THERE are growing fears the massive task of making the Great Alpine Road safe after the recent fires could take up to two months with one senior mountain resort manager labelling the time frame catastrophic.
On Friday residents and business owners at Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain heard it could be an eight- week program to fell fire-damaged trees now considered an immediate risk to traffic using the road between Harrietville and the resorts.
They say it will rob the mountains of Easter tourism — its traditional non-winter cash cow.
But they also fear it will restrict access for tradesmen and builders involved in projects that need to be finished before the ski season.
Mount Hotham Alpine Resort management chief executive Jim Atteridge said the ongoing road closure could be a disaster.
“We all recognise that this road needs to be safe, no one disputes that,” he said.
“But if we are talking two months then the impact will be catastrophic.
“The resorts needs to be accessible to tradesmen to finish buildings, workers to prepare the ski fields.
“Perhaps we need to get people from Harrietville and Bright to travel in a convoy, before 9am and after 5pm so that the felling work can continue and we maintain some form of access.”
Mr Atteridge told the meeting, that also included member for Benalla Bill Sykes and Alpine Council chief executive Ian Nicholls, that safety was still paramount.
“These are alpine ash burnt in 2003,” he said.
“And in recent years we have seen an increasing number of these trees falling — spearing across the road, my staff alone have had some near misses.
“This is a road that in a few months will see 40,000 cars travelling to and from the ski field — we need to do this work, now, getting as many people as possible on the project.”
Leanne Guy, part of TJ Chick builders, said her team was now making the four-hour trek from Bright, through Falls Creek and Omeo in a bid to finish projects at Dinner Plain ahead of winter.
“The closure of the Great Alpine Road is crippling the business,” she said.
“We have to travel what is an increasingly dangerous road and just in the short time we have had to use the Bogong High Plains Road as our detour we have seen that too deteriorate.”