I'm not too sure about this idea of opening up State Forests and the Great Ocean Road to developers. Even though they say it will be specially monitored as to suitability I can envisage Maccas at the Apostles rocks once the idea gets into real estate down there. A themed hub at Loch Ard Gorge might be interesting but there are already museums etc in the nearby town and also there is Glenample, the house nearby where Eva Carmichael recovered after the shipwreck. Small eco-friendly lodges for overnight accommodation for walkers might be okay though.
ENVIRONMENTAL guardians are on alert and tourism chiefs delighted after the Victorian Government announced it would open Great Otway National Park to private development.
Coalition leaders said yesterday policy reforms would allow environmentally sensitive tourism investment in national parks, bringing Victoria into line with other states.
Leases of up to 99 years would be heavily conditioned by strict guidelines.
Geelong Otway Tourism chief Roger Grant said the move was long-awaited and promised to responsibly unlock immense potential.
"In all honesty I would rate this as one of the most important decisions in relation to tourism in decades," Mr Grant said.
"One of our genuine competitive advantages is nature-based tourism and not to be able to have the private sector deliver to capitalise on that has been one of our greatest constraints.
"For years you've heard me talk about the Great Ocean Road being transformed into a driveway to Kangaroo Island, we've now got the Great Ocean Road destination management plan which has identified critical infrastructure projects.
"Now the Government's response means the private sector can get engaged in some of the projects."
He cited a $100 million interpretive hub at Loch Ard Gorge, a resort at Port Campbell and the Great Ocean Walk among prime projects requiring backing.
"The Great Ocean Walk has a $10 million project cost, looking at further trail infrastructure to transform it from a fantastic local walk to a walk of international status," Mr Grant said.
Otways environment group representatives said yesterday they wanted to see the state's guidelines before making major statements, but Surf Coast Shire Greens councillor Simon Northeast expressed immediate alarm.
"When it comes to national parks this government can't be trusted, they're responsible for cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park and I'd be concerned with what they considered environmentally appropriate," he said. "I'd be sceptical and I'd be worried."
Colac Otway Shire president Steve Hart said he would have reservations about development of commercial lodges.
Friends of the Eastern Otways spokeswoman Margaret McDonald said the group opposed development within the national park.
Victorian Treasurer Kim Wells said park leases of up to 99 years would be subject to tight environmental controls and no investment proposals would be considered in areas classified as wilderness parks, wilderness zones, reference areas or remote and natural areas