UPDATE November 2020
Appointment of new Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority Board has just been announced.
On 12 October 2018 the Victorian Government unveiled a landmark action plan to protect the iconic Great Ocean Road coast and parks for generations to come with the establishment of a new Great Ocean Road Authority.
The inaugural Board and Chair of that authority, the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority (GORCAPA) has now been appointed following a major recruitment process.
Last Saturday, the inaugural Board and Chair were announced. Your can read more here on the background of the Chair and eleven members of the Board.
UPDATE July 2020:
The Great Ocean Road attracts an average of 11,000 visitors per day across the year, two-thirds of them daytrippers. There are more visitors than to the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru. No fewer than fourteen different entities have responsibilities for different sections of the road, its marine parks and hinterland. Planning and protection have been a mess.
So in October 2018 the state government launched its Great Ocean Road Action Plan with a view to establishing a single Authority with overarching responsibility to meet the challenges of ‘increasing visitor numbers, forces of nature and the impacts of climate change.’‘If these were ignored,’ it argued, ‘these threats could destroy this precious part of our state – and impact on the livability of local communities.’
A bill establishing the Authority has been passed by the Victorian Parliament. The action plan sets out five objectives that will provide direction on governance and decision-making for the coastline and its hinterland:
a. Protect the ecological and landscape integrity of coastal and marine environments.
b. Increase Traditional Owner involvement.
c. Protect distinctive areas and landscapes.
d. Grow the local, state and national visitor economies.
e. Modernise governance.
From the outset, local communities along the road were perplexed at how the Authority – appointed by the government – would manage to protect the environment and their livability while boosting tourism still further. The following link provides more information: https://timesnewsgroup.com.au/surfcoasttimes/ news/great-ocean-road-authority-distinctive-areas
On 6 July the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority announced that it is in the process of recruiting the inaugural Board: The recruitment process will run over the next 4 weeks and it is our hope that during that time we will be able to attract the best possible mix of candidates to fulfil this important role and bring the vision to life. It is expected that Board members will have skills, knowledge or experience relevant to the functions of the Authority and significant standing in their field of expertise. … We would appreciate your support in sharing the opportunity widely so we may attract the best candidates.
The relevant skills include:
- Substantial experience of public administration or governance
- Skills and experience in financial management
- Skills and experience in environmental conservation
- Land-use planning and landscape architecture
- Marine and coastal environmental science
- Natural resource management
- Cultural and heritage values management
- Travel, tourism, hospitality and leisure
- Finance management and investment facilitation
- Construction management
- Community engagement
Further details are available through the office of the Great Ocean Road Action Plan in Geelong at Greatoceanroad.Actionplan@delwp.vic.gov.auThe following link provides more information: https://vacancies.publicboards.vic.gov.au/jobtools/ jncustomsearch.viewFullSingle?in_organid=18453&in_ jnCounter=224174958
The government has also established a Great Ocean Road Standing Advisory Committee (GORSAC) to provide independent expert advice. The committee will have extensive powers to advise on any planning applications on projects ranging from airports and golf courses to marinas and zoos. AIDA has been critical of the membership of GORSAC. The seven appointed members are highly experienced and credentialled planners but they are all from within the same Department of Planning to which they are asked to give independent advice. There is no external expertise or community involvement.
It is all the more important, therefore, that community organisations and individuals take advantage of the opportunity to apply for representation on the Board of the Authority itself.
It is true that the current multiplicity of planning and regulatory entities for the Great Ocean Road has led to duplication and incoherence in protecting a national treasure. We now need to ensure that the new Authority does not privilege projects designed primarily to expand tourism at the expense of the coastline and the human and environmental communities the Authority was set up to protect.
The AIDA committee has made its views known to local politicians, the minister, and the Authority itself, and is working with other coastal community organisations to secure local voices within the Authority’s structure. AIDA’s media release can be read at: https://timesnewsgroup.com.au/surfcoasttimes/ news/aida-planning-great-ocean-road/
UPDATE April 2020:
Peter McPhee gives us an update on the establishment of the Great Ocean Road Authority and voices our concern about the composition of a new Great Ocean Road Standing Advisory Committee (GORSAC).
A Bill establishing the Great Ocean Road Authority was passed by the Victorian Legislative Assembly in November 2019. It will now be debated in the Legislative Council. From the outset, local communities along the Road were perplexed at how the Authority – appointed by the government – would manage to protect the environment and their liveability while boosting tourism still further.
Now we know that the plan does not start from some detailed assessment of the carrying capacity of the road, without which any strategy to protect community and the environment surely cannot happen. It seems the Authority’s aim is not to address tourist numbers but to focus on supporting developments that would increase the spend of visitors along the road, to support local (and state) economies.
The government has also established a Great Ocean Road Standing Advisory Committee (GORSAC) ‘to provide independent expert advice on sustainable land development and development proposals to protect the Great Ocean Road Region from inappropriate development and support environmentally sustainable developments that will secure the region’s future prosperity and liveability.’
The Authority’s documents state that members of GORSAC are to have expertise ranging from planning matters to environmental science, tourism planning, Indigenous and heritage issues, architecture and landscape design. The Committee will have extensive powers, ranging from the authority of a co-Chair and one other of its seven members to act alone to advise the Minister for Planning, other ministers and authorities (presumably the planned GOR Authority itself) on any planning applications ranging on projects from airports and golf courses to marinas and zoos.
Its most important function is to provide expert and independent advice on a very wide range of planning dimensions relevant to the full range of possible projects relevant to the wider region.
That sounds ideal, but the membership of the Advisory Committee which will provide advice to the Authority and the Minister for Planning has just been announced – by the Minister himself. It does not inspire confidence.
The seven appointed members of GORSAC are highly experienced and credentialled planners but they are all full or part-time planners within the same Department of Planning to which they are asked to give independent advice. The two Chairs are currently the Chief and Deputy Chief Panel Members of Planning Panels Victoria. The other members are all sessional members of PPV.
There is a stark lack of alignment between the range of expertise GORSAC is required to provide and the specific skills of its members. Where is the external expertise?
While GORSAC is required to take into account all relevant legislation and protections, it will consult individuals and groups only as it sees fit; its meetings need not be open to the public; and it may report to ministers formally or orally. The minister will decide whether to release its findings. Whilst it is empowered to call on other expert advice as it sees fit, it is puzzling that such an advisory body consists of members who are full or part-time employees of the department to which they are to offer independent advice. It seems as well that the only central expertise and experience to be called upon is planning – reducing the complexities of the design of developments, the physical, cultural and social attributes of community resilience, the preservation of ecological systems (and much more), to decisions on land-use zoning.
It is true that the current multiplicity of planning and regulatory entities for the Great Ocean Road has led to duplication and incoherence in protecting a national treasure.
But the new powers of the Authority and its advisers have narrowed the focus to privilege projects which profit from tourism at the expense of the coastline and its human and environmental communities the Authority was set up to protect.
You can access information about the Advisory committee’s Terms of Reference and appointed members by following the link below.
other documents about the action plan can be found on the link below
Charlotte Allen, President
Update July 2019:
Members of AIDA would be aware of AIDA’s response to the Great Ocean Road Action Plan AIDA Resp GOR Final 4May2019 . The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is presently conducting a wide-ranging community consultation on the action plan and is requesting as much community input as possible. AIDA is very pleased with the fact that DELWP is conducting such extensive consultations and with the way they are being managed.
In this light, we would encourage all AIDA members, and indeed all members of the local community, to provide comments so as to ensure that all of our views are taken into consideration in the implementation of the action plan: we need to ensure as far as possible that serious damage is not done to our community, the local environment and the sea and landscape through not controlling the numbers of tourists travelling along the Great Ocean Road. Our response paper makes a number of suggestions in this regard: www.aireys-inlet.org/aida
From now until the end of August we encourage you to access background information and complete the questionnaires on line at: https://engage.vic.gov.au/great-ocean-road.
Update May 2019:
AIDA has now submitted its full response ( AIDA Resp GOR Final 4May2019 ) to the Great Ocean Road Action Plan.
As AIDA President Charlotte Allen noted in the Foreword to the document:
“Rather than continue without a proper strategy and with too many organisations involved in making uncoordinated decisions concerning the Great Ocean Road (GOR), the establishment of the Taskforce and the Government’s response through the creation of the Action Plan represent a real opportunity; an opportunity not only to protect the local environment, the sea and landscapes and the local character/way of life, but also to ensure that tourism becomes part of the solution to developmental problems rather than the problem. But this will only happen if it is recognised that simply increasing tourist numbers will inevitably lead to spoiling the very characteristics of the GOR that attract tourists in the first place.
This reality needs to be accepted, before the Action Plan is implemented, because controls and limitations on numbers will inevitably be required. Timing of these decisions will be sensitive but crucial. The opportunity not to make the same mistakes that have been made across the globe, and to create a visitor experience which is unique, and that will last the test of time, is now possible. AIDA is willing to do everything in its power, including working with the local community, to ensure the best possible outcome.”
Update December 2018:
In our June 2018 newsletter (and see previous update below) we provided the text of our submission to the Great Ocean Road Task Force. That submission concluded by saying,
“AIDA is pleased that this taskforce has been established and agrees that there is a need for a change to the way the Great Ocean Road is managed but we would hope that any solutions fully consider the needs of those who live along the road as well as tourists and that our recommendations and comments about the dangers of mass tourism are carefully considered.”
As you may know the Task Force recommendations entitled, ‘Protecting Our Iconic Coast and Parks’ and the government’s response, ‘The Great Ocean Road Action Plan’, (see https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/ hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage. les/7115/3932/1426/ DELWP0072.8_GreatOceanRoad_ActionPlan_v36_ web.pdf ) were released in Lorne by the Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, on 12 October 2018.
The AIDA committee is pleased with many aspects of the recommendations and the government’s response. For example, it is notable that throughout its response the government has paid a great deal of attention to protecting the future of the coastal land, distinctive areas, landscapes and waters of the Great Ocean Road; preservation of the ecology; ensuring the continued liveability of local communities; working closely with local communities including in creating structures for community involvement; supporting traditional owner cultural values; the need for ‘sustainable’ visitation and developing a long-term strategic framework to manage these issues as well as tourism. In addition, although not yet spelt out in any detail, the government makes it clear that it will examine ways of raising nance (‘sustainable funding’) to pay for any needed infrastructure. It needs to be pointed out in relation to this issue that AIDA has long advocated that local communities should not bear the brunt of financing infrastructure that is the result of tourism or needed for tourism.
The government also sees the need to attract more tourists and to gain more revenue dollars from every visitor to the Great Ocean Road. We agree with the government’s wish to create sustainable tourism by developing a visitation management strategy focussing on increasing economic bene t to local communities, an analysis of capacity, providing better facilities and identifying other tourism infrastructure requirements, but the question remains whether and for how long increasing tourist numbers remain viable and indeed compatible with the emphases set out above. This will be something that AIDA will need to watch very carefully and be prepared to make strong recommendations which, in future, may lead to developing proposals to limit or control tourist numbers, a policy that has increasingly been adopted in some major tourism centres overseas, in Europe in particular.
Of course, there are many decisions yet to be made and the AIDA committee is presently considering how AIDA should respond including on:
- legislation that is required on policy to recognise the significance of the Great Ocean Road and to protect its land and seascape; on the planning framework and on environmental economic accounts and periodic reports by the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability;
- the creation of new bodies and how AIDA will interact with them, including with the proposed Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority and a Standing Advisory Committee that will act as review panel for planning amendments and permits that are called in by the Minister for Planning;
- our participation in the development of the Strategic Framework Plan;our policy on the building of more, or changes to existing, infrastructure, including roads, car and bus parks, public toilets, etc.
We have also noted the reservations expressedby the Victorian National Parks Association that the government’s planned restructure will change the protections given to national parks in the Great Ocean Road area under the National Parks Act (1975) and lead to a ‘land grab’. Does this open the possibility of tourist infrastructure, such as hotels, being developed within our parks? As you would expect, AIDA and other community organisations who share overall objectives would vigorously resist any attempts to weaken protections of the national parks in the area.
As your committee continues to work through the issues and to develop strategies for addressing them, we will, of course, keep our members informed and we are organising a community forum to discuss the plan. This will be on Tuesday 8 January 2019. We would appreciate receiving your views about issues raised by the Task Force report and the government’s reaction. In addition, however, we would urge all members to enrol in the Engage Victoria Great Ocean Road consultative process (https://engage.vic.gov.au/ great-ocean-road).
Update August 2018:
The link below will take you to the latest information on the work of the Great Ocean Road Taskforce: https://engage.vic.gov.au/great-ocean-road. The Taskforce’s deliberations on submissions from the community have been taking place between June and August, with a report due to the state government in late 2018.
In September 2017 the Victorian State Government appointed a Great Ocean Road Taskforce to review current governance arrangements and to make recommendations to:
• strengthen protection of the landscape
• improve the visitor experience
• provide greater certainty in land-use planning
• attract investment proposals to benefit tourists and local communities.
An Issues Paper was published with an invitation to the community to ‘Have your say’ by 30 April 2018: https://www.planning.vic.gov.au/policy-and-strategy/great-ocean-road-taskforce. The GOR Taskforce is to report to Government by the end of 2018.
AIDA made the following submission to the Taskforce on April 12th 2018:
“This submission to the Great Ocean Road Taskforce on the future management of the entire road is made on behalf of The Aireys Inlet and District Association (AIDA).
AIDA welcomes the establishment of this taskforce. We note that its objectives are to:
‘1. Review the effectiveness of current Great Ocean Road governance arrangements.
2. Undertake extensive consultation with the Traditional Owners of Country, responsible public entities, key stakeholders and the community.
3. Report to the Victorian Government within twelve months with recommended reforms to governance arrangements for the Great Ocean Road and its landscapes.
4. Make recommendations on governance reforms to:
a. boost tourism expenditure and investment along the Great Ocean Road
b. better support local communities to benefit from the visitation economy
c. maintain appropriate environmental and landscape protections.’
An introduction to AIDA
AIDA’s chief area of interest is the preservation and improvement of the coastal environment, its hinterland, foreshore and coastal communities from Urquhart Bluff to Eastern View. AIDA was established more than 50 years ago and has about 450 members from the area.
Our members are a mix of permanent residents and those with holiday homes. AIDA works closely with the Surf Coast Shire on all planning matters, including the development of policies such as the area’s structure plan and neighbourhood character guidelines.
AIDA seeks the maintenance of the low-key, non suburban characteristics of our area, protection of the night sky and the natural environment and its flora and fauna. The landscapes and largely unspoiled views of our area must be fully protected from unsympathetic developments, a recent example of which is the Fairhaven Underpass. This, and works such as the enlarged roundabout with lights in Anglesea, introduce unfortunate suburban elements into the environment.
AIDA does not see the need for any major infrastructure changes in our area except building additional public toilets near the community hall in Aireys Inlet. We would not support any project to widen the Great Ocean Road.
AIDA has a significant interest in this taskforce’s objectives and trust that our submission will be considered carefully during the taskforce’s deliberations.
AIDA’s comments and recommendations
Our first recommendation is that the focus of the taskforce should be broadened to include the many benefits of promoting the use of the inland routes to access the various attractions of the Great Ocean Road. This ‘regional’ approach would have the benefits of:
- Reducing the traffic demand along the Great Ocean Road itself, allowing it to retain its classic two lane scenic qualities,
- Creating completely new, alternative tourism-related developments and economic growth across the whole Princess Highway to Great Ocean Road region,
- Removing many of the buses and large vehicles from directly using the Great Ocean Road,
- Greatly increasing bush fire safety and providing alternative escape options, and
- Reducing road accident related blockages of the Great Ocean Road in the peak season.
In your survey, you asked the following question: ‘Do you work for, own or operate a business, or are you a member of a community organisation that benefits from visitors to the Great Ocean Road Region? Please describe the key issues.’
AIDA is a significant and important local community organisation but we do not benefit from the tourists who visit our area. It is unfortunate that community organisations, or members of the public, have not specifically been asked to comment on this question as we also have issues with tourists in the area. We recognise the economic importance of the tourist dollar but there is also a desperate need to recognise the negative impacts of mass tourism on the local community. These include road and parking congestion and over-crowding of public spaces, poor driving practices, and unauthorised toilet stops. There is a need to recognise these negative impacts, and any planning for the Great Ocean Road needs to include strategies to reduce these.
We believe there is a need to find a mechanism to control the increasing number of tourists travelling the Great Ocean Road, particularly those who make it a day trip from Melbourne. We would welcome a discussion about finding ways to limit the numbers of tourists accessing the road, whether by car, minibus or large bus.
It is unrealistic to imagine that the road, the environment and our communities can continue to accommodate increasing numbers of tourists without diminishing the experience for all.
The taskforce must ensure that it investigates plentiful examples from overseas where visitor numbers are controlled, rather than assuming – as stated in the taskforce terms of reference – that the final objective is to increase tourism expenditure and investment and the take of the tourist dollar. There are many popular tourist destinations where numbers are limited either through tolls (Torndirrup National Park near Albany WA or Yosemite National Park in the US) or the need to book (Alhambra, Granada, Spain).
The environmental impacts of mass tourism have been shown in many places around the world to be not economically or socially sustainable. Increasing numbers of tourists do not build a sustainable tourism industry. The UN’s Sustainable Tourism Strategy is very clear about this. There is a desperate need for the taskforce to investigate overseas experiences of mass tourism and what is being done to make tourism sustainable in other places, especially environmentally sensitive landscapes.
The Great Ocean Road is certainly a fragile landscape not capable of sustaining mass tourism while maintaining its environmental and social sustainability. Attracting tourists travelling by car (or public transport) to stay longer on the Great Ocean Road would provide much greater benefit to the local economy than encouraging greater numbers (and bus loads) of day visitors. Call it ‘nature-based tourism’, ‘ecotourism’ or ‘slow tourism’, many townships on the coast have all the attributes required to attract visitors for a multi-day holiday – not in the summer season when the area is already crowded and accommodation fully booked, but throughout the rest of the year when the area remains exquisitely beautiful but accommodation is plentiful and facilities are underused.
One of AIDA’s major aims has long been ‘to promote Aireys Inlet as a destination for nature-based tourism that offers a variety of walking experiences including our beaches, cliff platforms, wetlands, estuary and river, and bush trails in the National and Forest Parks of the hinterland’. To this end, AIDA has been very active in promoting the development and maintenance of a network of walking paths and unsealed shared roadways that link all parts of the township to the coastal and hinterland walking trails.
However, it is obvious that large numbers of people will destroy the landscape (flora and fauna) they have come to see and it is important that the taskforce focuses on slow tourism and not mass tourism.
AIDA asks that the taskforce make recommendations about not travelling along the Great Ocean Road during days of Extreme Fire Danger and Code Red. Most of those who live on the coast, or have holiday homes there, have a fire plan for these days and for many it is to leave, and leave early, as recommended by the CFA. It is crazy, and frightening, to see cars, buses and minivans full of tourists travelling down the Great Ocean Road heading to the Twelve Apostles on these days while the locals, following their fire plan and advice of the CFA, are leaving the area and heading towards Geelong.
These tourists would have no idea what to do in the event of a fire and a mechanism needs to be found to prevent their access to the coast on days of Extreme Fire Danger or Code Red.
Chapter three – the case for change
This chapter of the Taskforce’s Issues Paper recognises the importance of local communities but is largely about accommodating greater numbers of tourists. The taskforce terms of reference are inherently contradictory, seeking to both ‘boost tourism expenditure and investment along the Great Ocean Road [and] better support local communities to benefit from the visitation economy’ and to ‘maintain appropriate environmental and landscape protections’. How will these conflicting aims be reconciled?
We believe more emphasis should be placed on the well-being of local communities. While we recognise the need for an integrated decision-making framework or body for the whole of the Great Ocean Road, we are concerned that this could reduce AIDA’s ability to be involved in the decision-making about development or change in our area. At the moment we have a significant input into decisions that affect our area and, through this, AIDA has been able to protect and maintain the low-key, non-urbanised nature of our coastal communities, which is so highly valued by residents and visitors alike.
AIDA requests that an environmental impact statement be prepared before there is any consideration of boosting tourism expenditure. This could investigate ways of supporting local communities to benefit from the visitor economy and maintaining landscape and environmental protections. A wide selection of professionals could contribute, including geographers, geologists, engineers, scientists, etc.
We note, too, that there have been repeated and often wasteful attempts to clarify and reform responsibilities for this coast, most recently in the 2017 revisions to the Marine and Coastal Act. Are these now to be set aside?
AIDA is pleased that this taskforce has been established and agrees that there is a need for a change to the way the Great Ocean Road is managed but we would hope that any solutions fully consider the needs of those who live along the road as well as tourists and that our recommendations and comments about the dangers of mass tourism are carefully considered.
If you require clarification of any of AIDA’s points or further information please contact me.
Charlotte Allen, President, AIDA