The following news item comes from The Age newspaper, journalist Darren Gray.

Image: SMH
Image: SMH

The grand old dame of Victoria’s alpine country, the Mount Buffalo Chalet, will reopen its doors once a $7 million project to refurbish the historic building and establish a day visitor centre and, hopefully, a cafe is complete.

The first clean-up works inside the 103-year-old chalet, closed since January 2007, are expected to start within weeks. But the project is more than a facelift, because outbuildings as well as some rooms that were not part of the original structure are likely to be demolished. Building assessments and recommendations will be carried out soon.

Environment Minister Ryan Smith will announce the project today and say the government is committed to preserving the building for future generations and ensuring ”the site is primed and ready for appropriate future investment.”

In an interview with Fairfax Media on Friday, he said the chalet was ”an icon in the area. It’s a state asset. We need to make sure that we can get people up there. I’m passionate about getting as many people into our parks as possible.”

”We want to make sure it’s useful, rather than just spending taxpayers’ money on maintaining something that’s not actually being used. So I think it’s important that we do get it back to some useable state.”

Mr Smith said the project, expected to take about a year, would pave the way for development, subject to national parks guidelines. Recent research found no private operator was interested in the site in its current state.

In about a year the government would call for expressions of interest for the site. ”Everything’s on the table, as long as it conforms to our guidelines around tourism development in these national parks,” he said.

Asked if the chalet could once again offer accommodation, he said: ”I’d leave it to commercial forces … But I’d look at anything. What I hope is that we get something that’s sustainable. I don’t want to look back in three years or five years or whatever and say ‘That didn’t work’.”

The works will be funded by a $4.7 million insurance payout for bushfire damage on Mount Buffalo and a contribution from the state’s Regional Growth Fund.

Mayor of the Alpine Shire, Peter Roper, said the project was ”absolutely fantastic news” that would be welcomed by locals.