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07 October 2020
By SARAH MATTHEWS
Developers are refining plans for a multi-million-dollar boutique resort designed to capitalise on the northern end of the Grampians Peaks Trail.
Owners of Laharum-based Australian Wildflowers have been working on the accommodation project, which includes a $5-million first stage, for more than a year.
They plan to build the resort on their property abutting the trail head at Mt Zero.
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Grampians Peaks Trail project leaders estimate the $30-million, 160-kilometre asset – scheduled to be completed this summer – will generate 86,000 visitor nights in the region while boosting the economy by $6.4-million a year.
Australian Wildflowers owner and managing director Jo Gardner said she and her business partners came up with a resort concept after lamenting a lack of accommodation options at the northern end of the park.
“We have visitors come to the farm anyway and thought maybe we should scope out the idea of creating a resort that supports the peaks trail,” she said.
Ms Gardner engaged award-winning Adelaide-based Troppo Architects to work on a draft plan.
She said the company specialised in environmentally sustainable development and was experienced in designing projects appropriate for national parks.
“Everything has been designed to have minimal impact on the environment,” she said.
“Our plans are eco-friendly and the idea is for the resort to be solar sufficient and use recycled water.
“If you’re up on the mountain it will be virtually hidden. We plan to use the same materials they are using on the peaks trail, so lots of stone, timber and rusted steel.
“The idea is to minimise the impact visibly across the landscape.”
Ms Gardner plans to hand over resort operations to experienced eco-tourism operators and is keen to hear from interested parties.
She said should the resort come to fruition, it would provide a great economic boost for the region.
“Troppo Architects has done a lot of work with The Oscar Group in Horsham,” she said.
“Oscar Building would do our build as well and we would use other local contractors.”
Once built, the resort would also generate ongoing jobs in the region.
“We’re still looking at employment numbers, which will be dependent on the scale of the project,” Ms Gardner said.
“At the moment we are still in the concept stage and are playing around with different ideas, including accommodation options such as two-storey treehouses and camping.
“There is also scope for other activities such as a day spa or somewhere for people to buy camping gear or hire a mountain bike.”
Ms Gardner said early draft plans also included a cafe-restaurant pavilion, which would feature several function spaces and cater for both guests and the wider community.
“We want to bring the community into it, from dropping in for a beer on a Friday night to hosting weddings or other events,” she said.
“We want to create an inclusive environment for the wider community, not an isolating thing.”
Project leaders have been working with organisations including Parks Victoria, Regional Development Victoria, Horsham and Northern Grampians councils and Country Fire Authority.
Ms Gardner said the development involved ensuring any proposals met government fire-safety guidelines, including incorporating bunkers into the design and creating an appropriate emergency-management plan.
“We are considering all ideas and are still coming up with our final plan, in collaboration with other authorities,” she said.
“It is still a concept at this stage but it’s one we’re excited about.”
Once the draft plan is completed, project leaders will lodge a development proposal with Horsham Rural City Council.
The entire October 7, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!