IN RECOGNITION of the crucial role Wilsons Promontory National Park plays in attracting visitors to South Gippsland, the State Government is giving Gippsland’s peak tourism body, Destination Gippsland, funding of $125,000 to help market the reopening of the park and encourage visitors to visit South Gippsland.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business, Russell Northe, made the announcement last Friday before he cut the ribbon to mark the reopening of Tidal River, six months after Parks Victoria was forced to close much of the flood-ravaged park.
The chief executive officer of Destination Gippsland, Terry Robinson, thanked Mr Northe for this latest government contribution, which comes on top of an $8.8 million injection of funding from the government immediately after the March 22 floods to get repair work under way.
Mr Robinson said between fires and floods the last few years had been tough times for tourism in Gippsland.
“This is a great day,” he said, expressing his appreciation for the efforts of Parks Victoria staff over the last few months to re-establish Wilsons Promontory as a premier tourist attraction.
There was a joyful mood at the reopening ceremony, where the guests included twenty or so operators of local tourism enterprises hard hit by the partial closure of the Prom, as well as representatives of various tourism bodies.
“The reopening is fantastic news!” said Alain Bozelle, who runs Prom Central Caravan Park in Foster. “It’s been too quiet of late. This year, just about the only visitors we got were those people who didn’t realise most of the Prom was shut! Bookings are starting to come in now and the first question people ask: Is the Prom open?”
“Bookings are already picking up. It’s only going to get better,” said Angela Taylor of Prom Hills Cabins at Yanakie. “We find the main reason people come to the district, the iconic attraction, is the Prom, although we do tell them there are other attractions.”
“The phone just stopped ringing for a while,” said Lorraine Hughes, who runs Meeniyan Motel. “Now, however, bookings are starting to pick up. We have bookings for the Christmas period already. I expect people will be interested to see what damage was done to the Prom and what has been repaired and what has changed.”
Guests crowded into the newly refurbished visitor information centre at Tidal River for the official reopening ceremony. As Parks Victoria Regional Manager East Region, Chris Rose, explained in his address, if there was one positive to come out of the flood disaster it was the opportunity for refurbishment at the Prom. The power supply, water supply and sewerage system have all been improved in recent months. Many of the cabins have been refurbished, and with a new counter, new plaster, new carpet, new electrics and newly painted walls in a bold blue-green, the visitor information centre, which was half a metre deep in floodwaters on March 22, is looking better than ever.
Newly reopened tracks in the south include: Norman Beach, South Norman/Biddy’s Track, Lilly Pilly Gully Nature Walk, Picnic Bay, Squeaky Beach via Tidal Overlook, Squeaky Beach via Picnic Bay, and Pillar Point. Parks Victoria is anticipating reopening further tracks, including overnight hiking tracks, as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.
Young visitors are invited to participate in the Junior Ranger Program running at the Prom over the current school holidays. This is a great way for children aged 6 to 12 to learn about the important part parks play in protecting plants and animals. Activities are run several times a week. Bookings are essential and can be made in person at the Tidal River Visitor Centre. For information about Junior Rangers go to www.juniorrangers.com.au or contact Parks Victoria on 13 1963 or www.parks.vic.gov.au