To read our blog from November 2016 on the ‘story so far’, and for further background to the items discussed below, please click here.
As outlined in detail on our blog here and here, the National Trust has serious concerns for the future preservation of the Mt Buffalo Chalet if a sustainable future use is not identified and implemented as a matter of urgency. Since closing its doors in 2007, the Chalet has sat empty and neglected, very much at the mercy of the harsh alpine climate. A site visit back in August 2016 revealed that while the building was under constant supervision by Parks Victoria, the harsh climate had started to cause serious structural issues for the building, with the front ‘postcard’ section of the building in the best condition, while the rear wings continued to languish.
Over the weekend, the Advocacy team traveled to the North-East to view the recent $2.8m maintenance and restoration program currently underway at the Chalet under the supervision of Parks Victoria, and to attend the community launch of the Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group’s ‘Vision for Mount Buffalo’, a 12 month community-led project developed as a ‘gift’ to the state government. While there is still a long journey ahead before the Chalet is finally able to open its doors to visitors, we are hopeful that the ‘Vision’ will offer some new strategies to tackle this complex issue following years of neglect, as well as keeping it firmly on the Government’s agenda.
$2.8m Maintenance and Restoration Project Update
Following the launch of the Mt Buffalo Destination Advisory Group Vision, the National Trust was invited by Parks Victoria to inspect the maintenance and restoration program currently underway at the Chalet. This $2.8 million external works package is specifically focused on the front portion of the building, to ensure this section of the Chalet is weatherproof and safe as winter rapidly approaches. After touring the building in August 2016, this was a good opportunity for the team to view the current condition of the building, and to determine how far Parks Victoria have been able to progress works over the warmer months. The National Trust was heartened to see that works being undertaken are not just cosmetic ‘band-aid’ repairs, also encompassing not-so-obvious but fundamental repairs such as restumping and restoring structural integrity, addressing serious issues with the foundations of the building. At over a 100 years old, it was unsurprising to learn that years of water ingress had rotted away structural footings, bearers and stumps. During works to remove sections of the floor to remove rotten timber, it was also revealed that the Chalet foundations were built directly atop the dirt and granite below, explaining many of the building’s structural issues.
Our annotated photo gallery below indicates key areas of concern currently being addressed by Parks Victoria (images taken February 2017 unless otherwise specified).
While this program of works is but a drop in the ocean for the conservation, restoration and reconstruction needed across the entirety of this massive site, it represents an important step towards the future preservation of the building. Significant financial contributions to facilitate these works, whether through government funding or private investment, will be essential to ensure the Chalet can once again open its doors. For future updates on these works, Julien Atherson, Ovens Area Chief Ranger, has been uploading regular newsletters to the ‘Visit Mt Buffalo’ website.
Vision for Mount Buffalo by the Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group (MBDAG)
While in the North-East over the weekend the National Trust also attended a community meeting at the Porepunkah Hall for the unveiling of the ‘Vision for Mount Buffalo Chalet‘, a proposal that has been developed over the past 12 months by the Mt Buffalo Destination Advisory Group, appointed by the Andrews Government in 2016 to identify future tourism options for the Mount Buffalo Chalet. This group of community volunteers has developed this proposal as a ‘gift’ to the State Government, basing their findings on previous research and reports, as well as contributions from over 200 people in the community and professionals who have provided pro bono support. The Vision presents a broad, overarching plan for the mountain in its entirety, including the Chalet, and aims to make Mt Buffalo a key tourism, hospitality and education destination.
While the Vision is ambitious, it presents a potential masterplan for the mountain that explores both government and private investment opportunities, a tourism model that has the potential to increase the profitability of the local economy and attract international visitors. The Vision also advocates for a light approach to be taken to the provision of new facilities, restricting development to already “disrupted” areas of the mountain. The Trust was also pleased to see that MBDAG has also developed a partnership with the Traditional Owners, the Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation.
While the National Trust is yet to examine this plan in detail (with the plan to be made publicly available after it is formally presented to Parks Victoria on the 23rd of February 2017), the MBDAG has taken a holistic approach to ensuring the Chalet is not just restored and opened, but is able to remain open in the long term.
The National Trust looks forward to providing feedback on the Vision, and working to ensure that Mt Buffalo stays on the agenda for the Andrews Government and Parks Victoria, and that these plans are progressed.
For regular updates on the Mt Buffalo Chalet, be sure to follow the MBDAG Facebook page, and the ‘Mount Buffalo Chalet’ Facebook page. If you have any questions, comments or ideas for the Mount Buffalo Chalet, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Trust of Australia (Vic)