The AG has met twice since our last newsletter.
Well, not really an AG meeting, but we were part of the annual fire conference. The main theme of the presentations was the ten years since the Mt Lubra fire: what had been learnt, what was different now, new challenges. Then we went out to look at some of the challenges surrounding the current fire plan. Some of the same material was presented at the Roundtable meeting that Wendy reports on in this newsletter, so I’ll try to be brief.
Police Superintendent Paul Margetts, who was stationed in Halls Gap in 2006 but has since been promoted to a senior position in Horsham, gave us a most appropriate quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also unique for their apparent disinclination to do so.”, but then proceeded to show how some things have indeed been learnt from both our fires and those in other locations.
Dave Roberts then gave us his Top Ten observations:
- The increase in large landscape size fires: from a previous history of an average of once in 35 years, to 3 here in the last 10 years; Why? Climate? Fire regimes? Other? Where are we heading?
- A new emphasis on community engagement: AG, Round Table, motto of Safer Together.
- More use of Risk Analysis tools.
- But also higher levels of risk: more people, more often, in more areas of the Park and closeby.
- I’ve mislaid!
- I’ve mislaid!
- Incident management is a profession now, with its own team within Parks.
- The Park is a huge economic driver for the region ($430 million annually). When it shuts down it hurts.
- The resilience of both the environment and the communities living here.
- New technologies coming in: smart phones, drones and more.
After lunch we inspected a private property where the owners have agreed to have it burnt as part of a wider planned burn near Pomonal. Then we drove to Lake Bellfield to have a look at the same burn plan from the other side. It’s desirable to break up the regenerating forest (burnt in 2006), to get a patchy age distribution and slow down any wildfire. But that’s not easy, especially so close to popular tourist areas. See Wendy’s Round Table article for more on this challenge.
Saw our final meeting for the year and it was a field trip. First to Mckenzie Falls to discuss options for parking within the limits of available funds. There is no intention at the moment to rebuild the house or the kiosk. Having a mobile coffee van seems to be working well. The parking plan is to move it further uphill leaving an open green area near the river.
Then we went to inspect where the Peaks Trail will travel along the escarpment approaching the Boroka Lookout area. Very close to the proposed track they have come across an unrecorded art site. We agreed that the site was too vulnerable and the track would have to be rerouted. (photo).
Our final stop had us again looking at the area near Halls Gap planned to be burnt in stages. Dave informed us that weatherwise, it would be best to burn at Easter, but for some reason that isn’t their planned date!
The last Roundtable meeting for the year was held on 30th November and its focus was the upcoming planned burns.
There are several strategic burns planned to manage fuel loads and reduce bushfire risk for the Halls Gap community. In order to carry out these burns there will be a significant impact on the tourist industry and residents of Halls Gap.
There are a number of fires planned to be carried out over a couple of years and done in a way to give a patchwork effect on the bush and at the same time reduce the overall fuel loads. There was a lot of discussion on the lack of real time information on planned burns and how the lack of warning can impact on tourist operators. There needs to be a better way of getting information out to those in the tourist industry as well as the public. A school camp operator pointed out that it is very difficult to change plans for a hike for fifty students with no notice. More notice is required for tourist operators to be able to change planned activities and there is a need to be given alternative areas to visit. This could be an opportunity to promote alternative areas in the Park.
Another suggestion was that the perceived ugliness of burnt areas could be an opportunity and how can we engage visitors to sites after fires to educate them and change the way people see the results of burns. Interpretive signs could be erected after burns to indicate when an area has been burnt. Planned burns could be an opportunity for Incident Management training and any traffic management points could be used to disseminate information on the burn.
It was felt there is a need to use a range of techniques to communicate information, including social media and face to face opportunities for the public. An update on the planned burn program and progression from discussions of this meeting will be the agenda items for the next meeting which is scheduled for February.
FOGGs were represented at the bi-ennial awards presented by Parks Victoria for the western half of the state.
It was good to see recognition for outstanding work by several more or less local folk.
- The late Bernie Fox received a lifetime achievement award for a huge amount of work, including Mallee Fowl protection activities in the Little Desert area;
- Dr David Stratton for the Trailrider and Sherpa programme to help disabled people get out into the parks; and,
- Advisory Group member Tracey Skinner for her years of work at Arapiles.
A MESSAGE received on our Facebook Page:
Hi’ The small town of Harrow has a small population of Callistemon wimmerensis growing in the streamside reserves of the Glenelg river, a group of Harrow residents would like to visit the site where much larger populations of this rare species exist, from our research this location was Wonwondah East, with plants established on the west banks of the McKenzie creek. This group of mostly older persons are keen to obtain about access to site and receive some directions to site, we look forward to your reply.
I’m pleased to report that a bit of local co-operation was able to give them directions to a good location.
By the way there are several specimens in the Grampians Flora Botanic Garden in Halls Gap.