The Andrews government has made its strongest commitment yet to reopening the Mount Buffalo Chalet in some form, announcing an expression of interest for operating a cafe in the building.
Regional Development Minister Jaclyn Symes is confident more funding will flow if a private investor commits to a cafe, which was costed at $2 million by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
"The priority [of the feasibility for Mount Buffalo] was refurbishment for a cafe in the chalet, and eco-pods were identified in the master plan," she said.
"Because of our COVID-19 stimulus package, we've been able to fund that alongside the expression of interest.
"The EOI has taken some time to develop."
The expression of interest will open later this year, for a "a year-round cafe in the front part of the chalet, which would offer regional produce along with self-guided tours of the chalet ballroom".
The government has not indicated any plans to reopen the building for accommodation, which was costed at $38 million.
But $1.5 million was committed to the "eco-pods" and The Border Mail understands the current scope is five prefabricated buildings on stumps, which would be low-impact.
Alpine councillor Ron Janas, who was appointed to a government taskforce to plan for Mount Buffalo's activation, said a staged approach was always the intention for the chalet.
"We have to start with small steps, because it has been quite some time since it's been available to the public," he said.
"Getting the expression of interest out is part of the first steps going forward, and the eco-pods are an innovative way we can offer something different for tourists.
"Parks Victoria did a trial of glamping and that was very successful, so I'm sure these eco-pods will be.
"If the business case proves that there is sufficient need for that [re-opening the chalet for accommodation] to happen ... then I'm sure the government will be on board to further that."
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Alpine mayor Peter Roper said the council was anticipating an announcement.
"It's the first step in the process for Mount Buffalo getting on its feet again," he said.
"When I first became mayor 12 years ago, we were still trying to do something then."
Some planning issues must be resolved in the first instance, as Mount Buffalo is a public conservation and resource zone.