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Recreation Activities Discussion Paper

Recreation Activities Discussion Paper

‘Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’
South West Management Plan
Recreation Activities

(download  a PDF from the Resources page)


The ‘Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’ South West Management Plan planning area provides the setting for a wide variety of recreation activities that form part of the broader visitor experience, ranging from short walks, hiking, camping to scenic driving and 4WD touring. These activities are undertaken largely in a self-reliant manner, while some take place in larger, organised groups. Importantly, many activities are run through tour operators supporting a growing tourism industry. Visitors to the area are critical to the regional economy and this is increasingly being understood.

The purpose of this paper is to invite community discussion on the future directions for recreation in the ‘Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’ South West planning area. It is important to recognise that in planning for the future, we are not working with a blank slate – the land is subject to legislation and Government policy which provides boundaries for use, and that further guidance is provided through approved strategies and plans.

The Visitor Experience Discussion Paper also discusses recreation and how it is managed and should be considered in conjunction with this paper.



Legislation and Policy

The parks and reserves of the planning area are managed variously under the National Parks Act 1975 (Vic.), the National Parks (Park) Regulations 2003, the Forests Act 1958 (Vic.), the Land Act 1958 (Vic.) and Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 (Vic.), Wildlife Act 1975 (Vic.), Reference Areas Act 1978 (Vic.) and the Heritage Rivers Act 1992 (Vic.). The National Parks Act provides for the use and enjoyment of national parks in balance with the primary purpose of nature conservation.

The Indigenous Protected Areas of the planning area are managed according to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth)

DSE’s Policy for Sustainable Recreation and Tourism on Victoria's Public Land 2002 provides the state-wide policy setting for recreation and tourism on public land. This policy is currently under review by DSE.

Other relevant legislation includes:

  • Indigenous Cultural Heritage in is protected under the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006
  • Issues relating to native title are dealt with according to the Native Title Act 1993 (Cwlth). This Act sets down the basic principles in relation to claims for native title, and provides for the validation of past acts, actions undertaken on land prior to the Act being proclaimed. It also provides for future acts, protecting native title rights and imposing conditions on actions affecting native title on land and waters.

The Gunditjmara Traditional Owners 2007 Native Title consent determination recognised the non-exclusive native title rights of the Gunditjmara people over 140,000 hectares of vacant Crown Land, national parks, reserves, rivers, creeks and sea north- west of Warrnambool.

The recognised native title rights and interests of the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners include the non-exclusive right to:

  • have access to or enter and remain on the land and waters
  • camp on the land and waters landward of the high water mark of the sea
  • use and enjoy the land and waters
  • protect places and areas of importance on the land and waters
  • take resources of the land and water.


Parks Victoria has developed a number of operational guidelines to assist the management of recreation. These guidelines provide staff with the legislative and policy framework for a range of activities along with broad operational guidelines to ensure activities are sustainably planned, designed and managed. Visitors can access information about the planning area through Parks Victoria’s 13 1963 Information Centre and Parkweb website, DSE’s Information line 13 6186 and website and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation website.

Group activity management is assisted through the Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) developed by the Outdoor Recreation Centre. Developed in 2005 to describe safe and responsible practices the AAS are minimum standards and codes of practice for organisations conducting outdoor recreation activities. The AAS are embedded in Parks Victoria’s licensed tour operator permit conditions. Visitors conducting group activities are encouraged to comply with the AAS relevant to their activity.

Parks Victoria works co-operatively with a range of peak recreational bodies to provide better and sustainable experiences in parks and reserves that Parks Victoria has management responsibility for several Memoranda of Cooperation (MOC) or Understanding have been prepared which assist these relationships and document the intent to openly co-operate and communicate.

Parks Victoria currently has MOCs with:

  • Four Wheel Drive Victoria
  • Australian Deer Association
  • Sporting Shooters Association
  • Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA)
  • Bushwalking Victoria
  • Field & Game Association.


Recreation activities are a key means for people to engage with the protected area environment. Recreation activities have been broadly grouped into two categories:

  • ‘Nature’ based activities have a strong focus on the natural setting
  • ‘Adventure’ based activities are those where visitors are attracted by the activity itself

Nature based activities

  • Camping
  • Historic and cultural appreciation
  • Nature appreciation
  • Short walking, dog walking
  • Sightseeing and bird watching
  • Touring

Adventure based activities

  • Bushwalking, overnight hiking, trail running
  • Canoeing or kayaking
  • Cycling, mountain biking
  • Fishing
  • Hang gliding
  • Horse riding
  • Dune driving

To inform the development of the ‘Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’ South West Management Plan a Public Participatory GIS website project will be conducted to capture visitors’ experiences as well as values and threats.



Climate change impacts on recreation and tourism that are likely to affect visitation and visitor experiences are:

  • Landscape character and quality changes. The attractiveness of sites and activities may be reduced as a result of changing frequency of weather and environmental conditions, including a reduction in season length.
  • Loss or reduction of access to water. Water-based activity options could be reduced where lakes and rivers suffer significant reductions in water levels or the quality and quantity of natural water supplies from creeks and rivers declines.
  • Species attractiveness decline. Changes to the distribution, scale, health and behaviour of featured wildlife populations or plant communities.
  • Environmental amenity decline. Accelerated loss of biodiversity or heritage value, weed and pest invasions and loss of amenity and venue quality at formal and informal sports grounds and passive recreation areas.
  • Bushfire risk. Real or perceived changes to bushfire risk and increased risk of facility damage due to bushfire.
  • Risk from storm surge and extreme weather events. Increased damage to coastal facilities from tidal impact and storm surge affects coastal safety and amenity.
  • Park access reduced. Park closures, access controls and other restrictions resulting from fire and weather conditions or environmental protection requirements could restrict visitor’s freedom of choice.


Bushwalking, Overnight Hiking and Trail Running           

The planning area provides plenty of opportunities for bushwalking from shorter walks to longer day walks and overnight hiking. Visitors involved in bushwalking need to have a higher degree of preparation, skill and equipment. Trail running is an emerging activity proving popular amongst active recreationists.

The Great South West Walk (GSWW) is a popular venue for bushwalking and camping and provides a variety of sustainable walking opportunities. The GSWW provides an excellent opportunity to explore the fascinating variety of scenery and wildlife in the planning area. The track winds inland from Portland to Nelson via the Cobboboonee forest and the Glenelg River and then returns along the rugged coastline to complete the loop with plenty of campsites along the way. The GSWW is often described as 'Nature's own symphony in four movements’ – the four movements being the natural environments of the forest, the pristine river, the white sandy bays and the rugged capes. The Friends of the GSWW have a long and valued association with the walk’s development, maintenance and promotion.


Camping has evolved over the years from pitching a basic tent and cooking over a fire to a more diverse activity. Increasingly visitors are equipped with car rooftop tents, camper trailers, campervans and caravans. In addition, standing camps with luxury facilities are increasingly popular. Camping is an activity undertaken by small groups but also is popular for larger groups associated with social occasions, education, tours and events.

The Lower Glenelg National Park has long been a popular venue for camping and offers a unique setting for campers, with designated camping sites provided on the river flats along the Glenelg River which are popular with canoeists. The GSWW, Mt Eccles National Park, Cobboboonee National Park and Forest Park, Discovery Bay Coastal Park, Dergholm State Park and Crawford River Regional Park offer plenty of camping opportunities with designated camping sites for walkers, canoeist and horse riders.

In the parks and reserves in the planning area the parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria have a range of different camping facilities and Levels of Service. The majority of camping is either of basic or mid level nature. Basic sites have limited whilst mid level sites where toilets, tables and other facilities exist that are serviced to a higher standard.

Canoeing and Kayaking

Canoeing and kayaking provide a different level of adventure and means of experiencing the parks and reserves in the planning area. Canoeing and kayaking are generally more suited to the calm Glenelg River and Bridgewater Lakes offering a peaceful way to observe the landscape. The 75km stretch of the Glenelg River can be experienced from upriver, through rolling bush land and ancient limestone gorges to the sweeping estuary. There are eight designated canoe campsites for canoeists along the river with fireplaces, toilets and water available at all sites. A number of Licensed Tour Operators offer activities for people who do not have the equipment or experience to undertake them individually.


The planning area has many beaches, lakes, rivers and streams which provide some amazing fishing destinations. Fishing is a relaxing sport that can be enjoyed for a lifetime and is a great way to enjoy being in the great outdoors whilst developing an appreciation for nature and the natural environment.

Fishing or the removal of marine life (including bait) or artefacts is not permitted in Discovery Bay Marine National Park.

Recreational fishers have a responsibility to help look after fisheries resources for the benefit of the environment and future generations of fishers. Regulations relating to recreational fishing are managed by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI). VRFish, the Victorian Recreational Fishing peak body, has prepared a Code of Conduct for recreational fishing in Victoria. The Code of Conduct provides guidelines on how to ensure sustainable fishing practices so that the environment is protected and important fisheries resources are maintained for the future. All recreational fishers should follow and observe the code.

Horse riding

The planning area provides many opportunities for horse riding in particular the Cobboboonee National Park and Forest Park. Lower Glenelg National Park, Mount Richmond National Park and Discovery Bay Coastal Park also have designated horse riding routes.

The Great Cobboboonee Horse Trail extends over 60kms of forest roads, running north to south in Cobboboonee National Park. The trail has two camp grounds with horse yards and water trough facilities, which specifically cater for horse riders wishing to camp overnight, with have horse yards and water trough facilities. Cobboboonee Forest Park provides for shorter rides with a designated horse trail day ride.


Caving is undertaken in some parts of the planning area, particularly in Mount Eccles National Park, Mount Napier State Park (Byaduk Caves), Lower Glenelg National Park and Discovery Bay Coastal Park (Tarragal Caves, Bats Ridge). Caves can be important habitat for bats. Although caves and karst values may be highly sensitive to potential impacts from the activity, several provision are in place to manage the activity sustainably. Parks Victoria engages with the Victorian Speleological Association and the Australian Caves and Karsts Management Association to protect caves and karsts and to ensure the activity is sustainable.

Trail Bike Riding

Trail bike riding is popular throughout the planning area subject to the same restrictions as other vehicle users. Trail bike riding often produces high levels of noise which can disturb other users and local residents and can have substantial impacts on the condition of roads and tracks. To protect park values, off-track riding and driving is not permitted (see Roads and Access Discussion Paper). Trail bike riding can currently occur on the designated trail bike track in the Cobboboonee Forest Park under a DSE recreation permit. Normal conditions apply and bikes are required to be registered and the rider licensed.

Guidelines and information on trail bike riding on public land can be found on the DSE Trail Bike Riding 'Ride for Tomorrow' webpage. Parks Victoria and DSE support the development of relationships between the park managers and the peak amateur trail bike riding bodies in Victoria such as the Australian Motorcycle Trail Riders Association (AMTRA).


Cycling and Mountain Biking

Cycling and mountain biking are some of the fastest growing activities in the planning area; there has been a significant increase over the last decade in visitors seeking out mountain bike experiences in parks and reserves. Currently most road-based cycling is on roads managed by other agencies but often traverse the park network (link to Roads and Access Discussion Paper).

The opportunities for cycling and mountain biking are currently limited to bitumen and gravel roads. Mountain bikers prefer narrow winding tracks that are well designed and constructed for their activity. The distance travelled by mountain bikers means that longer trail networks are required. Like other visitors they require additional facilities at visitor sites to support their activity and longer duration in the park or reserve.

The Budj Bim Trail is a mountain bike trail that crosses between Mt Eccles NP and Lake Condah IPA

Dog Walking

Dogs are generally not permitted in national parks and State parks, as they can have negative impacts on natural values. However, dogs may be permitted in other areas of public land, including Regional Parks and State forests.

Within the planning area, there are limited areas where dogs are permitted. These areas are: Cobboboonee Forest Park, Discovery Bay Coastal Park - between tide marks on Bridgewater Beach and Nelson Ocean Beach, one site within Dergholm State Park – Baileys Rocks visitor area and Crawford River Regional Park.


Boating on the Glenelg River and Bridgewater Lakes is very popular for boat based recreation. The major activities are; angling, canoeing, water-skiing, cruising, picnicking and camping. Launching and landing of watercraft is possible at many sites along the Glenelg River downstream of Moleside. Motor boat based activities must be managed to ensures consistency with park management objectives.


Orienteering often involves large groups of participants from clubs, schools and other non-commercial groups. Organised and competitive events require a permit. Although the activity may have limited impacts on the parks, large groups may have a significant impact on park values or other park users through associated activities such as camping. Currently orienteering is not allowed in Lower Glenelg and Mt Eccles National Parks.

Managing Recreation Activities

All recreational activities can have an effect or impact on the natural environment, and cultural values. Impacts can include such things as trampling of vegetation, site disturbance and damage, dispersal of weeds or bank erosion. It is also important to maintain controls to avoid conflict between competing activities.

Parks Victoria uses management zoning as a tool used to identify the broad intent of managing particular areas of parks and reserves. Zoning must be consistent with the aims for the park and the terms of the park vision. Management zoning:

  • provides a geographic framework in which to manage a park  
  • reflects sensitivity, fragility and remoteness of natural values  
  • indicates which management directions have priority in different parts of the park  
  • indicates the types and levels of use that are appropriate throughout the park  
  • assists in minimising existing and potential conflicts between uses and activities, or between activities and the protection of the park's values  
  • provides a basis for assessing the suitability of future activities and development proposals.



  • Identify and respond to social trend changes over time i.e.: changes to the number and type of people camping; changes in expectations regarding facilities
  • Identify and respond to demographic change and expectations
  • Working with Local Government Authorities and local tourists to create attitude changes
  • Managing the conflicts between different user groups to ensure a positive recreational experience.
  • Engagement with the different recreation groups to create collaboration.
  • Strengthen partnerships with Friends of the Great South West Walk.
  • Gunditjmara Traditional Owners aspiration for skills audit and training/capacity building in all aspects of protected area management.



Key factors which will influence recreation activities in the planning area into the future include:

  • The need to maintain a balance between recreational use, the protection of the environmental and cultural values and ongoing management of visitor facilities.
  • The need to provide improved facilities for nature-based activities along some key touring routes and at major destinations.
  • The need to maintain a diverse range of adventure activities that require greater skill and provide for greater challenge.
  • The need to strengthen relationships between protected area managers, recreational users and recreational groups to assist in management. The strengthening of these relationships may include the development of formalised agreements with peak recreational bodies such as Memorandums of Understanding or Cooperation.
  • The need to adapt recreation activities to Climate Change.
  • The need to provide varying levels of facilities and information to ensure safety is a consideration of all users.
  • The need to use visitor segmentation research to ensure that access, facilities and services are more targeted to the needs of visitors and the activities that they are participating in.
  • The need to consider the access of mountain bikes across the land tenures, i.e. mountain bikes are generally not permitted on single tracks in National Parks due to concerns about visitor safety (for both bike riders and walkers) but can in Forest Parks.


  • What activities are emerging as more popular in the planning area parks and are they catered for?
  • What activities could be provided or extended to encourage four season use?
  • Are there opportunities for other appropriate recreation activities? Where should they be offered? What services do they require?
  • What types of recreation use can be explored to help Parks Victoria, Gunditjmara Traditional Owners and DSE design / implement / support recreation activities that support community health? (This includes links to recreational works conducted by Local Government Authorities, e.g. creating a path between two areas to encourage user movement between locations without using vehicles).
  • What is the process for defining shared use, e.g. bicycles and horses, bicycles and walkers?
  • How can groups that undertake recreational activities be engaged to become volunteers to undertake works that support their recreational pursuits and the management of the parks and reserves?
  • What are relevant new and emerging recreational activities?


Government of Victoria DSE 2002 Policy for Sustainable Recreation and Tourism on Victoria's Public Land 2002.

Parks Victoria 2005 The Value of Parks - The economic value of three of Victoria's national parks.

Parks Forum 2008 The Value of Parks - Inspire, Refresh, Conserve, Protect, Play.

Rights strengthen Gunditjmara identity - Talking Native Title - National Native Title Tribunal

Contact: James Hackel

Phone: 0429950623