Colac Otway Shire councillors have voted to give in-principle support to Regional Roads Victoria for a controversial roundabout at Apollo Bay, near the town’s war memorial.
The council and Apollo Bay residents have complained to the roads authority for years about traffic issues at the intersection of the Great Ocean Road and Nelson Street, but RRV’s preferred option to build a $3-million roundabout has divided councillors and the community.
The plan involves the widening of lanes to allow heavy vehicles to turn, a loss of foreshore area, and the relocation of the town’s historic war memorial.
The council previously expressed an absence of support for the proposal because of RRV’s failure to engage in adequate community consultation, with councillors voting in February to signal their lack of endorsement for the project until determined otherwise.
But councillors at an ordinary meeting on Wednesday night voted four-three to back the roundabout option, passing a revised offer’s recommendation to support it subject to continued consultation with the Apollo Bay community as well as an agreement with VicRoads that the necessary works to the intersection – which gives access to the Port of Apollo Bay – also be designed and funded.
Listeners in the public gallery cheered statements by councillors opposing the plan, and criticised statements of others, criticising in particular claims from the councillors and officers that Regional Roads Victoria had improved community consultation adequately since February.
Cr Joe McCracken attempted to pass an alternative motion where the council did not give in-principle support to the proposed roundabout and it encouraged RRV to work with the community to reach an amicable solution, but the motion failed three-four.
Cr Chris Potter moved a revised recommendation to support the plan, citing motorist and pedestrian safety as a priority.
“That intersection is plagued with issues – the locals know it is confusing, and that frequently tourists are nearly hit,” he said.
“There has been opposition to moving the memorial, but conversely there has been strong support for it; support from Anzac House, and head of RSL, and Heritage (Victoria). Relocating allows people to visit the memorial in safety, and opens it up for the community,” he said.
The council’s Tony McGann said official crash statistics for the site weren’t available because the roads authority didn’t record minor crashes and near-misses, which were most common at the site.
But Cr Stephen Hart said he saw the issue primarily as road safety, and while no statistics for serious crashes were available, he wanted a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.
“I don’t think we don’t support this until someone is killed. I won’t have that on my conscience,” he said.
See today’s Colac Herald for more.