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Starting a Community Enterprise: Mount Buffalo Chalet

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on December 8th, 2010


Image: Mt Buffalo Community Enterprise

The first edition of the Mount Buffalo Community Enterprise Newsletter is out.  It’s full of stories about the planning process, the maintenance Parks Victoria undertakes even in the absence of commercial visitors, the history of the site, and the establishment of the Community Enterprise itself.  Two of the stories are particularly interesting in the wider context of sustainability in Melbourne.  One relates to the development of the Vision for the Chalet:

“Patten Bridge asked the Foundation Shareholder Group: “The year is 2025 – you have the opportunity to visit the mountain and review the Buffalo Project. You find a vibrant, sustainable and successful operation . What are the 3 key things which demonstrate this success for you?”

The Chalet Redevelopment:

• “Island in the Sky” – a vibrant place that is in tune with, sustained by and respectful of its pristine mountain environment.
• A ‘Must See’ destination in Australia
• An iconic Chalet development that is intrinsically linked into its Mountain context and environment
• A place of learning, cultural enrichment and rejuvenation
• Inclusive and accessible by a diverse range of groups within the community
• Sustainable energy systems
• Guests and visitors who are ambassadors for the Mountain
• A respect for both the Indigenous and European cultural heritage

Mount Buffalo Community Enterprise:

• An internationally recognised showpiece of the potential of social and community enterprise
• Connected with the local and wider Victorian community
• Shareholders are actively engaged and involved in what it is doing
• The Mount Buffalo Foundation is successful ? it sponsors, funds and conducts a range of social, cultural, educational and environmental programs and activities
• A financially sustainable and successful business model.”

The other outlines how “commercial failure” does not mean that other models of business can’t work:

“Many people said it wasn’t possible, or feasible. The prevailing view seemed to be that if the ‘commercial guys’ couldn’t make a go of the Chalet, then it’s just not possible. That doesn’t make sense to me. It ignores the commercial limitations the Chalet has faced ? big heritage and energy capital required, short lease term etc. It says more to me about the logic of dealing with an asset like the Chalet through a purely commercial tendering prism than anything about the value implicit in the Chalet itself. To me, if you could change the prism, the lease terms ? (which has now occurred) and change the equation that government applies to its consideration of any future capital investment, then anything was possible. A community ownership model changes that equation.” Mark McKenzie-McHarg

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