Editor’s Piece

Welcome to our late late Spring edition. The last couple of months have been a very busy time for many of us, and I do apologise for the lateness of this issue. There’s only one important date as we head towards the summer period and that is our AGM on Friday November 30. We won’t have a December meeting, but will let you know in plenty of time how we will start the 2019 programme. I do want to emphasise the importance of our AGM where we will be electing office bearers, hoping to continue with mixing newcomers and longer term members. It is vital that we ensure that we remain relevant to both our long-term members and newcomers.

We have good news about Park staff, and funding, as you will read further in. We particularly welcome our new Ranger in Charge, Rhonda McNeil, and our new Volunteer Co-ordinator Hannah Auld. We look forward to continuing our good relationship with our staff as we work together to look after and protect our Park.

Please note that if you have not renewed your membership your period of grace has expired and this will be your last newsletter. Our Park needs Friends in so many areas. We always have advocated on behalf of the Park, we have given feedback to management, we have sought to educate the public. But there are always new challenges and new opportunities and your membership is important in our advocacy role, even if you find it difficult to come to our activities.

What the Prez Sez

Another year of FOGGs comes to a close.

As the flowers disappear, the grass yellows off and the wildlife congregates around the shrinking water sources, it becomes obvious that summer is about to hit with a vengeance.

I have been reflecting on this year with my beloved FOGGs, and my last three years as President. We have done some good for our community, participated in shared activities, supported local events and promoted our group and its aims to the community at large, and provided some educational opportunities to the community and ourselves.

We have much to be proud of. And that’s just this year alone.

I have been proud to lead the group for the last three years, but for various personal reasons I need to step down at this years AGM. I feel that over the last 12 months I have not been as effective in the role as I should be. The group also has a policy of not having one person at the helm for too long. This stops the workload from becoming too  much for one person, and ensures new ideas and activities are developed to keep things interesting. I reckon I’ve had some good ideas, but its time for some new ones. The enjoyment I have got from the position of president cannot be measured, but is genuine. If the chance arises in the future I may take the roll again if voted in. I have been very proud of the group and its members and always will be. Being part of the committee or an office bearer in a group you enjoy has its own unique rewards and I encourage everyone to give it a try. It will always be a source of pride that for a short time I followed in the footsteps of some truly great warriors for the national park and the environment it protects, especially as I was present at the inaugural meeting at Borough Huts, and saw the work those early leaders did, (my own father included) thinking one day it might be me.

We have had some great activities this quarter that generated untold enthusiasm in our members.

The excitement on Bill’s face as he fulfilled a lifelong dream of reaching the top of Mt Dryden was probably reflected in others too. It was a little sad to spend our birdwatching activity with the Neves who are leaving the state to live closer to family. It was great to share a meal and conversation with two people who have been an inspiration to many members for a long time. I will miss them greatly. Its a pity the birds didn’t want to join us that day!

Our wildflower walk with the involvement of the Hamilton Field Nats was a great success, and many plants were identified. I don’t think we beat last years species total, but we enjoyed the views, great conversation and companionship with like minded people, and surely that is what life is all about.

These activities allow members and guests to learn, to participate and to share their knowledge with others, all essential to the human experience. This is the secret of the longterm success of FOGGs, and will help the group continue into the future.

Cheers
Rod

From Our Rangers – Hannah Auld

G’day Foggies,

My name is Hannah Auld and I am the Community Engagement Ranger with Parks Victoria in Halls Gap. A similar role was previously filled by Caity O’Reilly whom you may have been in contact with regarding volunteer projects. This role will be very similar to Caity’s where I will be assisting the team to plan School programs (including school talks and stewardship sessions), Local school VCAL and Outdoor- Ed program sessions and working on programs such as the Sherpa/TrailRider, Community Volunteer groups and projects including FOGGS, 4WD Clubs, Bushwalking clubs and ensuring ParkConnect is a highly functioning tool. I‘d like to touch base with you and your volunteers as I believe we can help each other with future volunteer projects!

A little bit about me – I’ve recently moved back to Halls Gap after a couple of months working for Parks in Melbourne as their Volunteer Officer. However, before that I spent seven months in the Grampians as the 2017/18 Seasonal Ranger, so I feel very lucky and privileged to be welcomed back into the team. I have a wide variety of knowledge from studying Sustainable Tourism for two years and I’ve also completed my Bachelor of Environmental Science. I have a passion for the protection of the natural environment and want to share that with the wider Grampians community. I myself volunteered all through my university studies and therefore have a particular understanding and appreciation of the hard work invested by individuals and organisations alike and the invaluable impact you have on our parks. Which is why during this role I will do my best to support your projects within the park as much as I can.

Part of my role in Melbourne was to guide rangers and volunteer groups though the ParkConnect transition period. If you are familiar with this system you will understand that it provides a collaborative way to record volunteer activities and openly communicate with rangers. Over the next few weeks I will be running sessions to help you learn how to record your volunteer activities within ParkConnect, it will also give us the chance to have a cuppa and a chat about the future for your volunteer group.

Previously working within the park, I believe I can hit the ground running, so please feel free to call me if you have any questions about activities you have coming up as I’d love to help where I can.

Cheers,
Hannah

Note from editor: see also the news about DELWP’s support for volunteer groups here.

From Our Rangers – Rhonda McNeil

I am excited and honoured to be taking up the position of Area Chief Ranger Grampians. I grew up in Great Western and as a child spent many days in Halls Gap and walking in the Grampians. Whilst studying at university I worked in the holidays serving ice cream from Pip Mangle’s Ice creamery.  I started my real work as an information officer in the old parks interpretive centre. So I remember the tourists and the range of questions but there certainly are more people in the Grampians now. I spent the next 20 years working for Parks Victoria in central Victoria and along the Murray River. A favourite park that I was lucky to look after was Kooyoora State Park which is where my affinity with working with traditional owners began and I am so pleased to see the Dja Dja Wurung people heavily involved in park management of this area. During this time I was involved across the state in many fire campaigns and bring a wealth of experience with me to the Grampians.

In 2008 my family moved to Laharum to farm and I worked in the Grampians for the next few years in the fire and emergency management area, in particular with Jill Read on the fire ecology strategy for the Grampians and Little Desert.  In 2011 I accepted a position with Horsham Rural City Council working with Yarrimabiack, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera Shire Councils to develop the Wimmera Emergency Management Resource Sharing Project. During the Northern Grampians Complex fire I was the recovery manager. For the last three years I held the position of Manager Recreation and Sustainability for Horsham Rural City Council, which included overseeing the major projects such as the Horsham Town Hall, Wimmera Sports Stadium Feasibility Study and the Kalkee Road Children’s Hub.

My family (Gus, Sophie and James) and I are very excited about this role and with their full support and belief in me I look forward to caring for this amazing landscape.

Advisory Group Meeting – October 19th

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.

Deer Strategy

The Draft Victorian Deer Management Strategy (the draft strategy) has been developed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

The development of a deer management strategy is a key action under the Victorian Government’s Sustainable Hunting Action Plan 2016 – 2020 and recognised under the Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 Implementation Framework.

The objectives of the draft strategy are to maintain hunting opportunities while managing the impacts of deer on environmental, social, cultural, economic and agricultural assets.

Effective deer management requires a partnership approach between all levels of Government, Traditional Owners, conservation and community groups, Landcare, water authorities, Catchment Management Authorities, hunting organisations, hunters, the deer farming industry, commercial deer harvest industry and the community.

The draft strategy proposes a new way of thinking to guide how deer are managed in our landscape.

Opportunity was given to comment on the strategy, but unfortunately the deadline was 27 October, so it is too late but you can read the strategy on line and I expect still make your submissions.

PDF (6.64 MB)  

Draft Deer Management Strategy

Feral Cat Questionnaire

University of Adelaide Feral Cat Management Project

Our team is looking to recruit residents who live in, manage or own property on Kangaroo Island or in the Grampians region to participate in an online questionnaire about feral cats and feral cat management.

The aim of this project will be to determine how the public feels about feral cat management, and also to inform about the different techniques that may be used in your region, or on your land. This information can then later be used to inform management authorities about what techniques are deemed acceptable by the public.

If you live in, manage or own property on Kangaroo Island or in the Grampians region, and would like further information on this study, or if you would like to participate in the questionnaire please go to http://adelaide.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7Utb Qk7mP60DaYJ and enter the code T8RM63L when prompted. If you have any questions, please contact Brooke Deak at

 

A New Environmental Plan

DELWP released Victorians Volunteering for Nature: Environmental Volunteering Plan on 24 October.

Many Victorians give their time freely to a wide variety of environmental causes and organisations, including Landcare, Friends, and Coastcare groups. We recognise and value their contributions and collective efforts and want to help volunteers do more for nature when, where, and how it suits them.

The Environmental Volunteering Plan (EVP) provides a welcome focus on the valuable work that Friends groups and other environmental volunteers do. The EVP proposes, among other things: to investigate a longer-term environmental volunteering government grants program and to create a small ‘set-up’ grants fund to offset administration and incorporation costs for new groups.  This Environmental Volunteering Plan will expand and reinvigorate environmental volunteering for all Victorians to get involved.

DELWP say they are setting a new direction based on sustaining, expanding, valuing and understanding volunteering in Victoria. Each area has practical and contemporary ideas to support the environmental volunteering sector, such as improving administration, training volunteers, increasing collaboration and using digital communication tools to engage and share information.

We also want to celebrate the important environmental, social and economic contributions of our environmental volunteers. It is essential that our volunteers feel valued and others see and value their contribution.

To download a copy of Victorians Volunteering for Nature -Environmental Volunteering Plan click here: https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/home/victorians-volunteering-for-nature
For further information on environmental volunteering please email the Environmental Volunteering team at

Grampians Peak Trail Interpretation Meeting

I represented FOGGS (and the HG Grampians Flora Botanic Garden) at a meeting on October 8. There were five from the consultants’ team and five of us: neighbours, artists and a (local) geologist. (There had been a separate meeting with tourism people).

The consultants have been asked to prepare an Interpretation and Signature Experiences Activation Plan for the Grampians Peaks Trail, with the aim of positioning the Grampians Peaks Trail as a world-class iconic walking experience, showcasing the beauty and majesty of the Grampians National Park’s natural and cultural landscapes.  The consultants’ responsibility is to finalise a plan by early December. Others will then be employed to actually do it.

We were told that the Interpretation and Visitor Experience component will:

  • Leverage, consolidate and ‘re-package’ existing work including earlier interpretation plans;
  • Be reflective of contemporary, world-class interpretation and embrace best practice storytelling and a mix of powerful visual media such as digital, sculpture and furniture, to “engineer profound, destination-specific moments” that assist Parks Victoria in setting a new benchmark for interpreted walks;
  • Outline a limited number of clearly differentiated signature experiences, associated customer journeys and storytelling touchpoints and distinctively and compellingly describe the themes, key messages, stories, interpretive strategies and experiences that accompany each of them;
  • Ensure reference to the broader context of the Grampians National Park and provide solutions to cleverly connect ‘on GPT’ and ‘off GPT’ sections of track;  
  • Be relevant to current and future target audiences and consider multi-lingual needs;
  • Integrate an authentic Aboriginal experience based on stories already approved by Traditional Owners and setting the foundation for the possible integration of additional stories.

There was much more consultant language about “supporting a world class visitor experience” and what they see their role is. What did our small group contribute?  The consultants actually got an interesting conversation going. We talked about what the Grampians means to us, some born here, some long-time residents, one from overseas a couple of years ago. We discussed what we thought would be important elements of the walk experience, the unique geology, the flora, the indigenous and European history, the night sky.

The initial planning is for two experiences.

  1. “The Edge of the Grampians”, from Dead Bullock creek to Halls Gap, 3 days, 2 nights. Emphasis on flora, fauna, geology, indigenous culture.
  2. “The Southern Experience” from Griffith Picnic area to Dunkeld, also 3 days, 2 nights. Again flora, fauna, geology, indigenous culture plus some signage about the agrarian experience from Mt Abrupt.

Identify specific partnership opportunities for the ‘Edge of Gariwerd’ and Southern Grampians experiences across park staff, design, tourism, business, Indigenous and other local communities, to maximise consistent experience development and storytelling opportunities.

The aim is that quality interpretation leads to understanding, which leads to appreciation, which leads to wanting to see it protected.

I will be attending another meeting in December.

Birdwatching and farewell to Bill and Hennie Neve – Saturday August 18th

It so happened that it was one of the rare days this winter that it really rained, so birdwatching ended up a very minor part of the day. Not that anyone would complain about rain this year. Some of us took the opportunity to explore the nearby Trust for Nature reserve to observe the very slow recovery of the red gum forest which was burnt heavily in 2014. Bill reports that the bird life in the area has also not recovered to the pre-fire levels.

But we all enjoyed our last opportunity to enjoy their amazing and beautiful home and chat with them both and each other. We will miss them, and wish them well as they move closer to family in WA. One of the things we discussed was the most valuable work the Nature Glenelg Trust is doing to restore the wetlands (see last newsletter). We decided we would contribute $1000 towards the purchase of more land at the Walker Swamp. Although these wetlands are outside the National Park, they are very much a part of the ecosystem of the Park.