Two electronic signs displaying safety messages in Mandarin Chinese were installed in the south-west by Vic Roads this week following a local resident’s misguided attempt to take matters into their own hands.
The signs were installed on the Colac-Lorne Road and Deepdene Road approaches to the intersection near Birregurra.
A new digital multilingual message board on Princetown Road providing safety messages to visitors returning from the Twelve Apostles was also installed.
These actions were taken by Vic Roads after a homemade road sign was erected in Birregurra that read in Mandarin Chinese : “Stop! Stop! Stop! Be careful and wait for three seconds. Look left and look right.”
However, under the Road Safety (Traffic Management) Regulations 2009 it is illegal for a person to erect, display or place on a road anything that purports to be, or is an imitation of, or is similar to, a traffic control device.
Regional Roads Victoria south west director Mark Koliba said while he encouraged the community to get involved in promoting road safety awareness, the Birregurra resident was advised on Tuesday their homemade sign would be removed.
“We know this is a busy time of year across south western Victoria and above all we want everyone – locals and visitors alike – to travel safely through the region and take extra care on the network,” he said.
“This is on top of the hundreds of directional arrows and ‘Drive on Left’ signs we have already rolled out along the Great Ocean Road and the busy inland routes that lead to it, to provide simple and constant reminders to drivers unfamiliar with driving on the left side of the road.”
Two electronic signs displaying safety messages were installed on Tuesday afternoon at the Colac-Lorne Road and Deepdene Road approaches to the intersection.
The message, in Mandarin, advises drivers of the upcoming intersection. Mr Koliba said Regional Roads Victoria consulted with road engineers who were also native-Mandarin speakers to determine the most appropriate phrasing for these signs.
A trailer-mounted digital multilingual message board was installed on Monday at Princetown Road – a key inland route to the Twelve Apostles.
It displays safety messages designed to encourage drivers to observe the speed limit, drive to the left and to never use a mobile phone while driving.
The homemade sign incident led Member for Polwarth Richard Riordan to vent his frustration on 3AW Radio last week.
“The way you drive in southeast Asia is not the way you drive in Australia,” Mr Riordan said.
“They’re coming out here with licences that are not always bona fide, or they’re coming for their first drive ever, at 100km an hour on roads where there are a lot of intersections, lots of zig-zagging.”
However, a Regional Roads Victoria spokesperson said government agencies including VicRoads and Victoria Police were working on a new road safety initiative, which focused on visiting drivers travelling on unfamiliar roads in unfamiliar conditions.
The initiative is reportedly modelled on a New Zealand international driver safety project, and is being supported by the major vehicle rental companies.
Safety messages are being distributed to visiting drivers through various channels including bi-lingual videos, digital advertising, social media and promotional materials within hire vehicles displaying the “Keep Left” message.
The spokesperson said VicRoads has also translated key Victorian road rules into eight languages including Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Thai, all of which be accessed online.
However, Corangamite Shire councillor Simon Illingworth has called for increased funding for the loop exit roads from the Great Ocean Road back to Princes Highway.
“Despite knowing the dire situation and urgency, neither major party promised to fund these loop roads prior to the last election,” Cr Illingworth said.
“I know, because I created the north-south loop concept, mapped it, had it costed and handed it to them on a plate. But they weren't interested.”
Cr Illingworth said the routes from the Great Ocean Road back to Princes Highway need to become “priority” roads.
This crisis is the most significant issue confronting our communities in living memory.”Simon Illingworth
“We need to reduce the skill level required for international drivers to get about,” he said.
“The road surfaces need major upheaval and proper road shoulders for drivers to pull over.
“So I am in the process of gathering the councils together to listen to my recommendations on the loop roads from Lorne, Apollo bay and Port Campbell.
“In my view this crisis is the most significant issue confronting our communities in living memory.”
The homemade sign incident followed four deaths on south-west roads in five weeks, which has caused deep concern for emergency authorities after four people died in the first nine months of 2018, with a total of nine fatalities for the entire year.
South-west police road safety manager Senior Sergeant Chris Asenjo said there were two road safety operations currently running in the region covering the Warrnambool, Moyne, Corangamite, Glenelg and Southern Grampians council areas.
Senior Sergeant Asenjo said Operation Loch Ard Gorge was designed to target the Chinese New Year in anticipation of heavy vehicle traffic at tourist hotspots along the Great Ocean Road.
The joint operation involving Geelong, Colac and Warrnambool highway patrol units will employ additional resources during the Chinese New Year period.
Senior Sergeant Asenjo said Operation Apostle was also being run, which involved additional shifts along the Great Ocean Road and roads linking with it.
The road policing chief said it was a joint initiative involving Victoria Police and VicRoads which began on January 24 and runs until March.
Port Campbell Police Sergeant David Banks said he wanted to remind people to be “cautious and courteous” on the roads during the Chinese New Year period.
All in a good day’s work for guides
Bilingual Port Campbell National Park ranger Wenbo Chen had plenty of things to juggle when The Standard paid him a visit on Tuesday.
In between dealing with a young man who decided to jump the fence into a restricted area at the Twelve Apostles, earning himself a $161 fine, Mr Chen, 40, and his sidekick, Sunsun Chen, had to field a range of questions from Mandarin-speaking visitors.
These included transport queries and whether there were any deadly snakes around the site.
But the part-time nature photographer, who has a master’s degree in environmental management, wasn’t fazed by the heavy attention he received.
“I’ve always wanted to work in our national parks – this job is a dream come true,” Mr Chen said.
“My background in environment and tourism studies enables me to engage tourists in a different way, particularly Chinese tourists.
“And I enjoy telling them about the unique geology, history, native fauna and flora of our national parks, especially in their own language.”
Originally from China’s Sichuan province, Chen, now a naturalised Australian citizen, currently lives in Timboon and says he loves that it feels like the “whole world” comes to him.
And on Tuesday one of these people was nineteen-year-old Chengdu university student Ma Yuhong, on her first visit to Australia with her parents, who said she was in awe of famous coastline at the Twelve Apostles.
“I’ve never seen such a beautiful ocean view in China,” she said.
Meanwhile Yu Ming, from the city of Suzhou in China’s Jiangsu province, said the Port Campbell National Park was a “special place”.
“Australia has so much natural beauty that is well-preserved,” she said.
With two Mandarin-speaking Parks Victoria guides on call, Chinese tourists were relishing the chance to take in the Twelve Apostles when the Lunar New Year festival began this week.
China is Victoria’s biggest international visitor market, with the latest tourism figures showing more than 650,000 people arriving during the year to September 2018, spending $3.2 billion.
The New Year festival is the biggest event on the state’s Chinese calendar.
It features two weeks of celebration and festivities, with more than 128,000 people paying a visit to the Twelve Apostles over the 15-day period last year.
Typically female and camping?
Chinese tourists are taking up the opportunity for a summer caravan or camping trip in droves, according to new research.
The Caravan Industry Association of Australia reports that in 2017, 14,175 Chinese tourists spent a cumulative total of more than 124,000 nights in caravan parks. This represents a 180 per cent increase in nights and a 126 per cent increase in visitors from 2016.
According to the CIAA, the typical Chinese tourist is a female aged between 30-54 and will spend 11-15 days in Australia. A CIAA spokeswoman said over the last 10 years, Chinese visitors have been a key source of growth for tourism around Australia, including the caravan and camping sector. She said unlike traditional markets of Europe and North America, the Chinese market are relatively ‘new’ to caravan and camping.
However, she said the research found access to items such as rice cookers, and increased Wifi capabilities in caravan parks have gone a long way to helping Chinese travellers feel more comfortable and enjoy their stay.
The number of Chinese visitors to Australia on group and package tours also declined by 8.4 per cent in 2017, according to Tourism Research Australia.
The CIAA spokeswoman said this “continued the trend towards free and independent travel”, and suggested that Chinese travelers are “increasingly confident participating in new international experiences”.
And she said the market is showing “no signs of slowing down”, with 70 per cent of respondents in the CIAA’s report indicating they would be likely to return to Australia, while 80 per cent would recommend the country to friends and family back home.