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Impact of the global financial crisis on regional Australia

CHAIR —Thank you for appearing before us today. I am sorry that we have been delayed in our timing. We are running a little later than I would have liked, so we will press on and try and make up some time along the way. I now call on representatives of Grampians Tourism to give evidence. Although we are not requiring you to give evidence under oath, I remind you that these are formal proceedings of the parliament and as such should be accorded the due respect that you would accord the House of Representatives. It is customary for me to remind witnesses that giving false or misleading evidence before a parliamentary committee is a serious matter and may be considered a contempt of parliament. That sounds like an unwelcoming message to give, but I am required to say that. Welcome. Thank you very much for appearing before us today. We have heard a little bit, but not a huge amount, about what is happening in tourism in the district and we are looking forward to your evidence. I invite you to give an introductory statement.

Mr Hatton —Grampians Tourism is a recently formed organisation. It has only existed for some six months now. Originally, there was an organisation called Grampians Marketing Inc. This has stemmed from that. It is a body that consists of five local government bodies joined together. Ararat Rural City, the Northern Grampians Shire, the Pyrenees Shire, Horsham Rural City and the Southern Grampians Shire are all members of this group. Grampians Tourism covers quite a large area. We have support from Tourism Victoria and the state government. As I said, it is a new body. Its aim is to promote tourism through a relatively large region. It is based on working off each other. The aim is to try to bring people through our joint area. We recognise that tourists do not look at those little signs that say they are in Northern Grampians Shire or Southern Grampians Shire—I do not think that they are particularly interested.

We recognise that we have a region which has some fantastic features from the point of view of tourism. The Grampians are a pull. We have great wineries and all those sorts of things. We believe that we can expand the tourism industry in our area extensively. We are quite excited by the organisation. We have a board of 12 people, which consists of six people from industry, representatives from each of those shires, a representative from national parks and me as an independent chairman. That is how it has been set up. It is an incorporated body. Our aim, obviously, is to increase tourism in the area and also to grow the infrastructure and development of the area. More of our initial aim is to work in the development side.

CHAIR —I have some preliminary questions. How are you funded? What was the impetus for establishing this?

Mr Hatton —The funding is shared between local governments. Each local government contributes $33,000. Then we have funding through Tourism Victoria, particularly on the marketing side. We also get funding through the industry.

Mr NEVILLE —How much do you get from the state government?

Mr Hatton —The state government, through Tourism Victoria, provides us with just over $200,000.

Mr NEVILLE —That is in project money, is it?

Mr Hatton —Project money; that is right. A large part of our funding is through the industry. It contributes towards the campaigns et cetera that we run. We are trying to extensively develop that. That is where most of our funding comes from.

CHAIR —Thank you. Did you wish to add anything, Mr Burchett?

Mr Burchett —With Tourism Victoria, there is also a capacity for us to bid for additional funding against specific projects. We have put in a bid for an allocation and we are waiting for budget consideration as to the base funding. But it can mean an additional 100 per cent of our state government funding. It has in the past. We were receiving a substantial amount of money as recovery moneys because of the bushfires that occurred here three years ago.

Mr Hatton —That funding has now ceased. Our total budget is around about $800,000.

Mr NEVILLE —You get about $160,000 or $170,000 from the local authorities.

Mr Hatton —Yes, $180,000.

Mr NEVILLE —Where do you get the other $400,000 from?

Mr Burchett —We have formed a cooperative of the tourist officers within each of the shires. They have allocated an additional $120,000—

Mr NEVILLE —Over and above the direct council funding.

Mr Burchett —over and above the base funding from local government, yes. That is put against specific cooperative projects.

Mr Hatton —The rest of it comes from the industry.

CHAIR —What is happening with tourism in the region?

Mr NEVILLE —Tell us about it.

Mr Hatton —I will do a little intro, and Chris is probably more informed to provide the details. Essentially, we come to this inquiry with a really positive approach. We believe that the opportunities for us, even in tough times, are reasonably good. That is mainly because our biggest market is the domestic market. And while the international market is nice and glamorous and we would all like to see lots of Germans down the street, the reality is that it represents only six or seven per cent of our market. We are already finding that we have seen a tendency for our domestic volume to increase because everyone is staying at home and not travelling overseas so much. From that point of view, we see there are some positive signs. Chris, do you want to add to that at all?

Mr Burchett —The structure of our industry here is certainly focused on the domestic market. It is quite typical of regional tourism in that it is made up of a lot of very small to micro businesses. We estimate about 600 businesses across the region are directly related to tourism. Fifty per cent of those would probably have no employees. That is the bed and breakfast sector, that micro pre-retiree type of investor. We have 36 businesses that have more than 20 employees. They would all be large bed consortiums. And in between that there is a large glob of businesses that have between five and 20 employees; they are quite substantial businesses.

Mr NEVILLE —In round numbers, how many B&Bs have you got?

Mr Burchett —I would estimate in excess of 250.

Mr NEVILLE —Across those five local authorities?

Mr Burchett —Yes.

Mr NEVILLE —That is good.

Mr Burchett —Yes. Unlike a lot of regions, we also have a lot of motels. I think it is worth noting that the Grampians National Park as the major focus has been a tourist destination for more than 150 years; it is one of those long-standing destinations. As Ross said earlier, one of our challenges is to really work with industry to refresh, to revisit just where the tourism industry is at at the moment, as opposed to where it was 20 to 30 to 40 years ago.

Mr Hatton —Tourism across our region is estimated to be worth about $200 million in revenue. That is direct revenue. If you take the multiplying factor, just even of two, it is nearly a $½ billion business. That is if you take in the service stations and the newsagents and everyone else who does not think they are in the tourism industry but they are.

CHAIR —So have you done any studies of what the economic benefit of tourism is in the region?

Mr Hatton —There have been a number of studies done, and they are somewhat variable. We have to do some work now—we are not going to do another study, believe me—on collecting all of that data and putting it into a reasonable format.

CHAIR —It would be good to know the figure.

Mr Hatton —We do need to be a bit more formal about that. But the revenue base figure is around $200 million. That is for direct tourism.

Mr Burchett —We are looking at the tourism accommodation survey. The most recent statistics coming out that we have available—that is, December 2008 compared with 2007—show there has been a 12 per cent growth in the yield of the bed sector, which is interesting. We do not see that in the numbers. There have been some inflationary factors, but also probably growth in the length of time stayed by people who are staying in the region.

Mr CHEESEMAN —I have a very similar seat and a very similar sector to yours; I have the Great Ocean Road and the Otways region. We were in Geelong yesterday and Roger Grant—I am not sure whether you know Roger—presented evidence to us that while domestic numbers looked good in terms of the number of visits, the yield was down because people, instead of coming for a couple of nights, they might have come for one night or perhaps they were just day trippers. Are you noticing something like that? Perhaps you are a little bit further out.

Mr Hatton —I can give you a few numbers on that. I will use Halls Gap as an example, as it is almost the centre of it. The average stay in the Grampians region in particular is 2.7 days. That has declined. Ten years ago it was 3.4. Anecdotally, we are already seeing a trend towards an increase. In our area there are a lot of family based holidays rather than people going for weekends. There is a lot of family based stuff. The more we develop that family based holiday, the longer the duration will be and, as Chris points out, the greater the yield will be. One of our challenges—and I think this is already starting to happen—is to see this as an opportunity and to turn it around a bit because of the style of holiday and the people who are coming into our region.

Mr Burchett —There is another factor that is coming through at the moment. We have 1.2 million bed nights in the region, but on top of that there are another two million day visitors. It is a conundrum because we are generally outside of the daytrip from Melbourne. It is a three-hour journey. We sense that the Grampians are used by people who are on a journey. The Great Ocean Road would probably be picking up bed nights out of the two million day visitors, as would Ballarat. We are picking up a component of that circuit.

Mr SULLIVAN —I am from Queensland. I know very little about the Grampians. I know about the Grampians National Park because you just mentioned it. Earlier on we had some discussion about the wine industry locally, so I assume that there are wine tours. But I absolutely know about the Stawell Gift. It is an icon event throughout this country. Are there other event based opportunities in the Grampians?

Mr Hatton —We have an enormous number of events. It is a challenge to get those events to the point that we want them to be at. It is not for us to do that. We do not see our role as being to run events. A lot of work is being done right now in looking at events and establishing what we are going to do with them, where they all fit calendar wise. The fact that we have a spring period in the Grampians gives us an opportunity, we believe, to develop events around that. The spring flowering and that sort of stuff is considered to be a real opportunity for us. Chris, you have done a fair bit of work on events already, so you might like to comment.

Mr Burchett —We are scoping a major three-month event that will go from the end of winter through to early spring. It will pick up on people’s habit of being closeted away in the winter time. We are going to give them a very enticing reason to spring out of their homes. As Ross said, this region is renowned for its wild flowers, its opportunities for bushwalking and photography and a whole host of nature based activities. That is probably going to be a major event. It will have its first running next year. We will spend the next 14 or 15 months scoping it. But, as you say, everyone knows the Stawell Gift. We believe there is capacity to expand that. I do not so much mean the gift itself. The venue is chock-a-block and the beds in the immediate area are full. But we think the opportunity to put ancillary events around that is certainly in front of us.

Mr SULLIVAN —This is not a question I direct to you as a newly formed organisation, but when the former Grampians Marketing Inc. were operating, what were they advertising as the product to bring people to this area?

Mr Hatton —Our tourism base is nature based tourism, and that is what they were working on. They were an organisation that ran for some 12 years. The latter part of that time was after the fires in the Grampians, which was a major issue. They had a lot of work to do in recovering from that. So there was an emphasis purely on marketing. They were a marketing organisation, not a tourism development organisation per se. They have done a lot of good marketing work. Maybe they have not quite reached Queensland yet—and we recognise that that is an issue.

Mr Burchett —We will.

Mr Hatton —We will. But the emphasis for us now in the short- to medium-term is on development. We see opportunities coming out of what are pretty tight times at the moment. There are opportunities for us to develop some infrastructure that will have some iconic features that can give us international recognition and certainly Australia-wide recognition.

CHAIR —Can I ask you a bit about those projects. You flagged that infrastructure earlier and I assume you were referring to the advent of the Tqual grants when you talked about having until 11 June to put in your applications. Have you had the opportunity, given that you are only six months old, to get together and decide what the important tourism infrastructure projects are for this region?

Mr Hatton —We have two primary projects. The first of those has had several names—the marketers have not got at it yet—but it would be what we call a Great Grampians Walk. It would be a walk from one end of the Grampians to the other, with the opportunity for people to get on and off the walk, with facilities for camping, and private investment around that.

CHAIR —A fantastic idea.

Mr Hatton —That is not a $500,000 project; that is a $20 million project. A lot of work has already been done on it through National Parks and we believe it is an absolute prime for us. It would match some of the walks you hear about, like the Cradle Mountain walk and the walks in New Zealand. That is one project. The second is just to do a little bit of road works—it is not a huge amount—to finish what we call a ring road around the Grampians. That will enable people to get around the Grampians on bitumen. It is a little thing, I know, but people do not like dirt roads. It will also enable us to expand the utilisation of the facility from what we can do at the moment. So those are two of the major ones we have on board right now.

Mr Burchett —The sealing of the roads also gives us access to the hire car industry, which at the moment will not allow you to take hire cars off bitumen. Both of those projects give us platforms to really develop new product. As Ross has said, the walk gives us the opportunity to go out to the investment community and talk about a major lodge. There are beds within striking distance all along those proposed walking routes, and that gives us opportunities for new touring destinations and new touring programs. We see both of those projects as being very strategic platforms for putting nature based experiences far more effectively into the marketplace.

Mr Hatton —The other thing is to develop and release some itineraries which incorporate a very big region. If you come from Queensland you might not be able to visualise this region but it is a very big region, certainly by Victorian standards. We have been lucky enough to get the Pyrenees area into our region, which means we can develop a pull-through from the Bendigo area and also bring New South Wales far more into the frame than it is at the moment. Our major markets at the moment are Adelaide and Melbourne, as well as Ballarat and the rural cities. Melbourne would be our biggest market. Our biggest recognition, however, is in Adelaide, which is somewhat surprising, but people do the route. We had some numbers from Tourism Victoria surveys on who knows the Grampians and whether they can name one thing there. About 14 per cent of people in Melbourne could tell you where the Grampians are. You would think that was a shocking number; I thought it was a disgraceful number. Tourism Victoria tell us that is pretty good, that people cannot tell you about lots of other places as well. But there is obviously some work we have to do to get the name out there.

Mr Burchett —And also paint some specific pictures in consumers’ minds. At the moment, with the economy really under pressure, we know that every region in Australia is out in the major cities marketing destinations and special deals.

Mr NEVILLE —Competition is getting hotter all the time.

Mr Burchett —Absolutely. And it is going to get even hotter. We understand that. We will continue to market our destination but we think the next three-year period will probably be most effectively used for development. Going out into industry with a lot of, dare I say it, workshops—everyone hates the word ‘workshops’—on professional development. They are about getting people more effectively engaged with the industry’s distribution system and more aware of just what the consumer is demanding these days. I mentioned earlier that the Grampians is a very old tourist destination. A lot of our infrastructure is very old and tired, and it is pitching at a market that is probably no longer there. The market has changed.

CHAIR —It has. I note, just for your information, that one of the people who gave us evidence in Launceston is on his way with 12 people from Tasmania to attend the Avoca races this weekend. He made a point of telling me that. The Avoca races as a destination have certainly made their way down to Launceston, at least, through this committee.

One of the ways the Commonwealth can assist is obviously through infrastructure tourism grants, which are now being opened up for availability. Are there other things that the Commonwealth or even state governments can assist with? I am thinking in terms of skills development and marketing. Where would you like to see us assist here?

Mr Hatton —I am sure that we have some real requirements in the skills development side of it.

Mr NEVILLE —Hospitality training and guides—that sort of thing.

Mr Hatton —Yes. We see a great need in that area. The issue is really about the expectation of the visitor as against what the current delivery is. Word of mouth is by far the best method of getting our next customer. We have had a fair bit of emphasis from people—a lot of them jumping down our throats—about utilising the web as a source. It is an excellent source but it is also a tertiary source. We have found that word of mouth is the primary reason that people come and visit us. It gets the biggest number of responses. Then there is some recognition through newspapers and that sort of stuff.

Mr Burchett —It depends on what stage of the journey they are at as to what they use.

Mr Hatton —They use the web to do the final bit.

Mr NEVILLE —You have got a Grampians website, haven’t you?

Mr Hatton —Yes, we have. We need to link that in more with Tourism Victoria so that there is a very nice methodology being developed. Some money has been put into that work. We need to continue developing that website so that it has a pull-down feature and ends up at Joe Bloggs’s bed and breakfast.

CHAIR —You are saying that people have to make a decision to go to the Grampians first before they get on the web to do the booking.

Mr Hatton —Yes, they have to make a decision to go there first.

Mr Burchett —One of the gaps that we have is leadership. It is another component of raising professional standards. Across the industry, we have a lot of networks that relate to local tourist organisations. There is a network of event managers. There are local town tourist organisations. At the moment, despite their best endeavours, they are often lacking leadership and also an understanding of the big picture and where they are meant to be paddling to. We are certainly looking at opportunities to provide leadership and governance training so that, as a total industry, we have a capacity to raise our professionalism, to have far more of our total population resource base going in the same direction and to have the tools that we need. In terms of getting funding support for that, we have had an indication from the state government that it will go some way towards providing it. Also, the feds might like to look at how regional Australia starts to gain the necessary skills. That is obviously bigger than tourism.

Mr NEVILLE —I would like to compliment you on that idea of doing surveys. I was in regional development and ran one of the Queensland tourist regions as well as one of the industry regions prior to coming into federal parliament. You see that areas have been doing something the same way for 50 years and everyone is looking at their navel and saying, ‘Oh, no, that’s the way we do it here.’ That is not good enough. You have to try to see it through the eyes of the guy who wants to come here and use your facilities.

I remember, when they were trying to repackage Bundaberg’s image about 20 years ago, some people wanted to call it the ‘Hinkler Coast’—he was the local hero—and I think that rated about less than one per cent; someone else wanted to call it the ‘R&R Coast’; and someone wanted to call it the ‘Bundaberg Coast’. In the end, when we did the research, it said that people were looking for coral, for barrier reef islands, and we had a couple of barrier reef islands. Once we started to develop that as a jump-off point to the Barrier Reef, it changed the whole concept. So you have got to try and find a concept-changing thing.

It was a bit hurtful. I remember when the results first came in the people at the public meeting were outraged: ‘How dare people think like that about our community?’ But these were the hard facts. They had surveyed 400 or 500 people in south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales and asked, ‘What’s your image of Bundaberg?’ They said it was beaches, it was this, it was that—and it was appalling. But I think you have started that, and I would urge you to keep going because that is where you get the raw material to work with.

This is not crack at Ararat or anywhere in particular, but this economic downturn is a great opportunity for domestic tourism. We heard at Launceston a combination of two things. One was that people like to go a bit offshore, like Norfolk Island, New Zealand or Tasmania; they see it as a de facto overseas holiday. That, plus the fact that there are now four airlines all going into Launceston from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, has turned Launceston Airport around to be even bigger than Hobart. The interesting change in dynamic means that there is a great opportunity there for domestic tourism. Being a politician like me, Darren, Catherine or John here, sometimes when you are driving at night you go to a motel, and some of our motels are tired, tired, tired.

Mr Hatton —We have a major problem in the area of motels.

Mr NEVILLE —I do not know whether there is scope for the government to have a loan scheme for motels, but I think we are missing a huge opportunity with domestic tourism. I will not bore you now, but if you are here at lunchtime I will tell you the story of going into a motel in Gympie that would horrify you. It was Fawlty Towers revisited. I got off the plane in Brisbane and I was going to drive to Cairns. I went to the same BP service station that I went to that had not dirty toilets but the filthiest toilets I have ever been to in my life, then I drove another two hours to this place near Gympie and went to this motel. If I had been an international tourist, my image of Australia would have been rock bottom at not even the end of day one.

You want people to come up from Melbourne and say, ‘Hey, this is a good area.’ And I would urge you to have a look at this idea of putting lodges in the Grampians. There are two places in Queensland, Mount Tamborine, or the Tamborine mountains behind the Gold Coast, and—not so well known but along the lines of what you want to do—a place between Dalby and Kingaroy called the Bunya Mountains, where they have lots of those mountain lodges. They are not expensive ones. I would urge you to have a crack at that as well.

I was fascinated by your answer to Catherine’s first question. You said you have got this iconic thing, so first there are the walking tracks and the roads around the Grampians and trying to encourage some lodges in there. What are the other iconic things you are looking at? You have got snow, national parks, wines and cellar doors; what are the other things?

Mr Hatton —I think there are two iconic features that we have got which really are not recognised yet. We touched on one of them briefly, and that is wild flowers. The Grampians in spring are literally botanic gardens. So the wild flowers thing is something that we really want to try and promote and use; it really is an iconic feature of the area. The second thing is one of the things that lead on from what the chair and I talked about, and that is the use of bike tracks. Bikes are an area we want to look at heavily and develop a couple of really iconic bike tracks.

Mr NEVILLE —As part of the Grampians?

Mr Hatton —It is within the Grampians National Park. We have been getting some good responses from the national park on their willingness to work with us on that. One of the things that often really amaze you when you get into the Grampians is the number of people on bikes, and it is growing all the time. I am not talking about kids; I am talking about silly old people like me in Lyra—not a pretty sight!

CHAIR —No-one looks good in it!

Mr NEVILLE —Do they bring them up in their cars or do they ride them up?

Mr Hatton —They bring them up in their cars.

Mr Burchett —They are also for hire.

Mr Hatton —That market is one with a fair bit of free cash. They are people that do not go and buy a bike for $150; they buy $700 or $800 bikes or $5,000 bikes, as my son did. We see that iconic bike track work—and we are not talking about just one; there needs to be an interlinked trail—as another area.

Mr Burchett —The federal government yesterday released a new program of $40 million for bike infrastructure.

CHAIR —That is correct—via the Jobs Fund. I am assuming there is a component in that for bike—

Mr Hatton —We are very interested in having a look at it.

CHAIR —Certainly. I was going to suggest that if you were not aware of it already.

Mr Hatton —The other thing we recognise we need to have is an activity which someone can complete in 30 minutes, which is a major attraction, which has a wow factor and which fits in with the national park and does not offend the nature based tourism factor. It is very interesting to think about but it is required. All sorts of things have been suggested—gondolas and all sorts of weird things. We envisage a five- to 10-year plan. It is recognised that we need an iconic feature that fits in with the needs of a wide range of the population and that has the wow factor and makes people ask, ‘Have you done that?’

CHAIR —Just like the Otway tree walk or—

Mr Hatton —Like the Otway walk and all those sorts of things.

Mr NEVILLE —Have you got a heritage trail? For example—I have seen this done in some areas—you link up five or six communities or local authorities, you link up the museums and historic houses, if there are any, private or public, and you have a brochure. Do you have something like that? You have a lot of rich history around here—is that all linked up?

Mr Hatton —There is a wine trail. We are very fortunate to have good art galleries in the area. Chris, you might like to speak to the art galleries.

Mr Burchett —Three of the regional galleries are of national significance in terms of their collections. The Hamilton, the Horsham and the Ararat galleries are, as I say, very, very—

Mr NEVILLE —The Victorian galleries are exceptional.

Mr Burchett —Yes. The Heysen and all the major schools of Australian art are represented very strongly. They have good benefactors—particularly the Hamilton one, with its pastoral connections. As well as that, there is a very rich tradition of resident artists in the region. The art spaces are linking quite effectively. We have just opened a wine and art gallery in the town immediately down the road from here, in Buangor, which I think is a great little initiative. It is reading the market very well. Our research is saying that the capacity for the consumer to link nature, the arts, wine and food is a no-brainer. It has been researched. It is identified very clearly. It is still in front of us—

Mr NEVILLE —Have you brochured those up together?

Mr Burchett —At the moment the itineraries are being written that will link our wine regions to the north-east with the national parks. We want to propose the option of spending a day going through the galleries as an additional component of a holiday. We know that the same consumer is motivated by that.

There is something that we have not mentioned yet in terms of iconic experiences. I do not know what number it is in the world but we have Australia’s major international rock-climbing destination. It is called Mount Arapiles. Most Australians have never heard of it, but if you talk about climbing anywhere in Europe or in North America they all know Mount Arapiles. There are 2,000 climbs at Mount Arapiles. If you go to the campground at the base, it is like the United Nations. Australian schools know it—the outdoor education programs know it. We also have 1,500 beds that pitch very specifically at the school groups. So we are still grappling with how we deal with Mount Arapiles, I think, in a domestic context, given the strength and the future of our domestic markets. How will we deal with that? It is probably going to be through the outdoor education sector. That is certainly something that is already in the region, but it is almost wrapped up with international cotton wool.

Mr NEVILLE —Have you got that on your website?

Mr Burchett —It is on the web, yes.

Mr Hatton —I think we would just like to explain a little bit about where the Grampians Tourism organisation is at. We have spent a significant period of our existence setting the strategy in place and setting up a program. I sometimes feel for poor old Chris here because I am the one who demands that, because I believe in setting strategies and getting ourselves really aligned with what we want to do, but I am not one who wants to strategise forever. So what we are about now is the implementation phase of getting all that going. We have set a very tight strategy in place. It is all about marketing and it is all about development. We have a basic three-year plan to really grow the area. We are not expecting miracles in a short time, but we believe that we have a real opportunity to grow tourism in our region and we really have to do that not just in Victoria, where I think we have a huge opportunity just in the Melbourne market alone, but in the opportunities interstate, particularly where Jon comes from, in Queensland. How many people in Queensland know the Grampians? I would say very, very few, other than those people from down south who have ventured north.

Mr SULLIVAN —They might have forgotten the Grampians.

Mr Burchett —But the fact that they know the Stawell Gift gives us the opportunity to talk about the Stawell Gift in the Grampians.

Mr SULLIVAN —Put the two together and there would be people interested in coming. You talked about developing a walk as a destination or attraction and you talked about lodges. I got the impression when you initially mentioned it that you were having discussions with a three- or four-star hotel chain to do something. Is that erroneous?

Mr Burchett —We have 3½-star and four-star hotels. We would probably need a lodge that has a capacity to pitch slightly higher as well. The trails are there, mostly, but the linking of those trails, the resurfacing of those trails and the interps of them are still in front of us. National Parks have got a long way down the planning stages of that, but it is now getting to the point where—

Mr Hatton —The aim is to have a walk where people can have a choice as to what they do. They can walk 14 days or they can walk one day on that walk. The walk is being set up so that at no point can you see a road, so you would walk through that and would not know there was a road anywhere, but you would have the ability to bring people on and off, to have people come in and bring supplies to people at particular campsites. That can be set up by private enterprise, not within the organisation. So there are lots of targets and aims. I believe it is a three-year construction thing, so we are not going to do it in a year. It probably needs another six months for a bit of work on planning and dealing with the Indigenous people. There are all sorts of issues. Most of those things have been done, so we are very confident about all that, and it will give us a walk that we could talk about anywhere in the world and say, ‘This is a challenge for anyone to do.’ But there will be some sections that will be quite easy to walk, and some sections of it will be more challenging. I think it is a real opportunity to put the Grampians on the map worldwide—a little like the Great Ocean Road, for instance. It is the same sort of thing.

Mr NEVILLE —About these lodges, is it mainly Crown land in the Grampians?

Mr Hatton —It is all crown land. It is all National Park where the walk would be.

Mr NEVILLE —Is it possible to get the state government to give you a couple of sites or the state government to put them up for tender with some terms of reference so that you get the right sorts of lodges that you are after—an upmarket one and a—

Mr Hatton —We are fortunate in that I think 12 of the 14 stop points have access to private land that is close by, which could be developed. We are not talking about expensive land. We are very fortunate in that regard. There are a couple of sites where they want to talk to the state government about getting some crown land access. I do not believe that is an insurmountable problem. I agree that that is really important.

You asked if we had been speaking to them, we have not as yet. We need to put together a prospectus which will give us the ability to go out there. I take on board what Mr Neville said before about this project. I have been fortunate enough to go to the Bunya Mountains. The lodges there are small and they are not horrendously expensive. We are not talking about some huge lodge. The opportunity to put in three or four of those small lodges at specific spots is the sort of thing we want to do.

CHAIR —Thank you very much for presenting today and providing evidence to the committee. We wish you all the best in the developments in the region. You will receive a proof transcript of the Hansard. If there are some things that you feel you have not had the opportunity to say, you are most welcome to write to us with those. If we have any further questions, the secretariat will write to you and ask those as well. Thank you very much for your time here today.

Mr Hatton —Thank you for the opportunity. We really appreciate it.

CHAIR —It has been absolutely my pleasure.

[12.23 pm]