From the Editor

Welcome to the winter newsletter, whether you are receiving it in the post or by email. Remember that you can also access  previous newsletters via our website http://friendsofgrampiansgariwerd.org.au [but you already know that because you are reading this!]

Please note that it’s time to renew your membership, via the form included. Also note the increase in fees to cover our extra insurance and postage costs.

Please check if we have your correct email address so we can contact you with late news.

This issue is missing a report from our Ranger in Charge, Dave Roberts, who is just so busy at the moment. But  we do have a report from our meeting with him in July and also a comprehensive update from Tammy Schoo.

There is also no Advisory Group Report as we have not held a meeting since the last newsletter. The next meeting is in August  with a theme of Fire Ecology, Fire Risk Landscapes and Fire Management Strategies for the Grampians NP.  Nor is there a Round Table report as neither Wendy or I could attend the last meeting, and we haven’t seen the minutes yet.

Our AGM will be  in October and will creep up on us quickly. All office positions will be open for election. It is also good to have fresh folk on the committee which we have been achieving in the last couple of years. Do let us know if you are interested in any position.  You don’t even need to live locally as much can be done by email these days.

Grampians NP Community July Update

Tammy Schoo, Team Leader – Visitors and Community Grampians Gariwerd National Park has sent out a comprehensive report to the local community, and I am sure it is of real interest to those of you living further afield.

News in General July 2016
We welcome Ben Thomas to our team in the Role of Grampians Ark Coordinator. Ben brings a wealth of knowledge to the role after holding numerous biodiversity roles with organisations such as DELWP and CVA. The ‘new Ben’ replaces Ben Holmes who has moved to take on a rewilding project in the Little Desert National Park with Conservation Volunteers Australia.

Snow! Yes, we certainly know it’s winter. While it’s not completely uncommon, snow usually falls when the state is at its coldest. The Grampians are certainly very pretty covered in snow and it is a spectacle that many local residents love to see. We do ask that anyone visiting to see the snow comes prepared as conditions on the summit of Mt William can get very cold and windy and roads can be extremely slippery – particularly early in the morning after frosty overnight conditions.

Roads Management

As of the June Long weekend all seasonal track closures have been put in place.

Northern Grampians Fire Recovery Program

A massive recovery program continues in the park, with a few key projects beginning to roll out on ground. Here’s a brief update on all that’s going on…

  • Mackenzie Falls redesign and development: Consultants have been engaged for the Detailed Design and Documentation for the site and the project should begin in the new few weeks.
  • Zumsteins Pise Cottages: Heritage Victoria have issued a permit exemption for critical stabilisation and restoration works on the Orange Cottage. This will see the installation of a galvanised steel protective roof over the Orange Cottage. Other works will be carried out particularly to the blue cottage once the final heritage Victoria permit is finalised for all three cottages.
  • Stapylton Campground Redesign and Rebuild: Works continue on infrastructure installation with completion dates getting closer. Parks Victoria staff recently completed a successful (but wet) Thryptomene transplanting working bee across the site. Mapping of campsites and online booking information is being planned in the background, ready for a reopening in the coming months.
  • Mt Difficult Precinct Works are underway to upgrade the existing track to the summit of Briggs Bluff. A staged implementation of campground and walking track upgrades and realignments will integrate the Mt Difficult area offer with the GPT and support an improved visitor experience in an area of the park that was previously suffering from excessive over-visitation.
  • Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Work to catalogue and register newly discovered and existing cultural heritage sites continues along with conservation works that are planned to commence in July at several sites in the park.
  • Sallow Wattle Action Plan Implementation You may come across large areas of mulched scrub around the Roses Gap area, this is all part of the sallow wattle control mechanical mulching trial. This program is designed to evaluate the most effective control methods for the containment of the invasive weed. Planning for the Sallow Wattle extent mapping (aerial weed mapping) has also commenced to determine the best delivery method.
  • Deakin University Grampians Fire and Fauna Research Project  A paper has been submitted for publication documenting the past 8 years of fire research. The project has reached an amazing 80,000 trap night milestone. Researchers have walked over 3,500km checking and setting traps … that’s the equivalent of walking from Darwin to Melbourne!
  • Goat management activities (using firearms) will continue throughout the Mt Difficult Range over the coming months. The program is all located within the closed fire affected area of the Mt Difficult Range however, we would like to remind all locals and visitors to remain clear of this operational area at all times until safely reopened. Information and maps detailing the
    program is available by calling Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre in Halls Gap Phone 5361 4000.
  • Grampians Peaks Trail Plenty of work is progressing both out in the field and behind the scenes as the team continues to deliver construction works and firm-up trail design details on this exciting project. Piccaninny Walk near Dunkeld is expected to be reopened in coming weeks, under suitable weather conditions, as upgrades to the track near completion. Crews have finished a 66-metre long section of 101 steps, carefully placing interlocking stones together by hand from nearby the track.
    Works are now focused on finishing upgrades to key sections of the track and improving drainage to ensure the track is sustainable, caters for more walkers and needs less maintenance. This involves airlifting in specialised small earthmoving machinery. When the Grampians Peaks Trail is completed in late 2019, this section of Piccaninny Walk will join into other new sections of track to link in to the overall Trail. While wet and wintery conditions will slow construction works over the next couple of months, more action will be happening on site over Spring and Summer. We will continue to keep you updated on the latest track openings and closures associated with building the Trail.

Editor’s Note: We also have a separate update with more information on the Peaks trail, which I think I will send out separately, to keep the files a manageable size. Also Brambuk have produced an excellent new brochure on the Park’s cultural heritage.

Meeting at Parks Office with Parks Representatives – 24/06/16

Rod Thompson

On the last Friday in June 2016, FOGG’s members had their annual catch up with Park Management. It was attended by 8 members and 3 rangers, Dave Roberts, Tammy and Ryan.

We were given a basic rundown of the structure of the management of the park, consisting of 2 teams. A park management team which includes Tammy, Ryan, Mark who have all been involved with FOGGs and our activities over the course of the last year. The park team has a total of 14 people under Dave himself. This is complemented by a Fire Management team of 13 staff. The two teams try to work together to manage various impacts, but have to diverge in some areas too. Caity will most likely be continuing in her position as the volunteer coordinator. This is 97% sure but Conservation Volunteers Australia need funding to match Parks Vic. who have funding locked in. The park and the Halls Gap office could easily use 3 or 4 Caity’s (volunteer coordinators).

The discussions went on to cover topics such as fire management and recovery, resourcing of the park and funding of staff.

We had the opportunity to raise topics that concerned us as well as hearing about the things that Dave wanted to inform us of.

These topics included,

  • Funding,
  • Fire management, and trialling of new regimes of control and fuel reduction.
  • Disaster recovery, after all our park has been hammered in recent years.
  • Peaks trail planning and construction, there is only 18 months left to spend the funding that has been set out.
  • Helicopter  flights were raised by the group, but the response from Dave indicated it was more an issue for community patience than environment at this stage as impacts appear to be minimal due to regulations imposed. Hopefully they stick to planning requirements and it’s not a big issue, only the same level of concern as B-double trucks, motorcycles or noisy school groups.
  • Phytothera (cinnamon fungu) impacts were raised by another member of the group. It was noted that water dispersal could be a concern with a wetter season setting in, after many years of dry, but not an increasing issue as impacts have not been noticed yet. Anything off track is high risk for contamination, and if working in areas known to be impacted hygiene is essential.
  • Rock Wallaby reintroduction programs,
  • Sallow Wattle control and eradication.
  • Options for seats or signage at Zumsteins with the funding we have available. With plans afoot to do other works on cottages etc, we can contribute, but delayed until it can be combined with those plans. Anything we contribute needs to fit with the current standards, whether it be signage, or a seat. It was suggested that we could also  put that contribution towards the Wartook/Zumsteins trail. A heavy hardwood or even a stone seat could be done with the use or parks equipment.
  • Signs to discourage stone cairn construction by visitors. It is possible these signs might even cause a resurgence in something they believe is declining.

In other news shared with us, Mark Whyte has just returned from the International Rangers Conference. Its an asset to our park having someone like Mark, young and enthusiastic about the future, especially after the conference that has brought him in contact with staff from parks management world wide. Those of you who have met Mark know what I mean

The new CEO of Parks Victoria is passionate about conservation and scientific studies, using knowledge and evidence to determine the future of National Parks in our state. He has been to the Grampians  three times since appointment (6 months), which bodes well for our park and the support it needs from the seat of decision making at head office.

We finished off the evening with a convivial meal at the hotel chatting about the topics discussed with the staff, and others of our own choosing.

What the Prez Sez

Rod Thompson, President

I am breaking a little from my normal format of the president’s report this issue. There were many things raised in our meeting with the chief Ranger Dave Roberts that I wanted to expand on, and felt for the benefit of those who could not attend, I would use my column to do this. That means less rant and more information this quarter. Thats my intention anyway. But I might slip a little.

Fire management is well resourced due to govt. push at the moment, but not other areas of park management. In general across the staff long term stability has been consistent. However older staff are retiring, some will be replaced some not. This gives the park a balance of new enthusiastic and experienced staff. Unfortunately staff levels are declining, and responsibilities are  increasing, so they have to prioritise. Cleaning toilets etc must now be performed by Rangers as there is not enough funding to pay for contractors. This takes them from other duties but the management team have to do what is best for the park long term, based on the funding currently available. It still seems wrong to see people with tertiary qualifications in resource management and other degrees cleaning toilets, filling toilet rolls and cleaning up after lazy tourists.  Some of this funding has to be applied for annually, so some positions can’t be permanent. Additionally there are positions which depend on project funding which is also time limited. This results in a turn over of staff in some positions, such as the Grampians Ark  coordinator (the fox control program), where Ben Thomas (formerly DELWP who fortunately has lots of experience) is replacing Ben Holmes who has gone to a position with Conservation Volunteers Australia overseeing a re-wilding project at Little Desert Nature Lodge.

We are lucky due to location and size to have the only parks road team in the state, consisting of 2 drivers and grader.

Disaster recovery has been prominent in recent years but the tide is turning back to normal management issues such as education and relating with stakeholders to work towards the future of the park. But bear in mind these recovery programs have opened up other infrastructure rebuilding and renewal at rapid rate.

Goltons gorge will be reopened eventually after consultation with stakeholders and user groups, and some of the FOGGs and other representatives from the local area will aid in a type of advisory group.

Stapleton campground will be reopened in coming months, including school group facilities. Many northern walks will be reopened after that, there was no point while the camp was closed. This closure was necessary until the site was brought up to the safety standards required by Parks Vic across all its locations.

Construction of the Peaks trail will then be creating new tracks and new alignments on old tracks. This will change usage of northern Grampians. New vistas will be visible from these tracks and will often be used by day walkers not just long distance hikers.

One such location will be Dead Bullock Falls, and up to the plateau and a circuit on Mt. Difficult range including Briggs bluff. Troopers Creek infrastructure  will be moving to Dead Bullock creek. The reasons are twofold. The beautiful location, and the need to protect a newly located art site near Troopers Creek that has been mindlessly vandalised by some visitors.

In an ideal world everything would be reopened ASAP but practicality means investigating need, usage and environmental purpose/impact. Parks Vic. need to do this properly instead of just following desire or hedging bets. Some areas are very susceptible to erosion and damage due to fire impact, and it is necessary to keep people out to allow proper recovery. After the January 2014 fires The Bush Fire Rapid Risk Assessment Team created a new category for the severity of impact on the Wartook plateau catchment. There is not enough data yet to know the full impact, or causes but current fire and burning regimes seem to be not right, They are certainly not working properly for current climate and weather patterns.

There are more winter and heathland burning trials taking place-low intensity, smaller area, more mosaic style burns may be the answer. The trick is to manage ecosystems, and older age class vegetation needed for survival. Unfortunately, due to the impact of large severe fires and incorrect burning regimes, now only 20% of park is mature forest. Different parts recover faster than others, gullies much quicker than plateau areas. Some animal species rapidly returned, but need food sources to survive. And in the case of insectivorous small mammals and birds, this is problematic with the destruction of the leaf litter layer on the forest floor.

The central corridor of the park seems to be over used by visitor numbers, with too many people for the number of car parks. This may be contributed to by the number of areas closed since the fires, and even the flooding back in 2011. Traffic management has become a big issue in area and this raises the concept of a shuttle bus project again. It has been trialled before but the ever increasing numbers mean it has to be seriously looked at. A suggested alternative would be to make the Mount Victory road one way, creating a loop that returns through Roses Gap, but this requires a lot of community support, and Vic Roads to be on board too. I don’t think we are ready for that as a park yet.

School education programs are hopefully being rebuilt with new resources, making use of study and research results. Concerns have grown about this issue after discovering there is currently no pool of resources to answer information requests from students and community groups. This is an important thing for the future of National Parks and their place in the community, and their ability to get ongoing funding. Many schools are interested but need more school programs. Some enquiries even coming from Adelaide, Melbourne and other locations further away, not just the local area. Maybe a bush classroom or some similar learning system can be put in place from state funding, with a rollout hopefully starting springtime.

One worrying issue is funding. The only revenue developed by Parks Vic is from camping fees. No walking fees are currently allowed, and in a cash strapped economy, where the environment is not seen as a major priority, that means Parks budgets are not enough. We all need to lobby our decision makers to put the environment we live in, and its health, as a priority ahead of economic growth. If our environment falls, so does our economy.

The Rock Wallaby population has been a concern for some time, with attempts to reintroduce a viable population struggling, due to a lack of breeding success and higher than expected mortality rates. Now after reaching a conclusion that viability is an issue due to the dwindling population, one of the females, known as KR1, has sub-adult joey at foot and pouch young. Nothing has ever survived this long in this attempt at a breeding colony. However the population of 4 wallabies and 3 offspring will not be viable. With 6 months till the offspring reach breeding age there has to be decision about how it is managed. DELWP don’t want to do more releases but something has to be decided to prevent in-breeding. It seems that stability has occurred in conjunction with lower numbers. Perhaps early planning over estimated viability of site? Our colony size is similar to Gippsland, but they have 6 satellite populations whereas we have only one here. Watch this space.

2016_05_04_btrw5_ki1-and-immature Rock Wallabies
2016_05_05_btrw4_f2-and-yaf 2016_05_05_btrw1_m167-and-ki1-with-py

In some of my own research into the history of deer within the park I find references to an 1863 visit by the crown prince, who spent the day shooting wallabies off the rock faces. Some of these reports suggest many hundreds were shot. One eye witness even suggested thousands. When he became bored of shooting ‘stupid animals’ and watching them fall lifelessly to the ground below, he asked to go big game hunting. When informed that there was no native big game in Australia he suggested something was done about it. This brought the Acclimatisation Society to introducing the deer. These deer are now protected within the park, and it would take an act of parliament to change the rules and remove the deer protectorate status. (the wonders of the commonwealth, even here they are the queens deer!) But the beautiful little rock wallabies he, and others, so happily slaughtered have struggled ever since.

Dear to the hearts of many of our group is Sallow wattle management, particularly to those who reside on the northern end of the park. It is a tough fight, and almost a loosing battle. The first method is mechanical control. This involves cutting and mulching with bobcat around significant vegetation to prevent losses.

Experimental control plots for manual, mechanical, chemical and brushcutter are taking place, and other control forms are being looked at too. Gall wasp, as trialled and used in South Africa, appear not to be effective as it is too dry here and only seems effective in wet locations. There is also a team in one of the tertiary institutions researching carbon buildup and if it helps sallow proliferation.

Mapping is taking place, and we as FOGGies are participating in photographic monitoring of the spread. Containment is possible, stopping spread, but eradication is questionable due to the area impacted and the lack of money available. It saddens me that this is the case, but when you consider that the only effective method so far has involved someone actually handling every individual seedling or tree to remove it, and there are hundreds of millions in the park. If you miss one and it sets seeds, they remain viable for more than 70 years. One natural disaster allows them to take root again. I am ashamed to admit that this is a truth at my place adjacent to the park.

It is great to know that our park is on the personal radar of the New Parks CEO. It may not change anything for our park, but at least we know we are not forgotten due to our distance from the capitol.

Cheers FOGGies,
Rod Thompson,
President

Geology Day in May

 

Wendy Bedggood

Nearly thirty turned up to the Mural room to hear Dr Ross Cayley give a presentation titled ‘Geology of the Grampians – A 400 million year plus history and why geology has worldwide implications.’P

The Grampians Geology has been studied in detail over the past 15 plus years by using many new technologies allowing a more accurate picture of how it was formed. The area was mapped chemically and physically and using ‘total intensity and residual magnetic mapping’ a picture of the underground rock formations was created. The chemical mapping and physical mapping came up with the same pictures.  Some of the detailed studies on small scale have been extrapolated to the large scale giving a picture of the Grampians and surrounding areas and even what was happening on the rest of the continent. Mapping the Geology of the Grampians even has broarder implications. The fact the Grampians formation can be read from the surface informs on the formation of mountains and landscapes all over the world.

About 450 million years ago older mountains were eroded and formed the layers of sand forming the Grampians sandstone. Movement under the earth’s crust caused many induction zones leading to tilting and uplifting, but these were not simple geological actions as explained in text books. They were more complex actions with collisions and blockages explaining how layers have ended up where they are today. After the layering of sand and folding and faulting, the Grampians ranges were intruded by hot molten rock (magma) which cooled and crystallised to form the granite dyke rocks in the Victoria Valley, and at Mafeking and Wartook. Careful measurement of the radioactive decay of certain elements in these granites tell geologists that they were intruded around 400 million years ago.

At the end of the presentation most of us drove to the Mt William car park where we car pooled and headed through the gate and up to the very top. Here we found a sheltered spot out of the wind and enjoyed our picnic lunch in the sun and with a magnificent view.

Find the Fault 20160514_141707

The sausage shape on the rock was made by an underwater creature 410 million years ago, as it foraged for food on the bottom of the water body and passed the sand out behind it.
The sausage shape on the rock was made by an underwater creature 410 million years ago, as it foraged for food on the bottom of the water body and passed the sand out behind it.
20160514_140730

We looked at some formations in sandstone which were made by an underwater creature 410 million years ago, as it foraged for food on the bottom of the water body and passed the sand out behind it. Back at the Mt William car park we looked at a landslide which had occurred hundreds or thousands of years ago, landslides have occurred frequently and been a major contributor to the shaping of the Grampians. Next we drove along Silver Band rd and stopped to look at more road cuttings exposing mudstone as well as some of the more recent landslides which occurred in 2011. The landslides exposed many cliffs and on one of these we could see a fault line which probably formed millions of years ago but is typical of faults which occurred throughout the Grampians forming the mountain range. From here we all headed home in our different directions with our heads spinning at the incredible talk and sites we had just experienced.

Ross Cayley et al published a paper in Nature last year and it has some modelled videos of the complex movements in the induction zone and the effects of collisions and blocking. Worth a watch.  http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v508/n7495/full/nature13033.html#videos

Bird Observing in the Grampians

JanBert Brouwer

The joint outing with the Birdlife Horsham branch on Sunday July 3rd started with a bleak weather outlook following rain and low lying clouds. Not something that is likely to make the birds put on an active show. However a large-turn out of bird observers often means many keen eyes to detect birdlife.

The Birdlife group always prepares their trips very thoroughly with a reconnaissance visit preceding the outing to find interesting birds. Tim Mintern and Ian Morgan had recently sighted emu wrens near the air strip in the western part of the park but these birds proved to be too elusive for this outing. However the Scarlet Robin put on a splendid display there and was a real highlight. It was surprising that even water birds were very scarce on the Moora Moora Reservoir.

Hennie and Bill Neve hosted us for our lunch break at their home in Wartook. A wonderful warm environment on this wintery day for some lively social interaction that is such an important  part of both clubs.

All in all, the group managed to sight 53 different bird species that day although I must admit that my tally was way down as usual. A remarkably high number for these weather conditions. A few notable examples were also close encounters with the White-Throated and the Brown Tree Creepers, the Restless Flycatcher, Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, and several different Thornbills (Brown, Buff-rumped, Yellow and Yellow-rumped)  with a final appearance of the Eastern Spinebill.

Photo Point Mapping of Sallow Wattle

Last year  FOGGs volunteered to keep a pictorial record of Sallow Wattle at 20-30 spots in the Park. We would mark each spot with a star picket and it would be a matter of going back to the same spot twice a year and taking a photo at a time that suits the individual volunteer. It has been a slow start but we now have the map with the spots to be monitored and enough volunteers to spread the load.  The actual photo work is about to start on this long term project.

Update On The Orchid Conservation Program

Our contractors have erected a locked fence to keep grazing animals away from the highly endangered orchid  Caladenia audasii —(or McIvor Spider-orchid, Audas Spider-orchid) in the Stawell Ironbarks Forest, and there is a remote camera to deter any human predators. The team will keep a close eye on it and when (if?) it flowers it will be crosspollinated from the other surviving colony near Bendigo and eventually more plants can be grown at Cranbourne then released back into the wild.

Walks For The Less Abled

A new booklet is under way with support from PV, FOGGS and the Wimmera Sports Assembly. Long term members may remember that we were deeply involved in the first book back in 1999.

Stawell Field Naturalists History

We were recently approached as to whether we were interested in supporting a project whereby RMIT students in the final year of their Bachelor of Environment Programs  would conduct interviews and document the  history of this group. We were delighted to co-operate as it was largely through the efforts of the Field Nats that our Park was established, and the knowledge collected by the group over the years has been enormous. Ian McCann  and Thelma Argall were founding members. The project has been listed for the students to choose from, and at least one is interested and will be interviewed next week.