SHOULD the Great Ocean Road be extended?
South-west councils have revived a campaign to have the popular tourist route extended through to Warrnambool.
The iconic road heads inland at Peterborough's Bay of Islands, turning its back on what Corangamite Shire councillor Simon Illingworth dubbed "the most spectacular coastline leading to Warrnambool".
He wants to see the road extended from Peterborough to Warrnambool.
"It becomes less ocean and more road," he said.
But he's not the first one to dream up the bold idea.
Bay of Islands landowner Gerald Irvine said the concept was thwarted more than 30 years ago when then-premier Rupert Hamer first launched the campaign.
"He planned to extend the road all the way to Warrnambool, my understanding was that the road was surveyed but there was very significant opposition from the landholders on the route," Mr Irvine said.
"It became politically difficult so the road was taken to the Bay of Islands and north to Peterborough Road.
"I think there would still be opposition, they would have to acquire a fair bit of land to do it."
There was also a push in the early 2000s from Warrnambool and Moyne councils for the extension.
Cr Illingworth said the 50-odd kilometre stretch of new road could relieve tourist traffic congestion.
"The Great Ocean Road is already buzzing with tourists. It is hectic. Business owners are doing exceptionally well, but it's clear, there are huge amounts of unspent cash driving out of town," he said.
"Tourists can't get a park, queues are long or time is a factor; it's like getting a pie at half time at the footy. I remind you, tourism numbers are set to double.
Tourism numbers are set to double.Corangamiite Shire Cr Simon Illingworth
"You can't relieve congestion by duplicating the Great Ocean Road like a city freeway, but you can make it longer. This will spread the load. Adding 'ocean' to the Warrnambool stretch of the Great Ocean Road will also entice people to stay the night and spend cash."
The stretch of coast in question comprises private farmland bordered by a thin strip of national park.
Cr Illingworth said to make it happen a narrow parcel of that land could be earmarked as a tourist road easement.
"This road could specifically cater for tourists with low speeds, natural finishes and lookouts," he said.
"If that land is set aside now, extending the Great Ocean Road through to Warrnambool will be possible in 30 years' time. Alternatively, if that doesn't happen, houses will be built and it will become uneconomical and unfeasible. Forward-planning is key here but the decision must be made now."
Road easements allow for the construction and use of a road on a parcel of land by someone other than the property owner.
Public authorities can mandate a road easement if it is in the public interest.
Warrnambool City Council mayor Tony Herbert welcomed the proposal.
"We think it's a fabulous idea to continue the Great Ocean Road along to meet up with Hopkins Point Road and into Warrnambool that way," Cr Herbert said.
"It almost does seem like the missing link for the Great Ocean Road, especially given it has two of its feature cities and towns at the western end, being Warrnambool and Port Fairy.
It seems like the missing link for the Great Ocean Road.Warrnambool City Council mayor Tony Herbert
"We would definitely be supportive but where we have been putting our priorities is really the duplication of the Princes Highway because while that inland travel route isn't necessarily a tourist route, it's the main lifeline economically for our region.
"The business plan has been done, the federal government has made a significant contribution already and we are now looking for the state to roll this project out and complete it for the benefit of tourists visiting our region and for the number of businesses that use the Princes Highway on a daily basis."
While supportive, the mayor questioned the execution of the ambitious plan.
"I can't imagine many people thinking it's not a good idea but land acquisition does take a significant amount of time, effort and money."
Moyne Shire mayor Daniel Meade said it would keep visitors in the region for longer.
"It's good to have fresh new ideas, I want to see more people go beyond Port Campbell and the Twelve Apostles to places in Moyne such as Peterborough, Tower Hill and Budj Bim," he said.
"Like many things there could be mixed responses to this idea, but there's nothing wrong with a big idea. We would never get anywhere if no-one had new ideas."
READ MORE:Fear of major crash on Great Ocean Road
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