Surf Coast Shire Council - Victorian Competition and Efficiency

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Your Ref: Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission
Contact: Simon Loone 03 5261 0608
25 Grossmans Road
Torquay, Victoria
8 December 2010
PO Box 350, Torquay
Victoria 3228
03 5261 0600
Robbie Taylor
Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission
GPO Box 4379 MELBOURNE VIC 3001
03 5261 4527
www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au
Dear Robbie
RE: Surf Coast Tourism submission to Victorian Competition and Efficiency
Commission Inquiry into Victoria’s tourism industry
On behalf of the Surf Coast Tourism Board, I provide a response to the VCEC Inquiry into
Victoria’s tourism industry. The Surf Coast Tourism Board is a special committee of the Surf
Coast Shire Council. The Board is entrusted to expend funds allocated by Council in
accordance with the tourism strategy and acts as an advisory body to Council on matters
relating to tourism.
In closing, the Surf Coast is among the fastest growing regional municipalities in Victoria
with an average annual increase of 3.74% over the past 20 years. As the official start of the
Great Ocean Road, the Surf Coast welcomes over 1.63 million visitors per year which
accounts for 2.17 million visitor nights and $295 million in visitor expenditure.1
The vision for tourism in the Surf Coast is “high quality tourism experiences that enrich wellbeing in a unique natural environment”. This vision may be realised by a range of strategies
such as:
• Implementing programs that stimulate demand from identified markets. This requires
adequate resources to support the Visitor Information Centres and marketing
programs which have a demonstrated impact on reducing seasonality and increasing
yield in regional destinations
• Improving the quality of tourism product and experience
• Raising the awareness of the value of tourism to the local community.
REGULATORY BARRIERS TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY
A number of barriers have been identified in relation to the planning zones which impact on
the development of tourism including Land use planning and regulatory issues re private
investment on private land (ie rural zones and related issues) and land use planning and
regulatory issues re private investment on Crown land, the impact of international and
domestic aviation policy, especially the restraints being placed on Avalon from being
Australia's only dedicated low cost International airport and the complexity and timeliness of
approval processes of new Tourism developments
PLANNING – TRANSLATION OF RURAL ZONE TO FARM ZONE
The Former Rural zone and Environmental zone allowed for range of uses including tourism
uses to be applied for with a planning permit.
New rural zones developed by the State Government changed this context. The Rural zone
became the Farming zone while the Environmental Rural zone became the Rural
Conservation zone. Both these new zones only allow limited tourism based uses and limit
tourist cabins to six on a site and must be in conjunction with agriculture, winery or rural
industry.
The minister for Planning undertook a direct translation for Surf Coast Shire to the new rural
zones with the Shire's agreement which resulted in all of the rural areas of the Shire being
one of the above zones. Council also committed to undertake a Rural Strategy Review to
revise the existing rural strategy but to also explore opportunities for application of the new
Rural Activity zone which would effectively allow for consideration of uses similar to the old
Rural zone.
The Surf Coast Shire Rural Strategy Review has highlighted that the best opportunities for
applying the Rural Activity zone (which would be targeted for tourism uses) would be in two
areas: south of Deans Marsh and in the Gundrys Rd area. The main focus on nominating
these areas has been based around providing opportunity for small scale tourism proposals
that can blend with the landscape that currently are restricted by the Farming zone.
The above is a good example of how the new rural zones have impacted on tourism
potential with a number of proposals (tourism parks, breweries) not able to seek planning
permits under the current zones. It also highlights the resources, time and effort involved in
strategically justifying the only zone that will allow flexible tourism opportunities (Rural
Activity zone).
RURAL ZONES AND THE IMPACT ON ACCOMMODATION SUPPLY
The impact of restricting the size of the development of group accommodation and having it
run as a subsidiary operation to an agricultural base is that the quality of the accommodation
is likely to suffer as a secondary operation. B&B operators display a wide variety of
performances, overall indicating that the development of the market has been dictated by
lifestyle decisions rather than business investment decisions.
An accommodation supply and demand study in October 2002 by Macroplan noted the
numbers of Bed & Breakfasts had increased from a ‘sprinkling’ to 130 throughout the
Geelong Otway Region. The study indicated limited growth in the market due to the very low
occupancy levels recorded by B&B operators, particularly in Geelong.
Given these very low occupancy levels (e.g. in some cases as low as 15% for the year), it
was assumed then that there was an oversupply in the market and future development
should be restricted in certain sub-regions until excess demand can be proven by future
surveys of the sector. There are now more than 155 of this type of accommodation in the
Surf Coast region alone and is not considered sustainable in terms of quality or enough
demand.
RURAL CONSERVATION ZONES
Separate to the above the Shire has also held discussions with the Department of
Sustainability and Environment that the Rural Conservation zone should be redrafted to
allow tourism uses to be in conjunction with environmental management as opposed to
currently relating to agriculture given the difficulties in such a link being made on such sites.
Following the introduction of Clause 35.06 – Rural Conservation Zone into the Surf Coast
Planning Scheme in January 2006, Surf Coast Shire has been experiencing a conflict
between the section 2 conditions and State policy, local policy and the purpose of the zone
when assessing planning permit applications to use and develop land for group
accommodation.
Under the provisions of Clause 35.06-1, a planning permit is required for group
accommodation and a permit may only be granted if the condition must be used in
conjunction with Agriculture, Rural Industry or a Winery” is met. As a result, any form of
group accommodation not used in conjunction with these specified activities is prohibited.
Surf Coast shire contains substantial areas of private land which are heavily vegetated
supporting a variety of significant flora and fauna. Due to the sensitive nature of these
blocks, managing the land predominantly for environmental purposes is often more
appropriate than farming uses. The draft Surf Coast Shire Rural Strategy Review demarks
the areas containing Rural Conservation Zones as having ‘poor’ agricultural quality.
The Rural Conservation Zone is considered to be the most appropriate zoning within the
VPPs for these properties in conjunction with a range of overlays to protect the
environmental assets recognised in State and local policy. Yet there is a shortfall within the
zone in respect to group accommodation which Surf Coast deems could be considered
where it meets the environmental objectives outlined in the purpose of the zone.
It is suggested that consideration be given to amend Clause 35.06-1 to allow group
accommodation where such a use can justify achieving the environmental objectives within
the purpose of the zone rather than in conjunction with specific rural activities only. This
would allow greater flexibility in the provision of appropriately scaled tourist facilities whilst
ensuring the environmental objectives and the values of the zone are achieved.
LAND USE PLANNING AND REGULATORY ISSUES RE PRIVATE INVESTMENT ON
CROWN LAND (ESPECIALLY FOR HIGH END ACCOMMODATION AND ATTRACTIONS)
Victoria's Tourism Action Plan and Nature Based Tourism Strategy highlight opportunities /
need for new high end accommodation and tourism facilities to be located on Crown land
across the state, with sites including Lorne and Apollo Bay. It identifies the key role that the
Crown land estate plays in supporting tourism in Victoria, and the significant opportunities a
(limited) number of Crown land sites could play in addressing critical need for more high end
accommodation and tourism facilities, particularly those focused around nature based
tourism.
The Government's Tourism Task Group was set up as a multi-agency task force to oversee
and facilitate these Crown land tourism development opportunities. Whilst much good work
has been done, it has focused only on masterplanning and feasibility work at a select
number of sites at this stage. No projects have yet reached delivery stage.
Key challenges include resolving tension between the requirements of the Crown Land
Reserves Act, National Parks Act and Planning and Environment Act, with the intentions and
aspirations for new tourism development on Crown Land, particularly where it involves
public-private partnerships.
Whilst 2009 amendments to the Crown Land Reserves Act have addressed issues
associated with the length of lease terms (now available up to 65 years for major
investments), the process of facilitating and driving these important projects remains an
issue.
Within Surf Coast Shire, two Crown land sites in Lorne – Point Grey and the Slaughterhouse
site - were supported by the Tourism Task Group to develop a masterplan as the important
first step to explore future use and management opportunities for these high profile sites.
A draft masterplan was prepared with extensive community and stakeholder engagement however has not been finalised due to uncertainties about the delivery pathway and funding
requirements regarding a possible public-private partnership. These sites offer significant
potential for new high end nature based accommodation (Slaughterhouse) and integrated
tourism -recreation -community facilities at Point Grey (leveraging landside opportunities to
support the State's $6m investment to construct the new Lorne Pier)...addressing key
priorities of Victoria's Tourism Action Plan and Nature Based Tourism Strategy and the Surf
Coast Tourism Strategic Plan.
If Victoria is to capitalise on its natural values -and to address identified strategic needs for
more high end tourism, particularly nature based tourism -then there needs to be a clearer,
stronger and integrated approach, building on the work of the Tourism Task Group, to
deliver these Crown land tourism projects.
OPPORTUNITY TO IMPROVE THE MANAGEMENT OF STATE ASSETS
A major regional project that is focused on optimising tourism development in the Great
Ocean Road region is establishing Torquay as a Surf Culture Capital. Surfing is an identified
product strength of the Great Ocean Road and is integral to key regional strategies including
the realisation of increased international visitation through nature-based and cultural tourism
particularly to the internationally renowned Bells Beach Surfing reserve.
Bells Beach is a natural state asset of significant value and importance to the Victorian
tourism industry to rival the Twelve Apostles. It is on crown land and currently managed by
the Surf Coast Shire Council as the nominated committee of management.
There are not enough resources available to a local Council to adequately maintain the
reserve to a level that suitably protects and enhances the Bells Beach reserve and provides
an excellent natural experience for all visitors. The level of state and federal support in terms
of capital funding, planning, marketing and promotion need to be increased to allow Bells
Beach to achieve its potential as a world renowned natural destination.
The Surf Coast Shire has commenced a planning process to deliver a range of high quality,
authentic experiences related to surf culture and is currently in discussions with Regional
Development Victoria and Department of Planning and Community Development.
Key elements to be delivered include:
• improve Facilities at Bells Beach to support the Rip Curl Pro ,
• the upgrade and revitalise Surf City Plaza Surf Shopping precinct,
• redevelopment of the Torquay Visitor Information Centre as a gateway to the Great
Ocean Road,
• redevelopment of the Surf World Surfing Museum,
• undertake appropriate strategic land use planning to connect the retail business
areas of Torquay,
• Strengthen Surfing Culture by promoting Torquay as Australia’s surfing capital and
continuation of support for the Rip Curl Pro and
• Stimulate Business Development in relation to surfing.
The Great Ocean Road are about to commence a process of creating a destination
Management plan. It is expected that this plan will allow opportunities such as Bells Beach
to be prioritised at a regional tourism industry level as a key tourism infrastructure project
which provides broader benefits for visitation to the Great Ocean Road.
CONCLUSION
I would like to thank the Commission for their interest in regional tourism and the opportunity
to make a submission. I look forward to receiving a copy of the draft report.
The Surf Coast Shire has worked to enhance this environment while encouraging
appropriate new development to the area. It is hoped that the matters raised following will
provide insight into challenges for tourism in this region and highlight areas for future focus.
If you have any enquiries concerning this matter please contact Simon Loone, Tourism
Coordinator on 03 5261 0608.
Yours Sincerely
Simon Loone
Tourism Coordinator Surf Coast Shire Council
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