The Andrews government has announced $7.5 million of support for the controversial Mt Buller Water Storage Project through the Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund.
The Mt Buller Water Storage Project will build a 100 megalitre storage facility to provide water for drinking, firefighting and snowmaking. Under the original proposal, it will involve the destruction of about 5 hectares of treeless alpine native vegetation, mostly an ecosystem called ‘alpine grassy heathland’.
According to a report by Adam Carey in The Age, ‘the resort plans to use the dam for snowmaking, drinking water and firefighting and says it is critical to its plans to remain in business as climate change makes natural snowfall increasingly unpredictable’.
Mt Buller already has chronic water shortages and has run out of water for snowmaking purposes in four of the past five snow seasons.
To replenish supplies it has regularly been forced to breach the conditions of its water extraction licence and draw water from Boggy Creek in summer, placing environmental stress on other rivers in Victoria’s high country.
The project still requires planning approval from the federal government, which is assessing its impact on several vulnerable species including the mountain pygmy possum, the smoky mouse, blue-tongued orchid and alpine tree frog.
The federal environment department has already said the water storage project is to have a minimum 200-metre buffer from mountain pygmy possum habitat and avoid all impact on alpine bogs.
A contract to complete detailed design and construction will be tendered later this year, Mt Buller said.
As a disappointing side note, the general manager of Buller Ski Lifts, Laurie Blampied, recently said ‘An increasing reliance on artificial snow would not make the industry less viable’.
“If the product [snow] becomes less common, it will in turn become more valued and people are going to be prepared to pay more of a premium to enjoy a product if it’s scarce, a bit like a fine wine.’ This thinking seems to be consistent with the resort’s decision to proceed with this destructive project.