Friends Of the Grampians Gariwerd (FOGGs) support in principle the proposal for the Grampians Peaks Trail as set out in the Draft Master Plan and as presented recently at public meetings at Halls Gap, Wartook and Dunkeld.
However we do have concerns around the ‘On-walk hiker lodges’. In the document (page 40) it suggests that 3 lodges would be built along the trail initially, but that this could vary with “market forces”. Does this mean that there could later be pressure to build more lodges so this group of users can potentially do the whole walk using this type of accommodation? In some sections of the document one gets the impression that large sections of the trail will be able to be walked using this style of accommodation. With mega fires becoming a regular occurrence in Victoria and the Grampians having experienced 3 large scale fires in the past 8 years we are concerned about the risks of having such accommodation facilities within the park boundaries. We do appreciate that the restraints on construction imposed by the various Acts, the zones set out in the Grampians National Park Management Plan, and the bushfire overlays are clearly set out in sections 8.2 and 8.3. We note that there is a reference to “the existing management plan” and as this plan is due for review, we are concerned there could be pressure to weaken some of the zones to allow hiker lodges to be built in currently protected zones. We oppose any private development within the Park; not just for fire reasons, but for ecological and philosophic reasons: the Park is for the protection of the environment: people can enjoy the environment but not at the expense of that resource.
We support the views of the ‘Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commissions’ recent report which favours ‘the development of tourist ventures outside the boundaries of national parks’. We would like to see the trail aligned in such a way as to maximise the use of off park accommodation by licensed tourist operators and individual walkers using their own car shuffles and pickups. The maps on the current plan clearly show where hikers camps would be located and the possible sites for ‘on-walk hikers lodges’ but there is no indication of where off park tourist operators may be able to pick up and drop off hikers. As we favour off park accommodation over on-walk hiker lodges, we would like to make sure trail alignment allows for the type of access required to carry out such a business. We feel that private investment is more likely to come from tourist operators with off park accommodation than private investment in high risk on-walk lodges. We therefore want to make sure this type of business is properly planned for in the planning stages of this trail (in particular trail alignment with access to current roads and tracks).
On page 49 under ‘Servicing and Access’ it is suggested that servicing of lodges in remote locations could be done by helicopter. We would be concerned if this was to occur as use of aircraft in the Grampians for joy flights and tourist purposes has been opposed in the past. If on-walk lodges are constructed they must be able to be serviced by current roads or tracks in the park.
This draft says many good things about the need to protect the environment, and we appreciate the planned careful design of the trail and the hiker camps. We also appreciate that it recognises the important role of the Friends group and the VNPA. It would be a tragedy to let inappropriate commercial interests damage the good will surrounding the project.
Thank you Wendy for drafting our response, which was endorsed by the committee.
PS I am told that well over 100 responses have been received, with many of them echoing our concerns over commercial lodges within the Park. To quote from one passionate local “These Hiker lodges will require high service from the private operators, concurrently the private operators will expect high service from PV, if they do not get it they will whine to Grampians Tourism/Tourism Vic, then to politicians.
These lodges will only be profitable at a certain scale and tariffs, they will not generate any income for the park, even worse they will cost the park (PV) scarce staff time and money to service. Not to mention their impact on the environment and the remoteness/wilderness of the Grampians.
Parks Victoria spends too much time catering for tourists as it is – how many staff in PV – Halls Gap are there to promote/service tourists Vs. looking after the place!! (and minimising the tourist’s impact).