Not enough is being done to protect the Great Ocean Road from erosion, local residents say, after large stretches of beach at Apollo Bay and Marengo were washed away in recent winter storm surges.
- About 6,000 cubic metres of sand was added to the beach at Apollo Bay after winter storms and all but 1,000 washed away
- Locals say erosion is so serious it could breach the Great Ocean Road, the driver of the local tourism industry
- Governments are being urged to find a long-term solution to the problem
While it is not uncommon for erosion to occur during the winter months, infrastructure has been damaged over the last few years, without any long-term government solution proposed.
Former mayor of the Colac Otway Shire, Frank Buchanan, has lived in the area for 20 years and said if a permanent solution was not implemented soon it would cost more to fix the damage later on.
“We’ve lost a toilet block on this section of the road here at Marengo, and that used to be quite a stop where people would come and view the whales and just go surfing and fishing. So that’s gone,” Mr Buchanan said.
“Certainly there’s been a progression of quite serious erosion, and in places it could even breach the Great Ocean Road.”
Ocean Road ‘the goose that lays the golden eggs’
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) delivered more than 6,000 cubic metres of sand to Apollo Bay in March to replenish the beach, a common short-term solution to the erosion problem.
However all but 1,000 cubic metres of that washed away over the last three months.
Mr Buchanan said the Federal Government should contribute more funds to protect the area from erosion.
“Tourism is Apollo Bay,” he said.
“So … these amenities where you can park and look or go to the beach for the day absolutely need to be maintained, and they’ve just washed away.
“The economic driver of the Great Ocean Road for the whole region is absolutely magnificent. So protect it. It’s the goose that lays the golden eggs.”
The Commonwealth has invested $100 million and the State Government has contributed $53 million over an eight-year period between 2013 and 2021 to stabilise the road.
State balancing tourism and maintenance work
About 5.4 million people visited the region in the year ending March 2018, an increase of 17.1 per cent on 2014.
The Federal Government said tourists spent $1.3 billion in that same time.
VicRoads said it was working to fix more than 20 sites along the Great Ocean Road which were most susceptible to erosion.
VicRoads spokesman Mark Koliba said it was a balancing act between allowing tourism to flourish and shutting down large sections of the road for maintenance work.
“We try to keep works mostly to the winter months. At the moment, with that funding, we’re working to capacity,” Mr Koliba said.
He said they were building rock walls along the base of the road where was a risk of erosion.
“The first site to be completed with the rock walls was at Skenes Creek, where an 80-metre rock armour wall [consisting of large basalt rock] was built below the road and along the shoreline,” Mr Koliba said.
“The rocks were purposefully stacked to help dissipate waves and minimise the impact of coastal erosion.”
Peter Fillmore, the secretary of community group Otway Forum, said he was worried storm surges were getting stronger, not leaving much time to decide on a long-term fix.
“In the Victorian Coastal Council’s (VCC) report from 2018 they predicted increased frequency and height of extreme sea level events, and rising sea levels,” Mr Fillmore said.
“The department’s well aware of the problems, you know, and it’s just a matter of getting a political commitment to spend the money to do some long-term structures to hold the sand in place.
“And even then it may only give us another 50 years.”
He said stone wall structures that had been built at Point Bunbury and Wild Dog Creek near Apollo Bay were successfully holding sand.
“But it costs millions of dollars to do that,” he said.
DELWP said it was preparing to present the community with a range of options to address erosion at Apollo Bay and Marengo.
“We’re seeking further advice from specialist coastal and infrastructure engineers to guide response works, such as the replacement of walking tracks, car parks, beach access, fencing and barriers” Greg Leece, Barwon South West regional manager of land and built environment, said.