National

Hard road ahead for 100yo Aussie icon

By AAP Newswire

Ageing tourism drawcard the Great Ocean Road is demanding a skyrocketing maintenance budget amid calls for a toll to help pay the bill.

Thursday marks 100 years since work started on the 243km winding road along a section of Victoria's east coast.

And like most 100-year-olds, the road has seen better days.

Erosion is one of the main threats to the road and the state government was warned in January that the popular tourist trek could be "compromised" within five years.

Lorne Historical Society member Peter Spring said a solution could be found by following "father-of-the-road" Howard Hitchcock, who raised funds for the road through tolls.

"There needs to be some serious consideration about imposing tolls on visitation on the Great Ocean Road otherwise the government will never allocate the funding necessary," Mr Spring said, noting exemptions for residents.

More than six million tourists a year travel along the road, which surpasses the number of visitors to Uluru and the Great Barrier reef combined.

"That's really created such a truly Australian icon that is recognised internationally," Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism chairman Wayne Kayler-Thomson told AAP.

But the road's popularity has also contributed to its struggles.

"Over three decades, successive governments have failed to really contribute to maintaining the road to the level it really requires," Mr Kayler-Thomson said.

"The road itself needs, in addition to the work that is already being carried out, about $25 million a year, every year.

"It would be a great opportunity at the centenary for governments to commit to that."

About $150 million in state and federal cash has been poured into fixing landslip areas and bridges along the heritage-listed treasure in recent years.

In 2020, the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority is tasked to plan for the future.

Mr Kayler-Thomson said the authority may look "to impose parking charges along the road as opposed to a toll" to have visitors chip in for maintenance.

As many minds focus on the road's future, Thursday's anniversary is a good chance to look at the past.

More than 3000 returned World War I servicemen built about 60km of the road.

The men cut the road into the side of the cliff between the Eastern View and Cape Patton with pick and shovels. They hung 30 metres over the ridge, secured by just a rope.

"It is disappointing that it doesn't get the recognition it deserves," Mr Spring said of the exhausting and dangerous work of veterans.

A centenary campaign launches on Wednesday with a screen documentary, pop-up cinemas and art installations among the activities stretching from Torquay to Apollo Bay.

The festivities will last until October 6.

GREAT OCEAN ROAD:

* More than 3000 returned servicemen and 600 civilians built the road

* Construction began on September 19, 1919

* The road is 243 kilometres long

* About 6.2 million people travel the road each year

* 1922: The section between Aireys Inlet and Lorne opened

* 1932: The Great Ocean Road opens

* 1936: The Country Roads Board takes back control from the Great Ocean Road Trust

* 2011: Added to the National Heritage List

* 2017: Victorian Government establishes the Great Ocean Road Taskforce to assess management and oversight

* 2018: State government unveils Great Ocean Road Action Plan