Victoria has an estimated 85,000 kilometres of rivers and creeks, with approximately 170,000 kilometres of frontage. Approximately 30,000 kilometres of this water frontage is Crown land, reserved under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 for various purposes (e.g. recreation, protection of riverbanks) or is unreserved Crown land under the Land Act 1958. The remainder is private land, reserves, parks or state forest.
Crown water frontage is usually a strip of Crown land that runs alongside a waterway and is usually located between the waterway and a private land boundary. Frontages can vary in width from 20 to 100 metres or more.
Some Crown water frontages are subject to licences, issued by DELWP or Parks Victoria to the adjoining landowner/occupier, under section 130 of the Land Act 1958. These licences are typically issued to allow the holder to graze livestock on the frontage. DELWP also issues 'riparian management licences', which recognise that all or part of the frontage is being managed by the licensee to protect and improve the riparian environment (e.g. through fencing off areas from grazing, or supporting native vegetation). A licence provides conditions upon which access and use can occur, including the management of the licensed land.
Crown water frontages are a public asset for the recreational use and enjoyment of Victorians. Crown water frontage licences do not provide an exclusive right or use by the licensee, and recreational use by the public is permitted.
The recreational use of Crown water frontages is managed by the Regulated Watercourse Land Regulations 2021.
The regulations establish a clear set of rules and behaviours for the recreational use of Crown land near watercourses, both licensed and unlicensed. The regulations aim to:
- protect the environment, including natural and cultural values, and water quality
- support the enjoyment of those using the land for recreation
- protect the interests of licensees
- manage fire risk.
The regulations include tools to assist land managers to manage particular circumstances, including designating (‘setting aside’) areas for particular purposes (e.g. to protect sensitive natural or cultural values).
Camping on licensed Crown river frontages
The Victorian government is delivering on its election promise to make more river frontage land available for camping, fishing and recreation. Rules for camping on river frontages are set out in the Regulated Watercourse Land Regulations.
From 1 September 2021 camping is only permitted on licensed areas that have been assessed and designated as suitable for camping.
There will be a staged approach to opening up designated camping sites - Sites will be listed on this website once they are assessed as suitable for camping.
Details of designated camping areas for licensed Crown river frontages will be available here, including site details and maps.
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What has changed?
Prior to September 1 2021, the public were permitted to access licensed Crown river frontages for recreation, such as walking, fishing, and picnicking, but were not permitted to camp or light a campfire.
Crown river frontages were regulated by the Land Regulations 2016 and the Forests (Recreation) (Temporary) Regulations 2021.
From September 1 2021, camping is permitted on licensed areas that have been assessed and designated as suitable for camping. Campfires are permitted in some of these designated areas. Camping and campfires remain prohibited outside of these designated areas.
Crown river frontages (licensed and unlicensed) are now regulated by the Land (Regulated Watercourse Land) Regulations 2021.
Why did the rules change?
In 2018, Government committed as part of the ‘Fishing and Boating’ election commitments to “guarantee access to fishing and camping on Crown land that has grazing licences and river frontage.”
To implement this commitment, Parliament passed amendments to the Land Act 1958 to remove the prohibition on camping on licensed river frontages.
The amendments allowed for the making of regulations to manage camping and recreational activities on regulated watercourse land.
The draft regulations were released for public consultation from 3 March 2021 to 26 April 2021.
The regulations were refined to reflect the expectations of the community, voiced in the consultation, and came into effect on 1 September 2021.
What influenced the changes to the proposed regulations?
We received 1,100 submissions during consultation on the regulations and we have considered all of these submissions in refining the regulations.
We listened to a wide range of stakeholders including landowners and licensees, recreational users (including campers and anglers) interest groups and representative organisations.
We also consulted closely with Traditional Owners.
We believe the final regulations reflect the expectations of the entire community. They deliver a fair balance between providing opportunities for recreation while ensuring the environment is protected and the interests of adjoining land owners and licence holders are taken into account.
What is permitted on Crown water frontages?
Refer to the Crown water frontage: Access and recreational use (PDF, 200.0 KB) fact sheet to understand what you can and can’t do on Crown water frontages.
Is camping permitted on licensed Crown water frontages?
From September 1 2021, camping is permitted on licensed areas that have been assessed and designated as suitable for camping. Campfires are permitted in some of these designated areas.
Camping and campfires are prohibited in licensed Crown water frontages outside of these designated areas.
How are the designated areas for camping chosen?
The Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning is leading the assessment of sites, with the support of a number of other agencies. Assessments include consideration of environmental values and suitability for camping.
An assessment of Aboriginal cultural heritage will be undertaken by the relevant Traditional Owner group for that area.
Public safety and agricultural impacts have also been considered in the development of the regulations to determine where people will be able to camp.
What criteria does the assessment process consider?
The new regulations, including camping designations, do not apply to Crown water frontage in areas within national, state or regional parks, or Crown land reserves.
Areas of licensed Crown water frontage cannot be designated as a camping area if it is:
- less than 20 metres in width (as camping is not permitted within 20 metres of a waterway)
- less than 200 metres from a residential dwelling
- being cultivated
- subject to riparian management works (including planting of vegetation and revegetation of the land)
In addition to the legislated criteria, the DELWP-led assessment process for designating camping areas considers environmental values, suitability for camping, public safety, and the interaction with adjoining farms. An assessment of Aboriginal cultural heritage will be undertaken by the relevant Traditional Owner group for that area.
Where will the first designated camping areas be located?
Designation of camping areas will initially focus on priority rivers in northern Victoria. More rivers across Victoria will follow as assessments are undertaken.
When will people be able to camp on these sites?
An initial list of sites will be available on this website, as coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions allow. More areas will be progressively made available over the next 18 months.
How do visitors identify and access these new areas?
The DELWP website lists licensed river frontages that have been designated where camping is permitted.
This includes maps of the areas and appropriate access, and any information or conditions specific to the use of that area (e.g. whether campfires are permitted).
Access to camping sites on licensed Crown river frontages is only permitted via public access points. Trespassing on private land is illegal.
Where camping is permitted, signs will be erected to indicate the area available for camping.
Vehicle access on licensed Crown river frontages, other than on formed roads, remains prohibited and subject to the Land Conservation (Vehicle Control) Regulations 2013.
Will licensees be notified of the assessment process?
Yes. Licensees will be notified of any assessments being done in areas where they hold a licence.
How are the regulations being enforced?
Victorian Fisheries Authority operates a 24-hour hotline 13FISH for reporting misconduct and continues to work together with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and Parks Victoria to enforce the regulations.
In the event of an emergency, call 000 and ask for the appropriate service.
What are licensed and unlicensed Crown river frontages?
A licensed Crown river frontage is Crown land which has a frontage to a waterway and is licensed under the Land Act 1958.
An unlicensed Crown river frontage is Crown land which has a frontage to a waterway and is not licensed under the Land Act 1958. It may, however, be licensed under the Forests Act 1958.
What is the difference between a licence and a lease?
A licence is not a lease. Licences are an authority to use the land for specific purposes, rather than authority to occupy or use it exclusively.
A lease allows the lessee to exclusively occupy the land.
Generally, Crown water frontages are subject to licence, and not to a lease.
Who is the ‘land manager’ referred to in the regulations?
The regulations refer to the ‘land manager’. This refers to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning or Parks Victoria.
As these areas are Crown land, the licensee or adjoining land holder is not the land manager.
What is being done to ensure environmental values are protected?
By only allowing camping in designated areas, the impacts on environmental values will be minimised. The regulations also include provisions to protect the environment and water quality.
Are Aboriginal cultural and heritage sites protected?
Yes. Every Victorian has a responsibility to protect Victoria’s unique Aboriginal cultural heritage.
Under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 it is an offence to harm Aboriginal cultural heritage, even unknowingly. Land close to waterways is more sensitive for Aboriginal cultural heritage.
DELWP and Parks Victoria are committed to partnering with Traditional Owners to protect their Country, and the unique natural and cultural values that their cultural landscapes contain.
The assessments of licensed areas will ensure appropriate measures are adopted to ensure Aboriginal cultural heritage is protected.
This will provide certainty and confidence to users that they are free to enjoy these precious landscapes without fear of causing harm to irreplaceable Aboriginal heritage.
What facilities will be provided in designated camping areas on licensed Crown river frontages?
The identification of licensed Crown river frontages where camping is permitted is intended for dispersed camping. It is not expected that any additional facilities be provided, or site maintenance undertaken.
At a few identified campsites you may be able to have a campfire, and will need to bring your own firewood. The use fallen timber or living material for fires is prohibited on all licensed Crown river frontages.
How will government ensure public safety on licensed Crown river frontages?
Campers and recreational visitors to Crown river frontages use the areas at their own risk. Campers are responsible for their own safety and the safety of those in their care. Campers should be prepared for any natural hazards or outdoor risks when visiting public land, including public land subject to a grazing licence for livestock.
In the event of flood, fire, natural disaster, or other emergency, the land manager (DELWP or PV) may temporarily close an area of Crown river frontage to protect public safety.
How will government ensure biosecurity is protected?
The public are already able to access licensed Crown river frontages for recreation. Many of the regulations are similar to those previously in place and we expect recreational visitors to be respectful of the activities of licensees and landholders.
Many farms are subject to strict biosecurity requirements. We expect visitors to the public land adjacent to farms be considerate of these requirements.
Visitors to Crown river frontages are not permitted to bring animals (with some exceptions), vegetation, soil, rock, or similar materials onto Crown river frontage to protect biosecurity and the environment. Visitors must remove all waste and personal property for which they are responsible.
Will there be a camper registration system?
There is no registration system in place for camping. Government is exploring the potential for introducing a registration system for the designated camping areas. Mandatory registration is not a feature of other public land in Victoria.
Who is responsible for any incident or injury on licensed Crown land?
Under Crown land licences, the licensee is responsible for taking all reasonable steps to avoid risk of harm to a person or their property as a result of their use of the land. As these licences are not for exclusive use of the land, and the public is currently permitted to access licenced Crown land for various recreational activities, licensees are advised to include licensed Crown river frontages in their public liability insurance. Campers will hold the same duty as licensees to not cause harm to a person or property.
If an incident occurs, it would be subject to standard legal processes.
Can licence holders block public access to the Crown land river frontages adjacent to their properties?
No. The public currently has a right to access and use public land on foot, subject to the regulations. Vehicle access on Crown river frontages is not permitted.
The regulations include offences for erecting barriers or misleading signage to deter access.
Can the public enter or cross private land?
No. Allowing camping on licensed Crown land areas does not change the current situation for someone entering private land. Access to freehold (private) land or leased land adjoining a Crown land frontage without the landowner's or leaseholder's consent is not permitted and would constitute trespassing.
Are licence holders allowed to undertake activities in accordance with their licence, even if these are prohibited in the regulations?
A Crown water frontage licence gives a licence holder authority to use the land for specific purposes, such as grazing or revegetation of the land.
Licence holders do not commit an offence against the regulations (with some exceptions) if they are acting in accordance with their licence purpose. For example, licence holders may operate a vehicle on the licensed Crown water frontage as long as it is associated with the licence purpose e.g. managing livestock or spraying weeds.
A licence holder is subject to the same conditions as a member of the public when undertaking activities not specified in their licence conditions, such as recreational activities.
How are concerns about campers disrupting farming families being addressed?
The public are already able to access licensed Crown river frontages for recreation. Many of the new regulations are similar to those previously in place for these activities and we would expect recreational visitors to be respectful of nearby properties.
The final regulations reflect the extensive feedback received and deliver a fair balance between respecting the interests of adjoining landowners while providing increased opportunities for community recreation.
For example, the regulations only permit camping in designated areas, in areas more than 200 metres from a residential dwelling, and for a maximum for 14 nights.
Resources and further information
- Fact sheet - Camping on licensed Crown river frontage (PDF, 174.0 KB)
- Guide to site assessments - Camping on licensed Crown river frontage
(PDF, 155.4 KB)
- Crown water frontage: A guide to public access and recreational use (PDF, 200.0 KB)
- Land (Regulated Watercourse Land) Regulations 2021
Page last updated: 23/09/21