Sustainable Tourism Discussion Paper

Sustainable Tourism Discussion Paper

Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’
South West Management Plan

Sustainable Tourism

(download  a PDF from the Resources page)


The planning area provides a rich tourism experience from coastal touring, wildlife watching, Gunditjmara Traditional Owners and non-Indigenous cultural heritage, nature immersion, walking and a variety of stunning landscapes.

The Value of Tourism

Victoria’s tourism industry is worth an estimated $15.1 billion and accounts for over 179,000 jobs. The Victorian Governments 10 Year Tourism and Events Industry Strategy identifiesnatural attractions as one of Victoria’s key tourism strengths (Tourism Victoria 2008). A nature-based tourism visitor is defined as a one who undertakes at least one nature-based activity during their visit. The most popular activities are going to the beach, bushwalking or rainforest walks, and visiting national parks or state parks (Tourism Victoria 2008).

Protected areas contribute to local, regional, state and national economies through tourism as well as enriching visitors’ psychological, emotional and spiritual wellbeing (Parks Forum 2008). Tourism in protected areas can bring people together and support education and learning. Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability (DSE) play an important role in supporting tourism policy development, research and development of tourism initiatives, particularly with respect to nature-based and cultural tourism. To ensure the sustainability of tourism Parks Victoria and DSE work with other organisations, such as Tourism Victoria, Tourism Australia, Aboriginal Tourism Victoria, Victorian Tourism Industry Council, Tourism Alliance regional and local tourism bodies, tourism providers and Traditional Owners.

Victoria's Nature-based Tourism Strategy 2008-2012(Tourism Victoria 2008) recognises the importance ofsustainability in nature-based tourismproducts and destinations and describes the following vision for the State:

Victoria will be recognised as the leading sustainable nature-based tourism destination in Australia renowned for its diverse and accessible natural attractions.

Five directions have been identified to achieve this vision.

  1. Creating supportive frameworks and partnerships - Creating an ‘enabling environment’ to attract nature-based tourism investment and maintain the integrity of the natural environment.
  2. Planning and managing sustainable destinations - Fostering sustainable practices, including carbon reduction initiatives and strategies, to maintain a healthy environment.
  3. Developing authentic, memorable experiences - Filling identified access, activity, amenity and accommodation gaps through public and private investment.
  4. Facilitating viable and innovative businesses - Seeking to increase the triple bottom line – economic, environment and social – and sustainability of the industry.
  5. Effective marketing - Enhancing the competitive positioning of Victoria as a destination with world-class natural attractions.

Key attractions/experiences and locations in the planning area identified in the Strategy include coastal scenery, whales, Great South West Walk, Lower Glenelg River canoeing, bird watching at Point Danger (Portland), seals (Cape Bridgewater), whale watching (Portland and Cape Bridgewater), Aboriginal cultural heritage, Discovery Bay Coastal Park, Mount Eccles National Park/Lake Condah and Cape Bridgewater.

The Strategy recommends a landscape approach beyond individual parks or iconic attractions; between government agencies and the community; to destination planning, management and development. The Strategy also identifies two priority development hubs of the Grampians and Great Ocean Road which by association could provide benefits to sustainable tourism in the planning area.


Sustainable tourism meets the needs of present generations without compromising the needs of future generations. Sustainable tourism does not impact on the environment, economy, and society of a particular destination (Tourism Victoria 2008).

Tourism can have a significant impact on the natural and cultural environment. Creating a balance between the interests of tourists, communities and the environment – and recognising mutual dependency – requires a partnership approach to guarantee the industry’s long term future.

Protected areas play an important role in tourism, creating significant benefits for businesses and communities and contributing around $960 million annually to the state economy. A report on the economic value of three National Parks in Victoria identified that in 2001/02 Grampians National Park contributed $246m to the Victorian economy and Port Campbell National Park contributed $190.4m. Both these parks are adjacent to the planning area and there may be opportunities to leverage off these destinations. Protected areas also provide benefits through protection of environmental and cultural values and social benefits through providing recreation and social opportunities (PricewaterhouseCoopers 2003). Tourism activities within protected areas take a number of forms:

  • facilities and activities managed directly;
  • facilities and activities managed by a third party under a lease;
  • ·activities that are managed under permit or licence;
  • other commercial partnerships and
  • other partnerships.

Directly managed facilities and activities: Camping areas, hiking trails, roads, tracks, lookouts, interpretation programs, visitor centres, scenic features and guided tours.

Facilities and activities managed by a third party under a lease: The Cape Nelson Lighthouse and Princess Margaret Rose Caves are examples of such an arrangement within the planning area. Generally, a business will apply for a lease through a tender process following a call for expressions of interest. Leases aim at ensuring that natural and cultural values are protected and that the services provided to visitors are appropriate.

Activities managed under permit or licence: Protected areas create significant benefits for individual businesses, in particular for Victoria’s 300 licensed tour operators (LTOs). Parks Victoria issues permits and licences to allow a LTOs to operate within parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria and DSE. Activities offered by LTOs include horse riding, angling, four wheel driving, guided tours, abseiling, caving, bird watching, walking and canoeing.

LTO permits include a range of conditions to ensure the activities are compatible with park management objectives. Licensed tour operators play a significant role in providing access and educating visitors about parks and reserves values and appropriate use. Visitors who may not normally be able to experience these values or undertake specific activities because of lack of suitable equipment, transport or experience, can do so on commercial tours.

It is important to recognise that LTOs need to have the endorsement of relevant Traditional Owners to interpret their Country. In the ‘planning area this is the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment Policy for Sustainable Recreation and Tourism on Victoria’s Public Land 2002(DNRE 2002). provides some direction for licensed tour operations, stating that:

Commercial recreation and tourism trade or business purposes will continue to require the express written consent (licence) of the relevant land management authority … Access to public land for the public will continue to generally be ‘as of right’ except where limited by statute, management plan or other management reason. General public access or specific activities may be restricted at certain sites for reasons such as protection of natural and cultural values, visitor safety and user conflicts.

DSE is leading a project to improve the licensing system for tour operators and activity providers operating on public land in Victoria. The improved licensing arrangements will encourage a viable, growing, nature-based tourism industry on public land and ensure safe and sustainable use of our public spaces. Specifically, the project objectives are to:

  • improve opportunities for industry investment and security
  • create a simpler and more efficient licensing system
  • encourage higher operating standards
  • improve management of visitation levels to ensure public safety and protect environmental values
  • improve compliance, and
  • manage all organised groups in an appropriate and equitable manner.

Parks Victoria, Tourism Victoria and the Tourism Alliance are closely involved in the project.

Commercial partnerships:  In some cases Parks Victoria and DSE undertake Public–Private Partnerships to facilitate public and private sector investment in the establishment and management of tourism infrastructure. Although there are no current examples within the planning area, potential opportunities for this investment model could develop.

Other partnerships: Parks Victoria, Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation and DSE engage in partnerships with non–commercial and community groups to provide sustainable tourism experiences. These can include recreation groups such as 4WD associations, friends groups and educational institutions. In the planning area Parks Victoria works closely with the Friends of the Great South West Walk in planning, management and marketing of the walk.

National Landscapes Program: Tourism Australia’s National Landscapes Program is a partnership between the conservation and tourism management sectors. The program captures and promotes the best of Australia to achieve conservation, social and economic outcomes for the country and its regions. A National Landscape goes beyond individual national park boundaries or iconic visitor attractions. It is not about municipal or State boundaries; instead, a National Landscape is united by its world class experiences of environmental or cultural significance. This approach encourages greater collaboration between the parties that govern, preserve and promote it. The Great Ocean Road has National Landscape Status and there is potential leveraging the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape and possibly the broader planning area from this.


Climate change is likely to cause increased risks of bushfires, increased storm events, raising sea levels, declining rainfall in southern Australia, higher temperatures leading to decreasing water supplies, loss of biodiversity and invasion of weeds and other pests. Victoria's Nature-based Tourism Strategy 2008-2012states ‘climate change is anticipated to have profound implications that could fundamentally transform aspects of the tourism sector both here in Victoria and in other parts of the world’ (Tourism Victoria 2008). Climate change for the tourism sector can also represent an opportunity; visitors are ‘now seeking experiences and destinations that are actively reducing their impacts on climate change and the size of their carbon footprint’ (Tourism Victoria 2008).

For the planning area increased risks of bushfires may increase the number of days that protected areas are closed to the public as well as threaten natural and cultural values. Increased sea levels and storm surges may impact on coastal infrastructure. The vitality of wetlands and water courses may also be compromised.

Climate change may on the other hand mean that warmer temperatures could extend tourism seasons. In addition impacts in other regions may influence and increase visitation to the south west, e.g. declining water availability in the Murray River may lead to increased use of the Glenelg River for canoeing, camping and kayaking.


Protected areas provide either the site or the setting for the many of Victoria’s opportunities for nature and Indigenous cultural-based tourism and recreational activities. Some Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities deliver their own face-to-face tours. In the planning area, Budj Bim Tours, a Gunditjmara Traditional Owners company, operate guided tours of Mt Eccles NP, Lake Condah Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), Lake Condah Mission, Tyrendarra IPA and Kurtonitj IPA.

Parks Victoria’s Indigenous Partnership Strategy and Action Plan (Parks Victoria 2005), under review, outlines the recognition, rights and aspirations of Traditional Owners. Strategies and actions for Tourism, Information, Interpretation and Education include:

  • To provide opportunities and work in partnership with Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities to develop materials and events, facilitate tours and educational programs and support the development of appropriate enterprises.
  • To support relevant tourism enterprises and educators to provide information, interpretation and education (II&E) to park visitors, and staff on Indigenous cultural heritage and history that has been developed in conjunction with Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities.
  • To ensure that tourism and educational products reflect Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities’ connection to land, water and sea, culture, spiritual associations of place and are in accord with their aspirations (PV 2005).

Victoria's Aboriginal Tourism Development Plan 2006-2009 states ‘Victoria's Indigenous tourism sector has been growing steadily for almost a decade, proving that it adds a vital and engaging dimension to the State's tourism product’ (Tourism Victoria 2006). Aboriginal Tourism Victoria encourages the development of quality Aboriginal tourism products throughout Victoria.

Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape

The Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape is sacred to the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners, containing one of Australia’s largest and oldest aquaculture systems.

For thousands of years the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners flourished through channelling water flows and systematically harvesting eels to ensure a year round supply. The Gunditjmara Traditional Owners lived in permanent settlements, dispelling the myth that Australia’s Indigenous peoples were all nomadic.

  • The Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape was declared by the Australian Government in July 2004 for the following national values:
  • outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's importance in the course, or pattern, of Australia's natural or cultural history.
  • ·outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the places' possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Australia's natural or cultural history.
  • outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.
  • the outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place's importance as part of Indigenous tradition.

Lake Condah Sustainable Development Project

The Lake Condah Sustainable Development Project (LCSDP) was initiated in 2002 by the Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation and is a Gunditjmara Traditional Owners community initiative that has successfully engaged the broader community in the southwest of Victoria. The priority goal is to sustainably develop the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape as a major heritage park through inclusive activities that engage communities, land owners, governments, industry, schools and education institutions.

The overall project is envisaged to become a major hub for eco and cultural tourism and a major demonstration project exploring appropriate pathways to sustainable development.

The project is based on strong local leadership and a positive vision for a sustainable prosperity for the communities in the far south west of Victoria. Parks Victoria and DSE are partners in the LCSDP. Two of the LCSDP objectives that relate to tourism are:

Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape Sustainable Tourism Plan

The Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape Sustainable Tourism Plan is an outcome of the LCSDP. Its purpose was to:

  • Focus on the Mount Eccles, Lake Condah and Tyrendarra places.
  • Complement the Aboriginal and natural attractions of south western Victoria.
  • Identify ways to promote the national heritage values of the places and to attract visitors to experience and share the Indigenous national values of the places.
  • Confirm market attractiveness and demand.
  • Outline concepts for the delivery of a sustainable tourism product.
  • Identify benefits and opportunities for the region from increased visitation to places.
  • Recommend appropriate facilities and interpretive signage for places.

The plan was based on best practice and the Commonwealth Government’s Steps to Sustainable Tourism and the Victorian Aboriginal Tourism Development Plan taking a triple bottom line approach to address economic, social and environmental issues (Context et al 2007).

The plan identified that the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape could become one of the most significant Indigenous tourist experiences in the south west. Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape could provide an opportunity to provide an authentic Indigenous tourism experience capturing visitors to two of Victoria’s major tourist regions (Great Ocean Road and the Grampians) and to encourage visitors to further explore the area. In addition, the plan indentified Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape could provide the opportunity to tie together the existing environmental and cultural aspects of the region including the national parks (e.g. Mt Eccles National Park), and Indigenous centres such as Brambuk and Tower Hill, and to be a major point on any Indigenous or environmental trail developed through the region.

The Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape Sustainable Tourism Plan (Context et al 2007) identified the following short to longer term priority actions:

  • Budj Bim Interpretation and Orientation Centre at Heywood
  • Smaller visitors and interpretation point at Tyrendarra
  • Self-guided tours at Tyrendarra
  • More intensive education/training centre based at Kurtonitj
  • Guided walk at Kurtonitj
  • Longer guided immersive tours associated with Lake Condah including trail from Mt
  • Eccles NP
  • Eel processing-developing premium smoked eel product
  • Festivals/events
  • Development of support services

Many of these priority actions have been implemented. In 20011 Lake Condah/Budj Bim NHL was identified in the Great Ocean Road World Class Tourism Investment Study as a priority project including:

  • Restoration of Lake Condah church.
  • Development of an international learning centre at Lake Condah.
  • Development of employment and enterprise activities focused on tourism, accommodation
  • Aquaculture, bush tucker and supporting activities.


Great nature-based tourism experiences typically depend on more than what individual settings offer on their own. Enhancing the standard of services provided, as well as linking on-park with off-park public and private tourism products and services (e.g. walks, roads, lookouts, interpretation centres, accommodation, food and wine, local products, and Aboriginal heritage) help create and enhance memorable nature-based tourism experiences.

The parks, reserves and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation properties and IPAs form an important nature-based element of two Victoria tourism regions – the ‘Great Ocean Road’ and the ‘Grampians’. Tourism Victoria’s Tourism Victoria - Regional Tourism Action Plan identified that both the Great Ocean Road and Grampians have tourism intensive economies with a high proportion of tourism related businesses contributing to local employment (Tourism Victoria 2009).

The Regional Tourism Action Plan discusses a number of tourism development opportunities and priority actions for the Great Ocean Road and Grampians regions which are relevant to the planning area.

Great Ocean Road

  • Building upon the supply of high quality tourism product that enhances nature-based and touring experiences.
  • Encouraging visitor dispersal and yield across the region.
  • Working in partnership with Tourism Australia and the Steering Committee of The Great Ocean Road to leverage the region’s inclusion in the National Landscapes initiative;
  • Continuing to enhance the region’s appeal to international markets through involvement with initiatives such as those associated with the Great Southern Touring Route.
  • Working with relevant government agencies to realise the direction and priority actions of Victoria’s Nature-based Tourism Strategy 2008–2012.


  • Leveraging off the Grampians region being identified as a priority in Victoria’s Nature-based Tourism Strategy 2008–2012 to realise investment attraction, product development and marketing priorities.
  • Nature-based and adventure tourism infrastructure and product including walking and bicycle trails to capitalise on the region’s natural assets;
  • Enhancing the region’s involvement in international marketing activities through initiatives associated with the Great Southern Touring Route;
  • Improving linkages between indigenous and nature-based tourism experiences.
  • (Tourism Victoria 2009)
  • Emerging tourism trends in the planning area which can lead to other opportunities as well as potentially cause issues are:
  • Recreation fishing associated with tuna which sees a large influx of visitors to the Portland area during the Bonney Upwelling, a seasonal change in the ocean current. Over a three month period around Autumn/Winter between 200-400 boats are launched daily to fish for tuna.
  • The planned redevelopment of Portland Harbour to accommodate cruise ships. Early indication is that the cruise companies are interested in whales, beaches and Aboriginal tourism.
  • Harvesting of pine and blue gum plantations with increased log truck traffic on roads used by tourists.
  • At a local level the Glenelg Shire Council, Discovery Coast Tourism, Portland Tourism Association, Moyne Shire Council and Southern Grampians Shire Council are active in promoting and developing tourism in the planning area.

Volcanic Plains Tourism

Geotourism encompasses tourists experiencing natural landscapes including landforms and rocks, as well as the processes that shaped them over time. The Kanawinka Geopark (Australia’s first Geopark), covering south west Victoria and south east South Australia was declared the 57th Member of the Global Network of National Geoparks endorsed by UNESCO on 22 June 2008.

The planning area contains several locations identified in the Kanawinka Global Geopark. Precincts and associated parks as well as Gunditjmara owned properties and Indigenous Protected Areas identified in the Kanawinka Global Geopark include:

  • Lava Flows Precinct – Byaduk Caves and Mt Napier SP, Lake Condah, Mt Eccles NP
  • Dundas Tableland Precinct – Baileys Rocks and Dergholm SP
  • Coasts and Caves Precinct – Cape Bridgewater and Bridgewater Bay, Petrified Forest, Glenelg River Gorge, The Great South West Walk, Princess Margaret Rose Caves and Mt Richmond NP.

Marketing and Promotion

The Victorian Nature-based Tourism Strategy identifies the need tointegrate marketing activities acrossgovernment and the tourism industry to ensure consistency ofmessaging and promoting nature-basedtourism for Victoria. A coordinated marketing effort would expedite the process for raising the perception and awareness of Victoria through consistent messaging and imagery for nature-based tourism (Tourism Victoria 2008).


Sustainable tourism in the planning area may include new and existing opportunities for both the public and private sector to improve the tourism and visitor experience. Co- management of Mount Eccles National Park by the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners with Parks Victoria and partnerships between the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners with Parks Victoria DSE may provide many opportunities for sustainable tourism in the area and significant opportunities to integrate Indigenous tourism and provide economic, social and cultural benefit to Gunditjmara Traditional Owners. Examples include long distance walks supported by appropriate accommodation, mountain bike trails between parks and Gunditjmara Traditional Owners properties, adventure touring and learning centres.

Other opportunities in the planning area include:

  • Leverage off the Adelaide to Melbourne Touring Route
  • Development of bush tucker tourism by Gunditjmara Traditional Owners
  • Providing sustainable experiences for cruise ship customers – Budj Bim Tours
  • Maintain Respect Our Country Certification and Seek Eco Certification and Eco Guide Accreditation for Budj Bim Tours.
  • Leverage off the Great Ocean Road National Landscape status for the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape
  • Further investigate feasibility of the proposed Gunditjmara Ecolodge.
  • The Gunditjmara Traditional Owners have an aspiration for a skills audit and training/capacity building in all aspects of park management.
  • Investigate opportunities for Private/Public partnerships
  • Review existing state and regional tourism strategies to ascertain new and emerging opportunities or directions.
  • Co-operative marketing activities.
  • LTOs induction with Gunditjmara Traditional Owners when they nominate to operate in parks and reserves within the ‘Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’ South West Management Plan area.
  • Further investigate recommendation for Lake Condah/Budj Bim NHL in the Great Ocean Road World Class Tourism Investment Strategy.


The major direction for sustainable tourism in the planning area is to continue to work with others to deliver memorable experiences. The experiences should deliver an economic, social and environmental benefit to Victoria and the region.


  • What opportunities for the operation of tourism and visitor facilities do you believe are important for private sector investment in the planning area?
  • What role does the parks, reserves and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation properties and IPAs have in the provision of tourism and visitor product and services?
  • What opportunities for Gunditjmara Traditional Owners tourism could the planning area provide beyond implementation of the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape Sustainable Tourism Plan?
  • What are the opportunities to leverage off the Great Southern Touring Route, Great Ocean Road and Grampians NP?
  • What partnerships need to be developed particularly with the Great Ocean Road, Grampians, Discovery Coast Tourism, local tourism associations, Visitor Information Centres and Shire Councils?
  • Who are the groups who should be involved in these partnerships – e.g. PV, DSE, CMAs, local councils, Gunditjmara Traditional Owners?
  • How do we incorporate the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners landscapes in promotion – Stone Country, Sea Country, Forest Country and River Country?
  • What do you think attracts tourists to the planning area?


Context Pty Ltd, Sinclair Knight Merz & Urban Initiatives 2007, Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape Sustainable Tourism Plan, Report Prepared for Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation, Heywood.

Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency - Home - Think Change website

Department of Innovation Industry and Regional Development, 2006, Victorian 10 Year Tourism and Events Industry Strategy.

DNRE 2002, Policy for Sustainable Recreation and Tourism on Victoria’s Public Land, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Melbourne.

Kanawinka Global Geopark website (accessed 29/4/2010)

Parks Victoria 2005, Indigenous Partnership Strategy and Action Plan, Parks Victoria, Melbourne.

Parks Forum 2008, The Value of Parks,

PricewaterhouseCoopers 2003, Parks Victoria – Economic value of three of Victoria’s National Parks, Report prepared for Parks Victoria, Melbourne.

Tourism Victoria2006, Victoria's Aboriginal Tourism Development Plan 2006-2009, Tourism Victoria, Melbourne.

Tourism Victoria2008, The Victorian Nature-based Tourism Strategy 2008-2012, Tourism Victoria, Melbourne.

Tourism Victoria 2009, The Regional Tourism Action Plan 2009 – 2012, Tourism Victoria, Melbourne.

Contact: James Hackel

Phone: 0429950623