Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (17:05): I rise to speak on the Great Ocean Road and Environs Protection Amendment Bill 2021. This bill will address a number of issues that have plagued communities along the Great Ocean Road for far too long. This stretch of beautiful coastline, nature reserves and small towns is a major tourist attraction in Victoria, and it is no wonder why. The Great Ocean Road attracts 2.7 million visitors a year—more than Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef combined, which has been mentioned before. It is important that we protect the value of the Great Ocean Road not just for the tourists but importantly for the residents who have chosen to build their lives there. By creating one authority that can monitor, maintain and protect the Great Ocean Road, we can streamline this process, reduce confusion and avoid crossovers. The community will have one port of call to direct their concerns and their experiences. This will certainly improve accountability in the region and clarify responsibilities.
I believe an important feature of this bill is that the revenue raised by the authority will remain separated from state consolidated revenue, and revenue generated from the Great Ocean Road will be reinvested into its own maintenance and protection. This is a good thing. This will address a significant issue, and that is: residents have been subsidising the millions of tourists who visit the Great Ocean Road each year. It is council fees that pay for maintenance of roads, parklands, car parks and walking tracks, yet locals make up a small portion of those who use those resources every day. Absolutely, money generated from these resources should be invested back into maintaining them. Why should the burden rest on these communities?
Unfortunately the millions of tourists who enjoy the Great Ocean Road and its offerings do not bring significant investment to the region with them. In fact two-thirds of these visits to the Great Ocean Road are for daytrips. Tourism brings with it great opportunities, investment and jobs, but we cannot forget that it also brings costs, and someone has to pay. This is about fairness. I will be supporting this bill today.