Despite warnings that parts of Victoria's Great Ocean Road are at risk, requiring immediate remediation and potential rerouting, the state and federal governments may be at odds with each other and not listening to expert engineers.
In a report for the state government, geotechnical engineer Tony Miner and coastal geomorphologist Neville Rosengren of La Trobe University's Engineering and Physical Science Department, recommended urgent action to protect the foreshore of Mounts Bay, adjacent to Apollo Bay, after major erosion in the area in 2017.
They warned the world-renowned tourist drive and national heritage-listed road could be "compromised" within five years. The pair exclusively released the report to The Age, an indication that engineering advice may not have been heeded at government level.
The Victorian Government commissioned the report to understand the causes of the erosion that stripped the beach of sand, including the extra tonnes that were brought in to support the foreshore - an activity known as "nourishing".
"There was no single, large scale event that stood out," Rosengren told the newspaper. He added that the erosion was not caused by "extreme or unusual conditions" but appeared to be more general and widespread, with rising sea levels contributing to the problem.
The report said "nourishing" beaches with extra sand was not a long-term answer. It flagged that the government would need to build engineered structures such as sea walls if the Great Ocean Road is to be protected and remain viable.
After a storm in June last year washed away part of a coastal walkway and car park at Apollo Bay, the government commissioned a second report, from engineering firm, GHD. The report stated that the Great Ocean Road was "at risk", in particular an area where five metres of erosion had occurred and a coastal walkway had been washed away. GHD recommended the government consider building groynes and realigning the road in some places outside of townships.
Community consultation was conducted in early October prior to taking further action, however, later that month, local federal government MP, Sarah Henderson, announced $5 million in funding for a new two-kilometre coastal walkway to Skenes Creek to connect to the existing pathway that partly washed away. Funding was also announced by the federal government for tourism infrastructure to encourage more visitors along the Great Ocean Road.
Image via Tourism Australia.