ONE Tree Hill watch tower will reopen to the public tomorrow, but delays to its construction have been slammed for leaving the tower unmanned during days of fire risk.
Upgrades to the tower’s steel structure and fire lookout cabin were meant to be completed in late November.
The tower – which operates as a tourist destination and fire lookout – was closed for several months during the joint work by Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
The delays meant the fire watchtower was unattended on November 29, the hottest day of the year, when the mercury topped 40 degrees.
In the week leading up to the 40-degree day, the temperature surpassed 30 on three occasions.
Parks Victoria visitor services co-ordinator Roy Speechley said the work took a little longer than expected. He said Parks Victoria was able to ensure access to the fire spotter cabin for DSE staff from November 30.
DSE Murray Goldfields district manager Steve Nicholson said the fire spotter cabin on top of the One Tree Hill tower was manned for varying periods depending on the fire danger index, the likelihood of lightning and the presence of going fires.
He said that since installing the new cabin there had been a fire spotter in the tower on 10 days.
Opposition spokeswoman for bushfire response Jacinta Allan said the failure of the government to complete the work by the start of the fire season posed an unacceptable risk to the Bendigo community.
She said the state government’s cuts to jobs at Parks Victoria were putting a strain on the organisation and this was evident in the fire tower at One Tree Hill not being finished on time.
Mr Nicholson said the reopened tower had a bigger fire lookout cabin with improved access for the fire spotter plus larger windows with UV protection.