THE long-awaited opening of the ‘New Link Road’ to Phillip Island yesterday might be good news for those going to the Island but it could be bad news for business and tourism operators south of the new interchange on the Bass Highway.
That’s the view of the Wonthaggi Business Association which has called on the State Government to inject some new promotional funding into the area.
At the group’s annual general meeting last Wednesday night, November 27, the issue was the main subject under discussion after the Manager of the State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi’s main tourist attraction, Braxton Laine, said he was concerned about the priority given to the new link road.
“The new road makes the turn to Wonthaggi irrelevant,” Mr Laine said.
“Phillip Island is by far this region’s biggest tourist attraction and there’s already a disconnect between the Island and the rest of the Bass Coast area.
“There’s already a reluctance by visitors to come off the Island and visit places further east and this is only going to make it harder,” he said.
“It’s all set up to take people on and off the Island, which is great as far as it goes, but they won’t even know this part of the world exists.”
Mr Laine said the Kilcunda to Wilsons Promontory area had some of the most magnificent coastal locations in the world and it was important that visitors going to the Island knew about it.
“I’ve been madly trying to make links with tourist attractions on the island to encourage people to visit us (at the State Coal Mine) but I feel we could be hit by the opening of the new road.
“You only have to look at the way it sweeps the majority of the traffic off to the island, leaving the other road looking like it goes nowhere.”
Members of the Wonthaggi Business Association agreed and they plan to write to the Bass Coast Shire Council to take up their concerns with the State Government.
The move is backed by the WBA’s new president Ross Langlois.
Here’s what they want:
* A large tourism sign featuring a picture of the Kilcunda ocean vista, saying: ‘This way to the spectacular Bunurong Coastal Drive, Wonthaggi, Inverloch and Wilsons Promontory’
* State Government funding for a promotional relaunch of the area after the impact of the desal project and the ‘Link’ road opening
* Possibly a new name for the Bass Highway beyond the ‘Link’ road interchange challenging the cache of the Great Ocean Road.
Vice president of the WBA, and a local real estate agent involved with the Victorian Desalination Project Accommodation Accord, Pat Barry, supported the proposal saying the State Government had promised relaunch funding post-desal.
“When the desalination project workers took over the holiday house accommodation for a couple of years, people stopped coming to the area because they couldn’t rent any houses and some simply haven’t come back again, Mr Barry said.
“We didn’t ask for this development and it’s up to the government to help restore the position before the project began,” he said.
“We were promised that there would be funding for a relaunch of the area post-desal but that never eventuated. This would be a great opportunity to make good on that promise and also the opening of the new link road.”
Out-going president of the Wonthaggi Business Association, Malcolm Beasley, said he would like to see the Bass Coast Business and Tourism Partnership, of which the WBA is a key member, working more closely with Phillip Island Tourism and Business to the benefit of the whole area.
He suggested the WBA should get the VicRoads’ data to see what impact the new link road was having on the area, noting that it was even more inconvenient for people to come off the island and go to Wonthaggi and beyond.
“This coastal drive is the equal of the Great Ocean Road to the west and it needs to be promoted as such to visitors, especially those who might want to take the coastal route through the area to Sydney.”
Mr Beasley said the past year had been a momentous one for the association, resulting in increased memberships and closer ties with the council.
He said the street trading concessions were an important “win” for traders, the economic forum was a success with recommendations to be released soon and plans to promote the town in place for Christmas.
Mr Langlois said his priorities included addressing parking problems, including the provision of all-day parking areas, the development of the McBride Avenue Market idea and general improvements to the amenity of the trading environment.
Elected to the main roles were as follows: Ross Langlois president, Pat Barry vice president, Braxton Laine secretary and Malcolm Beasley treasurer.