SUMMER ACTIVITIES CANCELLED

 JANUARY 23 – 28: The Field Naturalists Fauna Survey Group were to be doing some surveys here on the Australia Day weekend but the fires prevented it. Rescheduled for the June long weekend.

 

FEBRUARY 8 Two short walks in Halls Gap, looking at the flood recovery work. Also canceled due to being a Total Fire ban day.

 

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

The Victorian Environment Friends Network Committee has belatedly become aware that the Friends of Grampians Gariwerd lost a very devoted member on August 6 when David Thompson passed away. He was well known for his great commitment to the Friends and the spirited contribution he gave to the issues he felt were important.

We apologise for the lateness of these condolences and hope that the FOGG and David’s family will accept our sympathy. David’s name will be placed in The Friends Network Memorial Book

Weather report

 

It is still so dry here. Parts of the Park are looking quite stressed, and hot windy days are still scary.

Halls Gap received 23.0mm for March bringing the progressive total to 65.0mm,this compares to the same period last year with a progressive total of 88.0mm, and we thought that was dry!

Pomonal FOGG member Phil Williams has been recording the rainfall at his place since 1980 and says that should be long enough to discern some trends. The most obvious feature of the graph is the large variability from year to year.

From the lowest, 346mm in 1982, to the highest, 1080mm in 1992. This variability means that the ‘average’ annual rainfall is no use in predicting how much rain is likely in any one year. Also it makes it difficult to discern any trends. We can even out this variability by looking at a decade at a time. The first decade was the wettest with an average of 777mm (even thought it includes the driest year.) The second decade was drier with an average of 711mm (even though it includes the wettest year.) The third decade was driest with an average of 659mm.

This seems to be an indication of a slow but consistent decline in average annual rainfall. In the last five months we’ve had 70mm. In the corresponding five months three years ago we had 502mm! No wonder we had floods.

Grampians National Park – An Update – David Roberts

 

The Grampians National Park has had more than its fair share natural disasters. The recent history is compelling with 3 major landscape scale bushfires in 8 years (2006, 2013, 2014, totalling 87% of the park) as well as record floods and landslides in 2011. In dollar terms, the cost of reinstating destroyed assets over the past 8years is fast approaching $10million, the cost however to our environmental and cultural values is more difficult to measure, and requires specific expertise, short, medium and longer term monitoring to understand the impacts negative and/or positive.

 Any impact in the Grampians from landscape scale events is felt hard by the local tourism industry. Annually, the Grampians National Park directly and indirectly contributes an estimated $400million into the Regional economy of Western Victoria(GT 2014). The Park is one of the most popular tourism destinations outside of Melbourne and the 12 Apostle and attracts over 1.3million visitor nights annually. Halls Gap alone has private and public assets that equate to a combined value of $1.6billion dollars (DHS 2014). What does this all equate to…Jobs. At the end of the day, the Grampians National Park supports a huge number of communities, industries and therefore jobs, which is why when these sorts of disruptive events occur, a collective shudder goes through the local community as they know how reliant they are on the National Park and its supporting infrastructure.

 We therefore find ourselves in the difficult position of trying to reinstate assets and facilitate access in very short timeframes, often with limited financial and physical resources. To provide some visitor experience and access to key destinations is critical in the first few weeks of any recovery program. The local staff do an amazing job and have a real instinct for what is possible and how to go about it, which has come with significant practice over the past 8 years. The team are so attuned to the needs and demands, that even while the fire is being fought, local minds and bodies switch seamlessly into recovery mode.  During these testing periods, the staff within the Grampians have showed great resilience, tolerance and adaptability, despite the obvious challenges of seeing your work burnt, melted or inundated time and time again.

 What is becoming clear is that these types of events; floods, fire & other climate related events, are a constant in our landscape. As climate change theories bounce around and the scientist and politicians battle for the public’s opinion, the anecdotal stuff from our small part of the world points to an increase in extreme climatic events, and we need to plan for this.

Simple changes have and will continue to be made including the promotion of various building materials that are inherently fire resistant.  Sandstone is used at every opportunity, the use of steel as often as practical and the use of hardwood timbers not pine. We continue to review our infrastructure needs and where appropriate decommission or downgrade what we offer and where required invest and upgrade sites for the future.

 Our Environment and significant cultural values always struggle for their share of the limelight with these events. As there isn’t an easy dollar value attributed to these assets and therefore their not an insurable item, attracting resources to understand the impacts and then mitigate the impacts where we can is always challenging. Our local team ably lead by Ryan Duffy are progressing some excellent local strategies to not only look at the recent fire, but also the cumulative impacts of the past couple of years on our key environmental assets. Striving for more knowledge and understanding of our ecosystems and their resilience is a key outcome for the team in the coming years.

The Grampians Team are the best placed to work through all these challenges and will ask for the communities advice and assistance throughout the course of the Recovery Program.

Thank you Dave for your hard work and leadership. We are so pleased to have such a quality team here.

President’s Report

 

This time last year we had an excellent article from Wendy on how we as a committee have to work out which issues we should lobby on, and which we do as private citizens. It is still so relevant today. (You can find it on our website). Our priority is always the issues which affect our Grampians National Park. These may be issues also affecting other Parks or may be ones unique to the Grampians.

 

Our committee is particularly worried about the attitude of both our federal and State governments towards the environment . Both seem intent on watering down most of the legislation which currently protects our environment. There are so many examples from all over the country- it is really depressing. Too many national parks already, “abolishing red tape” on vegetation protection etc, re-introducing cattle into the Alpine National Park …. the list goes on and on. The main issues I believe we have to keep vigilant about for our Park are commercial developments, burn regimes and staffing cuts. Rob and Bonnie wrote to their member about Tourism in National Parks and received a bland reply stating “…… As a government we are committed to encouraging more people to enjoy our world-class natural assets in our national parks, more often. Sensitive and sensible tourism investment in our national parks will provide experiences which enhance visitor satisfaction and accessibility. It will also provide benefits for regional Victorian communities and make positive contributions towards the conservation of the environmental, Indigenous and historic cultural values of national parks…..”

 

I also wrote and have had an identical letter. Mine was also passed on to the Parliamentary Committee as a submission to their enquiry. It would be interesting to hear from any more of our members who wrote individual letters.

 

Elsewhere in the newsletter you can read more on the recent large fire, This means almost 90 % of the Grampians National Park has been burnt in the last eight years. This means that great care will need to be taken in deciding where and what to control burn in the next few years. We plan to have a meeting in winter to discuss this with DEPI. Wendy is continuing to work with other groups to remind the government of this.

 

Those of us who took the opportunity to give our thoughts on what we thought were significant areas of public land have received a thank you letter:

 

Dear Study Participant,

 

You are receiving this email because you requested to be notified when results were available from the Victoria Public Lands Study.  First, we thank you again for your participation.  We are now beginning to analyse the large volume of data collected in the study.  Over 1,900 individuals participated in the study, mapping more than 35,000 locations in Victoria. Over the next few months, we will be analysing the data and preparing a summary report of the findings.  However, we thought you might be interested in viewing some of the preliminary mapped data that can be viewed as map layers on Google Maps.  If interested, click on the web link below and browse the results: http://www.landscapemap2.org/pvictoria/mapviewer.php On behalf of myself and my colleagues, thanks again for your participation.

 

I recently represented FOGGS at a South African Weed Orchid (SAWO) workshop in Stawell which was hosted by the Invasive Plant and Animal Subcommittee of Project Platypus in late February. (You may remember that we had several working bees at a property at Pomonal when the weed was first noticed some years ago, but we couldn’t halt its spread.)

 

The purpose of the meeting was to gather all landholders and agency staff relevant to SAWO control in the upper Wimmera and hear people’s experiences and set a collective way forward for control efforts in our area. Representatives were present from DEPI, Parks Victoria, various landcare groups and local government to share their collective experience. The main results to come out of the meeting were that SAWO is now a wide spread and established weed in our area and that control efforts into the future will need to be targeted to protect areas of high value remnant vegetation with significant threatened species present. This approach is otherwise known as ‘asset protection’ and aims to control invasive species in and around high value areas to protect the ‘asset’ (a threatened native orchid species for example). This is also the best hope for gaining funding for control work for SAWO as it is not a prescribed noxious species which makes it difficult to gain funding from government . Funding can however be tied to protecting a particular threatened species or vegetation type with grassy woodlands being high on the list of vegetation communities that attract grant funding. This vegetation community is one of the more vulnerable and widespread communities in our area in regard to SAWO infestation.

 

Those attending also agreed that Project Platypus should try and gain funding for a more in-depth review of SAWO control experience from Western Australia and South Australia where SAWO is well established. A project proposal will be submitted when a suitable grant opportunity presents that will enable key assets (reserves and threatened species) under threat in the upper catchment to be accurately identified. Depending on what information is gathered from experience in other areas, a trial of the most effective herbicide and control method may be required to see what proves to be the most effective for controlling SAWO in our area.

 

I believe that this sort of meeting, where Park staff, Landcare folk, DEPI staff and groups like ours tackle problems across public and private land is an excellent way of working.

 

Margo S

 

Editorial April 2014 Newsletter

 

Greetings from the still so very dry Grampians. And fire ravaged yet once again. The January fires have burnt much of the northern section of the Park. Our Park staff have had a torrid time, and now face months of hard work. We offer them our sympathy and our thanks. In Dave Robert’s piece you will see just what a huge task they have ahead of them.

 

It has also severely impacted several of our FOGG members. Judith Thompson, Bill and Hennie Neve, Ewen Johnson, Rob Lucas and Bonnie Carter and others all had the fire roar through their properties and lost sheds and equipment. One member (Rodney Thompson) lost the old cottage he was living in next to Judith and his car. Proo Pyke’s property was burnt; they lost fences but no buildings, Other members lost holiday houses. I am sure all of you will sympathise with them on their losses. The woman who died during the fires was not a FOGG member but shared many of our values and interests, and was a good neighbour and friend to our members in the area.

 

Those of us who live in Halls Gap, Black Ranges and Stawell had a few very worrying days. Most of us took the advice to leave town on two occasions. What a relief to come back home to find we had been spared, thanks in part to a wind shift, but also some heroic effort from Parks, DEPI and CFA. 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.

 

The fire and the extreme heat also affected our activities, as you will see from the activity reports.

 

Margo S