Regional Communities - Protect Our Winters Australia

Regional

Communities

Regional Communities

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Victorian Alpine resorts contributed $1.22 billion in Gross State Product (GSP) 2019, an increase of 214% from 2011. The most recent data for NSW is from 2011, however, assuming a similar increase, NSW alpine resorts would have contributed $2.11 billion to NSW GSP in 2019. This would mean the total economic contribution of alpine resorts to the Australian economy was an estimated $3.33 billion in 2019.

Climate change has the potential to cause financial pressure, mental health deterioration, loss of connection to the environment, loss of houses and infrastructure to natural disaster, reduced regional development and services, and region emigration.

Effective adaptation can preserve a strong regional economy and community identity, wellbeing, and connection to landscape.

Section Contents

  • Non-resort related impacts to alpine communities
  • Resort impacts on regional economies

Summary

Skiing in Australia is already relatively short compared to many other markets globally and the number of ski areas with a substantial ski season will decline rapidly in the coming decades. Mt Buller, Mt Baw Baw, Mt Stirling (Nordic), Lake Mountain (Nordic), Mt Selwyn, and Ben Lomond are Australia’s ski resorts most vulnerable to climate change. Visitors of smaller ski resorts tend to have a greater tolerance for poor-quality snow, as a larger proportion of visitors are families, with higher interest in snow play, tobogganing, and beginner slopes, which require less snow. With sufficient support from these groups, smaller, low-elevation resorts may continue operating for longer. However, as indicated by the SkiSim2 projections, these resorts are unlikely to be economically viable past the next few decades if they continue to rely predominantly on winter downhill skiing.

These vulnerable ski resorts play an important part of the region’s economy, culture, and identity (see Section 3: Regional communities). These resorts need to further invest in adaptation measures, such as summer tourism and winter diversification, to preserve Australian values of outdoor-based recreation in the alps, health and wellbeing, and to continue supporting regional towns. There are opportunities to be seized when adapting to climate change; as Australia warms, the Alps will provide a haven of cool temperatures in Summer. Seizing these opportunities requires proactive decision-making and collaboration across governments, communities, businesses, and recreational users.

The Australian alpine industry is different to the international alpine industry, where snow cover is more extensive, the ski season is longer, and visitor preferences and expectations differ.

Further research into Australian visitor perceptions and preferences would improve the ability to predict short and medium term responses to declining snow and increased snowmaking. Some areas of inquiry would be:

  • How many winter visitors are non-skiers and how could winter diversification cater to these visitors?
  • What would make the Australian alps a more attractive summer destination (first-time research for NSW resorts)?
  • How do visitors respond to changes in natural snow depth and snowmaking (update of Victorian resorts since 2016 and first-time research for NSW resorts)?
  • How is backcountry skiing projected to increase and what is the carrying capacity of the Australian Alps backcountry areas?

The SkiSim2 results highlight that long (and most likely economically viable) ski seasons are still possible with effective mitigation that keeps our global emissions trajectory within a low emission scenario, particularly for higher altitude resorts. It is therefore critical that governments take drastic action to mitigate climate change. For resorts particularly vulnerable to climate change, planned adaptation needs to occur soon, so that Australian governments and communities can support a transition that preserves jobs, economic activity, regional towns, and other values.

Recommendations

Further research should be conducted into:

  • The impact that climate change will have on the health (including mental health) and wellbeing of communities in the Australian Alps.
  • The health and wellbeing benefits provided by alpine resorts, particularly in NSW.

Local alpine communities should be empowered to make their own climate adaptation decisions and take responsibility for those decisions.

Governments and other decision-makers need to support community in this role, but also ensure accountability and legitimacy. This includes ensuring that decisions genuinely reflect the values of the broader community, and not just vocal stakeholders or already privileged voices.

Download this section

This page is a summary of the ‘Regional Communities’ section from the report Our Changing Snowscapes: Climate Change Impacts and Recommendations for the Australian Alps.

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POW Australia is a non-profit organisation run entirely by volunteers. We are investing on behalf of our community to fight for the places you love and protect our alpine environments. We need your support to keep pushing and protecting winters in Australia.

Protect Our Winters Australia acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land upon which we live, work and play. We pay respects to the Elders, past, present and future, across the many Nations. Their ancestral ties to country have never been extinguished, and sovereignty never ceded.

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