Victorians angered by bushfire photo tour

  Victorians angered by bushfire photo tour

24 March 2009

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Australia — Victorians are angry about a new tour that takes amateur photgraphers through homes destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires.

Photographers are lining up to pay $25 to Jo-Anne Kasch for a two-and-a-half hour expedition through the fire-ravaged town of Narbethong, south-west of Marysville.

Ms Kasch told News Ltd there is huge demand for the bus tours, which include a three-course meal, with bookings already flooding in.

“The tourism aspect is going to be huge,” Ms Kasch said. “There’s more interest every day.”

“Today’s booked out, Wednesday’s booked out, Friday’s booked out, Saturday’s booked out, Sunday afternoon’s booked out, and I haven’t even thought about next week yet.”

Tourism Victoria has condemned the venture, run out of the Black Spur Inn where Ms Kasch works, and called for people to boycott the tour.

“We wouldn’t be encouraging people to take tours like this,” Tourism Victoria communications manager Ali Garner said.

“We wouldn’t be supporting people profiting from others’ suffering and loss.”

But Ms Kasch denies the trips are exploiting victims of the bushfires, saying they teach people about the devastation and promote tourism in Victoria.

“The owners are actually approaching me to go on their properties,” she said.

“I ask them, ‘Is there anywhere on your property that is somewhere where you choose us not to go’.

“There’s not been a problem at all and the photographs are so respectful.”

She said she refused requests to go to Marysvelle, where at least 45 people were killed by fires, and does not take photographers onto properties where people died.

Marysville resident Vicki Moritz, who lost her home and pets in the fires, told News Ltd any tourism would help the area recover, but understood why people might resent the presence of photographers.

“I’m a keen amateur photographer, and there’s a certain beauty about it,” she said.

“As long as they eat in town, and are not intrusive, it’s OK. It’s a tourist town after all.”

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