Alpine National Park

Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing



Bushwalkers on the Razorback, Alpine National Park. Photo: Cam Walker.

Background


The alpine region of mainland Australia covers less than 0.3% of our vast continent. Stretching across the High Country of Victoria, NSW and the ACT, the Alpine National Park is a treasured landscape. It’s home to the rare and fuzzy tooarrana, mountain pygmy possums, endangered skinks, fields of mountain daisies and much more.

It's a wonderland for nature lovers, a precious conservation reserve for our flora and fauna. As the late Alec Costin, the ‘father of Australian alpine ecology’ said, it “presents to the World a large and irreplaceable sample of Australian natural history”.

At the heart of the Alpine National Park are the Bogong High Plains, holding unique, endemic plant life, wildlife and ecosystems found nowhere else on earth. Mount Feathertop is Victoria’s grandest freestanding peak and one of its highest mountains. These magnificent features of Victoria’s alpine country deserve rigorous protection: they should be respected, not exploited.

Mt Feathertop and the Razorback. Photo: Cam Walker.

Development proposal


The ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’ (FHAC) is a proposal for a new, luxury, five-day, hut-based walk within the Alpine National Park. This proposal involves building more than 80 new structures within four ‘overnight hub locations’, as well as constructing a new track and widening existing tracks. The proposed hub locations are popular free camp spots: the historic Cope Hut, Tawonga Huts region (both on the High Plains); Diamantina Creek (near the West Kiewa River); and High Knob (near the summit of Mount Feathertop).

The 80 new structures include:
  • Four new overnight accommodation hubs, each with up to nine catered huts for 2-3 people / 36 (2-4 person) huts
  • 31 rentable tent platforms
  • Four large communal shelters
  • A stand-alone 50-person hut for group gathering and cooking
  • Huts for tourism operators and communal toilets
  • Other structures including toilets and solar panels


Figure 1. Graphic showing proposed large-scale development sites for the Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing.

Current status


As of October 2022, construction was due to start, with $11 million allocated for the construction of two hubs. The total cost is a secret, but government documents indicate around $50 million. A plan has been released, but it is so heavily redacted the details are effectively secret.


Issues with the proposal



History  The proposal has been around for years, but not in its current, maximum-impact format. There is widespread public criticism of the current proposal and its huge impact, but this has been ignored. The token consultative group is dominated by members of the tourism industry, with only one environmentally focussed member.

Parks Victoria released an earlier draft Master Plan. Of the 229 written public submissions, nearly 90 percent ‘strongly opposed’ the development, largely because of the proposed hut and lodge construction. However, when Parks Victoria reported this feedback, they falsely claimed: “Overall there was a positive response to the plan and its potential positive impact to the region”. Parks Victoria has not publicly corrected this statement, despite recognising their error and promising accurate reporting of future public feedback.

There is little evidence that Traditional Owners have been adequately consulted, or that ongoing feedback has been sought from our most experienced alpine ecologists, such as the membership of Victoria’s renowned Research Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology.

Walkers start the descent from the Bogong High Plains to Cobungra Gap on the proposed Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing. Photo: Cam Walker.

The major concern with the current proposal of the FHAC is its major detrimental environmental impact on sensitive areas within the Alpine National Park. This will include helicopter intrusion and difficulties with removing human waste.

In addition to the environmental impact, other issues include:

Loss of social equity. The current proposal will displace lower income walkers in favour of wealthier tourists. (According to the FHAC business case, the cost of serviced cabin accommodation would be between $440 and $1,065 a night on sites that are currently free.)

National Park law. The current proposal is contrary to public statements that “It is still government policy that tourism development will be encouraged to be sited on private or other public land outside national parks” (Current Minister).

Faulty economics. Due to faulty counting and planning, much of the $50 million of taxpayer dollars will be wasted. The redacted business case suggests that revenue from tour operators will just cover maintenance in a best-case scenario, with the capital cost not recovered.

Local economy. The currently proposed route is a poor option for local business. The plan for “on mountain hut-based accommodation” rather than “lodge with daily transport” model will be the least desirable option for local business at Falls Creek, Hotham and Harrietville. Better models exist in the Great Ocean Walk and (partially) in the Grampians.

Campsite near Derrick Hut, on the current Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing route. Photo: Cam Walker.

Further information


https://vnpa.org.au/stop-alpine-park-development/

How you can help!




Key contact/s


Jordan Crook Parks and Nature Campaigner VNPA
Email: Jordan@vnpa.org.au
+61 401635573

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