Land plan: Bill to enact GORCAPA’s powers before Parliament
LEGISLATION to enact the land management powers of the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority (GORCAPA) is before the Victorian Parliament.
On Wednesday last week, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio introduced the Great Ocean Road and Environs Protection Bill 2021 – the second of two bills to implement reforms in the 2018 Great Ocean Road Action Plan.
Established in December 2020, GORCAPA is the single, dedicated body recommended by the Great Ocean Road Action Plan to manage the region’s public land, beaches, national parks, tourism operations and accommodation.
The bill makes GORCAPA the parks manager for coastal Crown land from Torquay to Warrnambool, with similar functions, powers and obligations as Parks Victoria.
This land was previously overseen by 11 different Crown land managers, each with different responsibilities, stakeholders and priorities.
The small area of National Park transferred to GORCAPA along the road will continue to be managed under the National Parks Act in partnership with Parks Victoria, with no change to their status or obligation to be managed as an area designated for conservation.
The first of the two bills to enable the Great Ocean Road management reforms was passed by the Victorian Parliament in June 2020.
“These reforms will help the region in the long term and ensure it bounces back from the impacts of the coronavirus by supporting local jobs, driving investment and better managing the visitor experience,” South Barwon Labor MP Darren Cheeseman said.
Work to change and improve the Great Ocean Road’s governance dates back to at least May 2017, when the Labor Government allocated $1.3 million in the state budget and established an independent taskforce four months later.
Despite the long-running process, Polwarth Liberal MP Richard Riordan claimed in a Facebook post on Thursday last week that the legislation would be “voted on and passed with less than seven days’ public awareness”.
“This is not how such an important piece of legislation should be treated that will affect so many people, towns and communities from Torquay to Peterborough and from Cape Otway to Cressy.”
He wrote that as a local representative, he only had until Monday of this week to get public feedback on how the 109 pages of legislation would affect communities.
“This new Bill will affect fees and charges along the coast, and it will also allow land to be moved from local council control across to the authority without consultation,” Mr Riordan said.
“To say I am disappointed with the unreasonably short time frame for community to comment is an understatement.
“This Bill is being rushed through because Parliament has been closed, it does not need to be rushed and (a) couple of weeks of consultation will make all the difference.”
According to the Great Ocean Road Action Plan’s website, there has been the opportunity for community feedback on four occasions between May 2017 and now, comprising consultation on the taskforce’s issues paper and three separate consultations on particular aspects of the action plan.
To read the Great Ocean Road and Environs Protection Bill 2021, head to the Victorian Legislation website.