Wimmera tourism takes hit after Grampians bushfire

TOURISM operators have vented their frustration over a number of issues affecting their businesses following last month’s Grampians bushfire.

Issues included road closures, communications and tourist information services.

Editorial: A long road to recovery

Mount Zero Cabins owner Angela Turner told a community information meeting in Laharum Hall on Monday she was unable to work out why parts of Mount Zero Road remained closed when they were unaffected by fire.

“I just can’t see why you’ve closed Mount Zero Road,” she said.

Parks Victoria ranger in charge David Roberts said closures that remained in place in areas not damaged by fire were to restrict access to other areas which had been affected.

“It’s not about the danger, it’s about controlling the access of people into that area while the area’s still being declared a fire,” he said.

“As late as last Friday we’ve installed two gates – one to stop people going into the Hollow Mountain car park and the other one to stop people going to what’s called the link road to Stapylton campground. 

“We’ll be opening up the gate next to Mount Zero Olives obviously before the March long weekend.

“We will basically provide a really clear boundary for where we want people to get to – we want people to be able to get to Mount Zero Olives cafe; we don’t want people going into the fire ground.”

Following the meeting, Ms Turner said she remained unconvinced the closures were necessary.

VicRoads representative Erin Templar said clean-up operations were under way and while they hoped to open Northern Grampians Road within the next two weeks, all openings remained at the discretion of the incident controller.

Asses Ears Wilderness Lodge owner Steve Price highlighted better communications, including mobile phone cover, as issues for businesses looking to rebuild.

“I’m one of the oldest tourism providers, but if they don’t address these issues I’m gone,” he said.

“I’m one of the oldest tourism providers, but if they don’t address these issues I’m gone.'' - Asses Ears Wilderness Lodge owner Steve Price

Grampians Horse Riding Adventures Centre owner Cameron McDonald said the positioning of Halls Gap tourist information centre, which was moved to Brambuk for renovation before the fire, was damaging his business.

“It’s costing me 15 per cent loss of business. When you ring their number it diverts to a mobile phone at Brambuk and it’s a very scratchy line; it’s difficult to talk to someone there,” he said.

“I know the visitor information staff aren’t happy about the location and I know Halls Gap businesses aren’t happy either.

“Is there any chance we could get the Centenary Hall fired up as a temporary visitor centre during the Easter period?”

Municipal recovery manager Greg Little said he would report Mr McDonald’s concerns to Northern Grampians Shire Council.

Temporary information points had been set up on some weekends.

Mr Roberts also detailed significant damage to the national park, highlighting Mackenzie Falls and Hollow Mountain.

He said Parks Victoria aimed to open the Mount Zero and Flat Rock walks for the March long weekend.

He said the exposure of erosion gullies meant restoration of many areas in the national park would be long-term.

“One of the bigger challenges for us is trying to balance the need for sites to recover adequately and the needs of tourism and recreation sectors,” Mr Roberts said.

“There’s going to be a period of pain, particularly for education and school group sectors.”

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