From the Editor

Greetings from the still so very dry Grampians. And fire ravaged too. The January fires on the Victoria Range burnt almost a quarter of the Park; the March fires in the Dadswell Bridge area were successfully extinguished while still small but  had the potential to cause severe damage to a quite different ecosystem.  Our Park staff have had a torrid time, and now face months of hard work. We offer them our sympathy and our thanks.

It has of course also impacted on our FOGG activities. We were going to talk with Park staff about our activity programme, but that is now postponed until April 24.

Your committee has also found it hard to get together, with distractions from births (lovely) and illness (horrid).

Have you thought whether you could be on our committee? We make use of email quite a bit, so you don’t have to live locally. We have a policy of changing the president at regular intervals, and Proo has indicated this is her last year in the position. You have until September to think about it.

Just in as I was about to print this, and apologies that it is now so late, the Government has released its new guidelines on commercial development in national parks. Proo has an initial response below. You can read them on http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/recreation-and-tourism/tourism-investment-opportunities-in-national-parks.

And also just in, another quick response from one of our members. See her letter on p 6.

President’s Report

Our plans this year have been somewhat disrupted by the large fire, which burnt approximately 25% of the Grampians National Park in the beautiful Victoria Range on the western side. This now means 75 % of the Grampians National Park has been burnt in the last seven years. If the requirement to control burn 5% of the park annually regardless of what other burns have occurred is going to be implemented again this year, then I believe this will be of great concern to members, as soon there will be very little long-time unburnt habitat left in the park.

It was excellent to catch up with so many members at the Ian Mc.Cann reserve  for Clean Up Australia Day. Much of the rubbish that was collected had been dumped in the reserve quite a number of years ago so hopefully the reserve will remain clean with no repeat of this type of dumping in the future.

Issues which we will need to continue to be vigilant about this year are firstly the Government’s intention to allow private development in the park, See Margo’s “From the Editor” for information about the government policy release which interestingly occurred on Easter Sunday. Is it possible they didn’t want people to know about it??? Secondly the plan to sand mine and establish a tailings dump very close to the northern edge of the park, see Wendy’s article for more information.

I look forward to catching up with everyone for the walk with Ben in the Brim Springs area to explore further our indigenous heritage on Saturday 13 April. I’m sure it will be a fascinating day as previous ones have been with Ben.

Proo

Book Review: Hamilton Region Nature Guide

At the recent most interesting Eel Festival at Lake Bolac I got talking with the representative of the Brolga Recovery Group, and the nearby representative of the Hamilton Field Naturalists. They have published a “Hamilton Region Nature Guide” and I highly recommend it. It is of course centred on Hamilton, but it covers the area from Harrow in the north to Heywood in the south, from Dergholm in the west to Lake Bolac in the west. Naturally it deals only with the southern end of the National Park, but what I found most useful is the information on the Black Range  and the various wetlands and grasslands in and around the Park. The maps are clear and the birdlists extensive. Well done Hamilton Field Nats!

Address: PO Box 591. Hamilton 3300.

Email:

History: Nature in the Serra Range

In our last issue we published Audas’s description of a Spring excursion on the flat land near Halls Gap. We continue his story on the next morning as they set out for a 2 day walk. Please note that the botanical names are sometimes hard to decipher. The library who have made this available on the web has used character recognition software to get into a text document and it has not always coped with Latin vocabulary. And of course some plant names have changed as well.


By J. W. AUDAS, F.L.S., F.R.M.S., Assistant, National Herbarium, Melbourne.

Read before the Field Naturalist’s Club of Victoria, 15th Jan., 1919.

Provisioned with food for a couple of days, we made an early start on Sunday morning (3 November) for that portion of the Serra Range lying to the south-west of Hall’s Gap. The first stage of the journey was via the Stony Creek track, past the diggings, during which some fine belts of timber were passed through, comprising Eucalyptus ovata and E. viminalis. Near Venus’s Bath we saw some nice specimens of Leptospermum lanigernm, var. grandifoliiim, the white flowers of which were fully an inch in diameter. This shrub, being quick-growing and of handsome appearance, would make a worthy addition to any garden. Other shrubs seen in flower were Prostanthera rotundifolia, Pomadcrris elachophylla, Pultencea villosa, Indigofera aiistralis, Spyridiwin parviflornm, var. hirsutissimum , Panax samhiicifoliiis, Coprosma hirtella, Dodoncea viscosa, and Viminaria denudat-a. Continuing up the jinker track, a fine view of Mackey’s Peak is obtained, and after passing the “Gulf Stream ” we came upon a fine patch of Utriciilaria dichotoma, known locally as “Rock Pansies,” many of the plants having the unusual number of four, and in some cases five, purple flowers on each stalk. Further on fine specimens of Boronia polygalifolia, var. piihescens, Leucopogon glacialis, Linum viarginale, Psciidanthns ovalifolins, Spyridiitm vexilliferitm, Laxmannia (Bartlingia) sessiliflora. Acacia vomcriformis, and Stypandra glauca, with its bright blue flowers,were collected. Mr. D’Alton has this plant growing well in his garden at Hall’s Gap in three different shades—blue, white, and pink. It is easily grown, and makes a very ornamental plant. Near the entrance to the Grand Canyon we found in flower Stylidium soboliferiim, peculiar to these parts, also the remarkably handsome orchid Thelymitra fusco-hitea. Proceeding along the track, we passed the prettily situated Pansy Fall. At this place the Stony Creek makes its way through a gorge where a number of nice little falls occur. Hereabouts grew Prostanthera debilis and Bauera sessiliflora, both peculiar to the Grampians ; the latter is a very handsome shrub, with spikes of magenta-coloured flowers, sometimes fully three feet in length. Just below the Turret Falls, which are quite close to the jinker track, beneath some overhanging rocks, some fine bushes of Prostanthera hirtella were found. It was too late for blossoms, it having passed that period. Here was seen a fine pair of Black Cockatoos, Calyptorhynchus funereits, which had a nest in the hollow of an adjacent tree. The birds were loath to leave their nest, and allowed us to pass within twenty or thirty yards of them. Along the track some good specimens of Pultencea styphelioides, P. mollis, Pimelea ligustrina, Caiistis pentandra, Phyllanthiis thymoides, Grevillea aquifoliiim, Hakea rostrata, Brachycome midtifida, Stylidium graminifolium, Podolepis acuminata, Brunonia australis, and Viola hetonicifolia were gathered. Arriving at Stony Creek diggings at mid-day, we boiled the billy and enjoyed our sandwiches. After a short rest, and before leaving, we collected Pultenaa suhumbellata, Goodia lotifolia (locally known as Clover-bush), Epacris obtusifolia, Samhucus Gaudichaiidiana, Calytrix tetragona, Daviesia tdicina, Sphcerolohium vimineiim, Pimelea /lava, P. curviflora, Stackhousia flava, and Olearia speciosa, the latter peculiar to these parts. Proceeding on our journey, we travelled in a southerly direction for a couple of miles, gradually working round till we reached the back of Mount Rosea. Having ascended to the top, we were rewarded with a fine view of the Victoria Valley on the one side and Hall’s Gap on the other.

History: Founding of the Grampians National Park

The latest Parkwatch, the magazine of the Victorian National Parks Association had an article by Evelyn Feller on the founding of the Grampians National Park as part of their celebration of 60 years of activity.


Grampians National Park – A Victorian Icon

As part of VNPA’s 60th anniversary, Evelyn Feller looks back at the long campaign for a Grampians National Park.

One of the earliest appeals for a Grampians National Park was in a 1912 Argus editorial in response to a deliberately lit fire in the Victoria Valley north of Dunkeld. The editor urged protection for the area before the opportunity was lost. “These things are often neglected or overlooked during the infancy of a country: and then there comes a time, after the land has been alienated, when a lost opportunity is lamented.”

In 1937 the Ararat Shire president Councillor Alex McDonald endorsed a national park to further encourage tourism and protect the area’s unique flora and fauna. He faced counter arguments including that the existing state forest reserve was a de facto national park anyway, and the Forest Commission was better staffed and funded than a ranger and committee of management (as parks were managed at the time). The Ararat Australian Natives Association also opposed his efforts, raising the spectre of careless tourists causing bushfires.

In 1952, frustrated at the lack of progress in developing an agency to manage national parks, the VNPA was formed to lobby for new, adequately funded national parks.

While groups such as the Stawell and Ararat Field Naturalists, supported by Melbourne Field Naturalists, had been lobbying for a Grampians park for many years, their efforts were met with strong opposition from groups who raised concerns about the potential loss of sawmill jobs in Stawell and feared foxes, rabbits and other vermin would overrun the area, increasing erosion and contaminating water supplies. One of the first activities of the VNPA was to counter this park opposition through the local media.

Aside from championing a Grampians national park, the VNPA were involved in other campaigns to protect the Little Desert and Alps. The Little Desert campaign resulted in the formation of the Land Conservation Council (LCC) meaning future land-use decisions could only be made after a comprehensive review of an area’s resources, instead of being made arbitrarily by a minister.

The LCC review of the Grampians area began in 1978, generating an energetic campaign by park supporters and opponents. Locally, Ian McCann of the Stawell Field Naturalists (and author of the VNPA ‘In Flower’ books) was tireless in his efforts to see the National Park come into existence.

For its part, the VNPA formed a subcommittee to produce submissions and critique LCC reports. Members included Geoff Durham, Malcolm and Jane Calder, Janet Coveney and Dick Johnson.

The VNPA’s 1979 submission to the LCC made clear the key impediment to a national park was determining which agency would control the area. VNPA’s submission described the overlapping jurisdictions between the Forests Commission and other agencies resulting in ‘confusion and apathy’. Campgrounds such as Zumsteins and Halls Gap had deteriorated, with limited visitor facilities and opportunities for park interpretation. The submission also described the adverse effects of grazing and lack of supervision of stock. It concluded conservation could best be achieved by an adequately staffed and funded national parks service.

The Grampians Fringe Advisory Association, a group comprised of farmers whose properties bordered the proposed park, opposed the park claiming only very fit walkers would be able to access many parts of the reserve because road access would be restricted. Concerned as well that 1080 would not be used in the park to kill vermin, they organised public meetings to rally opposition to the proposal.

Local sawmillers, the forest industry and Forests Commission were also opposed to a park, concerned about the potential loss of sawmilling jobs in Stawell, where 67 people worked in the industry. But a report for the Conservation Council of Victoria pointed out that in 1978 tourism produced double the revenue of sawmilling.

In addition to writing submissions, the VNPA subcommittee met local naturalist groups and media to point out the economic benefits of the park, as well as attending a forum by the local ALP.

Members of the VNPA wrote letters to educate the public and explain the LCC process, and the VNPA  undertook market research on local concerns. . To counter opposition the VNPA were low key and non-controversial.

Other campaign initiatives included commissioning Jane Calder to write a book, The Grampians-a noble range, documenting the magnificent cultural and natural attributes of the Grampians.

With campaigning by the VNPA and other groups, the final recommendations of the LCC were a great improvement on its initial ones, with a much larger area dedicated to a national park and management by the national park service. However the VNPA was dismayed by the continuation of logging in over 40% of the Grampians (logging finally ended in 1994).

With the Cain Labour government policy in the early 80s in favour of the national park, the Grampians National Park was declared on 1 July 1984 covering 160,000 hectares, measuring 95km from north to south and 55km west to east.

Park supporters celebrated the inauguration of the park with a champagne and Vegemite breakfast in Halls Gap. The VNPA also organised a ‘Grampians Gathering’ with activities and official speeches. Local concerns about the new park were alleviated through involving the public in the development of management plans and ensuring staff were readily available to discuss any concerns.

Improvements such as upgraded walking tracks and camping areas, A Visitor Centre and visitor guides also followed, and the Brambuk Centre near Halls Gap is now owned and run by Aboriginal communities of south-western Victoria.

Today the Grampians National Park is one of the most popular parks in Victoria with over 1.5 million visitor days per year. An 1994 economic analysis showed that the economic benefit of tourism to the area were over $100 million per year, generating 1270 jobs.

In this 60th anniversary year of the VNPA, members are strongly encouraged to visit the Grampians and reacquaint themselves with the wonders of the park. Join the Friends of Grampians Gariwerd (see below) in one of their many activities to help ensure the Grampians remain a really great national park.

Breakout:  20,000 years of human history

Indigenous people have been living in the Grampians area, known to them as Gariwerd, for more than 20,000 years. The Grampians contain about 80% of all known Aboriginal rock art sites in Victoria. Motifs painted in numerous caves include depictions of humans, human hands, animal tracks and birds. Brambuk, the National Park and Cultural Centre, continues to keep alive the culture of the Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali, the traditional peoples of Gariwerd and the region.

Breakout: Friends indeed – Friends of Grampians Gariwerd

In 1984 the VNPA helped form the Friends of Grampians Gariwerd (FOGG), the first president being Halls Gap resident Val Hastings, an active worker for the establishment of the national park.

With a membership of about 80, the group’s  activities include flora and fauna monitoring,  weedingand working to help locals and visitors to enjoy, understand and appreciate the Park.

Members of FOGG successfully opposed the reopening of the Heatherlie quarry and the privatisation of the visitor centre in the 1990’s.  Members of the group have also served on the park Advisory Committee, and established the accessible Red Gum Walk in the Victoria Valley. Go to  http://friendsofgrampiansgariwerd.org.au/  for more information.


Thank you VNPA and Evelyn for this piece of history. The article was accompanied by some photos of the Grampians and of us monitoring orchids, and one which Thelma supplied of the official opening, which is on our photos page.

Natural Values News

The Natural Values team are busy looking at the impact of the fire, so we don’t have an article from Ryan. What we do know is that the remote camera work continues to be very useful. It is revealing that cats are an increasing threat to the small critters, and staff and experts are looking the best ways to deal with this. Cinnamon fungus is another problem that has returned after the 2 wet years.

The results of the Museum of Victoria Bioscan  are coming through a little at a time. There are two excellent videos up on Youtube and more to come. The first was a general report, the second focussed on moths of the Grampians: www.youtube.com/user/museumvictoria

In other news, the student studying the diet of deer has just completed her PhD, and we are hoping we can have her talk about her results at a meeting later in the year.

Threatened Species Interest Group

As outlined in previous Newsletters, FOGGs received a grant to pay for a person to co-ordinate the monitoring and search activities in the Grampians, Stawell region. These activities have been co-ordinated by Parks and DSE staff in the past, but with all the funding cuts over recent years this role has not been covered. Gail Pollard is now doing this role and is working on the calendar of activities for the year. She will be sending an email for people to register their interest, via the FOGGs and the old Threatened Species Group email lists. If you are not on either of these lists please email her on or contact Wendy Bedggood on 0429932065. Gail works shift work as a nurse and has clunky internet service where she lives (her communication resources are not on par with DSE and Parks), so it is important people register their interest to make it easier for her to contact them. Please put ‘Threatened Species Interest’ in the subject so she knows its not spam mail.

Grampians Wildflower Show

GRAMPIANS WILDFLOWER SHOW NOT HAPPENING IN HALLS GAP THIS YEAR  – COMMITTEE DECIDES TO MAKE RADICAL CHANGES

The wildflower show committee met early in March to discuss the future of the show.  We had much fun in October celebrating our 75th show and decided that now is an appropriate time to rethink the show, and we will take a year off to do so. Several of our key workers want to retire, and we need to rethink how we do the show. We may have a few activities during that traditional first week of October, but no show in the hall. This way we can make a clear break with our traditional way of doing the show.

We would like to thank the FOGG members from further afield who have contributed so much in the recent years. Without your help the show would have folded before this.

We are exploring whether in the future we could share shows with a Dunkeld committee, who already hold a mosaic festival in Spring. Something like: one year it will be held here with a HG committee, the next in Dunkeld with their committee while we relax. (with of course a bit of co-ordination).

We would welcome any suggestions, and hope that we can still get FOGG support for the future shows. In the meantime we look forward to an enjoyable, relaxed first week in October.

Keep Australia Beautiful Clean Up March

Sunday 3rd March – a fine day for collecting the disposed excess of our overflowing society.

12 Foggies met at the Ian McCann Reserve. This was named after the late Ian, an honorary life member of FOGGS, a chief instigator in the Declaration of the Grampians National Park, and a vocal conscience for Stawell’s environment.

The Reserve itself was a disused block of land on the Pomonal (Lake Fyans Tourist) Road just beyond the town limit. Despite being dug over by miners in the early days of Pleasant Creek, and used as a general rubbish dump by lazy Stawellites, the block still holds a wealth of native vegetation and spring wildflowers. It is a great asset for the people of this area.

With plastic garbage bags the intrepid twelve meandered into the scrub, collecting small rubbish (bricks, bottles, piping and tin cans) and two bicycles, and feeling derogatory towards the larger: deposited iron, old toilets, fibro-sheeting, tyres.

We eventually emerged in the heat of the day for debriefing, deliberation, and a cup of tea.

A job well done!

It was, and still is, apparent that the Reserve is vastly undermanaged, also that light machinery is required to move the rubbish remaining; Parks needs some positive directives in this regard.

Ben Gunn

NOTE: Our bags of rubbish have been collected by Park staff, who are also following up on the larger rubbish.

Letter to the Editor: Fire Aftermath

Looking south from Reid’s lookout I see the vast burn on the Victoria Range ends in a brown line where it meets the green of the Victoria Valley. This is a role reversal from only a few years ago when the Victoria Range was an island of hopeful green rising from the brown/black devastation of that same valley. At the time, 7years ago, I remember hoping against hope that the Victoria Range would survive as an unburned repository of Grampians ecology.  Now that is has burned through so extensively I wonder how much recovery work will happen in that part of the park. The part that is far more seldom visited by tourists. A part not so vital to the local, state and national economy. A part thus more easily forgotten by the powers that be.

As that is my favourite part, and the area I most often visit from my home in Melbourne, I am wondering when the roads and walking tracks will be re-opened. I imagine it might take a long time. Or perhaps, considering the government’s new policy, which they announced on Easter Sunday – so as to hide it – they might indeed open the roads;  only so that a private company can build a shop or resort in the part of the Park that is the most wild and quiet and peaceful and remote.

I certainly hope we can succeed in fighting this new battle to maintain the integrity of our National Parks. I personally am writing to everyone I know and urging them to protest.

What I love most about the Buandik/Manja area is that it has changed so little in the 40 plus years I have been camping there. The fire is a huge change – but please let it be the only change. One that the bush, though it will struggle, is more likely to recover from than an onslaught of private development.

Chris Sitka