From the Editor – September 2013

David Thompson - Opening of Red Gum Walk, 1993
David Thompson – Opening of Red Gum Walk, 1993

First of all: the sad news. Our long term member and ex-president David Thompson has died from complications after a battle with cancer. He will be greatly missed. Our park has lost one of its most passionate and zealous advocates.  There will be tributes and memories from several of us in this issue.

One issue that was close to David’s heart was opposition to private development within National Parks. He led our successful campaign back in 1996 against a resort on Lake Wartook, and now we are facing similar issues again. FOGGS have been writing letters to newspapers since late last year, signed petitions and will be making a submission to the ecotourism enquiry. But that’s not enough. If every member of FOGGS wrote an individual letter to their local member of Parliament it would be ever so much stronger. You can find ideas on the VNPA’s website (http://vnpa.org.au/page/nature-conservation/take-action/hands-off-our-parks )

It’s been a quiet few months for FOGGS, with only one members’ activity since the last newsletter. Unfortunately our fungi frolic had to be postponed due to illness and may not go ahead.  But you will see from the calendar that we will make up for it in the next few weeks.

The committee has had both face to face meetings and consultations by email.  One big decision we have made was to financially support the work of research in the Park. The project via Museum Victoria to do follow up surveys on birds and aquatic animals was facing a massive shortfall and we decided to use some of our accumulated funds to help the two students involved. In turn they will make presentations to us on their work. We may well have further requests following on from the work of Ballarat University, which is reported on  p 5.

Promoting research, and in particular ensuring that this knowledge is shared publicly has been an ongoing aim of FOGGS, fitting into our aims:

As Friends of Grampians Gariwerd (FOGG) we aim to:

  • Promote the conservation, protection and restoration of the Grampians National Park;
  • Increase the community’s involvement, knowledge and enjoyment of the Grampians National Park;
  • Assist with projects selected by FOGG and Grampians National Park;
  • Provide a community voice in support of the Grampians National Park.

It is in  pursuing this last aim that we have been so busy campaigning against commercialisation of our Park. And there will be a motion at our next meeting to donate to the VNPA’s campaign against private development in national parks.

Our finances have been healthy (our books are at the auditor as I write this), but we are running funds down at the moment. If you would like to donate to FOGGS towards supporting research activities or lobbying activities, we would receive it happily!

So much time spent on phone calls and emails and so cold and wet that I’ve not actually got out and enjoyed this place we love as much as I would like.  When I have, it has been looking lovely with all wetland areas full.  But with all the field activities planned for the next few months, I hope that I and many of you will get to at least some of them as we enjoy, as well as fight for, this very special place.

President’s Piece

David Thompson - Fungo Frolic, 2004 (with Dave Munro and Alison White)
David Thompson – Fungo Frolic, 2004
(with Dave Munro and Alison White)

I was deeply saddened by the recent death of David Thompson. David was an enthusiastic worker for the establishment of the Grampians National Park and has been a very active member of FOGGs from its inception. For many years he was our president.

He took on many battles to ensure that the importance of National Parks to the protection of the natural environment was always respected. He led a campaign against private development in the park under the Kennett government, and I’m sure it was with great sadness that he found recently this battle needs to be won all over again.

He was a tireless campaigner for the environment and never missed an opportunity to write letters or be interviewed on the radio in support of a cause. All  of us who care about the current threats to the environment will miss his concise focus and constant energy which is a major loss. Our deepest sympathy goes to Judith and his family.

I  had the opportunity to walk on two of the tracks which have recently been upgraded as part of the flood recovery. The  Zumsteins to McKenzie Falls, and the Beehive Falls to the plateau walks. I was extremely impressed at the work which had been done, particularly the stone work. The excellent work has resulted in very much improved walks. Congratulations to the park staff and everyone else involved.

As I write tonight the frogs are croaking and  today walking in the mountains the Scented Sundews and Early Nancies were a picture flowering  in the moss beds. Birds were singing, insects were buzzing in the wattles and all the creeks were running and it was hard to imagine being in a more beautiful environment. We are fortunate that there was such foresight in preserving  these beautiful  places in National Parks. Let us not be the ones who allow these areas to be despoiled. Please join our current campaign to prevent this current attack on the sanctity of national parks.

Lobbying Continues

Unfortunately, as Proo and I have said above, there’s a real need at present for us to lobby politicians at all levels to protect our park from various threats, and not just our park here but the world wide environment.

The committee have endorsed letters, and signed petitions on the two pressing local issues of burning regimes and commercial development. We have encouraged you before, and now again, to write your own letters, and to donate to the VNPA’s campaign. We have protested about the cuts in biodiversity staff.

Who knows what further cuts will be mooted at both state and federal levels in the next year, as governments seem to have decided that climate change is too hard, and protection of natural values too expensive? It is depressing, but we mustn’t give up.

David Thompson Tribute

David Thompson

We wish to pay tribute to David’s passionate commitment and contribution to FOGGs, of which he and Judith have been members for nearly 30 years, although this was only one of many conservation groups he was dynamically involved in during this period.

David saw FOGG as an active player in the Park’s management; he was instrumental in giving a local voice to the bureaucracy beyond our Park staff, both as a supporter and, at times, opponent of directions he considered inappropriate from his strong environmentalist position.

After the incorporation of FOGG, David became our first president, a position he held for eight years.  He was our one and only ‘political’ President and a formidable adversary.  Over this time he was involved in many projects to protect the Park from exclusive group use and privatisation.  In addition, he gave his wholehearted support to positive developments such as the Red Gum Walk, revegetation projects and all research within the Park.  He was also involved with the local Brambuk Community and strongly supported the preservation of their Gariwerd heritage.

Most immediate to us, however, was his personal warmth, his ever-ready smile and exuberant greetings.  His enthusiasm was infectious to us all, particularly in his encouragement for the younger FOGGies; – which my own, now grown and flown, daughters still remember very fondly.

When going through my memories of the many days we spent together at FOGGs and at his dream (but still under-construction) straw house, the adjective that stands out overwhelmingly is ‘passionate’.

His indeed was a passionate life that we are all the better for being a part of.

Thanks David

‘ben’ Gunn, Leigh Douglas, Miriam Straub and Johanna Gunn.

News From The Advisory Group And The Round Table

The AG met in July, and the Round Table in August.

AG meeting. We heard updates on the flood and fire recoveries. All work on the flood recovery should be finished by the end of August. The walking track crew, who have done such a good job, finished at the end of the financial year. This work was relatively well-funded, in contrast to the fire recovery work, which received no extra funding. They have some insurance money for built assets, and some for rehabilitation of fire lines and damaged roads, but almost nothing for the cultural heritage surveys needed, and other important work.

We also had an update on the staff situation. PV is still cutting staff state wide. Long term ranger here, Geoff Pitt has decided to take one of the redundancy offers and will finish up in August. We thanked him for his work and wish him well in retirement.

We had some discussion of on park development proposals, but despite ideas being floated, there were no firm proposals to consider. We will be informed promptly when that happens. A business case for the proposed long distance walk (Grampians Peaks Trail) is under development. The first version of that was for tent sites, toilets, and a small basic weather shelter. Whether the new legislation will mean a push for cabins etc remains to be seen.

A major part of our meeting was taken up with a discussion on future directions for the AG. What skills and experience are useful for the next AG? How can we better support our park in these days of lessening staff and money? This discussion will be an ongoing thing.

At the Round Table meeting on August 6, I was wearing two hats, as AG convener, and as FOGG rep., neither Wendy nor Proo being available. It was a fascinating meeting and I’ll report on the individual topics below. We looked at the research being done on the effect of wild fire on the park, we heard about the cultural heritage surveys being undertaken, we heard about the experimental winter burn, and looked at some of the dilemmas in drawing up Fire Operation Plans. We didn’t actually get to look closely at the current FOP, but were encouraged to comment via the website or by phone.

Park Report – Dave Roberts, Ranger in Charge

A wet July and August in the Grampians has restored good flows to our creeks, rivers and wetlands and recharging an otherwise dry system.

Up until this time, park staffs were engaged in trial winter burning operations in the Wannon River heath, an area of the park long unburnt and known to house significant small mammal populations including Long Nose Potoroos & Southern Brown Bandicoots.  The objective of this experimental burning is to introduce fire at small scales into this landscape over a long period of time to help protect the old growth river frontage vegetation from large scale intense fire impacts. The results achieved to date have been mixed which is exactly what we need, some hot, some cool. Prior to the burn we undertook both fauna and flora monitoring to ensure we could assess and interpret the outcomes. It has been interesting to note the amount of diggings and foraging activity occurring in the freshly burnt areas. A camera set up in the most recent strip captured a very healthy Bandicoot scratching around.

Fire in the Grampians is more and more being viewed and used as an ecological process that should be applied to manage, protect and conserve. This may seem counter intuitive, but applied at the right time, in the right way, in the right place we can make progress towards reducing the impacts of large scale, damaging fires and promote a different fire regime based on ecological and risk principles. This is all about challenging our historic views of land management and requires support from our partners including the Department of Environment & Primary Industries, research partners including Deakin University, The University of Melbourne and the Arthur Rylah Institute.  Adaptive Management is the key to this and continuing to learn, improve and evaluate what we are doing is a major reason why we are optimistic about fire in the Grampians Landscape.

Parks Victoria wishes to past on our condolences to the Thompson Family for their recent loss. David was a passionate and tireless advocate of the Park and its establishment, whilst playing a very significant role in the FoGG’s over numerous decades. The recent memorial at Laharum was well attended and spoke volumes of the respect people from all walks of life had for David and his achievements.

Nature In The Serra Range

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.)

[In our March edition we left the botanising group on the top of Mt Rosea on the first day of their two day trip in early November.]

As the country began to dip towards the Victoria Valley a fine patch of Melaleuca squamea in full bloom was met with, and in the gullies below Bauera sessiliflora was a magnificent sight. Grevillea rosmarinifolia, with its pretty rose-coloured blooms, and Trymalium Daltonii were also growing in the gullies ; the latter is a very early blooming shrub, and is at its best in July. The four Brachylomas native to Victoria were also found growing in this locality ; they were B. ericoides, B. daphnoides, B. ciliatum, and B. depressum. Following the creek which flows towards the Victoria Valley, we passed large patches of Pultenea Benthami, also P. rosea, both of which are peculiar to the Grampians. Some of the latter shrubs were especially fine here, growing to the height of fully eight feet, which is most unusual, as this plant is usually low-growing. Still keeping to the creek, we passed a peculiar rock known as ” The Monument,” adjacent to which were some fine patches of Lhotzkya genetylloides, Sprengelia incarnata, Thryptomene Mitchelliana, Melaleuca decussata, Calytrix Sullivani, Correa speciosa, and Epacris impressa ; the latter was a magnificent sight, in colours light and dark pink, and I was surprised to find it in profuse bloom at so late a period of the season. Leaving ” The Monument ” in the rear, the creek increased in size and volume of water, owing to the many tributaries joining it. On the banks was seen Epacris paludosa, with its beautiful

heads of wax-like flowers, while further down a large patch, some acres in extent, of Calectasia cyanea, or what is locally known as “Satin-flower,” presented an unusually pretty scene. Its blue flowers are delightfully glossy, and make beautiful bouquets, which last for months. Another attractive feature here was the abundance and variety of Helichrysums, the well-known everlasting daisies ; the three best noted were H. baxteri, H. bracteatum, and H. Blandowskianum, the latter being one of the most attractive everlastings. Its clusters of flower-heads are borne on stalks of almost equal whiteness, which make it valued for wedding bouquets and wreaths. Near at hand a fine waterfall was met with, fully a hundred feet in height. Mr. D’Alton was of opinion that this waterfall was not previously known, so we bestowed on it the name of Calectasia Fall, in honour of the beautiful plant growing near by. Further afield some very large patches of Boronia pilosa in full bloom was passed through, and the strong perfume emitted from this plant, especially when trodden upon, was very noticeable. For the next few miles we passed through very rough, rugged country, which made travelling extremely arduous, and on the way we noticed that the creek we had been following, and which we named Rosea Creek, on account of the large quantities of the beautiful Pultenea rosea growing near its source, had been much flooded at some previous time, as in some places the soil had been scoured out completely, while large heaps of debris were accumulated along its course. As dusk was drawing near, we decided to camp for the night, and a sheltered spot was chosen. Soon a large fire was blazing, and the billy boiled, and we were very tired and much in need of our evening meal. After partaking of same we proceeded to make things comfortable for the night by strewing ferns and eucalypt branches on the ground, over which we spread our blankets. It was necessary to keep a large fire going all the time, as the night was extremely cold.

 [Next issue will continue the report, with their second full day among the wildflowers. As noted last time the spelling of some plant names is erratic, due to the difficulty the OCR programme had with Latin words. And some names of course have changed in the last 90 years.]

Historic Orchid Planting

The Orchid Planters
The Orchid Planters

It was a delight to see an article in the Stawell Times news of July 12, recognising the work of three octogenarian members of the Stawell Field Naturalists (and FOGG members). They were taking part in a history making project, the reintroduction of the threatened Brilliant Sun-orchid (Thelymitra mackibbinii), of which only 30 exist in the world, to an area near Stawell where there are just a few left. It’s a project of the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, led by Dr. Noushka Reiter through the Horsham laboratory. After research into propagation and the mycorrhizal associations necessary (ie fungi in the soil), plus good rains in 2009-2011, some of the plants flowered. Then they were able to be hand pollinated and now new plants have been put back into the forest. There was a lovely photo of Lesley, Thelma and Win rejoicing after so many years of monitoring these rare plants.

McKenzie Falls Garden Project

After the floods FOGGs had been asked if we could help plant up a small area near the kiosk at McKenzie Falls. In December last year we put in a grant application to the Healthy Parks Healthy People Grants for Community Groups. We asked for $2800 and in May this year received word we had been successful in obtaining $425 so we will be modifying our original plans a bit and intend to plant the area next autumn. The plant out will be advertised in future newsletters.

Ryan’s Talk On The Bioscan

Wendy Bedggood

On 4th July Ryan gave a talk on some of the results from Museum Victoria Bioscan which was carried out last November. The talk was held during the school holidays in the hope we would get more people along. This worked well as we had 27 attendees and ¾ were visitors to the park or non member locals. The bioscan was done in the Grampians because it was an opportunity to do a rapid fauna survey as well as collecting an oral history of the area.

A team from Museum Victoria spent 14 days in the park recording, photographing and collecting data. A lot of work had been done back in the 1970’s but with the changing landscape and climate there was a need to do a snapshot of where things are at today.

Herpatologists set up reptile traps and took DNA samples from trapped animals. They found the mountain dragon and DNA will determine if it is a different species to that found in other parts of Victoria. They found that the bearded dragon and lace monitor appear to be in decline. They also surveyed for frogs to determine how widespread the citrid fungus is in the park.

Entomologists set up sheets and spotlights at night to attract moths and other insects.  The insects were caught and photographed, some of the captured species are only found in the park while others have now extended the range having previously only been recorded from the alpine or mallee regions.

Also found were 6 species of isopods (crustaceans that live on the ground) which are endemic (only found in the Grampians). Scorpions were detected with UV light at night. Velvet worms which are a missing link with the ancient world were also found.

Divers checked out McKenzie creek to determine the availability of food for the platypus which are known to live in the river. Five species of crayfish were found.

Ornithologists 110 different bird species were found. The interest was as much in what was not found as what was found. They didn’t find noisy miners. They also tested a new program to identify birds by recording their calls then running it through a computer program which tells you which bird it is.

Anthropologists  Oral histories were recorded from people who have lived in the area for generations. They wanted to capture the history of the area when pastoral leases and forestry had a major influence on the park. The museum also had some very old glass plate photos taken at the turn of last century from different locations with in the park. They tried to go back to the same locations and take photos of the same area today.

The bioscan was a once off survey but the valuable information collected will be used to direct future scientific and student projects carried out in the park.