Tourism operator backs Great Ocean Road rethink

Iconic snap: Tourists take photos with the Twelve Apostles. Picture: Amy Paton
Iconic snap: Tourists take photos with the Twelve Apostles. Picture: Amy Paton

A proposal to manage tourism along the Great Ocean Road using a parking permit scheme received a mixed reaction, including support from a tour operator.

MP Richard Riordan, who put the idea forward, said charging visitors through permits would allow councils to use the proceeds to upgrade parking and toilets at iconic spots like the Twelve Apostles.

Go West Tours managing director Terry Smit, who operates daily bus trips from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles, said he was open to ensuring guests contributed more to economic development.

“It’s widely acknowledged that most visitors to Port Campbell National Park don’t contribute anything to the local economy,” he said.

“I’m not averse to lateral thinking around raising revenue but I’d need to know a lot more details before I’d give it a tick or a cross.”

Mr Smit said as long as any scheme to charge visitors was reasonable and operators were given plenty of notice, he supported the idea.

He said on a recent trip to Yosemite National Park in the United States, he had the option of paying a flat fee for a multi-day pass or paying one fee ($US80 per person) to access all national parks.

Mr Smit said a similar system could be considered in Victoria.

He also said an option could be to charge a toll on the Great Ocean Road that allowed an exemption for local residents.

“There’s no question there are capacity issues,” Mr Smit said. “Most people wouldn’t mind paying for the maintenance and upkeep of appropriate facilities in national parks.

“I’m not averse to a parking permit per se, but I wouldn't want to see a situation where people are driving around trying to dodge the parking inspectors.

“What you can’t have is a situation where people are parking illegally in order to try to avoid fees.”

The tour company director said under a system charging per person, the fee would need to be “moderate”.

Readers of The Standard who participated in an online poll mostly disagreed that parking permits were the solution to issues associated with the tourist spot’s growing popularity.

Of the 67 votes recorded at the time of publication, 62.69 per cent were ‘no’ (42 votes), 29.85 per cent were ‘yes’ (20 votes) and 7.46 per cent were ‘undecided’ (five votes).

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