National park boundary redrawn for resort

The Baillieu government has redrawn the boundaries of the Alpine National Park to allow the Falls Creek resort to expand.

On Thursday morning Environment Minister Ryan Smith announced the government would excise almost 10 hectares of land from the national park and add it to the adjoining Falls Creek Alpine Resort area.

The boundary change follows numerous requests from the Falls Creek resort to expand its operations. The resort wants to develop non-winter tourism activities and a high-altitude training camp for athletes.

The changes mean the resort will now be allowed to expand down to the shore of the Rock Valley Storage lake.

In exchange, the government will add almost 12 hectares of land on the slopes of Mount McKay to the park, which Mr Smith said contained snow gum woodland.

“Victoria’s alpine resorts make significant contributions to their local economies and to tourism in the state,’’ Mr Smith said.

‘‘This amendment is part of a long-term strategy to increase visitation, including in the non-winter months and ensure all Victorians can access and enjoy their natural environment,’’ he said.

“We want to encourage more altitude training, lake events, road cycling and mountain biking.’’

Mr Smith said the proposed amendments were part of Baillieu government’s plan to enable new ‘‘environmentally appropriate investments’’ on public land, including national parks, forests and alpine resorts.

In August the government decided to open up Victorian national parks to private tourism development following recommendations by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission.

Guidelines to deem what development will be allowed in parks are still being finalised by Mr Smith, who will have final say over what projects would go ahead.

The decision to redraw the Alpine National Park boundaries to allow an expansion of the Falls Creek resort is separate to the August decision.

The Victorian National Parks Association’s Philip Ingamells said the process to redraw the Alpine National Park boundaries had been secretive.

“The government seems to think that if someone wants a development in a national park, they can simply excise that area from the park without any public consultation,’’ he said.

‘‘Management of our finest natural areas should be transparent, honest and based on the best scientific advice. We need to know what other developments they are planning for our magnificent national parks.”

Comment was being sought from Falls Creek Alpine Resort management.

The Alpine National Park was the site of the Baillieu government’s controversial cattle grazing trial, which was blocked by the Commonwealth under national environment law.

Falls Creek chief executive David Herman said the redrawn boundaries were a win for the environment and the resort.

He said the almost 10 hectares of national park given to the resort was of ‘‘poor conservation value’’ and contained a man-made lake and debris left over from the construction of the Snowy Hydro Electricity Scheme.

But Mr Herman said the land being added to the national park was of considerable environmental value.

He said the resort wanted to use its newly acquired land for a high-altitude training program.

‘‘It will enhance the tourism potential of what is a  unique piece of the alpine landscape.’’

He said he could not put a value on the alpine land added to the resort.

‘‘You would have to take into account a whole range of things including the degraded land and what we use it for.’’

Des Burkitt, a consultant valuer to Valuer-General Victoria also said it was impossible to estimate the value of the land without knowing what it was permitted to be used for.

‘‘It could be a greenfield site where no buildings could be constructed. The use of the land is a fairly important factor in terms of its value. Any valuer putting a figure on it would have to wait and see what the government would allow to take place on that land.’’

The story National park boundary redrawn for resort first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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