Seven community groups from along the Great Ocean Road (GOR) have come together to form the Great Ocean Road Communities Network (GORCN).
The Network has come into being to facilitate communication and coordinated action among established community groups in towns along the GOR and its hinterland. As the GOR evolves to be a designated visitor destination under a new state government authority, the GOR Coast and Parks Authority (GORCPA), the community network will allow the member organisations to advocate for their shared interests guided by the principles of environmental sustainability, community benefit and socially responsible tourism.
We welcome GORCPA’s statement that its purpose will be achieved by the Authority managing, protecting, rehabilitating and fostering resilience of the natural, cultural and heritage values of coastal Crown land and marine waters along the Great Ocean Road.
GORCN believes it is crucial that as Minister D’Ambrosio appoints members to the GORCPA Board consideration is given to ensuring local communities are well represented.
The community network had its inaugural Zoom meeting on Tuesday 18th August. There was agreement that all the member organisations have become convinced that a strong platform for the articulation of their GOR voices will be critical, as the new GORCPA progressively takes over management of the GOR and public lands.
Groups in the network share common ground, in that all are committed to:
- Coastal and bush protection and regeneration
- Thriving, diverse local communities
- Limitations on tourist numbers
- Community involvement with relevant decision-making
- Recognition of climate change, the need to act to mitigate its causesand to address its risks.
- Protection of local character
- Nature-based and regenerative tourism
- Analysis and communication of tourism’s invisible costs
- Evidence-based research to establish the carrying capacity of the GORand an agreed set of indicators to monitor GOR conditions
- Appropriate infrastructure provision consistent with the above
GORCN spokesperson Charlotte Allen said there are many other groups along the road, and in its hinterland, with shared interests who we will welcome and are expected to join before the next meeting in a few weeks. Any group interested in joining can email [email protected]
The government’s GOR Action Plan says, “like many international tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road and its landscapes is challenged by increasing numbers of visitors, forces of nature and impacts of climate change.”
Ms Allen states that “The government has said the GORCPA is being established to protect the iconic coasts, parks and scenic landscapes along the GOR but at the same time they say tourist numbers will continue to increase. This is something it accepts and apparently welcomes.”
“We can’t understand how the Authority will manage the government’s two expectations of its work: to protect the environment, flora and fauna and local communities along the road while at the same time increasing tourist numbers.”
“The pandemic has had an enormous impact on many local businesses. We all need to work collaboratively to provide support to our local economy. It will take many months, maybe years, for this economic recovery, but the current downturn in tourist numbers presents a real opportunity to rethink the tourist industry and its social, environmental and economic impacts.”
The GORCN will be a strong advocate for all the communities along the road whilst protecting and enhancing their diverse, distinctive natures. The network also wants to extend its membership and work collaboratively with the new authority.