We started with welcomes to new Area Chief Ranger Rhonda McNeil, to new team member John Grayling (Roads, camping areas, other assets), and thanks to Tammy Schoo who has been acting as ACR.
Advisory group membership – was due to end this year, but we made the decision to delay until Rhonda was settled into her job, but no longer than 12 months.
GNP Team update – new staff. Hannah Auld is the new volunteer co-ordinator, which is now at last an ongoing position. Connor Smith is temporarily replacing Matt White who is taking leave to visit European parks on a bike trip. (We will have to ask Matt for an article when he returns.) There will also be four summer rangers over the holiday period.
Recovery – Fire /Flood update – There has been quite a bit of road work recently, especially culverts, and work is starting on track upgrades as part of the Recovery programme, particularly the McKenzie River Track. (Note that FOGGS has money set aside for a seat along the track with money we inherited from Friends of Zumsteins. We hope this will be done soon as part of the upgrade.)
Other park project updates – Emergency markers are being installed at key points in the Park where accidents or other incidents are likely to happen. This is so that when a call is made to 000, the exact location can be given to the operator. This has been a real problem in the past.
Visitor numbers are continuing to increase markedly, which is good in many ways, but also presents challenges. Most roads and walking tracks now have counters installed to measure the traffic. Parking at popular spots is a problem, and the team are looking at possible solutions. Visitor behaviour and expectations can also present problems, as so many visitors now are city or overseas based.
BRP Environment funding Update
Mike Stevens was on leave, so Dave Handscombe told us Mike’s good news. I am actually using the email I had from Mike with the details.
“Well on my last day of work before two months holiday I received news that the Grampians has received its biggest environmental funding allocation in history…$1.855m over 3 years. When considering we have $400k of Grampians Ark funding the Grampians is expecting to receive over $3m in environmental funding for the next three years.
The projects funded through the Biodiversity Response Planning grants over the next 3 years are:
- Sallow wattle control – $647,445
- Feral Goat and rabbit control – $309,000
- Deer control – $624,000
- Feral cat control – $275,000
We now have funding security to employ the Environmental Project Coordinator for a three year term, and throw significant energy behind ramping up a Sporting Shooters Association of Australia and Australian Deer Association partnership in combination with contractors targeting goats and feral deer. There is a marked increase in managing contractors to control Sallow Wattle, and we will lead innovative state-wide approaches to rabbit control and feral cats.
Considering that we plan to significantly ramp up our ecological fire program in Autumn – Winter 2019, combined with an exciting partnership with Glenelg Hopkins CMA investigating ecological water opportunities for the Grampians landscape, it looks as though we will be able to make significant progress to deliver the Grampians Conservation Action Plan. A web update and details of all successful BRP projects can be found at https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/biodiversity-response-planning.”
At our AG meeting Dave elaborated on what this means. The existing goat control programme will be expanded, deer control will commence. The aim is to remove 150 deer each year from the Park, with better cooperation with adjoining land owners to be able to remove deer from their properties too. The sallow wattle programme will continue to focus on the North plus satellite populations in other areas.
The PV Act has changed four weeks ago. It now simplifies responsibilities, and our local staff think it is an improvement. (Note that it is unrelated to the somewhat controversial changes to the management plans of parks along the Great Ocean Road.) The Management Plan for our Park is way out of date and needs a lot of work but there is no indication of when that process will begin.
Grampians Peak Trail
We next had a detailed update on the Peaks Trail project. Work is starting on the 102 km of new tracks. There is a new phone app, ArcG15 which is helping speed up the work as the exact location of works can be shared. Work is continuing on such questions as Offsets, planning requirements, resourcing, finalisation of the cost modelling analysis, the hiker camps, supplier agreements, marketing plans.
But we spent most time on the Interpretation project update. As I report next, a company has been appointed to look at how the interpretation should be delivered, but first you need to think about who will be using the trail. Day walkers, school groups, overnight independent walkers, group walkers, guided walkers, luxury walkers. Thirteen things needing to be decided were listed, the top 5 being: how many people at sites, what type of accommodation is offered, at what cost, the experience offered (interpretation), is there a need for a shuttle service. Some others were: length of each day’s walk, what the shower/ washing facilities should be. Some key gaps on what is on offer to the sort of people thinking of doing the walk were: high end accommodation, transport to and within the region, quality dining experiences, and on-park accommodation options. The key focus areas of interpretation and signage were outlined too, which I will add to the article on the interpretation meeting I attended, rather than repeating myself.
So much to think about and we were running out of time and energy. I am sure we will be talking more at the next meeting which is in December.
We were to have an update on Traditional Owner agreements but that too was postponed to December.