Mountain Journal recently reported on the new master plan that was being developed to improve the ‘tourism experience’ at the north end of the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. Yes, I’m a grumpy old bushwalker who goes to Cradle Valley because it’s the access point for miles of terrain, rocky mountains, alpine moors and fantastic walking, rather than because I expect a ‘world class tourism experience’ in a national park.
But I do understand that many people expect first class facilities and that’s where the sheer numbers of visitors are. With Cradle Valley visitation declining, it was deemed that something had to be done, and so we have the release of the new master plan for the area, developed by the Cradle Coast Authority, which hopes to increase visitor numbers by 60,000 to 80,000 a year.
The Cradle Mountain Visitor Experience Master Plan seeks to deliver a ‘precinct revitalisation’ at Cradle Mountain. The aim of the plan is to ‘present a clear, strategic master plan, directing public infrastructure investment by State and Federal Governments, as well as opportunities for private commercial involvement’.
A lot of the plan looks good:
A stated aim is to keep the footprint of the new developments small, and reduce their overall environmental impacts. The consultant has put a lot of thought into how the developments will mesh with the environment and the aesthetics of the design seek to evoke a sense of place. (there is a short video outlining the key points of the development available here and an ABC article here).
- It recommends revegetating most of the eyesore that is the Dove lake carpark and build a new ‘sensitively’ located viewing station which takes advantage of the view towards Cradle Mountain (because you wouldn’t want to be outdoors when viewing nature, would you?)
- It proposes the development of a new tourist centre with modern facilities, just to the south of the park boundary on private land, which will become the base for tourist activity at this end of the park (the World Heritage Wilderness Village). The plan says the village will “offer an alpine village feel and construction, acting as a visitor and community gathering space. This single and simple collection of thoughtfully designed buildings will be crafted from materials that create and communicate a strong connection to the landscape”. It aims to be the gateway for visitors to the park, from day trippers to people embarking on the Overland walk
- New shelters (pods) around the Dove Lake Walk, which could draw more people to feel comfortable to do the walk
- As an interesting aside the Authority says the plan, if implemented, will lead to reduced ‘reliance on carbon fuels’, one assumes this is because the gondola will replace cars for a couple of kilometres.
On the down side:
- It proposes a gondola (a cable car) from the resort facility to Dove Lake. This seems like an extreme version of gadget tourism. It will be incredibly expensive and so will be difficult to fund. It would require a not insignificant physical footprint to build, and it would be a major new piece of privately owned infrastructure that crosses into a World Heritage Area listed national park. At this point the gondola is one of the options being considered, along with cycle options on the existing road, walking the existing boardwalk, and an improved shuttle bus service. However, the Authority says ‘the Cable Car is the core element of the Cradle Mountain concept’ and ‘up to 85% of interstate/inbound incremental demand is at risk if the Cable Car is not part of the redevelopment”. It should be noted that the plan proposes a low height for the cable car to minimise visual impact and on the plus side, building the cable car would allow the Dove Lake road to primarily be allocated to bike riding
- It perpetuates high impact ‘adventure’ tourism, with plans to run helicopter rides, and four-wheel drive bike rides from the facility.
The authority hopes to attract $50-60 million from the Government and $100 million in private funding to implement the master plan. The ‘budget’ version of the cable car proposal starts at $24,000,000.
In the same week that the plan was released, Peter McGlone of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust said that the ‘State Government’s expression of interest process for developments in national parks and reserves has been operating in near total secrecy. Of 16 projects progressed to the final lease and licence stage, 14 have had no public consultation’.
‘Information available on approved Expressions of Interest projects amounts to less than two pages and the Government has not confirmed whether more details are required in the “hidden” assessment process.’
This doesn’t bode well for the next stage of the implementation of the Cradle Mountain plan.
There are various environmental approvals from all levels of government which will likely to be required for the project to proceed.
Detailed environmental studies will be required to confirm any impacts and this can be expected to lead to further refinement of the Master Plan.
The Authority has also asked for feedback from the community. You can fill out a simple form here.