Movement on Cape Conran’s rebuild is nearing.
The Orbost and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry was recently briefed by a Parks Victoria (PV) officer on progress with restoration works at Cape Conran following bushfires.
While most of the fire damaged facilities at Cape Conran and surrounds are scheduled to be reinstated by September 2020 or earlier, the future of the cabin complex is unclear.
Just last week a proposal for a significantly upgraded, but environmentally sensitive, rebuild of facilities was put forward and is being backed by local MP, Tim Bull.
“Orbost Chamber of Commerce and Industry recognises the importance of Cape Conran to the local economy and is pushing for a much-improved complex after three of the cabins and other infrastructure was destroyed by fire in January,” Mr Bull said.
“It is something I have also pushed for, so we are completely on the same page.
“The remaining four cabins and lodge were built over 30 years ago, and this situation presents the perfect opportunity for a significant upgrade.
“Cape Conran is a very unique area and one I visit with my family at least once a year. Any upgrade needs to be in line with the very special environment and surroundings, but this can be achieved.
“This should include upgraded and increased enviro-friendly accommodation, improved outdoor infrastructure and investigating reticulated water supply and sewage.
“Tens of thousands of families have benefited from this location over the years and it is one of few locations where you can be accommodated so close to the surf beach and in such a unique setting.”
Mr Bull said that following his recent criticism of the slow rebuild of public infrastructure, he received a briefing from Parks Victoria (PV) last week and was optimistic things were now moving.
“A number of projects now have finishing dates prior to the September school holidays, with others having a Christmas deadline,” he said.
“I have expressed my keenness to have the remaining cabins open for September school holidays to cater for families and that should be able to be achieved, while an upgrade is planned and undertaken.”
The Chamber had previously requested that PV have the four remaining cabins and the lodge operational by December 2020 to provide at least some economic activity in the region from the cabins and to cater for the demand for cabin accommodation.
The cabin complex at Cape Conran was developed around 1988 and consisted of an office, a manager’s residence, depot buildings, seven cabins and a lodge. The only water supply is bore water (not potable) and waste water disposal is through septic systems.
In about 2014, an addition to the site was five wilderness retreat eco tents and associated facilities.
Three of the seven cabins, the office, the manager’s residence (which was being used as an office) and the depot buildings were destroyed by the February fire.
All the wilderness retreat infrastructure was also destroyed.
This leaves four cabins and a lodge standing on site. There was also some minor damage to PVC plumbing fittings, etc, on those remaining cabins and damage to the bore water supply system.
In addition PV advised that there are some issues with current waste water disposal arrangements and these may need to be upgraded to meet current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.
“There are a very limited number of locations where visitors can access the Far East Gippsland coast,” chamber secretary, Garry Squires, said.
“There are a few camping locations where there is direct access to the ocean beaches from the camp area such as at Corringle and Banksia Bluff, but the Conran cabins are the only place along the whole Far East Gippsland coast where there is direct beach access from a cabin complex – so they are unique and an important part of the tourism infrastructure in our district.
“They are also important as an all year-round facility as compared to camp grounds.”
The chamber believes the 1988-era cabins are outdated and have a number of safety issues, which are not in line with modern standards - not having potable water is an issue in the cabins and in the adjacent Banksia Bluff camping area. “The cabin complex is strategically important to the local economy and there is an opportunity to rebuild and upgrade and expand the whole complex to maximise that economic benefit whilst at the same time allowing more visitors to enjoy the unique experience,” Garry said.
IMAGE: Works to reinvigorate bushfire-burnt Cape Conran infrastructure are expected to begin soon. The timber walkway to Salmon Rocks beach wasn’t spared as the fires raged towards the ocean. (Photo: Rylee Pardew)