Mt Buffalo chalet rescue plan rejected

The following comes from the Border Mail in Albury. Journalist is Brad Worrall. Nov 22, 2011

Image: SMH

THE future of the historic Mount Buffalo Chalet is again in limbo with the Victorian government rejecting the latest rescue bid.

Mount Buffalo Community Enterprise’s $50 million plan to refurbish the attraction was dismissed by Environment Minister Ryan Smith in a letter two weeks ago.

He said the government was not in a position to fund the proposal at this stage.

But Mount Buffalo Community Enterprise chairman John Brown wants to know what happens next.

“We have written to the Premier to seek clarification on what their plans are to save the chalet,” he said.

“If not our plan, then what and by when?

“The concept plan, which has already withstood close scrutiny from an architectural, heritage and financial perspective, involves a contemporary chalet redevelopment.

“It would breathe new life back into the chalet and the mountain.

“Now all we get is a letter and that is a little dismissive.”
The plan submitted to the government would result in a 99-room hotel-guest house combining contemporary accommodation and preserving the key heritage components of the old chalet.

The plan included low-emissions solar power systems and a new interpretative centre.

The group did not intend to reinstate the ski fields on the Ovens Valley plateau.

The state government would have been required to put up $33 million for the venture, with no return on the taxpayers’ investment.

More than 50 per cent of the profits would have been returned to the community.

Mr Brown wonders whether the government is hoping for a white knight.

“The decision to appoint us came after two rounds of advertising,” he said.

“We were clearly the most attractive option to government at that time, so who will come to the chalet’s rescue now?

“The truth is, today, we are no closer to saving Mount Buffalo chalet than we were five years ago.

“That’s of grave concern to us.

“If the community shares our concern now’s the time to speak up.”

The chalet has been closed since January 2007 in the wake of the bushfires in the North East and an ensuing lease dispute.

Mount Buffalo Community Enterprise’s involvement followed an extensive tender process over 18 months.

In October last year the group entered a 12-month exclusive negotiation period with Parks Victoria.

A $200,000 state bovernment grant and $250,000 of their own money paid for a viability study and the business plan.

2 thoughts on “Mt Buffalo chalet rescue plan rejected”

  1. The consortium’s plan was over the top and relied almost entirely on government funding. The bottom line is that this consortium was being opportunistic, hoping to gain approval without putting any of their own money in to speak of apart from the $250,000 contribution to the viability study & business plan, which equates to about $15,000 per shareholder. Not a bad bet if it yields you a $50 million asset! Fortunately the government saw through it and said “no”. I live in Bright and I think the fuss being made about reopening the Chalet for accommodation purposes is primarily romantic nonsense. It’s past it’s use-by-date and has never been a viable enterprise anyway. Of course we should preserve the building but all that’s required is a few million from the State Govt to ‘tidy it up’ and then let out the cafe & bar to service daytrippers.

  2. Ray, Unfortunately your view are both short and narrow minded. Business models can be taken from other alpine regions to promote a year round tourism industry (rather than the traditional winter ski / snow season)

    Mt Buller has shown that summer can also be economically viable in alpine regions by allowing targa style car races, mountain bike riding etc.

    And as stated on the DPCD website… “Departments and agencies are ultimately responsible for the ongoing care and conservation of assets owned, occupied or managed by the State.”

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