What a truly amazing road
Friends of the G21 Region,
e-News provides you with a sense of the important issues, activities and proposed projects within the G21 region.
It’s so easy to take for granted the things sitting right in front of us. And that’s the danger with one of our region’s oldest and most significant man-made assets, turning 80 years old this year.
The truly amazing Great Ocean Road has been there for as long as most of us can remember, but its future well-being is not as certain as most of us would image.
The road winds along rugged yet fragile limestone and sandstone cliffs which are constantly subjected to the pounding of ferocious storms swirling up from Bass Straight and the Southern Ocean.
Pictured: Workers build the Great Ocean Road, circa 1920sThe road which runs 243 kms from Torquay to just short of Warrnambool is amazing in so many ways; its rich history, its magnetic drawing power for millions of visitors each year, and its provision of essential access to the wider world for residents of the coast.
The road is one of Australia’s greatest feats of human determination, engineering and sheer physical will power. It was built in stages by returning World War I soldiers between 1919 and 1932. They braved the elements on the hazardous, densely vegetated sheer cliff faces to eke out, yard-by-yard, a track that in many places was wide enough for just one vehicle.
Carrying explosives into the area by hand due the rugged terrain and living in basic tent camps for months at a time the returned soldiers triumphed over what The Age newspaper at the time described as “almost insurmountable odds”.
One man more than any other pushed for the road. Local businessman and Geelong mayor Howard Hitchcock contributed his own money, along with other investors, to form a private company to build the road. A toll on the road existed until it was handed to the state in 1936.
Today the road in places carries up to 20,000 vehicles a day at summer peaks, many of them international and interstate visitors supporting a $2.1 billion tourism industry. The magnificent vistas from the road itself, the beaches and majestic rainforests combine to make the road and its environs one of Australia’s prime tourist drawcards.
The road was added to the Australian National Heritage List last year.
Could all of this be at risk from lack of funds for proper maintenance?
Maintaining the road is a constant battle. Sections of the road have been closed over the years due to storm damage, landslides and other hazards. As recently as January 2011 a section of the road was closed for an extended period when overhanging cliffs collapsed due to heavy rain.
G21 is at the forefront of a campaign to gain adequate funding to upgrade and maintain this important asset. Constant patch-ups will work for only so long. A full-scale concerted upgrade is needed to secure the road.
Earlier this year G21 made the Great Ocean Road Upgrade one of only 15 Priority Projects the organisation is pursuing. That’s the significance G21 places on the road.
At least $50 million ($10 million for each of five years) is needed for the upgrade of the road surface, roadside cuttings, pavement rehabilitation and drainage, among other works.
The road pays for itself many times over in tourism and essential commercial access, but sadly we may be risking killing “the goose that lays the golden egg” through neglect.
This ought to be a priority for our state and federal politicians. It should also be a priority for each of us who treasure this wonderful, amazing road.
For details on the G21 Great Ocean Road Upgrade Priority Project, click here.
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G21 Geelong Region Alliance
Ground level, 199 Moorabool Street
GEELONG, VIC 3216
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