Bells Beach Myth – BUS – ters

3 April 2012

Since the debate over commercial tour operators went public, serious misinterpretations and misrepresentations of the aims of the Bells Beach Preservation Society (and other community groups) have surfaced.

In an effort to set the record straight we would like to bust the following myths about commercial tour operators in the Bells reserve:

  • Myth 1: the people voicing their opposition to commercial tour operators are just a fringe element.

Every community group with an interest in the Bells Beach reserve has embraced a policy of ‘no buses at Bells’. From the Torquay Boardriders, SANE, and the Surfrider Foundation to local business groups, all are unanimous that Bells must not be changed to accommodate commercial tour operators.

  • Myth 2:   Commercial tour operators are providing a service for thousands of tourists that want to specifically visit Bells Beach.

The reality is that tourists visiting Bells as part of the commercial tour groups don’t specifically want to visit Bells. They are only interested in the Great Ocean Road, The 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and the eye candy down towards Port Campbell. Bells is just a little added extra for the tour companies to throw in. The tour companies don’t even really care that much, they are just worried that one operator may gain an advantage over others by offering a Bells tour where the others can’t

As much as we love Bells, to the commercial tour operators Bells is a coffee break before heading down the coast. We would rather have tourists at Bells who can appreciate the reserve for what it is and are prepared to take the time to make a specific visit, which brings us to the next point:

  •  Myth 3: BBPS and other community groups want to keep tourists out of Bells and save it all for themselves.

The BBPS are all about keeping Bells accessible to people that have a genuine interest in the reserve. That is, tourists who want to come in and hang around for a while, those who can enjoy the reserve for what it is, maybe watch the surfers, use the walking tracks or even go for a surf. The fact is that by accommodating commercial tour traffic, these genuine Bells tourists are being discouraged and shortchanged.

What we are saying is that we actually want people to come and visit Bells, go for a surf and appreciate it for the same reasons we do. Effectively, we are lobbying for the exact opposite of keeping Bells to ourselves. We believe that people without access to their own transport should still be able to visit Bells as part of regulated groups coordinated by the Surfworld museum.

As for sabotaging the local tourism industry and being automatically opposed to anyone making a dollar:

  • Myth 4: Commercial tour operators generate income for the surf coast region.

At present, the commercial tour operators generate negative income for the Torquay / Bells region. They actually cost money to be there. The big dollar generators are the drive through tourists and people who hang around town. Its so obvious it hardly bears repeating. If our stance was anti-income then why would it be supported by the main Torquay business groups?

  • Myth 5: Bells will still be the same, buses or no buses.

Granting commercial tour operators access to the Bells reserve has already resulted in major changes to the car parks. The work that has already been done is repugnant on an aesthetic level and on a practical level, but that won’t be the end of it. The Surf Coast Shire has plans that include the construction of a bus hub in the Winkipop car park. They can call it what they like – it may be referred to as an amenities block, a visitor’s centre or one of a hundred different weasel words – but make no mistake it is there for the commercial operators.

It has been said elsewhere on this site but it is worth repeating:

The shire are using the commercial tour traffic as an excuse to enable development within the Bells reserve. If we keep the tour operators out of the reserve, the problem goes away.

  • Myth 6: The Bells reserve is just the same as any other beach along the coast and therefore should be open for exploitation by the tourism industry.

Well is it?

10 Responses to “Bells Beach Myth – BUS – ters”

  1. Greatly appreciate the effort put into this post. The Bells Beach Surfing Reserve is far too precious to be destroyed by lack of vision and corporate greed.

  2. Julie Kluwer says:

    Big business needs to be mindful, that it can destroy the very thing it is making business from. Bells is beautiful and any further development would be detrimental. Everyone who knows and enjoys this area for what it is, needs to get on board and help preserve this area, and also ALL of the Great Ocean Road!

  3. phil says:

    Re myth #2 from a guide who drives regularly down the gor, when mentioning to the passengers during the period that bells is not accessible due to the rip curl pro I would estimate about 1 in a hundred seems to show me any disapoinment. The majority that go on these tours know more about split point lighthouse (round the twist) than they do about bells, and generally those that want to visit and learn about bells don’t go on these tours!

    It IS thrown on to the itinery to remain competitive. I don’t believe anyone shouldn’t be able to visit, it is a free country, however those that are profiting out of it should be forced to pay up. They do for national
    parks (maintenance,protection, cleaning up) so why shouldn’t they for Bells?

  4. Jay says:

    Who’s pushing ridiculous ideas like another coach hub at winki..the shire? surely its just time for the locals to vote and give the current councillors the boot!

  5. Peter Ashley says:

    We need to know current councillors names that are genuine for keeping Bells Beach natural without buses ideas and those who are noxious uncaring turning Bells to theme park with ugly buses. So that right councillors can be correctly elected at next Surf Coast Shire election day.
    Name and print all good and bad councillors now.

  6. Jay says:

    Thanks peter..yes, i agree…give current councillors the chance to call out their poisition re buses at bells and then let the local punters vote accordingly….then, MC for mayor?

  7. Helen Masek says:

    Thank you for campaigning against this ill thought project and blight on our beautiful natural environment, that we have at the moment for all to enjoy. I so agree that Bell’s should be available to all without putting a monetary value on it for those people as you say are genuinely interested in appreciating it; seeing it walking along its beach and surfing. I think it is a crazy idea building any car parks, visitor information centres. We have enough of them! Surfworld is a visitor information centre. The coach companies will only want more bang for their buck and it will be as ugly as it sounds. We don’t want any more coach bays.

    Please keep Bell’s beautiful!

    Helen
    Student; Tourism and Sustainability

  8. David Bell says:

    Am in favor of requiring all councilors and people who are standing for council stating a position regarding any issue that effects the local communities life. There is a problem however that making statement may be interpreted as “not approaching an issue with an open mind” leaving the way open for challenges to any decision the council makes if that person votes. I for one will say this, Bells Beach Surfing Reserve is a unique place and must not be sacrificed to the commercial interests who bring nothing of benefit to the community.

    David K Bell
    candidate for council

    • Mick says:

      Hello David,

      Why can’t the bells reserve use the area set aside as the secondary car park over the road from the beach be turned in to a coach parking area??
      Like further down the GOR build a tunnel where the grockles (Tourists) have to walk through to have a gander although I suspect the time limitations put on them by the bus companies would preclude any of them walking through to the beach.
      To pay for this it would be beneficial to all if the bus companies were charged a levy to help build, maintain, the bus parking area.
      Failing that put in a hight restriction of two meters on the car park and make the buggers park in town where the tourists at least have the option of spending some money in the local economy.

  9. Eve Fisher says:

    I also agree with notion of council candidates making their position clear but as David Bell says, candidates can nullify their ability to vote – once elected – on a specific planning issue if they are deemed to not have an open mind.
    With that said, Bell Beach Surfing Reserve is a precious place and we need to do everything possible to protect it from anything that puts it at risk.

    Eve Fisher
    Greens candidate for Torquay

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