I have become extremely concerned about the increasing threat to National Parks around Australia. From opening Parks up to cattle grazing in drought affected areas of Queensland to shooting of game and recommendations for logging in NSW, to the attempt at cattle grazing in alpine areas and now prospecting in Parks in Victoria. At a federal level there was an attempt to scuttle the management plans for the new Marine Parks and a statement that they will be changed with a change of government.
I think many of us who have been involved in the movement to promote National Parks declared in areas of great natural significance, believed this was the best way to ensure that these areas would be managed to maximise the survival of their biodiversity and natural beauty for future generations to enjoy. I no longer believe that we can feel so reassured and we are required yet again to fight for the survival of our National Parks.
As members will know we have written to the relevant ministers and the Premier regarding our concerns at the proposal to allow private development in National Parks. Recently we have been approached from Friends of the Prom. to join them in a letter writing campaign to show the government that there is a ground swell of opposition to this proposal. FOGG committee agreed we should join this campaign.
Further concerns are with the Guidelines the government has approved for Tourism Investment Opportunities of Significance in National Parks.
While these guidelines are peppered with fine sounding words of “complements local environmental heritage”, “environmentally sensitive investment opportunities” and “ proper community consultation” The key guideline seems to be that these proposals will need to generate a “net public benefit” and yet nowhere in the document is there any attempt to explain how this is to be determined.
This is a five stage process
Stage 1. Pre Proposal Information.
Stage 2. Preliminary Concept assessment.
Stage 3. Public Notification and in principle approval by minister.
Stage 4. Full Proposal.
Stage 5. Lease Negotiation and Preparation.
This ensures that the public have no opportunity for input before the proposal is well developed in consultation with the assessment agency and the minister.
The public is then given 28 days to comment on “the interaction of the proposal investment opportunity with :-
local values and the local economy
local Aboriginal cultural and historical heritage
existing public access and use”
No opportunity to mention any of the environment or biodiversity concerns the public might have.
We would like to encourage you to get as many people as possible to use this material and the letter we have already sent to the minister to express their own concerns about this proposal (see last newsletter). There is more information available via VNPA (Victorian National Parks Association). We know one original letter counts for many form letters, and at this time believe it will be our most effective action.
Just in is the news that apparently there is a serious move to apply to build a cable car from the Brambuk precinct to the Pinnacle. This idea has been floated before, but this time there is more money behind it, and of course government encouragement of this kind of development. It looks like those guidelines are going to be put to the test.
Flood recovery work after 2 ½ years is nearly complete. Last to be finished will be the Zumsteins area hopefully in time for a spring opening. The footbridge damaged at McKenzie falls during the floods will be air lifted out in the next week or two and it is hoped the walk from Zumsteins to McKenzies Falls will be open in 2 months time. Venus Baths and Splitters Falls will be open to the public in the next couple of weeks.
Recent fires in Victoria Valley. These fires took 5 weeks to get under control. There were some areas of intense fire and some areas where prior planned burns 8 months prior had moderated the fire. The area has been gated off and as areas are assessed and deemed safe some roads will be opened soon. There is only funding to rehabilitate the dozer lines, money for all other repair and rehabilitation work will have to be found from else where.
An outcome of the floods and fires has been that many cultural heritage sites have been worked on and 60-70% of the known cultural sites have now been assessed.
Natural Values: Ryan reported that the bioscan report was not yet finished but will let FOGGs know when it is. There are a couple of videos on the web taken during bioscans.
Grampians Peaks Trail master plan will be released soon it will be about 150km long and use 75 km of existing track. There is some seeding money to start on the first stage.
Staffing: Parks are currently having another restructure with the intention of shedding staff. As yet Dave does not know what impact it will have on Grampians.
Volunteer Co-ordinator Katherine Dyson reported on her work over the past ten months as volunteer co-ordinator. School groups, scouts, Conservation Volunteers and other community groups have been organised by Katherine and successfully carried out tasks such as campground clean ups, repairs to tables and seats and the weeding of vast areas of Sallow wattle. We hope funding can be found to continue her valuable work.
Bit added by Margo: Before our meeting with Dave, Proo, Wendy and Margo met to look through the new model rules for incorporated bodies and how well they fit FOGGS needs. Wendy had put a lot of thought into this and we will be putting some proposals to our AGM in September. Then after the meeting we adjourned to Margo’s for a quick meal and discussion and then home or off to watch a movie.
Did you know there is a group working towards building a Wildlife Art gallery in Halls Gap. More information is on their website: http://www.wama.net.au/
We have also received flyers for workshops to be held in Halls Gap.
Grampians Brushes 7-12 September
“a unique opportunity for artists to develop their passion of expression in one of Australia’s most beautiful natural environments”. For more information: www.grampiansbrushes.com.au
or ring 0428 825 971
I have been informed by the project officer of the WIM 150 project (ie a sand mine near Mt Zero, outside of the Park) that the Environment Effects Statement should be available for public viewing in September. Earlier this year they had thought it would be ready for viewing in May. I will inform people by email when it is available.
Halls Gap Tourism have approached GWMWater seeking permission to reinstate the swimming area near the toilets at Lake Bellfield, opposite Silverband Falls Rd. Before the long drought it was very popular. But then the water receded and, as it did so, trees (mainly wirilda) colonised the bank. Then as the dam refilled, the trees all died. GWM asked the HG group to check what we thought, and your committee had no objections.
The 100 Year celebration of Zumsteins will be held on Sunday 22 September 2013 at Zumsteins Picnic Ground in the Grampians National Park. The day will be also a celebration for the restoration works that has happened since the 2011 flood and storm event.
A small group have come together from the local community, the Horsham Historical Society, Wartook Tourism Association and Parks Victoria to plan for this special day. They would like to invite anybody who has enjoyed or has a strong association to the area, to come and celebrate this much-loved place created over one hundred years ago by Walter Zumstein. The celebrations begin at 10.30am with a number of speakers and displays bringing to life the many memories of the area, and of Walter Zumstein and his family. There will also be many activities such as a community bike ride from Rosebrook, a community picnic and children’s games. Restoration works from the 2011 storm and flood event at Zumsteins will be completed for this event. Visitors will see plenty of evidence of the site’s recovery both in the picnic area and in the surrounding environment.
Zumsteins memories, stories or photos can be emailed to Rod Jenkinson or call into the Historical Society rooms at 33 Pynsent Street on Tuesdays or Wednesdays between 1.30 and 4.30pm or phone Ron on 53822573 evenings.
Fish Falls Walking Track Reopens for the June Long Weekend
In a significant milestone for the Grampians Flood Recovery Program, Parks Victoria advises that the MacKenzie River Walk between Zumsteins Picnic Area and Fish Falls has re-opened.
This walk sustained extensive damage during the January 2011 floods that impacted the Grampians region. Works have been completed along the entire length of the track to reduce ongoing maintenance and improve the experience for visitors.
While the restoration of Zumsteins Picnic Area continues, visitors are advised to park in the car park at the western end of the picnic area and following the directional signs. These signs will guide visitors across the MacKenzie River, past the three Pise Cottages and along a new section of walking track before linking with the original MacKenzie River Walk.
The section of walking track between Fish Falls and MacKenzie Falls will be open in late June 2013.
The works on MacKenzie Falls walking track to the base has been completed and is now open for walkers.
Venus Baths and Wonderland Area
The Wonderland Loop Walk suffered significant damage from the January 2011 flood event that devastated the Grampians National Park,
Flood waters caused destruction along the entire length of the walk which has led to the lengthy recovery program. Two footbridges have been replaced, another footbridge has required extensive repairs, two large landslides have required the construction of new walking track alignments, and almost the entire length of the walking track has required repairs, ranging from complete realignments, to the reconstruction of stone staircases and retaining walls.
Eight contractors, a Landmate crew from the Ararat Prison, up to 25 locally employed staff and Parks Victoria staff have completed works on the loop walk across the recovery program. The stonework is really impressive. Parks are going to be working with the Halls Gap and Grampians Historical Association on new interpretative signs here and at Heatherlie Quarry.
The Mt Rosea walking track has also been re opened with a realignment in some areas, and new railings at the lookout. (actually not flood recovery, but as part of the Grampians Peak Trail).
On 4th May four of us met at the car park and made our way along the track, clearing the track of debris, and pruning overhanging vegetation. The first part of the track was in good condition but towards the end of the track the path was less defined. We cleared the track as best we could in preparation for some more gravel to be laid. The weather was very pleasant and we explored around the end of the track for a possible loop extension to the track, now that the large red gum is no longer the reward at the end of the track, having been burnt in the 2006 fires.
A good turn-out on a cool autumn to walk into the wilds and try to find some rock shelters with Aboriginal art. Despite getting lost on the way in … purely because the old fire line from 30 years ago, that somebody said you could drive a Corolla along, was now completely overgrown … we found ourselves together again and we met up at one of the sites. Crowded around a small overhang where nobody could see anything, a bearded bloke said we were looking at Aboriginal rock art. Where? …but when we looked, sure enough there were a few red marks….Yes, and possibly even stick figures. Hard to see but, although it looked as if some of them could fall off any minute, we were assured it had been like that for that same 30 years. Stained into the rock, it had been there for nobody knows how long, but the bearded guy said maybe 1000 years or more. We were then shown an even fainter figure: but again, when it was pointed out the kids could see it…not sure about the ‘oldies’ so the bearded guy said he had a magic computer programme that could make it lovely and clear (see drawing 1).
After this we headed downhill to another site that had a lot of red drawings. Thought it was graffiti, but again, we were told it was Aboriginal drawing, and that the Grampians had three phases of art: red paintings, drawings in red ochre and black charcoal, followed most recently by white paintings. Grids like this one (below) are common drawings in the Grampians.
We were told about how even touching the wall can damage it, and that the floor had to be walked over carefully as it might one day be excavated. We saw a few quartz chips in the wash area in front of the shelter and learnt they were the residue from tool making. The sands on the floor of the shelter might hold evidence of Aboriginal occupation. Similar floors at Billimina dated back 10,000 years, while those at the smaller Drual shelter were around 22,000 years old. Aboriginal people have been using the Grampians for a very, very long time.
Next, we wandered down to the creek where there were some waterholes; there was a common association between art sites and water reserves. At this point the group split up and some went off to try and climb the cliff to look for more sites on the back slope. The others wandered back to the car as best they could, given that our leader had gone on with the advance party. Anyway, the climbers had no luck breeching the cliff so looking for more sites will have to await another day. Lunch at the picnic area then we wended out way back home.