Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps


Mount Buller

Alpine resorts and Council win State Government category in Premiers awards

Spion Kopje, above Falls Creek village

The Premier’s Sustainability Awards are billed as “Victoria’s most prestigious environmental awards ceremony”.

The awards are intended to “recognise and reward Victorian businesses, institutions, communities and individuals that are forging a sustainable Victoria now and for the future”.

At the awards ceremony on October 2, Alpine Shire Council – Dinner Plain Alpine Village, Falls Creek Resort Management, Mt Hotham Resort Management, Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management, North East Victorian Regional Waste Management Group (NevRwaste) and 4SITE Australia Pty Ltd were recognised through being awarded the State government award.

This was for the ‘Living Bin’, a joint initiative between three alpine resorts which is administered by State Government Boards. This program captures organic waste from Falls Creek, Mount Hotham, Mount Buller and Dinner Plain Alpine village, to convert it into commercial fertiliser. A successful trial of organic collection was conducted in 2010, and in 2011 the program was extended into commercial food outlets, club lodges, and private accommodation.

In 2011 this program had several hundred participants and diverted over 70 tonnes of organic waste from landfill. This program empowers resort residents and guests to make a difference in their daily lives.

You can find extra details here.

As an observation about the awards, it does seem rather strange that Hepburn Wind won the overall award last year (Hepburn is within a ‘no go’ zone created by Ted Baillieu, and would not be allowed under his wind energy rules). And at the 2012 awards, a TAFE college won the Tertiary category. Given the slash and burn cutbacks occurring through the TAFE sector, this is a rather ironic decision.  

Grollo objection overruled as Buller plans approved

I am a big fan of infill, but 6 storey development in a mountain environment seems a bit excessive.

The following comes from The Age, journalist Simon Johanson.

Mt Buller from Stirling

A LARGE development at the Mount Buller ski resort will go ahead despite objections from the Grollo family, which owns a neighbouring property and extensive other interests there.

The proposed four-storey building on the YHA Hostel site in the heart of Buller village will have shops, a 64-bed short-stay unit and nine apartments.

The plans were approved in August last year by the state government, which oversees all Crown land at the resort.
The Grollo Group, headed by Rino Grollo, has extensive property, hotel and ski-lift operations on Mount Buller.

Its leisure and tourism arm, which owns the neighbouring Kooroora Hotel, objected to the development, seeking a review at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The Grollo Group, an active property developer in its own right, said the revamp of the YHA site did not comply with the resort’s planning guidelines.

It said the plans would remove snow gums unnecessarily and limit the Grollo Group’s ability to redevelop the Kooroora Hotel.

But their objections were rejected by VCAT, which upheld the development’s permit with some slight modifications.

”The development has taken sufficient account of the snow gums on the review site, and has been designed to minimise the number of trees required to be removed,” the tribunal said.

More big projects are expected to rise from Mount Buller’s snow after the resort’s management approved a master plan encouraging buildings up to six storeys in the village.

Nick Whitby, the managing director of Grollo Leisure and Tourism, would not comment on the matter.

‘How distance made the possums grow fonder’

This article comes from The Age, journalist is Bridie Smith, April 19, 2012

Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus). Source: Department of the Environment and Heritage

POSSUM Researchers have intervened in an emergency move to deepen the gene pool of one of Australia’s rarest marsupials, the threatened Mountain Pygmy-possum. Studies showed as few as two or three males from the isolated Mt Buller population were successfully mating with females each year, contributing further to genetic depletion of the threatened species.

However scientists from the DSE and Melb Uni have combined to ‘genetically rescue’ the Mt Buller population by removing six males from Mt Hotham and introducing them to the females on Mt Buller.

They have since tested the results of this intervention – and this year found that half the offspring are hybrids (Dad from Mt Hotham, Mum from Mt Buller). It’s good news, as the hybrids are genetically more robust than pure Mt Buller animals.

The full story is here.

Water bomber called in for Mount Buller fire

After the 2003 fires, Mt Stirling. Photo: Tali Walker


Its been a wonderfully quiet summer so far in terms of bush fire across the alps. Lets hope it stays that way.

This report comes from ABC News.

An aerial water bomber is being used to control a fire near Mount Buller.

The DSE says smoke might be visible in nearby towns including Mirimbah, Mount Buller, Sawmill Settlement and Merrijig.

It is believed the fire started last night and may have been caused by lightning.

The CFA website reports the fire as being 5km SE of Sawmill Settlement, in the Round Hill area, of 2ha size, and under control as of this afternoon.

The Bluff

Looking over The Bluff and Mt Eadley Stoney towards the Crosscut Saw

If you have ever skied or boarded at Mt Buller, the Bluff is probably familiar, even if you don’t know its name. It’s the prominent and rocky, long mountain out on the skyline on your right as you ski back to the village down Bourke Street.

Unlike some of its neighbours, like Mt Buller and Stirling, The Bluff doesn’t have a road or other developments on it, so retains a wildness that is lacking on some other peaks in the area. It is an atmospheric mountain, with loads of character. It has great walking and backcountry skiing and boarding.

The following is an appreciation of this gorgeous mountain.

‘Hybrid mountain pygmies hold hope of a bright future’

Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus). Source: Department of the Environment and Heritage

This article comes from The Age. Journalist: Bridie Smith.

Since 2007, the mountain pygmy possum captive breeding program at Healesville Sanctuary – the only one of its kind in Australia – has been breeding hybrid animals, with one parent from Mt Buller and the other from Mt Hotham.

The first hybrid litter was born in 2008. Now, Melbourne University researchers have shown for the first time that hybrid males are fertile – providing a vital new path for boosting the species’ genetic diversity.

Full story here.

A lacklustre environmental offering from the resorts for winter

Seems the wheels have fallen off the 'sustainability' bus

With winter almost in view, the resorts are announcing their highlights and new activities for 2011.

In Victoria, there are the usual snow making investment announcements and continued diversification of activities. At Falls Creek, the final stage of the Slalom Plaza redevelopment has been opened. Apparently Falls also has new aerial walkways, which take pedestrians through the village via a network of elevated stairways. At Hotham, in contrast, the main new announcement is some extra investment in snow making.

Mt Buller has put another $1 million into new snow guns and the snow grooming fleet.

However, on the environment front, I doubt I have ever seen such an un-inspiring effort.

In a rather bizarre move, some reports say that Buller now has a heated walkway from the Village Square up to the Ski and Snowboard School and the Buller Kids Centre. This would be great if Buller was pitching itself as a nudist colony, but most of us wear boots in the snow, and it seems like they must have money (and carbon) to burn if they think using energy to heat an outdoor pathway is a good idea.

Hotham is pushing air travel to get to the snow. Falls and Hotham continue to push the gas guzzling obscenity that is the 6 minute heli link ride so you can ski two mountains. Great for people with no values but a healthy credit card limit. Hotham runs kids snowmobile operations.  Mention of environmental initiatives seems to have disappeared almost completely from resort promotional material in 2011 (for instance, there is a one paragraph mention of environmental practise in this years 50 page booklet from Hotham).

Meanwhile, Falls has announced that 10 ‘brand new luxury Snowmobiles’ have been added to the tours fleet, allowing guests to ride or pillion on their own snowmobile into the ‘pristine backcountry’ of Falls Creek.

Not content with imposing their operations on ‘pristine’ areas within the resort boundary with last years tours run by Steve Lee, they appear to be wanting to increase their noise and carbon footprint with these new skidoos.

On the positive side, Falls has made access to their many groomed cross country trails free. Perhaps encouraging more people to get away from the resort will balance out some of the increased carbon footprint that comes with putting a bunch of new snowmobiles into the backcountry.

Lake Mountain has substantial new building infrastructure and snow making and needs support as it recovers from the devastating fires of 2009. Baw Baw stands out amongst the Victorian resorts because it continues to focus on its ‘green’ image.

Just a few years ago, environmental initiatives were reasonably prominent in a number of the main resorts. From actively spruiking the Keep Winter Cool behaviour change program to buying green power to run some of their tows, resorts seemed serious about reducing their ecological footprint. Sadly, that all seems to have evaporated this year. Rather than acting decisively to reduce their greenhouse footprint, most have gone all out to re-badge themselves as ‘year round’ resorts. That’s where the money has gone, into mountain bike trails and many out of season festivals and events. All of that is great, and a common sense way of stretching use of existing infrastructure. But the loss of responsible activity and leadership by resort management on the environmental front is deeply disappointing.

Louise Perrin

First snow. Image: Louise Perrin

Louise Perrin is Environmental Manager for the Mt Buller and Mt Stirling Alpine Resort Management Board. She has been the driving force behind an innovative – and very successful – recovery plan for the endangered Mountain Pygmy Possum.

The possum is the only native mammal that lives in the alpine environment above the treeline and its habitat is threatened by development, climate change and introduced flora and fauna.

The Recovery Plan for the species on Mt Buller was developed in 2005. It contains a range of actions to assist in the continued survival and conservation of the Mountain Pygmy-possum on the mountain. This has relied on substantial support from the Resort Board, the ski lift company, and the Department of Sustainability and Environment, and has even involved the construction of boulder fields to create habitat for the animals.

In spite of the pressures from ski field development through its habitat, the fires of 2007, and the longer term impacts of climate change on alpine environments, the Mt Buller project is a showcase of a program which has helped bring a species back from the brink of extinction.

Lou says “I just want to do my best to ensure that my kids can enjoy this little patch of alpine Australia as much as I do”. But her contribution to this effort has been huge and deserves widespread acknowledgement.

There is a profile on Lou here.

Have your say on the future of the alpine resorts

The Department of Sustainability and Environment and the Alpine Resorts Co-ordinating Council are reviewing the Alpine resorts 2020 Strategy. The strategy was created to guide the the long term planning and management of Victoria’s six alpine resorts.

Mount Buller, VIC

DSE and ARCC will be hosting a series of workshops in June to identify key trends and issues for the future of resorts and look at how the new strategy can address these issues.

Workshops will be held in Melbourne and at or near the six resorts from June 1 until June 23. You need to rsvp for the events.

For details on the workshops, check here.

For details on the existing Resorts 2020 strategy, check here.

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