SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council has applied to the State Government’s Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure Fund for the Agnes Falls Scenic Reserve Redevelopment.
If the application is successful, Council will allocate $350,000 towards the project to improve facilities at the falls reserve.
Last Wednesday, at their first Ordinary Meeting since their recent election, councillors voted unanimously to support the redevelopment project.
They were encouraged to do so by a presentation that morning by Kathy Whelan and Peter Lee from the Friends of Agnes Falls. No-one has worked harder on behalf of the falls than this pair, who were responsible for starting the Friends group four years ago. Falls visitation numbers have improved significantly in recent years, largely thanks to their efforts in promoting the falls and assisting Parks Victoria in making various minor improvements to the Agnes Falls Scenic Reserve.
Council recognises that as Victoria’s highest single-span waterfall at 59 metres, Agnes Falls is a strategic asset for attracting tourists in South Gippsland.
Currently, it is the second-most visited attraction in South Gippsland during the winter months.
Some improvements, including a new picnic shelter, toilet block, picnic tables and plantings, have already been made at the Scenic Reserve, but there is still some way to go. Though popular with tourists, the area currently suffers from poor signage, lack of an appropriate viewing deck, poor car parking and limited recreational opportunities at the falls, thereby restricting the potential for increased visitation.
The Agnes Falls Scenic Reserve Redevelopment project aims to improve the infrastructure at the falls including:
- Car park upgrade works;
- New entry path and signage;
- Path realigned through the picnic area with new picnic facilities and revegetation;
- Upgrade walking path to allow all abilities access to the water edge with repainted handrails and new benches installed;
- Construct new viewing platform/cantilevered lookout and upgrade east viewing area.
Kathy Whelan expressed the hope that improvements to the infrastructure, especially the addition of a cantilevered lookout allowing visitors to see the falls in their entirety, would more than double visitor numbers.
“So many visitors are blown away by the sight of the falls in the midst of South Gippsland’s rolling green hills,” she said enthusiastically.
The project is part of Council’s Cornet Inlet Tourism Development Project suite that was identified to bring an economic benefit to the region and act as a catalyst for new investment in accommodation, food and retail type businesses. Other projects in the suite include: extension of the Great Southern Rail Trail from Foster to Welshpool (completed); restoration of the Port Welshpool Long Jetty (in progress); development of the Port Welshpool Marina; and dredging of the Toora Channel for boating and recreational activities.
Parks Victoria manages the falls and is fully supportive of the development and committed to the ongoing maintenance of the reserve, including any upgrades to infrastructure.
If the funding application is approved, Council will explore other funding opportunities in partnership with the Friends of Agnes Falls to reduce Council’s overall potential contribution if possible.
Cr Jeremy Rich strongly recommended investigating the possibility of linking the Agnes Falls Scenic Reserve to other local tourist attractions, such as the Rail Trail.