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Deferral: Libby Coker.

Concerned: Maurice Cole.

Charge: Simon Northeast.

BY CHERIE DONNELLAN SURF Coast councillors have put their controversial plan to redevelop Bells Beach “on hold” to trial a new bus licensing system. They voted on Tuesday night in favour of Cr Libby Coker’s motion to “defer the management plan for 12 months”. “We need to evaluate the effects of the new bus licensing agreement,” she said. The licensing system would charge buses visiting Bells $2 for each passenger, while students and children would pay $1.35. Councillors agreed to apply a “cap” on the charges of $10,000 for each tour operator. Council initially planned lower rates for the charges and caps but Cr Simon Northeast successfully proposed increases. He suggested that council cap bus numbers “by issuing licences

through a competitive allocation process”. Councillors agreed the revenue from licensing fees should go to maintaining Bells Beach Surfing Reserve. Cr Dean Webster said tour operators had enjoyed a “free-forall for a long time”. Cr Libby Mears said “people who make money out of public land should contribute to the maintenance of the land”. Bells Beach Preservation Society president Maurice Cole said the council’s decision was a “knee-jerk reaction” to community pressure. Council had yet to run a proper assessment of how bus licensing and its associated fees will work, he said. “The council hasn’t implemented a feasibility study or business plan for the licensing system. They’re just going to trial and

error for a year.” Mr Cole said he was concerned tour operators might be able to avoid to sign licensing agreements. “We believe that buses should not be allowed back into the reserve until operators have a licence. “We’re still concerned that unlicensed buses may hurt someone and that there’s no insurance to cover the damage but we’re seeking legal advice on that.” Mr Cole welcomed council deferring the management plan until after local government elections. “We’re very happy we got a year.” Mr Cole and preservation society members have been battling the management plan for the past year, fearing it would turn Bells into a “theme park”.

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Family Anzac Day: Hughan Kennedy and son Patrick at Ocean Grove, above, and Donald Richardson and daughter Sarah Sacks at Barwon Heads. (wit...