Buses: What’s the Big Deal?
8 January 2012
The Surf Coast Shire and State Government are using commercial tour operators as an excuse to over develop the Bells reserve. Remove the buses, remove the problem! (Thanks Andrew, see comments below)
Buses and Bells don’t mix. The rest of this post explains the problems caused when commercial tourism operators have access to the Bells reserve. The buses are a problem in terms of car park crowding and reducing access to the reserve for recreational visitor.
Another problem caused by buses, that we haven’t hi-lighted in the past, is the issue of public safety in the car park – something that this video illustrates nicely:
Another side effect of the bus tourists is that we could soon end up with something like this perched atop the cliff at Winkipop, just to accomodate the bus tourists. Just something to think about…
… not in 5 – 10 years either, work could be starting as soon as next month!
On most mornings at Bells there is a traffic surge between 9:30 and 10:30 am. All the buses arrive at once and jockey for position with the drive in visitors. The biggest obstructions at that time are the tourist coaches that seat 40 plus people. Even though there are 5 or 6 a day, their bulk means they cause a disproportionate amount of congestion and pressure on reserve infrastructure. The car parks are not able to handle vehicles of this size, the question is what is to be done about it.
The Bells Reserve master plan indicates what the Surf Coast Shire proposes to do about it. The plans are on a sign board at the south end of the Winki car park. They show the creation of 5 full time parking bays for tourist coaches, as well as a toilet block and tourist hub to be built in the middle of the Winkipop car park.
These plans are completely unsatisfactory and they raise some interesting questions. For example: it is illegal to operate a business on the Bells reserve without a permit. There is no question that tour bus operators are running their businesses on the Bells reserve without permits, but instead of prosecuting the bus companies like any other law breaker on the reserve (people camping overnight in the reserve for example), the Shire is going to great lengths to encourage them.
Another point: we currently have 5 or 6 large coaches in the reserve on most days, and yet the shire is maintaining a line that coaches will be limited to 5 at one time. The fact that the plans contain a tourist hub and additional toilets would suggest that the Shire has plans to maintain a constant through put of coaches during the day, equivalent in number to the current morning rush hour. To make room for this, carparking for recreational users will be reduced by about one third.
We believe the buses shouldn’t be in the reserve in the first place. There should be no modifications to the Bells reserve that serve to facilitate coach traffic, especially where those modifications have a detrimental effect on the ambience or the ecology of the reserve or reduce access for recreational stakeholders wanting to use the reserve in its intended manner.
The Bells Beach Preservation Society wants a blanket ban on tourist coaches and independent tour buses in the Bells Beach Reserve. Residential developments around Torquay and to the south of Geelong mean there will be a huge increase in visitors to Bells in the next 5 to 15 years. There is already enough traffic from surfers and drive in tourists on good surf days to completely fill the car park, so we believe it is important that the Shire makes the tough decision on buses now. A policy that accommodates the tour buses today will inevitably lead to increases in numbers and the Shire will soon find that it has to completely change the face of the reserve, just to accommodate the buses.
The natual ambience of Bells would be destroyed and those who suffer the most will be the recreational stakeholders for whom the reserve was created in the first place.
To accomodate the visitors wishing to see the surf coast on bus tours we would like to see regular mini bus shuttles that run from marshalling points in Torquay. Coach passengers that are interested in seeing Bells can have a coffee and use the toilets in town, maybe do a bit of shopping, and then get on a smaller bus for the trip out to the reserve. That way they will cause far less of a burden to the infrastructure.
If we could take the current tourist coach traffic out of the Bells equation there would be no need for a tourist hub at Winkipop, the mini buses could use the parking area near the picnic tables, the current Bells toilets could handle the through put and the Winkipop carpark – the gateway to Bells Beach and busiest area in the reserve – could be left alone.