WATER FROM THE ROCK AT DINNER PLAIN

Building on the previous experience from the Perisher Ground Water Investigation in the 1970's, detailed geological and hydrogeological investigations of the Dinner Plain area were performed by Warren Peck of Golder Associates, in November 1981. The aim was to obtain.subsurface information as to the possible existence of a groundwater resource and to obtain data for the foundation design of the proposed ski village at Dinner Plain on the crest of the Great Dividing Range at 1570m above sea-level.

Most of the 231 hectare freehold property is underlain by basalt of Tertiary age, with a total thickness in excess of 40 metres. It was found that the nature of the vegetation cover gave a good indication of the depth to fresh basalt rock. Grassy areas that are relatively free of trees had fresh basalt rock at depths of one to two metres, whilst treed areas were generally underlain by soil and decomposed rock down to about 8m depth.

It was established that the basalt within the property stores a large volume of water equivalent to about two years requirements for the proposed village. The groundwater supplies are continuously being replenished by infiltration into the ground by rain plus water from the melting winter snow cover and by seepage from the higher ground to the west with a total catchment area of about 500 hectares (that includes the "Weeping Rock" visible from the Alpine Road).

Excellent quality drinking water was pumped from a 75mm diameter investigation bore at the consistent rate of 2.44 litres/second for over 10 hours, with a groundwater draw-down of the water-level inside the bore of only 2.4m.

The samples taken of the water pumped from the Dinner Plain bore, when laboratory tested for water quality, had a total dissolved solids of 24.5 parts per million and were the purest drinking water samples ever tested from a water bore in Victoria. For comparison purposes, the best bore water sampled from elsewhere in the Great Dividing Range in Victoria had 100 parts per million total dissolved solids and a typical bore water sample from basalt near the crest of the Great Dividing Range at Allora in Southern Queensland, had 980 parts per million total dissolved solids.

These results clearly indicated that a valuable water resource existed under the Dinner Plain Village, with the capability of supplying the village's entire water supply requirements. The total annual water requirements of the village of 100 megalitres represents less than 2.5% of the average annual precipitation on the 500 hectare catchment. The fact that the period of greatest demand for water immediately precedes and overlaps with the period of maximum infiltration means that the amount of drawdown in the pumped bore would only fluctuate between 4.9 metres at the end of July to 2.0 metres at the end of September.

Two production bores were sited in the mid-1980's, using the results of seismic refraction surveys to locate each bore within areas of intersecting fractures in the basalt rock, since the main groundwater flow is along these fractures. These two bores provide the entire water requirements for the reticulated water supply at Dinner Plain. The actual performance of Dinner Plain's underground water supply was reviewed at the end of 1993 after several years of village operation. The Shire of Omeo maintained detailed records of water quantities and water levels in the two production bores. Each bore had yielded around 4.5 litres per second when pumped and the annual utilization for the year ended 30 June 1993 was 44 megalitres, which is 63 per cent of the capacity of the upper aquifer. The lower aquifer had not been needed at all. When Waterbore No. 1 was pumped continuously for 52 hours in July 1993, it yielded 841,600 litres at an average rate of 4.5 litres per second. The groundwater level at the start of this test was 1.6m below the ground and was only 2.0 metres below the ground at the conclusion of the 52 hours of continuous pumping. Hence there is negligible environmental impact resulting from this water supply system.

DINNER PLAIN ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS STATEMENT

In order to gain an initial feeling for public attitudes to and interest in the Dinner Plain proposal, it was originally advertised by the Ministry for Conservation in early July 1981 in the Melbourne "Sun", "The Age", the Melbourne "Herald", the "Bairnsdale Advertiser" and the "Albury Border Mail". A very detailed Environmental Effects Statement with detailed drawings, was issued in January 1982.

The proposal was to construct a dormitory Alpine Village on part of the 231 hectare property. "The proposed total size is to be 4,000 beds comprising:

  • 100 bed Hotel
  • 250 Apartments
  • 150 Row Houses
  • 12 Commercial Lodges / Pensiones
  • 20 Club Lodges
  • 10 Commercial Sites (Ski Hire, Coffee Shops, etc.)

All of the sites will have the buildings totally designed and built with staging of the village growth, dependent on market forces. The Developers will bear the capital cost of all infrastructure facilities and services. The Shire of Omeo will own all the infrastructure services and facilities and be the authority responsible for the operation and maintenance of same. The costs of this operation and maintenance will be recouped via the normal rating system. The total infrastructure system would be installed prior to development. A bus system will be established to transport skiers to and from Mount Hotham provided by the proponents and the residents."

"The development of skiers' accommodation at the Dinner Plain site has considerable advantages over providing further accommodation at the Mt. Hotham Village. These include ease of car parking, ease of access, ease of providing services, and a protected flat site." Dinner Plain was offering land under a Torrens Title, a security not available in other Australian ski resorts.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS OPPOSE DINNER PLAIN DEVELOPMENT

"The Age" newspaper of Tuesday 9 March 1982 contained (on its Page 15) a report (see our Photo No. 41) that Dr Geoff Mosley, Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, condemned the proposed $50 million ski village.

The Conservation Movement then proceeded to make numerous costly planning and administrative challenges against the Dinner Plain Village at the Local Government Level on environmental grounds for almost three years. For example, although the village's proposed water supply "from the rock" would have minimal environmental impact, compared to a conventional design involving a dam on the Victoria River, it was one of the issues that was hotly debated, requiring Warren Peck to attend several hearings to defend the concept of a reticulated water supply obtained from boreholes. The Dinner Plain Development was finally allowed to proceed just prior to Christmas 1984 with construction commencing on village infrastructure in February 1985.

AAC LODGE AT DINNER PLAIN

Once all the challenges and appeals against the proposed Dinner Plain Village had been processed, the AAC was allocated one of the 20 Club Sites in late 1984 and Bryan Linacre was the founding chairman of this new AAC Affiliated Project. The formal board of AAC (Dinner Plain) Co-operative was formed with seven paid-up members who then purchased Dinner Plain Lot 101 in January 1985 using a loan of $10,000 from the AAC Council to provide the deposit for Lot 101.

A site inspection convinced the Board that the new lodge would need a lot of members and, since it is a co-operative, each member could only hold one membership debenture. Additionally, no person under the age of 16 years could be a co-operative member. The co-operative was registered in February 1985, and the cost of an original membership was $3,000 per person. The Board allowed members to pay for their debentures over an 18 month period, and aimed to have as many members as possible prior to the commencement of construction of the lodge. Members were recruited not only by word of mouth among friends and skiing associates, but also by circulating invitations to join to all persons on the waiting lists of the other AAC lodges. For example, the Anton Huette had about 100 persons on its waiting list, of whom 20 joined along with their spouses, children and friends. Members of the other AAC affiliated lodges were of great assistance by talking to prospective members and encouraging them to join. They included Leon Smith, Gordon McDermott, Bob Marshall and Liz Lewis.

Peter McIntyre and Associates had been appointed Architects to design a lodge that included a large lounge containing a large open fireplace, an efficient large double-kitchen and 8 large bedrooms, each with an ensuite and two beds. Construction commenced following the end of the 1986 ski season (Photo No. 42), by which time nearly 250 persons had joined AAC Dinner Plain.

The AAC's Dinner Plain Lodge was opened by Noel Carter, the then AAC President, on 18 June 1987. During his time serving on the Anton Huette Committee, Noel had worked hard on trans-AAC initiatives, such as the "Ski Touring in Australia" book. He had invited Yutta (Charles Anton's widow) to attend an Annual General Meeting of the Anton Huette, so that she could see for herself how the goals of Charles Anton still guided the AAC some twenty years after Charles' passing. In Photo No. 43, Noel is holding the Charles Anton commemorative plaque that he presented to the AAC Dinner Plain Lodge during the opening ceremony. Noel spoke very eloquently about how the building of the AAC Dinner Plain Lodge was a further step towards the attainment of the AAC goals, first enunciated by Charles Anton in the 1950's

In June 1988 the adjoining Lot 100 became available and AAC Dinner Plain purchased this block, so as to provide room for future expansion of the lodge, by selling a further 25 memberships. The total membership of the lodge is 300. The lodge has operated well and has a good occupancy rate during the ski season, when many of the occupants use the bus service to access the Mt. Hotham ski runs. Its location above the snowline (Photo No.45) makes it an ideal venue for ski touring.

The 11km separation between the Dinner Plain Lodge and Anton Huette in the Mt. Hotham Resort, provides a very pleasant ski touring trip with the bus service between the two resorts being available for those who do not wish to do the round trip on skis. Other cross-country ski trails at both resorts provide many other opportunities for the ski tourer.

The main goal of the Ski Tourers Association (which became the AAC) was to establish touring shelters across the Australian Alps. Located at Dinner Plain is the only AAC Lodge that is one day's comfortable ski travel from another AAC Lodge (Anton Huette at Mt. Hotham).