May 14, 2019

Media Release – Labor will protect the Great Ocean Road, Otway Ranges and Bells Beach – Tuesday, 14 May 2019

A Shorten Labor Government will work with the Victorian Government, local government, and Traditional Owner representatives to safeguard protection of Bells Beach, the Otway Ranges and the Great Ocean Road for future generations.

This election will be a choice between a united Shorten Labor Government, which will protect our heritage, or more of the Liberals’ cuts and chaos.

The pressures on the region from both increased population and tourism has led to biodiversity loss and impact to the environment. To ensure this region is properly protected for future generations, Labor will act.

Labor will consult with the Victorian Government, local government and Traditional Owners to determine what will be the most appropriate way to strengthen environmental protections for the region. We will create and bring together a stakeholder group including the Victorian Government, Traditional Owners, representatives of all regional local government, the Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism Board, and local business and unions to consider and make recommendations for two options:

  • Whether to initiate the process for the Twelve Apostles and the Great Ocean Road and its scenic environs to be included on the World Heritage List.
  • Whether creating a jointly managed Commonwealth-State National Park could be suitable for the region

If the stakeholder group recommends both options, a Shorten Labor Government will pursue them.

Labor would work to ensure any changes will not impact existing jobs and arrangements for state forests.

World Heritage Listing

In 2011, the previous Labor government included the Great Ocean Road and scenic environs on the National Heritage List. This listing stretches from the Otway Ranges, the Great Ocean Road itself, the Twelve Apostles, and iconic Bells Beach. Inclusion on the National Heritage List requires a management plan for the area is developed and is a precursor to World Heritage Listing. Labor will only proceed after consulting with community representatives, including local government and Traditional Owner groups. We will consult on which locations within this iconic stretch of coast should be included in the application.

This region is an area of rich national environmental, geological and cultural significance for our continent, and in particular Victoria:

  • The coastline is among the world’s most magnificent cliff and ocean scenery, which includes the Twelve Apostles.
  • The region includes unique fossils, and is one of the few locations for dinosaur fossils in southern Australia.
  • The Great Ocean Road was constructed by over 3,000 returned servicemen following the First World War, and stands as a reminder of their continued service to the country on their return from Europe.
  • For the Traditional Owners, Bells Beach retains significant cultural value, the area around Bells Beach was a significant gathering place, with discovery of a number of Aboriginal objects in the area in recent years.
  • Bells Beach is a culturally significant and iconic Australian surfing beach.

Inclusion on the World Heritage List will be potential boost for tourism, and job creation on the southwest coast. It also brings with it an obligation for environmental protection to protect the heritage value to ensure development is sustainable.

Victoria does not currently have an environmental site on the World Heritage List, and Labor will work to make sure the state’s natural environment receives the international recognition it deserves.

Labor has already announced an intention to seek World Heritage Listing for Cape York Peninsula and the Kimberley depending on the decision of Traditional Owners on boundaries, values and consent.

A southwest Victorian National Park

Labor will explore whether there could be a Great Ocean Road National Park to be jointly managed by the Commonwealth and State Government.

The creation of a jointly managed National Park would compel the federal government to establish management plans for the park.

Any national park would also have community representation, Indigenous representation and local government representation on any management boards, and the exact location of the national park would be a matter for the Victorian Government.

Southwest Victoria is a region of astonishing natural beauty, significant Traditional Owner cultural importance, and includes some of the most iconic surf beaches in the world. It is internationally significant and an Australian treasure.

Labor will make $3 million available for a community consultation process and stakeholder group to make recommendations to a Shorten Labor Government by the end of 2019, and for the potential World Heritage bid.