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Snow regions across NSW still feel impact of Black Summer bushfires, March flooding

By Isadora Bogle, Jake Lapham and Sally Bryant, Thursday June 10, 2021 - 05:43 EST
ABC image
Snow at Maragle near Tumbarumba looking south towards the Victorian Alps. - ABC

Tourists normally rush to the higher-altitude areas of New South Wales to catch a glimpse of snowfalls, but, in the case of the Snowy Valley and Barrington Tops, the ongoing impact of natural disasters means local economies may not enjoy a tourism boon this winter.

Talbingo Supermarket owner Kevin Gee waxed lyrical when he described what he could see from the back of his shop.

"There was a beautiful sprinkling of snow on top of Big Talbingo yesterday ? it was very picturesque," he said.

"The snow looked like a lovely big cake that'd been dusted with icing sugar. It was beautiful."

Mr Gee says business has been quiet over recent weeks for the small town that's nestled in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains.

"We're in between seasons and I'm hoping we can get some really good dumps of snow because that will entice people into the area."

Further down the mountain in Tumut the regional chamber of commerce vice-president, Matthew Lucas, said the chance of seeing snow was a strong drawcard for tourists to the broader Snowy Valley region.

"If there's snowfalls at Laurel Hill, Batlow and Tumbarumba we'd expect to see a lot of Wagga locals come up and throw a few snowballs around and things like that," he said.

"Which is obviously good if they're then able to visit some of the local shops."

Black Summer melts snow play

But Mr Lucas said the region's Black Summer bushfire recovery was affecting winter tourist activity.

"With Mount Selwyn [ski resport] not being re-opened yet, and also the loss of the Sugar Pine forest in the Dunns Road fire in January 2020, there's not as much attraction for those sorts of snow play activities here locally anymore."

Mr Gee agreed the continued closure of the Mount Selwyn snowfields was having an impact but said snow chasers still toured the region to enjoy the alpine conditions.

"Even though we had no Selwyn last year, we had a good number of people come through just to drive up into the snow and see the snow for the first time," he said.

"So we're still getting a lot of curious visitors, which is good."

Barrington Tops 'dead'

When snowflakes are falling Dimity Bartlett is usually greeted by a line of snow chasers lining up at the front door of her cafe in Moonan, in the Upper Hunter region.

At the base of the Barrington Tops plateau, Moonan is usually a hub for snow chasers who stop for a coffee before heading up the mountain.

The plateau is the highest subalpine region in the country outside the Australian Alps and most winters the area sees a snowfall or two.

But despite snow showers this week, snow chasers are unable to access the winter wonderland due to landslips causing the access road to be closed.

Ms Bartlett said the closure had affected tourism in the town.

"[It's] dead ? no traffic, just the locals on their way to work," she said.

Access road closed

The Forestry Corporation of NSW is advising tourists to the Barrington Tops State Forest to stay away due to the closure of Barrington Tops Forest Road following storms in March that caused landslips and flooding.

The road is a tourist gateway from the coast to the Tops and the alternative access via Scone on the western side is treacherous in the wet, leading authorities to urge tourists not to visit the area.

The Forestry Corporation, which manages the road, says repairing the road is "a priority" and hopes to have the works completed by next winter.

But Ms Bartlett fears that is too long.

"If things don't pick up I will have to close the business," she said.

"All the hard work and everything you put into something like this and it's your life's dream to do it ? out the window."

Protection forester Mick Wilson from the Forestry Corporation apologised by the impact the road closure was having.

"We're very, very sorry for everybody that's affected," he said.

"It's very complex structural damage."

Locals are preparing a petition calling for the state government funding to address the issue.

A spokesperson for the Member for Upper Hunter Dave Layzell says he is aware of the impact the road's closure is having on tourism to both Scone and Gloucester, and is trying to find a short-term solution.


© ABC 2021

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