Apollo Bay, Victoria - on the Great Ocean Road

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The Barham River Flats


The Barham River rises as an east and west branch in the Otway Ranges behind Apollo Bay.  Shortly after the confluence of the branches, the river leaves the narrow Barham Valley to enter a broad flood plain before discharging into the sea on the edge of the Apollo Bay Township.  The flood plain is almost 200ha in extent and is known locally as the Barham River Flats.  The Apollo Bay Structure Plan developed in 2001 described the area as follows:

The Barham River Flats, situated between Apollo Bay and Marengo, are another feature of the area.  They are sparsely covered with vegetation and the Barham River meanders down from the foothills to the ocean.  The river flats play an important role as a green wedge and visual separation between Apollo Bay and Marengo.  Any development of this land is constrained, as it is low-lying and subject to flooding.  Accordingly, Council has placed the area in the appropriate Land Subject to Inundation Overlay.

The 2001 Structure Plan was never ratified and, from about that time until mid 2009, there was a proposal for 537 lot integrated housing and golf course development on the flood plain.  The development was known as Great Ocean Green and it was a contentious issue in the community.  In June 2009, the Planning Minister rejected the development.  Subsequently, the Apollo Bay Structure Plan, modified to reflect the Minister’s decision (and ratified) was released.  This plan includes a map that is designated Apollo Bay, Marengo and Skenes Creek Framework Plan.  Immediately adjacent to the settlement boundaries of Apollo Bay and Marengo the region is shaded with a legend that states:

Protect prominent slopes of the foothills and waterway corridors from intensive development and further subdivision and encourage revegetation.

Of course this includes the entire former Great Ocean Green site.  More specifically and with direct reference to the lower portion of the Barham River Flats is a box with the phrasing:

Land with environmental constraints.  Potential for recreational tourism use subject to investigation.  Maintain the sense of a landscape dominated “green break” between the road and the river.

One aspect of the Great Ocean Green development that had wide community support was that it proposed a series of walking trails and revegetation along the river bank.  While opponents applauded this, the price to pay was too high.  With the situation clarified there is now an opportunity to realise the potential of the Barham River Flats in another way consistent with the implied objectives taken from the Framework Plan mentioned above.

Barham River Flats