Great Ocean Road to boost tourism revenue

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A long-awaited taskforce to streamline governance arrangements regarding Victoria’s Great Ocean Road has been announced by the State Government.

The establishment of the taskforce was spurred on by the Wye River bushfire in 2015, which highlighted the need for improved government coordination.

The State Government has announced it will spend $1.3 million to establish the expert taskforce aimed at reducing red tape and coordinating more than a dozen agencies responsible for the Great Ocean Road.

The bipartisan taskforce will be co-chaired by former Victorian ministers for transport Terry Mulder and Peter Batchelor, and consist of chief executives from the Colac Otway, Surf Coast, Golden Plains, Greater Geelong and Queenscliff local councils.

A total of $80,000 of the $1.3 million will be allocated to help the councils fast-track their planning applications for tourism projects.

The taskforce will also include G21 Geelong Greater Region chief executive Elaine Carbines, former Victorian Coastal Council chairwoman Diane James, and Great Ocean Road regional tourism chairman Wayne Kayler-Thomson.

Aim to improve coordination along road

Tourism and Major Events Minister John Eren said the taskforce would be used to put the multiple agencies involved with the Great Ocean Road on the same page.

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“There are a number of different authorities and organisations that try to do their best to bring more attractions, to bring more business to the area so that the expenditure, the yield of tourists, increases,” Mr Eren said.

“We need a coordinated approach.”

Mr Eren said the taskforce would examine a “raft of different things to be looked at”, but did not confirm whether speed limits would be one of them.

“This will flush out what governance options are needed going forward,” he said.

“We know that self-drive is one of those things that are now increasing in terms of tourists driving themselves, and we want to make sure that there’s optimal safety measures in place.”

The Opposition’s spokesperson for tourism and major events, Heidi Victoria, has welcomed the taskforce.

“The most important thing is to let the taskforce, if it is independent, be able to do its work to find out what is needed,” she said.

‘Long awaited’ taskforce spurred on by disaster

Ms Carbines said her organisation had been advocating for the taskforce over the past five years, with the Wye River bushfire showing how difficult it was to negotiate the different agencies that had a say about the Great Ocean Road.

“It highlighted, particularly for the Colac Otway Shire, the need to streamline the governance arrangements — that it was much easier and more efficient if there was an oversighting body to manage the Great Ocean Road rather than have the multiplicity of agencies that we have now,” she said.

“We’ve got about 15 different agencies that have a say about the Great Ocean Road … it’s a very complex environment.”

It will be the first time all key agencies responsible for the road will be meeting, with the aim to fast-track projects that attract visitors to the landmark attraction.

“We have 7 million visitors come down the Great Ocean Road every year but hardly spend any money,” Ms Carbines said.

“Most of them come down on a day trip from Melbourne, come down, might stop for a toilet stop at Apollo Bay, come down to the 12 apostles [to] have a selfie, get back on the bus and go back to Melbourne.”

The taskforce is due to report back to the State Government by the end of the year, with a final report expected in 2018.

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