‘Investors sitting on sidelines’ but Buffalo feasibility study to come first

NEXT STEP: Alpine Mayor Ron Janas thanks Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism Danielle Green for her support. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
NEXT STEP: Alpine Mayor Ron Janas thanks Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism Danielle Green for her support. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

There are investors ‘sitting on the sideline’ ready to put money into Mount Buffalo but what could go to the heritage-listed chalet will be subject to a feasibility study.

Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism Danielle Green has announced $200,000 for a feasibility study to build off the Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group’s concepts for the national park.

“The funding will support the appointment of a professional consultancy service to evaluate and prepare a business case for tourism opportunities,” she said.

“The scope will be determining potential demand and target markets, reviewing infrastructure and road capacity and preparing a marketing prospectus for feasible options.

“The community shouldn’t think it’s more money being thrown at something that there’s not an intention to do something with.”

Ron Janas, Danielle Green, Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group member David Jacobson, and (back) Alpine chief executive Charlie Bird, and MBDAG members Amber Gardner and Janelle Boynton

Ron Janas, Danielle Green, Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group member David Jacobson, and (back) Alpine chief executive Charlie Bird, and MBDAG members Amber Gardner and Janelle Boynton

Ms Green said it wouldn’t be limited just to feasibility of tourism developments, as opposed to potential funding options, ‘if the project facilitator is able to bring to the table investors’.

Alpine Council Mayor Ron Janas said ‘private investors, insurance companies, superannuation companies, government’, were interested in the project.

“We have to have public-private partnerships because that’s how things survive and endure,” he said.

“Early next year the tendering process will start to get an advisor to this work and then we will look at timeframes after that.

“I would think once the process starts, a 12 or 18 month timeframe would be reasonable, particularly if we can get a lot information that’s already out there.”

The consultants will be given access to past reports done on the chalet and Buffalo.

The Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group has repeatedly asked Parks Victoria for access to an Ernst and Young report from 2013, documents obtained by The Border Mail show.

It revealed a ‘strong level of interest in the proposition of operating a hotel at the Mount Buffalo Chalet site’ from hotel and tourism operators’ but a ‘lack of interest from high-end accomodation providers’.

A $52.9 million option canvassed in the report proposed eco-retreats at the chalet, a ‘day spa experience’ and an ‘adventure hub for the mountain’, but feedback from commercial and consumer testing indicated ‘limited demand/interest’ for that option.

Supporters of the MBDAG and community members gathered for the announcement

Supporters of the MBDAG and community members gathered for the announcement

Mr Janas said the Ernst and Young report was not a public document and the advisory group would ‘work with government to glean what information’ could be reviewed.

“It’s not like we have to start from scratch and there’s commitment that some of those reports will be made available to the consultant and that will be case-by-case,” he said.

“I’ve seen comment around people saying we’re spending all this money to do what’s already been done, but this is a different approach.

“The government is committed to this project.”

Ms Green referred questions about how $7.2 million of insurance money received by Parks Victoria was spent to Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio.

The Border Mail has revealed spending of insurance money received by Parks Victoria, prompting anger from supporters of the chalet's full restoration

The Border Mail has revealed spending of insurance money received by Parks Victoria, prompting anger from supporters of the chalet's full restoration

Ms D’Ambrosio did not answer whether the government would investigate the spending but said the government would ‘continue to work with the community to identify future improvements’ to the chalet.

“The government has already delivered vital repairs to ensure the building is water-tight and safe,” she said.

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