Pollie slams VicRoads advice blunder

A VICROADS travel warning issued last week advising against unnecessary travel to all regional Victoria has been branded “city-centric and overzealous” by a Gippsland parliamentarian.

Eastern Victoria MLC Danny O’Brien criticised VicRoads for issuing the travel warning on its website last Friday against unnecessary travel to all regional Victoria because of extreme temperature forecasts.

He said the alert advised Victorians to “avoid unnecessary travel to regional Victoria” because of Friday’s “extreme temperature” forecasts and the risk of grass and bushfires.

Mr O’Brien said the blanket advice against travel to all of regional Victoria was over-the-top and detrimental to regional tourism.

He said Gippsland was well and truly open for business and encouraged Victorians to holiday in the region.

“Of course we have to be careful on extreme fire days, but it does not help to have a government agency advising against travel to all of regional Victoria, which is a pretty broad description to use in the circumstances,” he said.

“Regional Victoria could be anything outside the Melbourne city limits and as such the advice is totally impractical.”

Mr O’Brien said of most concern was that it was the peak holiday season for much of regional Victoria, including in Gippsland.

“The last thing we need is for tourists to be told not to come,” he said.

“The reality is that fire can strike anywhere at any time and we have seen in the past that significant fires have hit Melbourne’s outer suburbs and regional interface as bad or worse than anywhere in the country.

“This sort of broad brush advice is very city-centric and overzealous.”

VicRoads apologised on Monday for the distribution of the “misleading and confusing information” in relation to Friday’s travel warning.

“Following feedback from members of the public and the tourism industry, VicRoads apologises for the misleading and confusing information distributed via various channels over the weekend, which stated drivers should avoid travel to regional Victoria,” a VicRoads spokesperson said.

“The directive to avoid travelling was initiated by the CFA and Victoria Police, but was specific only to the south-western region of the state.

“This directive did not apply to the rest of regional Victoria, as was incorrectly stated in our communications.”

Mr O’Brien said the advice was brought to his attention by Gippsland tourism operators.

He said they were particularly concerned by the fact that the advice was still on the website well after the Total Fire Ban had expired.

“I understand that our government agencies need to give advice about emergencies, but common sense would suggest that that advice should be to check local conditions on days of high fire danger, not some blanket recommendation against travel to 90 per cent of the state,” he said.

Mr O’Brien has written to VicRoads asking it to review the way it develops and provides such advice in the future.