On Tuesday 7 January AIDA convened a large and successful public forum on the topic ‘Can the Great Ocean Road Always be Great?’ in the Fairhaven Surf Lifesaving Clubrooms. It was attended by about 110 people from along the coast between Lorne and Anglesea. Richard Riordan, State Member for Polwarth, Surf Coast Shire Ward Councillors Margot Smith and Tony Revell, Surf Coast Shire CEO Keith Baillie, and GORCC CEO Vanessa Schernickau were among those there.
The meeting heard from Colleen White (Regional Director, Barwon South West DELWP), Paul Jane (Manager Great Ocean Road Reform, DELWP) and local resident and AIDA committee member Professor Chris Ryan who has research expertise in eco-tourism, sustainability and environmental issues as well as climate change.
Seated: AIDA President Charlotte Allen and speaker Chris Ryan
Standing with microphone: Colleen White from DELWP
Colleen White and Paul Jane outlined the development of the legislation establishing the GOR Authority Bill being passed through parliament later in 2020. Chris reflected on the broader challenges, using examples such as the development for tourism of the western coast road in Ireland which resulted in traffic congestion and calls for new by-pass roads.
This was followed by questions from the floor. The topics raised included the proposed Eden Project in Anglesea and the community survey results. It was claimed that the figures being used by DEWLP, the Eden Project and Alcoa to indicate community support do not reflect the actual results, which are evident
in the raw data that has now been released under a Freedom of Information application.
- how the membership of the new ‘skills based’ GOR Authority based in Torquay with some district offices in Apollo Bay and Port Campbell and operational bases in other coastal towns would be decided and whether and how local representatives would be included.
- who would be responsible for approving public events.
- whether too much vegetation along road sides is aggravating fire danger.
- the need to carefully protect sites of indigenous heritage.
- the need for research into the vehicle carrying, and tourist numbers, capacity of the Great Ocean Road.
- how to resolve the fundamental conflict between the two broad aims of the new Authority: to protect the environment and landscapes of the GOR and increase tourism at the same time.
- the place of the community, and GOR communities, in developing strategic plans for the road.
- issues around the threat of fires and traffic management along the road during bush fire.
Doug Humann from the Aireys Inlet CFA also spoke briefly about the plans for the new CFA station at the Bottom Shops. At the meeting, $420 was collected for the Victorian Bushfire Relief Fund. AIDA donated $100.