Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve
The Bells Beach Surfing Reserve is internationally renowned – and Surf Coast Shire as the managing authority is working to protect the things that make the reserve special.
Bells Beach was the first official surfing recreation reserve in the world. In 2011 it was also included on the National Heritage Register, some of the strongest protection available.
Council wants to ensure this status is protected and enhanced. There has never been any push from Council to develop Bells.
Instead Council is working to manage the impact of increasing visitation at the Reserve by both locals and visitors, and to protect its environmental, cultural and social values.
What's happening at Bells?
Since 2011, Council has completed a number of projects that help protect and enhance the environmental significance of the Bells Beach Surfing Reserve, manage visitation and protect the social and cultural significance of the reserve.
- Connecting a private sewer main and water supply to the reserve toilets, replacing an out-dated septic system. ($300,000, partly funded by Regional Development Victoria)
- Employing a staff member at the reserve to improve vegetation protection and address other environmental management issues, as well as having additional staff assisting with this work
- Regulate commercial tour operators using the reserve through a licensing scheme in line with requirements of Victorian legislation
- A new sandstone entry sign, locally produced and designed with input from reserve users and indigenous representatives ($22,000)
- Ongoing stormwater improvements including gross pollution traps to remove litter from the reserve and modifying outfalls ($7,000) and an ongoing stormwater litter removal program
- Fencing improvements
- Native vegetation improvements, including an ongoing partnership with Rip Curl and Surfing Victoria through the Rip Curl Planet Days and recent revegetation of the cliff top area and ongoing vegetation maintenance
- Interim traffic safety works to comply with relevant Australian safety standards.
As Bells is coastal Crown Land managed by Council, most works Council conducts must have consent from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) under the Coastal Management Act (1995). Most permanent works on site also require Heritage Victoria approval.
Review of the Bells Beach Coastal Management Plan and Community Visioning
Following Council elections in 2012, the new Council will discuss the direction of this project, which will engage and inform the local community and reserve users to set a direction for the future of the reserve. Council will announce further details on the project.
Creek embankment protection
To ensure the long term stability of the creek embankment, Council and the Department of Sustainability and Environment are investigating erosion protection works. These will help stabilise the bank where the creek meets the beach near the bottom of the Bells Beach steps. Options being investigated include placement of more rocks, drainage realignment or improving the existing rock wall.
Signage and traffic monitoring
To improve access, navigation and address the visual impact of signage, a review of signs is being undertaken. Signs need to meet the requirements of Australian Standards.
As part of the community visioning project and review of the Coastal Management Plan, surveys are being completed to better understand how vehicles travel in the reserve. Traffic volumes are now being recorded for one week every two months.
Commercial Tour Operator Licensing
After final authorisation from DSE, Council issued eight licences to commercial tour operators to visit the Bells Beach Surfing Reserve in December 2012.
Five of the operators are based on the Surf Coast. Three of the operators use 22-24 seat buses, three operators conduct bike and walking tours and four of the operators use a small car or van. None of the operators use coaches.
Enforcement of the licences has started, with proceeds from the scheme, estimated to be in excess of $20,000, going towards maintaining the reserve.
The scheme will run over 2013 with a review to be conducted at the end of the year.
Licensed operators can be identified by a green permit sticker on the windscreen of vehicles, while walking and cycling tour operators will be issued with a wallet-sized identification card. Licenced operators are local firms Adventure For Life, Big Stick Adventures, Great Ocean Road Surf Tours, Surf World Museum and Southern Exposure; while Melbourne-based A Tour With A Difference, Wildlife Tours Australia and Bunyip Tours have also been granted licences.
Council has issued the licences after sign-off from the Department of Sustainability and Environment, as required under the Victorian Coastal Management Act (1995).
Local Laws and other officer presence
A regular enforcement cycle has commenced focusing on commercial tour operators and illegal overnight parking. Community members have provided advice about commercial tour operators using the reserve illegally and this advice is being acted on through education and enforcement. Council’s authorised Local Laws Officers conduct regular patrols at the reserve as part of their operations.
The presence of other Council staff is focused on ongoing and focused on maintenance, protection of vegetation and other important assets. From time to time, the number of officers and their spread of hours at the reserve will change to meet operational requirements.
If members of the public observe what could be unlawful or inappropriate behaviour at the reserve, they should contact Council on 5261 0600. Serious unlawful behaviour can also be reported to the Police on 000.
History of Bells Beach
The evolution of Bells.