An investor, financial advisor and former president of the Ben Lomond committee is choosing not to invest in the mountain due to the current attitude of Parks and Wildlife.
Tony Gray, of TG Financial, was Ben Lomond committee president for four years from 2014 and was also treasurer of the Northern Alpine Ski Club.
He slammed the attitude towards Parks and Wildlife, who are the responsible department body, for a hands-off approach to investment.
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“I’m an investor, I work with investors. But I would not invest in Ben Lomond or advise anyone to do so with the current approach from Parks.
“In fact I’d say that I’ve not invested in Ben Lomond, apart from my time as a volunteer, because of that approach.”
He said he, as someone who was closely associated with the mountain and alpine community, had the capacity to invest, but the risk was too great, because the confidence from the department wasn’t there.
“If Parks did go and spend, and change to a ‘can do’ attitude, and they remove some of the things that are holding the slopes back, then that could be the signal to any investor, the private sector would respond to that.”
A spokeswoman for PWS said skiing at Ben Lomond offered a commercial opportunity as a beginner and snow play destination.
“PWS remains committed to assisting genuine investors in progressing the recommendations from the study and assisting in the realisation of Ben Lomond as a successful beginner and snow play destination.”
TIED UP IN RED TAPE
Mr Gray said red tape was forcing the Ben Lomond committee, which was made up of volunteers, to conduct maintenance work at the ski village, despite repeated requests for assistance and approvals from PWS.
In the past the committee has had to pay for a private consultant to conduct an ecological survey, to determine if there would be environmental impacts if the slopes were groomed. In addition, last year, the committee asked PWS for assistance for a silt filtration program, to remove silt from the dam that supplies water to the ski village.
“We went and got government grant funding, we were ready to go, the silt needs filtering because we were finding that it would freeze in the pipes before it got to the village,” he said.
The committee received the approval from PWS then COVID-19 hit and the national parks were closed.
The project can only be done when it’s dry, but now the committee is facing the loss of its grant money, as government grants have a time limit on when they need to be spend.
Mr Gray said the approval process had taken a long time, which had resulted in the delays. However, he said this type of project shouldn’t have to always fall to volunteers, who spent their own money and time.
However, she said PWS had worked with the group on occasion, but more collaboration was needed.
REVERSE A DECLINE
Ben Lomond presents an opportunity to reverse a decline in Tasmania’s visitor numbers, Mr Gray said,
Typically, Tasmania has lower visitation numbers over winter, something tourism bodies are focusing on by increasing the number of winter events and conferences.
However, Tasmania’s only ski field, which can be accessed an hour from a major airport presents a unique opportunity. “We have a downturn of tourism in winter in Tasmania, so we’ve got to look ahead and say when we go back to normal from COVID-19, how can we improve tourism? We can promote it by attractions on Ben Lomond during snow season,” Mr Gray said.
“Tourism is not just interstate and international either, it’s interesting if people are coming here to go to Ben Lomond and back they’re not going out of the state to spend their money and we know how important that is right now so I think there’s a good economic payoff but you know, this is public infrastructure that will benefit.”
Mr Gray said anecdotally he know of people from the mainland, prior to the pandemic, who would travel from interstate specifically to visit Ben Lomond.
“It’s accessible, and so close to a major airport,” he said.
Much more accessible than ski fields on the mainland, Mr Gray said interstate snow enthusiasts would travel to Tasmania and then to Ben Lomond to experience snow for the first time. It’s this market that has the most potential.
“I think the feasibility study shows that there’s a real payoff if you invest the money, but we need to address the cultural problem at PWS and change attitudes.”