New Great Ocean Road Authority will weaken national park protection.
“A new, dedicated, marine and coastal parks authority with the primary purpose of managing and protecting the land and seascapes of the Great Ocean Road, to manage visitation and to coordinate delivery of associated government investment projects.”
The plan states that: “This will not alter the underlying management tenure and conservation objectives of any national parks areas for which the new authority assumes responsibility”.
But that doesn’t make much sense – it is either a completely unnecessary duplication of responsibility, or the intention is to manage the areas under revised objectives, such as to facilitate tourist infrastructure.
The plan also states: “The new authority will work closely with Parks Victoria who retain responsibility for broad-acre parks management – including for most of the Great Otway National Park – and who will provide parks management services to the new authority for its field operations to ensure environmental conservation objectives are met”.
But any overriding legislation puts Parks Victoria in a subordinate role, losing their crucial guardianship responsibilities under the National Parks Act.
Parks likely to be impacted include:
“The Victorian Government commits to – for the first time – establish a dedicated, statutory parks management authority, the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority, to protect and manage the coastal Crown land and marine waters along the Great Ocean Road for the benefit of future generations”.
The proposal seems to have bipartisan support. In early August, the Coalition fired the first shot, announcing that it would create a new Great Ocean Road Authority “to manage designated Crown Land along the Great Ocean Road”.
The Coalition media release of 3 August 2018 states: “This new authority will replace existing organisations including local government, Parks Victoria, DELWP and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) that currently manage Crown Land along the coast.
“The Great Ocean Road is an iconic Victorian landmark and is home to some of the state’s most significant environmental assets including the 12 Apostles, Bells Beach, and the Otways.”
There is around 110,000 hectares of public land within five kilometres of the coast (land and sea) between Geelong and Warrnambool. The bulk of this, about 87 per cent, is managed by Park Victoria, of which just under 80 per cent is protected under the National Parks Act (75,000 hectares of terrestrial parks and 12,000 hectares of marine national parks and sanctuaries. The rest consists of range of smaller coastal reserves, bushland and nature conservation reserves protected under the Crown (Conservation) Land Act.
The other public land managers include the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), who control 9,771 hectares, much of it Otway Forest Park, but also a range of coastal reserves such as Bells Beach Coastal Reserve and various river frontages.
A large number of smaller areas (over 70) ranging from coastal reserves to tennis clubs are managed by Committees of Management, either community-based, local council or sometimes other government departments, covering about 4,000 hectares widely dispersed over the area.
Of the almost $1 billion in economic benefit already generated in the region, much can be attributed to the natural beauty and integrity of the landscape and the ecology of the region, of which the vast majority is managed by Parks Victoria. It currently receives only basic funding from the state to maintain, manage and enhance these natural drawcards. That should change, but creating a new and unnecessary layer of management control is not the answer.