The Grampians National Park has had more than its fair share natural disasters. The recent history is compelling with 3 major landscape scale bushfires in 8 years (2006, 2013, 2014, totalling 87% of the park) as well as record floods and landslides in 2011. In dollar terms, the cost of reinstating destroyed assets over the past 8years is fast approaching $10million, the cost however to our environmental and cultural values is more difficult to measure, and requires specific expertise, short, medium and longer term monitoring to understand the impacts negative and/or positive.
Any impact in the Grampians from landscape scale events is felt hard by the local tourism industry. Annually, the Grampians National Park directly and indirectly contributes an estimated $400million into the Regional economy of Western Victoria(GT 2014). The Park is one of the most popular tourism destinations outside of Melbourne and the 12 Apostle and attracts over 1.3million visitor nights annually. Halls Gap alone has private and public assets that equate to a combined value of $1.6billion dollars (DHS 2014). What does this all equate to…Jobs. At the end of the day, the Grampians National Park supports a huge number of communities, industries and therefore jobs, which is why when these sorts of disruptive events occur, a collective shudder goes through the local community as they know how reliant they are on the National Park and its supporting infrastructure.
We therefore find ourselves in the difficult position of trying to reinstate assets and facilitate access in very short timeframes, often with limited financial and physical resources. To provide some visitor experience and access to key destinations is critical in the first few weeks of any recovery program. The local staff do an amazing job and have a real instinct for what is possible and how to go about it, which has come with significant practice over the past 8 years. The team are so attuned to the needs and demands, that even while the fire is being fought, local minds and bodies switch seamlessly into recovery mode. During these testing periods, the staff within the Grampians have showed great resilience, tolerance and adaptability, despite the obvious challenges of seeing your work burnt, melted or inundated time and time again.
What is becoming clear is that these types of events; floods, fire & other climate related events, are a constant in our landscape. As climate change theories bounce around and the scientist and politicians battle for the public’s opinion, the anecdotal stuff from our small part of the world points to an increase in extreme climatic events, and we need to plan for this.
Simple changes have and will continue to be made including the promotion of various building materials that are inherently fire resistant. Sandstone is used at every opportunity, the use of steel as often as practical and the use of hardwood timbers not pine. We continue to review our infrastructure needs and where appropriate decommission or downgrade what we offer and where required invest and upgrade sites for the future.
Our Environment and significant cultural values always struggle for their share of the limelight with these events. As there isn’t an easy dollar value attributed to these assets and therefore their not an insurable item, attracting resources to understand the impacts and then mitigate the impacts where we can is always challenging. Our local team ably lead by Ryan Duffy are progressing some excellent local strategies to not only look at the recent fire, but also the cumulative impacts of the past couple of years on our key environmental assets. Striving for more knowledge and understanding of our ecosystems and their resilience is a key outcome for the team in the coming years.
The Grampians Team are the best placed to work through all these challenges and will ask for the communities advice and assistance throughout the course of the Recovery Program.
Thank you Dave for your hard work and leadership. We are so pleased to have such a quality team here.