At the 2018 AGM it was agreed that in future AIDA will hold a community meeting in January each year. At the first such meeting, held on Tuesday 8 January 2019, the Victorian government’s new Great Ocean Road Action Plan was debated at a packed summer community forum at the Fairhaven Surf Life Saving Club. The forum, entitled ‘Will Tourism Kill the Great Ocean Road?’ gave holiday-home owners, residents and visitors a chance to consider the plan. Libby Sampson, the Great Ocean Road Taskforce Project Manager at DELWP (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning), noted Australia’s three Rs of international tourist attractions – the Rock, the Reef and the Road – with the Great Ocean Road attracting more than the Rock and Reef combined. Overseas tourism has grown at 22 per cent per annum for ten years and Avalon Airport’s new international flights will increase this growth. Sometimes there are 300 buses at the Twelve Apostles, while Surf Coast Shire research shows these visitors contribute just 17 cents each to the shire economy – the dubious economics of hit and run bus tourism.
Guests at the forum asked many interesting questions with a lively discussion following the speakers.
Ian Porter from AIDA asked ‘if [fast or mass] tourism will kill tourism on the Great Ocean Road? – with declining quality tourism experiences, and effects on local environments and amenity’. He noted New South Wales Hyam’s Beach closing the town to cars when car parks are full on peak holiday days and redirecting tra c to other beaches after overly successful tourism promotions, and places like Barcelona, Dubrovnik and the Isle of Skye actively seeking to limit tourists.
Jamie Lowe, CEO of the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, noted Indigenous peoples’ concerns for country and potential for cultural tourism. He wryly noted that not many Indigenous people live on country in Aireys Inlet as few can afford a million-dollar beach house!
The Victorian government’s Great Ocean Road Action Plan and new authority have potential to both protect the environment and ensure more sustainable tourism if adequately funded and if environmental values are placed ahead of growing tourism numbers.
Speakers received bouquets from an Aireys Inlet garden plus homemade jam.