The Falls Creek Alpine Resort Management Board (FCARMB) has released details about the proposed development of the Rocky Valley Lake foreshore. This focuses on the old Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) shed, which needs to be renovated to be usable.
The proposed developments are intended for year round use, meaning that the clearing of the Bogong High Plains road (which currently ends at the gate near Windy Corner) will be extended through to the Lakeside site. This will result in loss of crosscountry skier access, which FCARMB says will be ‘offset’ by an upgraded track to Nordic Bowl and beyond.
The new development will have a number of businesses, parking and public facilities and act as the staging point for winter backcountry touring on the east side of the High Plains.
FCARMB developed a detailed Masterplan in 2016 as part of their strategic planning initiatives. This plan included a focus area for the ANARE shed for ‘year-round usage to benefit the local community and visitors to the area’. According to the Masterplan, ‘further strategic development plans, including the Victorian Alpine Resorts Visitor Economy Development plan, have highlighted this project as a transformative priority development’.
There are various limitations on the economy of the current village and reliant businesses in Falls Creek. An extensive list of problems are being addressed in the overall development plan business case, the following are those specific to the Lakeside development.
- Capacity issues constrain the ability to meet both current and potential snow season visitor demand.
- Reduced snowfall due to climate change will impact on quality of the snow experience for ski and snowboard markets.
- Reliance on winter to deliver all economic benefits for the Resorts.
The proposed development aims to help resolve these issues. The extra carparking is intended to allow more people to park high on the mountain rather than below the village, to both access the resort and for general sightseeing (this is seen as significant given that Falls Creek is located in the valley and so visitors seeking a snow play experience don’t get expansive views of the High Plains).
A key part of this facility development is the refurbishment of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) shed, which needs to be modernised and improved to ‘better match commercial/trailhead activation requirements and attract commercial activation opportunities conducted from both the ANARE building, and along the foreshore itself’. Improvements included as part of the precinct development, though funded separately are the installation of a pontoon and jetty together with a boat ramp and upgraded visitor facilities.
The project will also have a ‘visitor information precinct, education and interpretation centre’ and a meeting place for traditional owners.
Construction works are planned for summer 2022/23 (subject to permit approvals) with commercial activities starting in the summer 2023/24 onwards. The FCARMB says that the ANARE site has the ‘potential to be a multi-vendor site and will be subject to a lease based agreement after the final tender process. The site will be delivered for activation as a shell lease to the successful tender/s’.
The project budget is currently $3.5m. $3m in funding is being provided under the Federal Local Economic Recovery program and the Victorian State Governments Alpine Business Support program administered through Regional Development Victoria, together with the Victorian Fisheries Authority support for the associated boat ramp installation. In-kind and project management support equivalent to $0.5M is being provided by Falls Creek Resort Management.
Key aspects of the proposal
Upgrade the ANARE shed including:
- Provision of upgraded public toilets
- Upgrade building structure and external cladding
- Provision of power, heating, water and wastewater utilities, including ground sourced heating and solar panels
- Upgrade internal lighting and internal finishes to facilitate commercial and visitor centre activation
- Integration of outdoor decking and furniture
- Universal access design, including winter access for disabled users
Consideration of winter and summer user requirements including:
- Increase car parking capacity
- Develop all-season car parking to allow for up to 100 additional parking spaces. (This is one of the main points of contention, with many XC skiers objecting to the winter road clearing being extended from Windy Corner).
- Provision of curbing and stormwater to suit snow clearing operations
- Use of green asphalt and recycled concrete for car park surfaces
Improve road access including:
- Upgrade ANARE access road to all seasons use with green asphalt (see note above about concerns)
- Infrastructure integration for both mountain biking, water activations and cross-country skiing in this area
- Consideration of snow clearing requirements for all-season activation
Improve foreshore safety including:
- Integration of key infrastructure projects including a pontoon jetty, boat ramp and foreshore picnic facilities
Provide shelter in place facilities for bushfire threats including:
- Ensure space configuration for community use during bushfire emergencies
- Consider requirements for emergency services
Update on the road clearing issue (late July)
By extending the road access through winter, the ANARE site is intended to become the ‘trailhead’ for backcountry skiing and splitboarding on the eastern side of the Bogong High Plains, and the start point for the Falls to Hotham Crossing. It will create additional public facilities within the resort. It would mean the loss of the existing road from Windy Corner for XC skiers and snowshoers, which FCARMB says it will offset by a planned ski trail along the aqueduct to Nordic Bowl and beyond (the details on this are not yet clear). This has generated significant controversy among the XC community.
Creating a new development zone around the ANARE shed will increase the physical and noise ‘footprint’ of the resort by adding a significant area of asphalted car parking to the top end of the resort, with resulting winter traffic.
It will provide a bushfire point of safety for a village which is largely located in a forested landscape. Adding extra commercial operations can be expected to increase the overall number of businesses at Falls Creek and hence increase summer visitation and therefore benefit existing businesses.
Opposition to the clearing of the Bogong High Plains Road over winter
Cross Country Skiing Association Victoria (XCSAV) describes itself as ‘the voice of cross country skiing in Victoria and we represent the interests of XC skiers throughout Victoria’.
They have announced their first campaign: ‘to stop Falls Creek Resort Management clearing the Bogong High Plains Road over winter and destroying the network of XC ski trails’.
The Save Falls Creek XC campaign says:
This plan is going to destroy the main artery of our cross country (XC) ski trail network at Falls Creek and the sheltered skiing and trail connections it offers will be lost forever. Proper consideration has not been given to safety of XC skiers, pedestrians, and vehicles.
The winter use of the ANARE shed development is not strategically aligned with the Falls Creek Master Plan (2016) where it states that the Lakeside Precinct is to be developed for non-winter activation.
My take on the proposal
I have attempted to provide an information-focused overview of what is proposed, using materials from FCARMB, and highlighting opposition to the proposal.
But for the record, these are my views.
- I support the re development of the ANARE building and it’s transformation into a public facility and commercial operation, which can be expected to increase overall business activity at Falls Creek in summer, providing more things for people to see/ do, and improve overall economic viability of the village. The creation of a Shelter in Place facility is significant given the difficulty of fighting bushfire within the village, and resulting threat to the public. The creation of a trailhead for mountain biking and the Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing will be a welcome addition to the overall Falls Creek facilities. The area is already heavily modified and it makes sense to repurpose it for public and commercial activity. I note that I have not looked at the site closely out of winter, and do not know if any vegetation will be impacted by the planned expansion of the car parks, but would oppose this if it were to occur.
- I do not support winter use of the facility due to the increased noise and traffic footprint of the resort – pushing cars out into the Rocky Valley area, and do not support the winter clearing of the road to allow cars to access the site.