Camping and caravan parks to reopen as coronavirus restrictions ease for regional Victorians

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Regional Victorians are dusting off their camp chairs and hitching up their caravans in preparation for the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions to take effect on Thursday.

In changes announced Tuesday, regional Victorians will be allowed to travel freely within regional Victoria from 11:59pm on Wednesday.

And that means regional motels, hotels and private rental holiday homes can reopen and take last-minute bookings in time for the school holidays which start next week.

“Businesses are desperate to reopen,” Destination Gippsland chief executive Terry Robinson said.

“And they’re all saying, ‘We’ll have Covid safe plans. We’ll follow the rules and regulations, so just give us that flexibility and allow people to start travelling and we will live up to our end of the bargain’.”

But any chance of an overnight escape for Melbourne residents is still a far-off dream.

The Victorian Government has confirmed, some regional Victorian camping grounds and caravan parks will reopen for regional Victorian travellers.

Victorian Upper House MP, Harriet Shing said shared facilities such as toilets, showers and camp kitchens at caravan parks and camping grounds could reopen, but masks and physical distancing would be required.

“Camping in the same accommodation is OK but limited to people in the same household, intimate partners and people in your household bubble,” Ms Shing said.

Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) confirmed each camping or caravan park booking was restricted to only people living in regional Victoria. Groups will be restricted to only members of a single household; or only intimate partners; or only members of a single household and a maximum of five members of another household part of the nominated “household bubble”.

In a statement DHHS said members of separately booked groups were not allowed to share bedrooms at a facility like hostel arrangements, but there were no restrictions of sharing kitchens, toilets and showers.

“Our national parks are putting the final preparations in place to open safely and we will have more information on this shortly.”

Destination Gippsland chief executive Terry Robinson said indoor recreation and games rooms at caravan parks would remain off-limits.

“Obviously Melbourne can’t travel, and nor can interstate, but for regional Victorians to be able to move around and come to areas like Gippsland and enjoy all of our great experiences is something that we do welcome,” he said.

‘Lot of happy businesses’

Earlier in the year, caravan parks were unable to open their shared toilet, shower and kitchen facilities, but Mr Robinson said that would not be the case this time around.

Lakes Entrance Recreational and Camping Reserve operator, Jo Martin said her telephone had been ‘ringing off the hook’ since Premier Daniel Andrews held his press conference Tuesday morning.

“They’re asking, ‘Can we come? Can we come?’, but I am just having to say, ‘I have to wait to see whether I can open my amenities before I confirm any bookings’,” Ms Martin said.

The Victorian Government is expected to further officially clarify the rules around camping by Wednesday evening.

During the last reopening between lockdowns, Ms Martin said she could only accept bookings from people who were completely self-contained, with ensuite caravans.

“But the thing is, we couldn’t have our toilets open, yet the public toilets were open around the corner. So we had our guests, who didn’t want to do number twos in their caravans, jumping in their cars and racing off to the public toilets in a hurry,” Ms Martin said.

Ms Martin said it was definitely time to “get things happening again” in regional Victoria.

“Regional have done everything right. There are so many businesses on their knees, so we just need to get moving now,” she said.

“Of course, we will have to ask people for their licences and make sure they’re not from metro — and we will follow all of the guidelines, but it’s about time, for sure.

“There will be a lot of happy businesses in regional Victoria today.”

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The Victorian Government is yet to clarify whether overnight stays will be allowed in state and national parks including Wilson’s Promontory National Park and the Alpine National Park in Gippsland.

In a statement on its website, Parks Victoria said it was currently working through how the easing of restrictions in regional areas would impact state and national parks.

By Kellie Lazzaro (Original ABC Article)