The much lauded but controversial major re-development of the Mount Hotham alpine village was quietly shelved last month. This long awaited and complex $500 million restructure of the village would have seen the Great Alpine Road re-routed through the village and was predicated on the major ‘Bale’ development proceeding. Bale was expected to deliver another 1,414 beds to the village.

The outline for the development was covered in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the developer, the state government, and the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board. This MoU quietly expired in May, effectively seeing the end of what would have been a destructive major development. Many skiers and boarders have been commenting for some time about the fact that Hotham resort appears to be in a holding pattern, rather than seeing any serious investment back into staff and operations. This may be over with a significant investment in snow making operations for the 2010 season. The proponents for the project, the Living and Leisure Australia Group (LLA), are also the owners of the Mt Hotham Ski Lifts and a range of other major commercial interests on the mountain as well as at Falls Creek resort. It is controlled by interests associated with James Packer.

Part of the project entailed the creation of a village hub. There is no reason that such a development needs to be tied to a mega project like Bale and resort management should stop bemoaning the failure of this project and help facilitate an accessible village centre. At present the centre of Hotham is a carpark and a shopping centre. It is up to resort management to come up with something more appropriate for a thriving and sustainable community.

The global financial crisis was named as the main reason the project did not go ahead.

At a recent ‘future of the resorts’ consultation forum in Melbourne hosted by the Department of Sustainability and Environment, perhaps the single most dominant issue that emerged was the need to keep resorts accessible to a range of people rather than just the rich. The Bale resort was very top end and would have been one more nail in the coffin of affordability for Hotham. As was reported by the Australian newspaper: marketing for the project was “ totally egocentric — and buyers came from all four corners of Australia, high net-worth individuals”.

“Bale Mount Hotham prices started at $2million, soaring to $7million for the penthouse, which fittingly was bought by failed investment tsar Peter Berlowitz, who went out of business owing investors $35million”.

This marks the end of a long running and concerted plan by big business to damage the mountain resort, and the lapse of the current proposal is good news for any one who wants to see our alpine resorts remain (relatively) diverse and accessible to a range of people.