UPDATE NOVEMBER 2021: All four wonderful sessions of the CLIMATE CHANGE AND COASTAL EROSION webinars can now be accessed on the GORCN YouTube channel here for you to bookmark and view at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUpI7dmHF04flSPGLGHaM8Q (to access the link, first click “Read More” below).
GORCN, the Great Ocean Road Communities Network, hosted this four part webinar series on October 18th, 19th and 21st, and November 8th, 2021. This was a free, public series open to everyone in the community.
The Great Ocean Road is being impacted by rising sea levels, extreme weather events and storm surges. Coastal erosion and cliff collapse are occurring with increasing frequency and severity. The threats to fragile ecosystems, beaches, the liveability of coastal settlements are increasing, and along with the significant risk to a sustainable future for local tourism, these changes are a growing cause of local stress.
Discussions around risk, responsibility, social impacts and economic loss are becoming more frequent and intense. The solutions are complex. However, while the stakes are high responses by government agencies are only at an early stage of development.
In response to these issues the Great Ocean Road Communities Network (GORCN) organised a four-part Webinar series to explore climate change and coastal erosion. During the first three sessions, some community members joined with professionals with expertise in areas such as geomorphology, marine and climate science, and the social and legal implications of coastal erosion to share what is happening now along the coast, what the science is telling us, and the very real social and legal implications that we face.
During the last session Victoria’s coastal agencies, the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority, DEWLP, Regional Roads Victoria, Surf Coast Shire, Colac Otway Shire, responded to the issues and outlined the short, medium and long-term plans for the road.
The moderators were ex ABC reporter, Zoe Daniel, ABC Science Show presenter, Robyn Williams and well-known science broadcaster, Dr Gael Jennings.
UPDATE AUGUST 2021: GORCN, the Great Ocean Road Communities Network is a voice of advocacy for the communities along the length of the road. It was formed in August 2020 and currently has twenty members across nine Great Ocean Road organisations. It seems from the activity over the last couple of months that the value of co-operation is already in evidence. It has been long recognised that each community along the Great Ocean Road has a distinctive character and that this is its strength, giving the Great Ocean Road its vitality. However, the communities along the Great Ocean Road are increasingly realising there is much benefit in working together co-operatively, e.g., sharing experiences and knowledge in relation to thorny issues that arise such as fire mitigation, working collaboratively on projects for the benefit of our local communities and delivering strong and effective community-driven advocacy to government on critical issues affecting the future of the Great Ocean Road.
GORCN on the move:
1. Princetown Wetlands: During the last meeting of GORCN, the Princetown Wetlands organisation raised a concerning issue regarding a proposed development of a tourist facility next to the fragile wetlands known nationally for their strong ecological values. In essence, the developer is seeking to build the facility on a nationally recognised wetland, near the Gellibrand River estuary and at the doorstep of the Great Otway National Park. GORCN’s media statement said: “Wetlands are increasingly being recognised as significant habitat for numerous species. These wetlands need to be protected. Any new tourist facilities along the Great Ocean Road must be appropriately located, be accepted by, and not dominate, any local community.” The community say that the developer has ignored some conditions to the planning permit including not conducting a proper coastal-hazard assessment, designing or building access to the site, providing enough car parking and outlining how potable water will be provided. The Princetown community recognises the need for development but say this is not the right site. GORCN is watching this matter carefully.
2. Wye River: Wye River reported extensive storm damage and coastal erosion which has undercut the disability ramp and is threatening the lifesaving club. The Wye River team, Greg Hocking and Peter Christoff, outlined the frustrations experienced in gaining prompt action to arrest the very serious erosion, as well as their deeper concerns about mitigation of the impact of further storm surges.
GORCN – learning from each other: The above two issues – inappropriate development and risk of environmental damage, are but two examples of issues that are experienced more widely along the GOR and have provided opportunities to support each other’s communities where appropriate and to learn from each other.
GORCN – helping build community knowledge: Furthering the successful model of the Friends of Lorne – AIDA Fire Forum webinar series of last year, GORCN will be staging a webinar series this year on climate change and short-term and long-term projections and strategies regarding coastal erosion – a very pressing issue for the Great Ocean Road. More details on the GORCN-sponsored webinar are provided elsewhere in this newsletter.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 2020:
Highlighting the critical role of community:
Helen Keller’s comment, ‘Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much,’ reflects some of the early thinking behind the establishment by AIDA this year of the Great Ocean Road Communities Network (GORCN). In August the inaugural meeting of community groups along the Great Ocean Road was held on Zoom to form an effective voice to government and other organisations on issues of importance to the social, environmental, economic and cultural future of their communities.
Many of the thorny issues faced by one community, such as overtourism, strain on local amenity, rising flow-on tourism costs to the community, tourism revenue leakage, degradation of sensitive habitat and coastline, traffic issues, fire risk, low-season lack of economic viability, etc., are often experienced by many communities along the Great Ocean Road.
AIDA has long recognised that each community has a distinctive character and this is its strength and gives the Great Ocean Road its vitality. We also recognise that we have much in common, such as our need for a powerful and effective voice to government – ‘together, we can do much’. Elsewhere on this site you can read about the start of the new Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority (GORCAPA) and its important remit to ‘manage, protect, rehabilitate and foster resilience of the natural, cultural and heritage values of coastal Crown land and marine waters along the Great Ocean Road’. In our view, one of the most critical factors in GORCAPA achieving its purpose, is it developing an effective working relationship with the communities of the Great Ocean Road, which have the capacity to contribute local clarity and insight. The newly formed GORCN will be able to help facilitate that ‘community– government relationship’ and help make sure the community’s voice is heard.
GORCN’s foundational principles:
Groups in the network share common ground, in that all are committed to:
- coastal and bush protection and regeneration
- thriving, diverse local communities
- limitations on tourist numbers
- community involvement with relevant decision- making
- recognition of climate change, the need to act to mitigate its causes and to address its risks
- protection of local character
- nature-based and regenerative tourism
- analysis and communication of tourism’s invisible costs
- evidence-based research to establish the carrying capacity of the Great Ocean Road and an agreed set of indicators to monitor Great Ocean Road conditions
- appropriate infrastructure provision consistent with the above.The current communities in GORCN are:• Anglesea Community Network
• Save Anglesea
• Greater Torquay Alliance• Friends of Lorne• Wye River Separation Creek Community Association• Geelong Environment Council
• Kennett River Association
• Otway Forum
• AIDA Aireys Inlet and District AssociationFive additional communities are currently considering joining GORCN.GORCN is looking forward to working collaboratively with the new Authority and helping to create strong, resilient communities, post-Covid, along the Great Ocean Road.
AUGUST 2020 Great Ocean Road Communities come together.
Seven community groups from along the Great Ocean Road (GOR) have come together to form the Great Ocean Road Communities Network (GORCN).
The Network has come into being to facilitate communication and coordinated action among established community groups in towns along the GOR and its hinterland. As the GOR evolves to be a designated visitor destination under a new state government authority, the GOR Coast and Parks Authority (GORCPA), the community network will allow the member organisations to advocate for their shared interests guided by the principles of environmental sustainability, community benefit and socially responsible tourism.
We welcome GORCPA’s statement that its purpose will be achieved by the Authority managing, protecting, rehabilitating and fostering resilience of the natural, cultural and heritage values of coastal Crown land and marine waters along the Great Ocean Road.
GORCN believes it is crucial that as Minister D’Ambrosio appoints members to the GORCPA Board consideration is given to ensuring local communities are well represented.
The community network had its inaugural Zoom meeting on Tuesday 18th August. There was agreement that all the member organisations have become convinced that a strong platform for the articulation of their GOR voices will be critical, as the new GORCPA progressively takes over management of the GOR and public lands.
Groups in the network share common ground, in that all are committed to:
- Coastal and bush protection and regeneration
- Thriving, diverse local communities
- Limitations on tourist numbers
- Community involvement with relevant decision-making
- Recognition of climate change, the need to act to mitigate its causesand to address its risks.
- Protection of local character
- Nature-based and regenerative tourism
- Analysis and communication of tourism’s invisible costs
- Evidence-based research to establish the carrying capacity of the GORand an agreed set of indicators to monitor GOR conditions
- Appropriate infrastructure provision consistent with the above
GORCN spokesperson Charlotte Allen said there are many other groups along the road, and in its hinterland, with shared interests who we will welcome and are expected to join before the next meeting in a few weeks. Any group interested in joining can email firstname.lastname@example.org
The government’s GOR Action Plan says, “like many international tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road and its landscapes is challenged by increasing numbers of visitors, forces of nature and impacts of climate change.”
Ms Allen states that “The government has said the GORCPA is being established to protect the iconic coasts, parks and scenic landscapes along the GOR but at the same time they say tourist numbers will continue to increase. This is something it accepts and apparently welcomes.”
“We can’t understand how the Authority will manage the government’s two expectations of its work: to protect the environment, flora and fauna and local communities along the road while at the same time increasing tourist numbers.”
“The pandemic has had an enormous impact on many local businesses. We all need to work collaboratively to provide support to our local economy. It will take many months, maybe years, for this economic recovery, but the current downturn in tourist numbers presents a real opportunity to rethink the tourist industry and its social, environmental and economic impacts.”
The GORCN will be a strong advocate for all the communities along the road whilst protecting and enhancing their diverse, distinctive natures. The network also wants to extend its membership and work collaboratively with the new authority.