Weather and Wildfires

It is still so dry here. Looking at the observations for Stawell, there was no rain at all in January, 50mm in February (most of it in one big dump which missed some areas completely), and 3mm by 28th March.  Parts of the Park are looking quite stressed, and hot windy days are scary. Maybe the information on the front page as to the season is incorrect; we are still in Kooyang, late summer, season of eels. A parched landscape with a high risk of bushfires.

With now 85% of the Park having been burnt since 2006, we are hoping that some logic can come into the rigid quota of areas to be burned annually. The next FOP is not yet available for comment. It will be on www.dse.vic.gov.au later.

This map shows the extent of the 2006 and 2013 fires.

2006 and 2013 Fires

From the Park Desk

Grampians National Park – An Update – David Roberts

Dear Friends of Grampians-Gariwerd,

The Grampians-Gariwerd National Park continues to through up new challenges for our communities, visitors and staff. After a period of recovery post the 2011 floods, the park will now embark on structuring up a recovery program to restore, rehabilitate and monitor the short, medium and long term impacts of another significant bushfire – The Victoria Valley/Victoria Range complex.

This fire grew out of 22+ lightning strikes that hit the park during a 24 hour period on commencing the 14th February 2013. The fire put significant pressure on the Victoria Valley community at Mirranatwa when 4 fires merged and impacted on the park and private property interface. The team work of all the emergency services including CFA Volunteers, DSE, Parks Victoria, Victoria Police and Local Government resulted in only minimal property and asset loss on private property on a day of particularly bad fire weather and significant fire spreading potential.

The environmental and cultural values impact of these fires are the real story of this summer. The Victoria Range is known to all as a remote landscape with intact vegetation communities and a cultural richness that is arguably unparalleled in Victoria. Although the fire was listed as contained in early March, it is only very early days in the assessment of the impacts to our significant values. We have however done some very important rapid assessments which will be used to inform government of the overall fire impacts and the need to invest in the recovery program.

On other Park business, I’ve made a few comments under the heading below.

Grampians Ark Predator control: The Ark Program has extended in baited area in lieu of the fire and is now doing intense baiting to help the recolonisation around the fire affected area.

Flood Recovery: The Park is drawing the program to a close with a series of high priority task currently underway. Some important openings will be happening over the next 2-3 months so watch out for future notification.

Grampians Peaks Trail: The development of the Master Plan is nearing completion which will provide a strategic direction, business plan and trail information that will be used to seek funding. Stage 1 from Halls Gap through the Wonderland via Mt Rosea is well on track to be delivered by the end of 2014.

Volunteer Coordinator: Katherine Dyson has been working diligently to plan and progress volunteer opportunities for a range of groups and individuals. The early information shows that participation in the Grampians has increase 4 fold over the past 12 months. We are working hard to secure funding to extend Katherine role beyond the end of her current contract.

Once again Parks Victoria looks forward to working with our key partners to deliver important works across the Grampians and we appreciate the support and enthusiasm members of the community provide us in our day to day works.

UPDATE ON KATHERINE’S POSITION

(see a couple of piccies on our photo page)

Katherine has continued the attack on sallow wattle described in our last issue, with great success. Conservation volunteers, assorted adult volunteers, school camps and scout groups have all worked on minimising the impact of this weed. She has also had groups working on maintenance of seats and tables and other ideas are in the pipeline. Having her as first contact point has really helped the park staff. However, it is only a pilot programme, and in this era of cuts to environmental projects we may have to fight hard to keep the position. Discussion of this is on the agenda for our meeting with staff on April 24th. In the meantime she would like to invite you to a workshop that conservation volunteers is running called ‘in safe hands’ scheduled for 9th April in Hamilton. This FREE workshop is designed for anyone who works as a volunteer within the NRM sector. In Safe Hands is a Safety Management System designed for community groups who work in practical conservation. The content and processes have been adapted from Conservation Volunteers Australia’s own system and are based on our 30 years of knowledge and experience in managing volunteers in practical conservation.  To register please go to the website:   www.insafehands.org.au or contact Katherine direct. Please pass this invitation on to any parties who may be interested.

Recent Openings (From PV with bits from the editor):

Rosea Walking Track – OPEN

Parks Victoria is excited to announce the opening of the popular Rosea walking track.  The Rosea area was badly damaged by the storm event in 2011. Works to this track include a realignment to improve the visitor experience to the summit. Please note the tracks from Rosea to Borough Huts and the Burma Track remain closed.

Venus Baths area – mostly open

The walk on the northern bank is open, with a very pretty new stone bridge over one of the gullies gouged out by the flood. The walk on the southern bank is almost complete. All we are waiting for is a new bridge to join the paths. This should be complete by the end of April.

Zumsteins area – mixed

The work at McKenzie Falls is complete and the walk downstream should be open fairly soon. Work is continuing with the Zumsteins picnic and heritage area, with a celebratory event planned for Spring. Date yet to be advised. Dave Roberts tells me the upstream bridge is complete and looks great. The downstream bridge between the 2 concrete bridges) requires the approaches to be added after Easter then they will also be done. All handrails have been designed to detach from the steel work under significant load thereby reducing the risk of debris building up against them in the future. The concrete bridges will receive new handrail uprights and cabling and will also be completed shortly.

Walking Track Closures

Wonderland: Wonderland Loop, Delley’s Dell, Mt Rosea to Borough Huts (including Burma Track)

South-east: Teddy Bear Gap, Kalymna Falls, Kalymna Falls to Boundary Gap Bomjinna to Mt William Carpark

South-west: Mount  Thackeray, Billimina Shelter, Manja Shelter, Chimney Pots, Fortress

Northern: Mackenzie River Walk (from the base of the falls to Zumsteins), Golton Gorge Loop, Tilwinda Falls

Road  Closures:

Areas affected by the recent fires are still closed while assessments are done and works commenced. A detailed list is available from tourist offices and the PV  line 131963. It is most important that we respect this.

Please take care in the open areas of the  Grampians National Park. While walking tracks and roads in the Park are open, visitors are advised that the maintenance standard may be less than normal or expected. Due to the continuing dry weather, the park roads are still very dry, dusty and corrugated and drivers need to drive with care. The small amount of rain we’ve had this week has done little to alleviate the dryness or allow us to recommence our maintenance grading program. Staff have carried out further resurfacing works on the Pohlner’s Link track near Mt Zero, The road surface is still quite loose so drivers will need to take care.

WIM150 Mineral Sands Project

Australian Zircon had a public viewing of a summary of where the project is up to thus far.

The mine area will be located 1.4 kilometres from the northern edge of the National Park and FOGGs feel there will be impacts on the National Park.

  • The life of the mine will be 25 plus years.
  • The active area at any given time will be around 300 ha.
  • The mining and rehabilitation for any specific area is expected to be less than three years.

FOGGs committee made comments on the scoping study in September last year, and will be looking carefully at the Environment Effects Statement which will be available to the public in a couple of months. It will be a very large document and will be able to be viewed at a few public places, for those who don’t want to print off reams of paper. After its release there will only be a couple of weeks to make comments to the state government. This document is then sent to State and Federal ministers for approval.

Subject to a positive outcome from the feasibility study and all approvals from state and federal governments mining could begin in 2015. The company who would be doing the actual mining are Orient Zirconic.

The Environment Effects Statement may be out before our next newsletter so people can check the Australian Zircon website http://www.auzircon.com.au/wim150-project/ or let me know if you want to be notified when it is available for public viewing.

Wendy Bedggood, Secretary

Further Thoughts On: To Lobby or Not to Lobby

From time to time we get requests to spread the word about various environmental issues which members of FOGGs or members of the public (via our webpage) ask our group to promote. While most of these requests are reasonable and most of our members would probably agree with ‘the cause’, as committee we have to be careful what we take on board. Our priority is always the issues which affect our Grampians National Park. These may be issues affecting other Parks or may be ones unique to the Grampians.

Our current committee, who are all volunteers, try to organise activities for our members enjoyment and when the need arises write letters to politicians and newspapers on issues which may affect Grampians National Park. Our committee, like many others, are particularly worried about the attitude of both our federal and State governments towards the environment and especially the State watering down most of the legislation which currently protects our environment. FOGGs are a member of the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA), who have paid staff and who do lobby on various environment issues; we get their newsletter and have supported some of their efforts in the past. For anyone who feels strongly about these issues I suggest visiting the VNPA website, they have a lot of background information on these issues and email addresses of the politicians to write to, they sometimes have ready made letters people can send off to politicians.  Three websites that provide information and helpful hints are: www.vnpa.org.au (Victorian National Parks Association), www.environment-victoria.org.au  (under “Victoria is in a state of emergency”), and www.placesyoulove.org (from an alliance of Australian environment groups).

Another website which is a good source of what is happening with environmental laws is the Environment Defenders Office in their own words they are ‘an independent, not-for-profit, community legal service, specialising in public interest environmental law.’ This website is most useful for obtaining background information on a variety of issues. www.edovic.org.au

FOGGs are also affiliated with and part of, the Victorian Environment Friends Network and environmental issues often come up in their newsletter which is available from their website. http://home.vicnet.net.au/~friends

I strongly urge people to visit these web sites (especially VNPA) and write (or email) to politicians on these wider environmental issues.

Our FOGGs committee members have limited resources, funds and expertise so we try to focus on the aims of FOGGs which are:

  • Promote the conservation, protection and restoration of the Grampians NP.
  • Increase the communities involvement, knowledge and enjoyment of the Grampians NP.
  • Assist with projects selected by FOGG and Grampians NP.
  • Provide a community voice in support of the Grampians NP.

So, on our clean up day we did sign a letter calling for the introduction of a deposit on drink containers, similar to what has been happening with much success in South Australia, but decided to leave agitation about only buying printer paper from sustainable sources to the judgement of individual members.

We will try to  include in each of our newsletters a small paragraph outlining the current issues VNPA are working on and any actions they are asking from members of the public.

So here are just a few issues from the current VNPA journal and other sources:

  • Changes to native vegetation clearing controls, windfarm controls and on prospecting in state and national parks.
  • Cattle grazing in the Alpine national park.
  • To sign the Ethical Paper Pledge or to find out more, please visit www.ethicalpaper.com.au

Wendy Bedggood, Secretary