INITIAL reaction to a plan to improve governance along the Great Ocean Road has been mixed, with the Colac Otway Shire and the Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) welcoming it but the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) decrying the plan as a land grab.
The state government released the Great Ocean Road Action Plan in Lorne last week.
The plan, which is in response to 26 recommendations made by the independent Great Ocean Road Taskforce, includes a new Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority with an independent board to protect the area and its environment.
Stand-alone legislation will recognise the landscapes of the Great Ocean Road as “one integrated and living entity”, and a new planning approvals process will stop inappropriate development and encourage environmentally-sustainable developments.
“This action plan will protect the Great Ocean Road and its environment for the long-term and ensure we are prepared for the challenges this coastal environment will face in the years to come,” Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.
Colac Otway chief executive officer Peter Brown said the plan was a great step forward.
“The Great Ocean Road Standing Advisory Committee, which will also be created, will consider strategic planning issues but it will not take any planning roles away from the council.”
VTIC chief executive officer Felicia Mariani said having one strategic framework would go a long way to enhancing the visitor experience and economic impact to communities and businesses along the Great Ocean Road.
VNPA spokesperson Phil Ingamells said the plan would affect the management of at least 15,000 hectares of national parks, coastal parks, marine national parks and sanctuaries along the Great Ocean Road.
“The National Parks Act has served us well for generations, and protected tourism icons such as the Twelve Apostles and Great Otway National Park. Introducing new overriding legislation will inevitably strip protections and weaken the integrity of the parks estate.
“It’s a window-dressed land grab by tourism bodies, and sets a terrible precedent for environmental management across the state.”
To read the Great Ocean Road Action Plan, head to engage.vic.gov.au/great-ocean-road.