The Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre – Underwhelming and Disappointing

In February 2016 the final version of the Cradle Mountain Visitor Experience Master Plan (CMVEMP, PDF) was released. It promised the delivery of a “precinct revitalisation” at Cradle Mountain and its development included substantial input from many stakeholders, including the Friends of Cradle Valley. The Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre was a primary focus of the Master Plan. Unfortunately, the result to date has been both underwhelming and disappointing.

According to the Master Plan, the Visitor Centre was to incorporate lounge bar/restaurant and café facilities featuring “spacious, cathedral-like interior spaces and dramatic, floor-to-ceiling glass panels that will frame clear views of the surrounding landscape and Cradle Mountain”. Nothing like that has eventuated. All we have is a ground floor café that has no views and is about a third of the size required to meet the current needs of visitors. It is unlikely to be able to cope with increased visitor numbers in the future.

Artist's impression of cafe in Visitor Centre (from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Experience Master Plan, 2016).
Artist’s impression of the café in the Visitor Centre (from the CMVEMP) – Those views could have been simply stunning!

Visitors were to be provided with high quality interpretation, were to be able to interact with Parks staff “in an informal and natural way” and generally relax in a pleasant environment that is protected from the frequently harsh weather before either catching the shuttle bus or continuing on their journey. Instead, the majority of the building space is dedicated to a “visitor processing area” which has the ambience of an airport terminal with very few assets promoting the unique values of the Park. Apart from the cold, three-sided, timber Ellis Shed that is some distance from the main buildings, has very few tables and seats and has a carpark vista, there is little shelter provided for visitors who aren’t engaged in the process of purchasing something or queuing for information. Even the bus shelter is of inadequate size to meet peak demand, is too distant from the Visitor Centre and very exposed to the prevailing winds. There are no covered walkways linking the peripheral facilities with the main buildings.

Visitor Centre main area.
The cavernous “visitor processing area” (with shop in the far central left) – Glen Hayhurst

The Visitor Centre shop area is beautifully set out and attractive but is also too small. The toilet facilities are very good.

The best site for views of the Park is that of the proposed Building 4 at the southern end of the complex. However, this has been slated as the location of the final visitor processing area and transport system gateway, so the opportunity for magnificent panoramas for visitors is likely to be lost.

In summary, the Master Plan promised so much: a world class visitor experience at the entrance to a world class area. In practice, this third iteration of the Visitor Centre has failed to deliver on that promise. The area, its visitors and Tasmanians deserve so much better. The Friends of Cradle Valley hope that the next attempt to construct a Visitor Centre at Cradle Mountain will be more successful in achieving its stated objectives and will be free from the cost cutting and other compromises that have crippled the current development. In the meantime, any actions that can address some of the existing limitations should be seriously considered for implementation.

Response from the Hon Guy Barnett MP, Minister for State Development, Construction and Housing