Great Ocean Road at risk from erosion and rising sea levels, report finds

Lisa Cox
The Great Ocean Road in Victoria will remain in place ‘for decades to come’ despite parts of it being at risk from erosion and rising sea levels. Photograph: maydays/Getty Images/Moment RF

Key sections of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road are at risk from erosion and need urgent action, a government-commissioned report has found.

But the Andrews Labor government said it would not change the road’s route.

It would remain in place “for many, many decades to come”.

The report’s authors, geomorphologist Neville Rosengren and geotechnical engineer Tony Miner, looked at erosion around the Apollo Bay and Mounts Bay areas over the past two years.

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They have warned that without urgent action, utilities on the seaward side of the road, and ultimately the road pavement, “could potentially be compromised in less than a decade and possibly within five years”.

The report raised rising sea levels as a problem but said renourishment works to replace lost sediment were not a long-term solution.

Instead it recommends looking at other engineering solutions, such as sea walls.

A separate report by the engineering firm GHD recommended re-routing the road as a long-term option, but the Victorian government ruled this out on Friday.

In an interview with 3AW, the energy, environment and climate minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, said several options were being considered.

“Those options … will continue to be considered, and all the necessary investment will certainly be in place and available to ensure that road, that route, remains in place, and there’s no reason to re-route that road,” she said.

“The road has been there for 100 years and will continue to be there for many many years, decades to come.”

At a press conference on Friday, D’Ambrosio said the government had invested $33m to tackle coastal erosion around the state and was investing $153m over a number of years to ensure the Great Ocean Road remained stable.

“What’s important here, of course, is that the report provides a number of options to mitigate against and protect that coastline against further erosion,” she said.

“In the worst case scenario, if nothing is done, there is some view that other measures may need to be taken in terms of the Great Ocean Road. However, what is important here is we are putting in place significant investment dollars to protect this iconic part of Victoria.”

The government plans to introduce legislation this year to establish a Great Ocean Road authority that will have oversight of measures taken to protect the tourist route.

“We need to be very clear that our government is absolutely committed to understanding the impacts of climate change on our coastal environments and that also therefore means that we need to be very careful and considered and very much committed to all of the necessary investments to protect coastal environments,” D’Ambrosio said.

Brian Westley, the acting chief regional roads officer at Regional Roads Victoria, said 2,000 soil rods were installed in the Mounts Bay area recently to reinforce the rock face, and rock nettings, retainer walls and rock walls were being installed.

He said VicRoads was “confident that we can make sure that this road in its current alignment is safe for generations to come”.

“Every site is assessed frequently and we’ll continue to monitor them,” he said.