Charge concern: Great Ocean Road tolls or fees not ruled out

October 21, 2021 BY

The Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority has the power, if it wishes, to impose a toll on the Great Ocean Road. Photo: TIMES NEWS GROUP

THE powers of the new Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority (GORCAPA) have been fully established, but the legislation has no guarantees that revenue-raising measures such as a toll on the Great Ocean Road or parking meters in Lorne will not be introduced.

GORCAPA will take over the management of all Crown land and National Park land, Land Act land and Wildlife Act land by no later than November 1, 2025.

The regulation presently allows GORCAPA to exempt certain people from tolls, fees and charges, but Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party state leader and Member for Western Victoria Stuart Grimley said the original legislation had no mandate to consider the effects on the community if such measures were to be introduced.

Mr Grimley said he had heard from communities along the Great Ocean Road, including the Corangamite Shire council, that they did not want to be affected by car parking fees and entry fees to local attractions such as coastal trails, football ovals, or the Twelve Apostles.

The Great Ocean Road and Environs Protection Bill 2021 – the second of two bills to set up GORCAPA – made its way through Victorian Parliament last week, but not before Mr Grimley successfully added an amendment in the upper house that “the Minister must consider any advice of the Authority in respect of any financial impacts or burdens on local communities of the tolls, fees and charges”.

“This is a small way of making sure the authority consider any implications that introducing tolls, fees and charges on the Great Ocean Road will have on local communities,” Mr Grimley said.

“For example, if the authority introduce new car parking meters in Torquay or Lorne, they should have to at least consider the financial burden it may place on locals.

“This is all about making sure that locals are not penalised for accessing the things they’ve moved to the coast to do, like going to the beach, walking the trails and seeing our great sights.”

Liberal Member for Western Victoria Beverly McArthur voted against the bill.

She said that GORCAPA had $200,000 in income but no budget, and she was concerned that not only would GORCAPA “divert funding to itself”, residents along the Great Ocean Road “may now be on the hook for
user-pays charges”.

“The bill enables the authority to raise revenue via parking charges, fees for facilities, and other permits. But there is no strong guarantee that residents and ratepayers will be exempted from these charges.

“I am quite happy for charges to be introduced to raise revenue from tourists, but locals should not have to pay to park or use the toilets in their own backyard.”

Introducing tolls for some or all of the users of the Great Ocean Road has occasionally arisen as an issue, most recently in late 2019, when the Labor Government stated it had “no plans to toll existing roads, including the Great Ocean Road”.

A GORCAPA spokesperson said the authority would work with the Victorian Government to “establish a sustainable funding model”, but did not unequivocally rule out tolls on the Great Ocean Road.

“Since it began, the authority has had existing revenue streams from caravan parks, leases, and licences on the public land that it manages. The authority will also receive any revenues generated on Crown land that has been transferred to it.

“The introduction of any new revenue streams for the authority will require a regulatory impact statement and public consultation before being implemented.”

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