Government is under pressure to fund tourism projects in the Great Ocean Road region.
A multi-million dollar tourism trail that would help ease Great Ocean Road congestion and encourage visitors to stay longer is still languishing on the government funding wait-list more than 15 years since it was first envisioned.
The Twelve Apostles Trail has been in the pipeline since about 2002. Funding for a business case study was secured in 2014, but funding to construct the trail has yet to arrive.
The trail would extend the existing Camperdown-Timboon Rail Trail to Port Campbell and link to the Twelve Apostles and on to Princetown.
It has been identified in the Shipwreck Coast Master Plan and been among Corangamite Shire’s priority projects for government funding. In its latest budget, the council set aside $5.3 million for future large-scale tourist projects, including the trail, and is well advanced with planning for the project.
In again mounting the push for funding ahead of November’s state election, Corangamite Shire chief executive officer Andrew Mason said the trail was an important way to increase nature-based tourism and encourage visitors to leave their cars behind.
He said the council was hopeful the project from the Twelve Apostles to Port Campbell could get funding through the Shipwreck Coast Master Plan.
“The other part of that loop is between Port Campbell and Timboon and we’ve costed that at about $12.5 million,” Mr Mason said.
“That’s a project that we think would really benefit visitors. It would encourage people to stop and stay longer, people could get the train to Camperdown and walk or cycle down to the coast or vice-versa. It creates more opportunities for people not to be in their vehicle all the time when they’re on the Great Ocean Road.”
Corangamite mayor Jo Beard said the trail was among the tourism-based projects the council was pushing for. “At the end of the day, we want people to go away with a great experience and a safe experience, not potentially what they’re having now,” she said.
Corangamite is also continuing to advocate the state government to spend $29 million on a north-south loop that would link the Great Ocean Road and Princes Highway.
“The north-south loop has identified the best way to get those travellers back… on those roads when you’ve got buses, sharing roads with large heavy freight vehicles as well and agricultural uses as well,” Cr Beard said.
Mr Mason said conditions on these VicRoads-managed roads “just aren’t good enough” and there was plenty of community concern around international drivers and road crashes in the area.
“We know theses inland routes getting back from the Great Ocean Road to the Princes Highway is heavily trafficked, it’s heavily trafficked by often inexperienced drivers and the road conditions just aren’t good enough,” he said.
The council is also advocating for $10 million in state funds to complete a major upgrade of Port Campbell’s foreshore and town centre, although designs for the project have yet to be finalised.