NEWS 11 February 2023 | Page last updated: 11/2/2023

Parks Victoria has now released the engagement summary for the Falls to Hotham project*. This report captures the public’s feedback on the development plans.

The feedback focussed on the state’s government plans to fund the construction of four tourist hubs in the heart of Victoria’s Alpine National Park. The hubs, to be built by Parks Victoria but privately-operated, will impact 45 hectares of the park. That’s 22 times the size of the MCG oval.

While the consultation was largely over trivial issues, with no invitation to comment on the overall value of the project (let alone oppose it), many made their views heard.

We were unsurprised to see that the report highlighted high levels of dissatisfaction with Parks Victoria’s plan to build luxury huts within the Alpine National Park.

“Given that the “Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing” project would likely remove up to 30 hectares of vegetation, or a significant portion of that area, exposing an enormous amount of bare, friable soil, the proposal is totally inappropriate for the Australian Alps” – Page 12, Engage Victoria submission

The main objections to the development covered:

  • Environmental impacts (clearing native habitat, invasive species incursion and the fragile nature of Alpine ecosystems)
  • Commercialisation of the park
  • Equitable access to the park (the exclusion of non-wealthy individuals that cannot afford high priced access to the huts)
  • Defying the purpose of the park (to protect native flora and fauna, including those listed under state and Commonwealth legislation)
  • Safety of non-experienced walkers using remote sections of the park
  • Questionable consultation by Parks Victoria and the overall validity of the business case
Caption: Photo: Paul Sinclair

With little support in the community, it’s very clear that the Falls to Hotham project has no social license. If it does proceed, the high price (to what is currently free or low-fee camping) will create a financial barrier and compromise equitable access to the publically-owned park.

“Please consider families and those who can’t afford to pay much for hiking. Please don’t adversely affect those who wish to use the trail for free and camp for free”
– Page 17, Engage Victoria survey entrant

Parks Victoria and the state’s new Environment Minister, Ingrid Stitt, must throw out this proposal to privatise the Alpine National Park by installing exclusive huts for use by those with deep pockets.

Our park, native wildlife and community deserves better than the poorly thought out Falls to Hotham track.

There is already too much pressure on our parks: invasive pests and weeds, increased bushfires and climate change impacts, and rapidly growing visitor numbers. That’s why they are protected in perpetuity. Or *supposed* to be.

Parks Victoria should be investing in upgrading existing walking trails and focussing on improving the park’s current facilities.

If the large-scale construction in the Bogong High Plains and Mount Feathertop goes ahead, the natural and cultural heritage of Victoria’s high country will be forever compromised.

“My deep desire is that this unique and wonderful Alpine region be preserved and protected in its natural state. I want future generations of young people to discover its beauty as I did” – Page 13, Engage Victoria email submission

What do they want to construct?

The four proposed so-called overnight hub locations along the track includes the historic Cope Hut, Tawonga Huts region (both on the High Plains), Diamantina Creek (near the West Kiewa River) and High Knob (near the summit of Mount Feathertop)

A new track will be constructed, existing tracks widened and the construction of up to 80 new structures.

Tell the minister to protect the Alps

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*The summary engagement report is based off in-person pop up sessions and feedback through an online survey conducted by Engage Victoria in 2022.