Managing the coast is different in Victoria?

Mr Gary McPike1

1Barwon Coast, Barwon Heads, Australia


With 96% of the coastline in public ownership, management operates quite differently in Victoria.

While large sections are managed by Parks Victoria and Local Government Authorities like other states; large sections are managed by Committees of Management (CoM).

Barwon Coast is one of 4 large, Category One, CoM’s that manage much of the Victorian central south west open ocean coast, some 100 km’s in total.

The little understood difference is this management is achieved, in very large part, as a user pays business model.

Many think when they visit the beach their state or local government taxes are paying for the facilities; the toilets, playgrounds, mown foreshore areas, beach accesses, pest plant and animal management and certainly these climate change adaptation.

The reality is campers in our coastal Crown land caravan parks pay about 85% of the cost, with the remainder coming from other tenures on the land we manage, i.e. hospitality venue leases, surf school licences and other tour operators.

This business model creates a peculiar mix of skills and expertise:

  • operating large parks that can accommodate up to 10% of the holiday population in a coastal town;
  • managing all aspects of a vulnerable dynamic coastline impacted by increasing populations;
  • invasive pest plant and animal management;
  • all being ‘squeezed’ by the impacts of climate change including increasing storm severity and frequency.

The model focuses expertise, and funds from the land we manage, into understanding and protecting the highly valued interface between freehold title and the ocean.


Gary McPike is the CEO of Barwon Coast, having occupied the position since April 2015, following 12.5 years at Otway Coast Committee as Executive Officer and previously General Manager of the Apollo Bay-Kennett River Public Reserves Committee of Management.

During the last 15+ years Gary has developed a strong understanding of all aspects of coastal Crown land management and the business and management model that operates in Victoria. He has been involved in all aspects of policy and strategic planning as well as being hands on with project managing capital works and natural resource management.

Previously he was self-employed for 22 years in the timber industry, hospitality, and major event management following a tertiary education in urban & planning studies.