictions. He reiterated that for many of the general businesses and some nature- based tourism businesses who rely on Victorians heading into the regions, this will be very welcome news.

NK: How devastating for the industry has it been for it to be closed for so long?

 

AK: A number of the outdoors sectors have been hit as hard as any part of industry, losing over $400 million dollars of revenue and hundreds and thousands of casual, part time and full time hours lost in the outdoor activity providers and camps sector, most of this impacting regional Victoria too. Outdoor activity providers and camps have not been operating for months. Many who rely on school activity excursions and camps have not been permitted to operate since mid-March and are hopeful of some news from Deputy Premier Merlino and the Department of Education and Training the week commencing June 1st.

 

NK: What people should be mindful of when going out camping given that there are some restrictions still in place (like people can’t use communal showers, BBQs, picnic benches etc).

 

AK: It is all the regular behaviours we have all now got used to at home, that we need to action in the outdoors, so that’s very regular comprehensive hand washing and sanitising, physical distancing, group size limits and the like. We work in partnership with the government’s Sport and Recreation Victoria, with Minister Pakula and Minister Spence, and they have some handy guidance on outdoor recreation activities on their website: sport.vic.gov.au.

Other handy tips

  • bring your own sanitiser and soap to ensure you can wash hands well in the outdoors and at Parks Victoria toilet facilities.
  • Parks Victoria are washing all toilet facilities twice as often as usual.
  • Remember at the 1,348 Parks Victoria locations that offer campsites, some you will need to book beforehand.
  • Additionally, communal kitchens and picnic tables are not open for use.
  • BYO cooking and seating facilities or head to the local food and beverage businesses in the regions and support them – even better if you are heading to the now very lush and green Upper Murray, the North East or East Gippsland where they are also recovering from the bushfires.

 

NK: How great will this easing of restrictions will be for the industry?

 

AK: The Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC), who’s on the Outdoor Industry Recovery Taskforce that Outdoor Victoria Chairs, tells us this easing of restrictions will help the wider tourism industry including the ski resorts to slowly build to a full recovery, and will help several of the parts of the Outdoor Nature-Based Activity economy, but there is that anxious wait for Deputy Premier Merlino and the Department of Education’s advice around outdoor activity excursions and camps.

Outdoors Victoria in collaboration with the Outdoor Council of Australia has also created a Covid-19 Management Plan Template for businesses, not for profits and community groups working in the Outdoors to adopt their practices to be Covid-19 compliant.

 

NK: I would also like to get your thoughts on the environmental impact of no one hiking or camping in the bush for six weeks, does this mean it will be overgrown, we have had a lot of rain, do people need to be extra careful?

 

AK: No. Parks Victoria and the other land managers only open up areas that are safe for Victorians to visit, so while observing our Covid-19 health guidelines, enjoy the massive variety of parks and reserves that are on offer for your friends and family to enjoy. Maybe even try a few new parks and reserves we are so blessed with such variety of scenery and outdoor activities in Victoria.

Parks Victoria have a handy part of their website at: https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/get-into-nature/safety-in-nature/covid-19-update

 

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