For background on the road proposal, check here.
If you don’t support secretive decision making by governments, or a new and unnecessary road in an alpine environment, you may want to send a message to the Minister who will take the decision:
The following update comes from Clay Lucas at The Age.
A move by the Napthine government to decide behind closed doors the fate of a controversial new road linking Mount Buller to Mount Stirling could be the first step in the development of the mountain as a new ski resort, a conservation group says.
Environment groups fought a long-running battle with property heavyweight Rino Grollo from the 1980s over his ultimately withdrawn plans to develop Mount Stirling as a downhill skiing resort.
There is no application to develop the mountain, which is close to Mount Buller, as a resort now.
But a national parks group has questioned why the Mount Buller and Mount Stirling Alpine Resort Management Board wants to build the $5 million sealed road between the two mountains other than for development.
The board argues the road is needed for emergency access during disasters and to improve the connection between Mount Buller and Mount Stirling, to increase year-round visits to both.
A hearing was due to start on Friday at the state planning tribunal between the Mount Buller and Mount Stirling Alpine Resort Management Board and the Victorian National Parks Association.
But Planning Minister Matthew Guy has taken the matter out of the hands of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and will now decide.
The board previously applied under the Brumby government to build the three-kilometre road through dense native vegetation but this 2008 application was put on hold. The board renewed the application last year and it was approved in March by Mr Guy. The parks association objected to that decision and was waiting for a VCAT hearing to start on Friday.
Mr Guy’s spokeswoman Rochelle Jackson said this was the first planning matter before the tribunal that the minister had called in since 2011.
‘‘The Labor Party called in 26 VCAT matters in its last term in office, an average of more than six per year, showing their disregard for the planning system,’’ Ms Jackson said.
She said the road plan had been called in by the minister because it raised ‘‘important issues of policy that will be assessed in an independent manner’’.
Ms Jackson said it was ‘‘important to note that the Victorian National Parks Association was the only objector to this matter’’.
The application from the board for the road said it would see a three-kilometre long, 25-metre wide ‘‘all-weather, two-wheel drive connection’’. The road would, it said, ‘‘also provide an alternative access road into Mount Buller Alpine Resort’’.
The parks association’s executive director, Matt Ruchel, said Mr Guy’s action was a ‘‘desperate bid’’ to shut down public debate on the road, which would ‘‘require the destruction of high-conservation value alpine forest and threatened species habitat – all for a road that essentially goes nowhere’’.
‘‘Pulling the case out of VCAT means any decision about the impacts and questionable value of the road will now be made behind closed doors,’’ Mr Ruchel said.
The Mount Buller and Mount Stirling Alpine Resort Management Board had provided ‘‘nothing substantive’’ to justify building the road.
‘‘We’re deeply concerned that the road is just the forerunner of a much broader commercial development that would scar the largely natural landscape of Mt Stirling,’’ he said.
A statement from the management board said the road would provide an ‘‘important alternative emergency access … route for the resorts in the event of a fire or natural disaster’’ and would also improve connections between the two mountains.
It would also ‘‘become an appealing touring circuit, thereby increasing year-round visitation to both resorts’’, the statement said.
Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said Victorians had the right to know if the minister was “determined to avoid scrutiny and shut out the community so he can fast track development” in alpine forests.
If approved, construction of the road will begin this summer.
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