What a waste!

By MARTIN GILMOUR
March 3, 1999

A former Antarctic training centre in Tasmania's Central Highlands valued at more than $750,000 is being demolished because of apparent red-tape overkill.

The elaborate Bernacchi lodge was built on Hydro land at Lake Augusta in 1980 at a cost of $425,000 for Antarctic staff to help acclimatise to cold weather.

The 60-bed lodge with state-of-the- art heating, cooking and waste disposal was virtually abandoned in 1995 because it was regarded as too small.

Despite past approaches from community groups and commercial interests to lease the building, the $50,000 four-week demolition programme began yesterday.

Situated about 10km west of Great Lake, near Liawenee, the lodge is within the expanded World Heritage Area but on Hydro land at the base of the Lake Augusta Dam.

The demolition was ordered from the Canberra office of John Fahey, the Finance and Administration Minister.

A spokesman for Mr Fahey said the demolition was to comply with a Hydro lease requirement that the site had to be rehabilitated to its original state if it stopped being used.

The two-storey building is clad in treated pine logs with a Colorbond roof and was designed to last for at least the 50-year lease negotiated with the Hydro.

It has five bedrooms containing 12 bunks, a huge tiled lounge with open fireplace spanned by laminated oregon beams and many other features that were unique when it was built in 1980.

The six Hobart contractors are now faced with salvaging what they can and removing the underground septic tanks and even the lodge's huge cement slab.

They spent yesterday removing internal walls, plaster sheeting and wall panelling.

Finding a new operator for Bernacchi apparently became too complicated for the federal bureaucrats in the mid-'90s when government- owned properties were being sold off.

Because Bernacchi was subject to a Hydro lease it went into the too-hard basket and has barely been used or considered for the past four years.

Apart from Antarctic climate training, Bernacchi has been used spasmodically in the past by the Australian Army and other groups for seminars and training exercises.

Locals are flabbergasted that so much money was initially spent on a project for only four weeks' use a year and now $50,000 is being spent removing it without publicly seeking expressions of interest.

One Miena local said the lodge would have been ideal for the Tasmanian scout movement, the Education Department for school camps, as a backpackers lodge or even as accommodation for anglers.

Thousands of fishermen and bushwalkers drive past the lodge each year as one of the most popular access points to the Western Lakes and Walls of Jerusalem.

Even giving the building to a community group would have been more cost effective than pulling it down.

Lyons Labor MHR Dick Adams yesterday described the demolition as ``ill thought out and an apparent waste of taxpayers' money''.

"You would have thought that all other potential uses for the building would be explored before more federal money was spent destroying it.''

The lodge was named after Louis Bernacchi, a Tasmanian who in 1899 was a member of the first party to spend a year in Antarctica.

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