Twelve Apostles visitors putting lives at risk to take a selfie

Twelve Apostles tour operators concerned about tourists climbing safety barriers to get closer to the "unstable" cliff edges want more Parks Victoria staff to police the attraction.

Images taken from the Great Ocean Road destination's viewing platforms and boardwalks show tourists flirting with danger by standing far beyond the barriers, and tour operators said they see people jumping the fences every day.

One image shows a man standing beyond the barrier on one of the cliffs, which can be up to 80m high, holding a baby. Another shows 14 people standing on the wrong side of a fence taking photos of the view.

Get Lost Travel Group director Ben Matthews, who run multiple daily tours at the Twelve Apostles, told The Age they always instruct tour participants to stay behind the barriers.

"It appears that the act of a selfie has gone above and beyond people’s ability to judge their own safety," Mr Matthews said. "But the general public, not on tours, generally go beyond the fence.

"There are signs everywhere saying “Danger, unstable cliffs” with pictures of people falling over or cliffs with big lines through it.

"That coastline is all made up of sandstone which is easily erodible, that’s how we get the formations of the Twelve Apostles in the first place. Having people walk over the same line a few times it is going to get trampled in really quick."

Mac McCrostie from The Little Penguin Bus tours which runs tours agreed more Parks Victoria officers should patrol the area due to the millions of visitors each year.

"People don't see is how fragile the rocks and cliff edges are," Mr McCrostie told Fairfax Media. "It's all very soft sandstone and limestone ... There is also the issue of trampling sensitive vegetation, which in turn is helping keep the cliffs in place. Losing the vegetation is adding to the erosion."

"Parks Victoria's staffing levels are totally inadequate on many levels. They try but they need more staff there at all times for this, traffic control, litter pickup and toilet cleaning.

"The toilets are mostly closed now because they are just not coping. And it's not widely known they [Parks Victoria] collect $2.50 for every passenger on every tour bus."

In May 2017 Parks Victoria announced it would build an 11-kilometre long pipeline to carry sewage away from the tourist hot spot’s toilets.

Those plans were triggered after a 2015 Environment Protection Authority investigation found too much sewage was being released into the surrounding water.

Travis Reid, another tour guide who works for The Little Penguin Bus, said people also jump the barriers at nearby Loch Ard Gorge and Gibson Steps.

Tim, who did not want his last name published, took one of the photos showing people over the barriers when he visited the area last Thursday.

"No one was telling them to get back behind the fence.," he said.

"I tried to find officials but there were only three or four of them, all preoccupied with the food and souvenir stall and car park control.

"The earth looked unstable near the cliff edge, and they were stepping on top of flora." 

Tour groups can be fined if people on their tours are caught going beyond safety barriers.

Parks Victoria ranger team leader Rhianna Burns said the section of coastline was "spectacular but fragile terrain".

"Climbing clifftop barriers is both dangerous and prohibited, and our rangers are patrolling popular visitor spots to ensure safe and responsible behaviour," she said.

“There have been no injuries in the past 12 months from people going over the barriers, however that behaviour can result in a $159 fine.

“Over the busy holiday period, we have employed 15 additional staff to patrol the areas on a daily basis, to monitor the lookouts and ensure public safety, reducing the potential for unsafe behaviour this is a 21% increase in staffing resources over the past 12 months.

 “In the coming months, we will introduce a range of fencing upgrades and refurbishments that will reduce the ability for people to climb over the safety boundaries.”