A family-run alpine business which opened for just four days in 2020 is expected to pay close to $100,000 to the Victorian government in service fees for the year, the manager says.
Zirky's Mount Hotham manager Annelies Zirknitzer estimates the family-run business paid $170,000 in unavoidable start-up costs last year, only to be forced to close due to government-restrictions after four days.
In total the business generated a revenue of $13,262, excluding GST, in 2020.
She said despite only needing services for the four days they opened, the business was expected to pay $94,000 in service charges to the Mount Hotham Management Board, overseen by the state government.
Ms Zirknitzer said the service fees were the equivalent of government rates covering sewerage and water, but were much dearer.
"It seems so inequitable that we were open for four days yet I've got to pay for this government body to be open all year," she said.
The looming debt has made Ms Zirknitzer "incredibly anxious" especially as she will need to begin paying 2021 service fees shortly.
"We have no ability to pay this $100,000," she said. "The little bit of cash that I do have I need to try and use it to get open [this season]."
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Due to the seasonality of alpine businesses, Zirky's has only been able to open for four days in 2021, over Easter, and has barely recouped a cent of the money lost in 2020.
Zirky's Mount Hotham is the sub-leasee of the property with the head-leasee Zirky Apartment's Management Board leasing the crown land from the government. Because they are not the head-leasee Zirky's have struggled to access grants, however they did have their 2020 site rental - $34,650 - waived and $7200 taken off their $101,300 service fee.
Despite skiing often being associated with wealth, the reality for family-owned operators was very different, Ms Zirknitzer said.
"It's like farming to the extreme, in that you are highly dependent on the weather and it's only for a couple of months a year," she said.
"Yes, it costs a lot to go skiing, but our costs are so high that there's not necessarily a lot of money to be made... to make it financially viable is difficult in normal years, but last year just absolutely killed us... I'm not sure how we'll make it."
The Victorian Government and Mount Hotham would not answer questions about service fees and what support they were offering leasees and sub-leasees due to confidentiality.
In a statement the Board said they "continue to work with the Victorian Government to find ways to support the leaseholders and businesses at Mt Hotham to recover from the impacts of the 2020 bushfires and COVID."
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