October 2021 Project Update
Photo Source: Parks Victoria Website
The Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing (FHAC) is the third of Victoria’s Icon walks to be developed. The FHAC was first proposed around 2005 and became government policy in 2014. BWV's main concerns with the development of the FHAC are outlined in submissions made to Parks Victoria in 2015 and 2017. These continue to be the BWV position and are available on the BWV website at https://bushwalkingvictoria.org.au/advocacy#
The project has very strong support from state and local governments, tourism bodies and local businesses. Funding of $15m for the project was included in the 2021/22 state budget.
BWV has two representatives on the Strategic Partnerships Committee (SPC) established by Parks Victoria to provide project management and consultation input to the project. Our representatives are Chris Towers, a former BWV president and board member, Eileen Clark from Border Bushwalking Club and BTAC Field Officer for the alpine area. Other members of the committee include a representative from the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA), with the remainder being from government agencies such as Regional Development Victoria, and Falls Creek and Hotham resort management, Alpine Shire, and Tourism North East.
The three main aspects that concern BWV the most include:
- Maintaining access to existing campsites,
- Maintaining open access to the trail for independent walkers,
- The siting and scale of huts, especially in the vicinity of High Knob.
Parks Victoria has already given commitments on the first two and plans for the accommodation are not yet detailed enough to enable an informed decision.
A comprehensive Environmental Values Assessment of the trail has recently been completed which entailed an on-ground assessment of the entire 57km route, including a 20m corridor on either side of the trail. This work gives an unprecedented insight into the flora and fauna that exist beside the existing trail and will inform further updates to the Master Plan. Typically Parks Victoria would release just a summary but have committed to publicly release the full report. This is expected in the next few weeks. One early decision resulting from this assessment is that the only new section of trail that had been contemplated, from Tawonga Huts to the saddle below Mt Jaimathong and on to pole 333, will now not proceed.
A Landscape Visual Impact Assessment will soon be undertaken by a separate consultancy that will look at minimising the visual impact of the trail and the planned accommodation. This assessment will be critical to informing the siting of the accommodation and will be closely scrutinised by BWV. Parks has recently stated that the trail will not be constructed as a ‘walkers highway’ with major work limited to protecting the environment from the impact of walkers e.g. track braiding on the Diamantina Spur.
BWV remains concerned about aspects of the project but is somewhat encouraged by recent decisions by Parks Victoria, and through its involvement on the SPC will continue to advocate strongly for the interests of as wide a range of bushwalkers as possible.
For more information on the project, including a Spring 2021 Community update that answers some common questions and concerns, visit https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/projects/falls-to-hotham-alpine-crossing-project-planning