It has been a dry time in the park, with only a couple of rain events so far this year. Particularly in the north, a lot of trees are under pressure and new growth after fires is dying in many areas, particularly where the rock layer is not far below the surface. Some hillsides look like autumn colours, until you realise that there are only natives growing, and they are suffering. Our summer has continued a long time but the weather has finally taken on an autumn feel with those beautiful pleasant days and chilly damp nights. Even the odd misty morning. I love this time of year! It also allows struggling vegetation to survive until winter rains arrive. I still worry about lightning strikes and careless fires with the current fuel load of dead vegetation.
Combine this with grazing pressures the vegetation is doing it tough, particularly on the plateaus. Grazing by macropods and introduced cloven hoofed animals is a worry for park management. There are programs set up and in place to deal with this issue, but not enough funding for staff to oversee them. The next round of funding is coming up and Mike Stevens (Acting Head Ranger) is hopeful things can be put into action soon. It saddens me that programs that need to be ongoing are only funded annually, and there is uncertainty every year if they can continue. The deer program is dependent on this cycle, and with rumours of an extra species being deliberately introduced to the park, and high numbers already present from existing species (along with goats) it is important to control their numbers.
There is movement afoot amongst FOGGs with walking tracks. The Volunteer Track Maintenance group are soon to start working on the walking track at Golton’s Gorge, with assistance from some FOGG members. They will not be reinstating the old track, but marking out and creating a new pathway. It will be great to see this site back in use as it is a favourite of locals at the north end of the park, and it’s been missed by many.
Redgum Walk is also on our agenda. We have signage ready to go back into place, and members keen to try and repair the damage fires have done over the years. We are looking at options for fireproof metal stands for the signs to be mounted on, replacing the sign on Glenelg River road, and a general prune and tidy up to make the site more inviting. We insisted it be included in the guide book on walks for the less-abled so we need to make sure it is worthy.
Recently three of our dedicated members participated in the Cavendish Redgum Festival, promoting our long term project in the Victoria
How lucky are we to have experts within our group, and others willing to come to our region? We have had presentations from members and other from regional experts, and more to come. Even if you aren’t up to traipsing through the bush there is much learning to be done at our indoor lecture presentations. PHD presentations from 2 of our committee have been followed by a couple of others. Having Ian Clarke fit us into his busy schedule was great. His work on the history of the rock art and connection of the Bunjil story to the Grampians was great to hear about. Mike doing our annual catchup with park staff and throwing in a visual presentation was great to see too, once the vagaries of the Mural Room AV system were battled and won. This has been a theme of visual presentations in recent years, but it’s been worth persevering as the information given and the photos viewed are most impressive.
The next lecture presentation will be from a herpetologist from the Arthur Ryler Institute. Being a reptile fan I’m really looking forward to this one!
Please feel free to tell me your thoughts, suggestions or ideas for FOGGs in the future.
OUR VERY BUSY RANGER IN CHIEF is seconded to the North East at the moment. Thank you Tammy Schoo for a comprehensive update, which I have unfortunately needed to shorten for the printed version.
It was all hands-on deck over the busy Easter and Victorian and South Australian School holiday period in the Grampians. High visitor numbers saw every campsite booked out weeks in advance and popular day visitor areas were brimming with families and international visitors.
Luckily there were minimal callouts for emergencies and antisocial visitor behaviour. Unfortunately however there were a higher than usual amount of campfires left unattended, rubbish left behind and people ignoring signage – such as ‘no dogs permitted in National Parks’, ‘no entering the Balconies and Boroka lookout rock platforms’ and ‘no swimming at Mackenzie Falls’. Interviews were conducted at the Balconies for visitors climbing over barriers and fines may be issued.
The Grampians National Park is a National heritage listed area – all visitors are asked to respect the law and any park regulations that apply in order to ensure visitors remain safe and so the Grampians National Park is protected for the future.
We’ve had a few team members step up and undertake short team backfills of the Assets and Infrastructure team leader position. Thanks to Ian Hanson, Joshua Brown and Emily Scott for keeping the park facilities, roads and recovery projects rolling.
Next week we welcome Chris Washusen to the Visitor and Community Team as Grampians Peaks Trail Walking Track Ranger. Originally from Victoria, Chris has been working as a Ranger in the Northern Territory for the past few years .
Dave Roberts is still working in the Alpine region which has seen Tammy Schoo and Mike Stevens step in to the Acting Area Chief Ranger Role.
FIRE AND EMERGENCY:
Project Fire Fighters have seen their contracts extended through to early May to assist with the Autumn burning season. Over the coming weeks the Autumn burning program will continue throughout the park so keep your eyes peeled for any closures.
The team are also undertaking and increased amount of Non-burn-fuel-treatments (NBFT) around the township of Moyston. This project has primarily treated the Acacia paradoxa which poses an extreme fire risk to the community. It is difficult to get the right conditions to burn it and mulching has provided positive results in previous trials. The NBFT took place in asset protection zones around communities.
ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE:
As part of the Gariwerd Caring for Country project, rangers and traditional owners recently carried out vegetation removal from a number of rock art sites in the Victoria and Mt Difficult ranges. Impacted by the 203/14 bushfires, vegetation had grown back thickly and increased both fire risk and potential damage to rock art panels. Impacts by feral goats and rock climbing are also being managed as part of this project.
While the broader Sallow Wattle Management project continues to research and trial best practice control techniques, recently ground crews were engaged to undertake hand removal of satellite populations throughout the park.
The Parks Conservation Action Plan is in the final stages of approvals. This plan will identify the key environmental threats, goals and strategies to manage the park throughout the future.
E & H Ranger Dave Handscombe has moved into a short-term secondment position as Environmental Project Coordinator to deliver the herbivore management project.
ASSETS AND INFRASTRUCTURE:
Telstra is trialling a reception tower at Mackenzie Falls which is increasing reception in zones around the popular visitor site. A landline will also be trialled. A decision will be made in the coming months as to which option is the most appropriate for safety and emergency communication. The toilets will also see a new solar pump installed to replace the old water powered Glockemann pump, which should mean less breakdowns in peak periods.
Mt Zero Road will be closed for resurfacing works on May 21st for two weeks. A closure will be in place from Red Gum Lease track through to Plantation campground. The works will be completed to improve poor areas of the road which have been caused by ongoing dry conditions. Please see the park website for further details including detour options to access the Plantation Campground and the Northern Grampians.
Fire access road repairs will be undertaken in the coming months on key access roads and once the rain begins to fall, grading is scheduled to continue. Be aware of heavy machinery operating throughout the park. Check for road access on our website.
A number of fire and flood recovery projects are scheduled to begin once the combined GPT/Grampians Recovery Cultural Heritage Management plan is approved – hopefully by the end of May. This will include Coppermine bush camp redevelopment, Golton Gorge walking track redevelopment, the new Dead Bullock Creek campground, Longpoint west bush camp, Briggs Bluff realignment and Ngamadjidj Art shelter redevelopment.
VISITORS AND COMMUNITY:
Throughout the peak visitation period the Grampians had 3 volunteer camp ground hosts who assisted with the delivery of key park information at Smiths Mill, Borough Huts and Stapylton Campground. We also had 3 Volunteer walking track rangers assist with safety and visitor information along the Grampians Peaks Trail and Northern Grampians walks. If anyone is interested in volunteering for these or other popular programs sign up to ‘ParkConnect’ via our website: The next Volunteer program will be rolled out over the June Long weekend.
In partnership with the Northern Grampians Shire, the Grampians Summer Rangers ran a number of activities that were linked to the Premiers Active April program. The team also ran Six Junior Ranger activities throughout the park with great success. The Fire and Emergency team worked alongside Seasonal Rangers for an ‘All Fired Up’ program which allowed Junior Rangers to dress up as fire crew members and learn about fire safety within National Parks. There were bush detectives galore, guided nature walks and a very popular bike scavenger hunt.
The team are in the middle of assessing all visitor sites within the park for the rollout of the Visitor Experience Framework (VEF). This will provide information for future management of visitor sites as well as activities and interests available within the park. The VEF will also contribute significantly to the provision of better visitor information .
Outside the Grampians but in our Reserves management area, the Ararat Trails project is nearing completion of Stage 1 with contractors finalising the environmental, cultural and detailed planning assessments for the existing but illegally built mountain bike trails in Ararat Regional Park. Concept trails, walking tracks, trailheads, car parks and connections to Ararat will be considered as part of the proposal. This along with a number of other cycling projects will be considered as part of the Regional Cycling trails strategy currently being developed for the Central and West Victorian area.
GRAMPIANS PEAK TRAIL
Contractors have been working hard at the south end of the Grampians Peak Trail (GPT). Mt Abrupt and Major Mitchell plateau works are still underway as we see upgrading of rock steps, track stabilisation, drainage and surfacing completed.
April saw Chatuaqua Peak walking track re-open and again, old timber steps have been removed and replaced with stone. From all accounts the daily walkers on this track are enjoying the more level step platforms and quicker walk times.
Works for the upper and lower track of the Mt Staplyton area will commence soon. including vegetation removal along the new trail alignments, works in Dunkeld community along Salt Creek, Mt Christabel revegetation and building removal and interpretation and experience planning with traditional owners.
For further GPT project information you can read the latest GPT community update at:
There are a number of projects being planned or delivered as stage two of the Peaks trail ramps up
IN OTHER PARK NEWS…
A recent report of animal cruelty in Halls Gap is being investigated. Witnesses reported a kangaroo being fed something inappropriate south of Lake Bellfield township. With the ongoing concerns of wildlife being fed in and around Halls Gap, this is a reminder that Halls Gap has a Wildlife Action Group to tackle the issue on private and council land within the township. Within the National Park and on other land tenure, significant fines can be imposed if anyone is found to be undertaking these or other wildlife related offences.
Seasonal Road closures will come into effect after the June Long weekend. Some Recovery Closures may also still be in place.
We started the year with two presentations by our own members, followed by a picnic tea/ BBQ (bring your own) in Halls Gap afterwards.
The first was presented by Ben Gunn, an archaeologist residing at Lake Lonsdale. Ben recently gained a Ph D for his work. Over the years Ben has spoken to FOGGS about local art sites, and we knew he was also doing much work in the north of the country so we were very much interested in hearing about what he had learnt.
“Art of the Ancestors: Analysing ceiling art of Nawarla Gabarnmang in Arnhem Land”
Ben’s thesis was about the development of a new way of recording and analysing rock art by incorporating three techniques: DStretch from rock art, Harris Matrix from archaeology and the Morellian Method from fine art. Using the ceiling art from Nawarla Gabarnmang in western Arnhem Land he was able to show that at least 113 layers of painting have decorated this ceiling. These layers were aggregated into seven assemblages, based on stylistic and sequential similarities. On the basis of other archaeological and environmental evidence the each assemblage was then allocated an age. The chronology showed that there was a major change in pigment colour preference around 500 years ago: from red to white. The reason for this change is still being investigated.
Ben then briefly showed how this method can be applied to the rock art in Grampians-Gariwerd, placing the very first petroglyph found here (which was really exciting) within the Gariwerd sequence:
Most Recent: White Paintings A single petroglyph Red Paintings
Earliest Art: Red stencils
In the next few years Ben hopes to expand this study and re-evaluate the whole Gariwerd sequence (and hopefully tie it into some dates).
The second presentation was by Bill Gardner who lives at Laharum in the Northern Grampians. Bill is a newer member of FOGGS and gained his Ph D in 1981 studying
“ The soil/root interface of Lupinus albus”
What relevance does that have for the Grampians? you might ask. Well read on.
Bill studied for his PhD from 1978-81 at Melbourne University, examining the soil/root interface of white lupins. The initial aim was to see if some kind of mycorrhizal (beneficial fungi helping plants take up nutrients) interaction was occurring in farm rotations, but the absence of any mycorrhizae on the lupins sent him off into unchartered territory. He discovered white lupins produce root clusters (sometimes called proteoid roots in the Proteacea, or dauciform roots in rushes) and used various chemical secretions to cause parts of the soil, in particular iron, aluminium and manganese, to dissolve, thereby obtaining nutrients locked away from other plants. Some plants species with similar adaptations have quite extra-ordinary amounts of manganese or aluminium in their above ground parts, indicating a terra forming ability on the soil. In recent years, Bill has been looking at chemical scalds near Balmoral caused by groundwater containing iron and sulphur interacting at the surface in a similar fashion to acid mine drainage, albeit on a smaller scale. Soil pores become blocked with iron oxides, causing the watertable to rise. A technique involving rushes and other root cluster forming species is showing promise by dissolving the iron oxide thereby increasing discharge and restoring water balance in the landscape.
The picture below shows roots of white lupins growing in an agar slant containing black insoluble manganese dioxide, which has been chemically altered and dissolved around the root clusters.
Both talks gave rise to many questions which both speakers generously helping us understand the implications for our area.
FOGG has been involved with cleaning up around the Grampians for over 30 years.
On Saturday, the 24th of March, seven FOGG members met with Parks Victoria staff in the Halls Gap picnic area. We were provided with gloves, rubbish bags and rubbish grabbers, and allocated two target areas to clean; Silverband Falls and the picnic grounds adjacent to Lake Bellfield.
There was very little rubbish found at Silverband Falls, however we did collect a number of bags of Scotch Thistle from the creek banks, most not far off seeding. We found quite a lot of rubbish at the picnic grounds next to Lake Bellfield including litter, rusted posts and bits of metal, and bird wire. All up, we collected more than 15 bags of rubbish weighing approximately 60kg. Overall, it was a very successful day.
Our thanks to Parks Victoria staff for providing our gear, and more importantly, a bbq lunch. Thanks also to Rodney and Judith for having lunch cooked and ready for us.
Professor Ian D. Clark, Federation Business School, Federation University Australia, Ballarat
Professor Ian Clark, a Western Victorian local now at Federation University Ballarat, gave us a fact-filled afternoon talk on the 1840 accounts of Capt. R. H. Bunbury of Barton Station, south of Moyston; the origins of the Bunyip as recorded by early settlers in conversation with local Aboriginal people and from Aboriginal ground drawings in Western Victoria. The Bunyip also was a key player in the story of Bunjil and in the interpretation of the painting of Bunjil in the Black Range near Stawell. Bunyips have been recorded from most areas of Victoria, and while all are associated with waterholes or rivers, the descriptions vary considerably: from a giant emu to a fur seal to an extinct Palorchestes (that died out some 40,000 years ago). The best description, however, comes not from verbal accounts but from a depiction cut into the soil by Djab Wurrung people at Challicum near Ararat. This seal- or bird-like image was recorded by artists in 1851 and again in 1867. Whether the bunyip was a real or mythical creature, or a relic of a now-extinct animal, remains speculative, but certainly the stories surrounding it point to “the ‘deep history’ we have inherited from Australia’s first peoples”.
For those who wish to learn more, Ian has permitted his papers to be placed on the FOGG website
Clark, I.D. 2017 Bunyip, Bunjil and mother-in-law avoidance: new insights into the interpretation of Bunjils shelter, Victoria, Australia. Rock Art Research 34(2):189-192.
Clark, I.D. 2018 A fascination with Bunyips: Bunbury, La Trobe, Wathen, and the Djab Wurrung people of Western Victoria. Journal of the C J La Trobe Society 17(1):27-39.
Thank you Ian.
Dr Ian D. Clark has been researching and publishing in Victorian Aboriginal history since 1982, and has been the Centre Manager of the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Halls Gap, and Research Fellow in History at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra.
His book ‘We Are All of One Blood: A History of the Djabwurrung Aboriginal People of Western Victoria, 1836-1901’ was awarded the Local History Project Award in the Victorian Community History Awards 2016. Other areas of interest include the history of tourism, place names, and the music and life of Ella Jane Fitzgerald.
After Ian’s talk we invited him to join with us for dinner at the HG pub and discussion on various issues was lively.
New curtains in the Mural Room have been put up following our suggestion
Rodney has purchased an EPirb
Bill and Rodney attended the fire conference on 18.10.17.
Volunteer Parks Training Day: Rodney and Margo attended. Following up from this Rodney has established a FOGGS page in the Parks portal and will maintain it. (Activities and possibility profiles of members) see further article.
Treasurer’s Report: Discussion re members who have not renewed, decided to leave as it is now close to the call for annual subs in July.
General Business: The seat on Zumsteins to Fish Falls track is in progress, Rodney to follow up as to when it is expected to be completed. The funding for this originally came from the Friends of Zumsteins group.
Activities were discussed and this quarters confirmed. It was suggested that we hold some activities on Sundays.
Golton Gorge FOGGs agree to help with works when they take place
August & September Yet to be confirmed We hope more indigenous heritage learning (AGM also due.)
Summer activity : Picnic and walk on Mt William, maybe November?
When we had asked Mike to update us on environmental issues in the park, particularly on the overgrazing issue, he was not yet acting as Ranger in Charge, so in the end we got some of each.
Sallow wattle: The aim is to control as much as possible, using a mix of handpulling and mechanical mulching. We really have to do as much as we can as it potentially could cause huge problems. In Wilsons Promontory a weed teatree has spread and spread. We asked about the sallow wattle monitoring that some of us had volunteered to do while Ryan was in the position. Mike was not very familiar with it and asked each of us to collate what we had done so far and show him, so he could see what use could be made of it.
Predators: We have both foxes and cats. Fox baiting has been going on for over 20 years now and is working to some extent to keep the numbers down, but the cameras show that cat numbers are now very high. It is at last recognised that cats should be dealt with but it will be probably over a year before cat baiting can start. Mike hopes that then we can follow the lead of SA where aerial baiting in winter has been very effective.
Fire : The fires of the last 12 years have had a massive impact on the Park and work is needed to recreate a diversity in age groups. Mike would like to see more winter burning, and more small patch burning, but this requires hard work.
Water Management: The wetland areas need better management. Some experimental work was done to improve Bryan Swamp, but the management of water needs more thought and negotiation.
Herbivores: We have both deer and goats. We have rabbits and hares too but they are a lesser problem. We have recently received funding for large scale shooting of both deer and goats.
Goats: To eradicate them is going to be impossible, but if we could reduce the numbers by 35% each year, the numbers would remain stable or decline. But the current shooting programme is only achieving 16%. The extra funding will of course help, but that requires constant monitoring feedback to convince the money holders to continue.
Deer. A real concern and we are trying different methods of control, using licensed shooters. The shooters are able to take the meat but not the antlers. But again at this stage it is impossible to eradicate them so we are concentrating on the areas where they are doing the most damage, such as in the areas in the north recovering from the 2014 fires. Plus work with neighbouring landholders is underway.
What to do about the over abundant macropods? This is a real dilemma. The exclusion plots that were set up at Cooinda Burrong (and which FOGGS used to monitor) and another site nearby clearly demonstrated that the damage was not being done by rabbits, but by large animals. However there was no way of distinguishing between deer and macropods. Other research is indicating that on the fringes of the park the culprits are both deer and kangaroos, further inside it is swamp wallabies and deer in different habitats. (Interestingly swamp wallabies only arrived in the Grampians in the 1970s and numbers are steadily increasing). But getting approval, let alone funding, for macropod reduction is going to be a real battle. So the strategy is to go all out against deer and goats for the next five years, while educating and arguing for macropod work as well; then hopefully we will be able to address the macropod issue.
Partnerships are the key to getting better information and particularly the Deakin Uni partnership has been great. But funding remains a real problem, the park has to contribute to the uni costs.
Mike also gave us a bit of a general update, some of which was very similar to what I had heard at the Advisory Group meeting and have reported elsewhere so I won’t repeat it here. We then had a chance to ask questions. Mike confirmed that the lack of regeneration of banksias on the red gum walk was likely to be deer predation. Other questions were on Golton Gorge work and the Peaks Trail.
We also reminded Mike that we are very happy to support any research done by students, that we have funds that could be used for travel costs etc.
We then let Mike go and join his family for dinner while we also adjourned to the pub for a meal together.
As reported in the last newsletter, Parks Vic is encouraging us all to register to become an official Parks Victoria volunteer by creating a user account and volunteer profile with details about your interests, skills, and contact information.
It is a way of registering special skills, interests and qualifications so they can contact us for activities etc and keeps track of paperwork such as accredited chainsaw training and working with children checks.
We can use it too to look for volunteer activities in other parks. Should be useful when on holidays.
It’s quite easy to register. You need to create a profile and a password of course.
After the fires of 2014 PV decided to close the picnic area and the track up the gorge. However this met with much opposition from many people who loved the spot. Now a new track will be built by mainly volunteers. It won’t cross the main creek but take walkers up the left hand side. The volunteer work is being led by the Walking Track Support Group under David Witham and Graham Parkes using funds from the donation boxes spread through the park. They are being supported by various bushwalking groups and FOGG has agreed to join in. So as dates of working bees are settled we will let you know.
The Advisory Group met on March 16 with Mike Stevens (Team Leader, Environment and Heritage) as acting Ranger in Charge as Dave R is on secondment to the North East part of the state. We had two main topics to discuss with three visitors from Melbourne, plus of course a list of local ongoing issues.
Our first visitors were Tony Varcoe (Community Engagement and Inclusion) and Young Soo Kwon, an exchange ranger from South Korea who were both interested to observe how an AG works as ours is one of the very few parks to have one. We introduced ourselves, the history of the AG and our own backgrounds and they then listened in as we discussed:
Community partnerships. There are 17 of these groups and the park benefits hugely eg the partnership with Deakin University costs $5000 but delivers $100,000 worth of projects.
Grampians Peaks Trail Progress: Some delays being experienced, with the cultural heritage work needing to be done on new tracks, good stone work continuing on tracks that are being upgraded. To learn more about the Grampians Peaks Trail visit www.grampianspeakstrail.com.au.
Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby colony: We are awaiting a decision from DELWP as to what should be done with the group. Mike has sent them a letter with the suggestions we had agreed to at a previous meeting.
Zumsteins cottages: Waiting on some rain to complete landscaping and interpretation work.
Camping in the Mt Stapylton area and the changing profile of park visitors, especially rock climbers: This needs careful thought and planning, and the current management plan is out of date here (and elsewhere).
Park Connect: We were encouraged to register on it and publicise it (see separate article).
Golton Gorge work: Once the cultural heritage work has been completed work will start on making a new track there to replace the one destroyed in the 2014 fires. One side of the creek only, and most of the work being done by volunteers (again, see separate article).
A brief break and then Mike and Tina Konstantinidis the corporate environmental planning partner led us through the draft Grampians – Gariwerd Conservation Action Plan which we’d all received a few days earlier (all 122 pages of it).
A draft summary will be available soon, so I won’t go into details, but we looked at the current health status of the different environmental communities within the park, and where it is realistic to expect them to be in 10 years’ time with good management (e.g. heathlands, grasslands, alpine ….). And the threats these different areas are facing. Herbivores, both native and introduced, and in some areas the native ones (e.g. swamp wallabies) are the main culprits. Weeds, rabbits, hares, cats and foxes, fire, water harvesting …. We discussed these at the meeting and then continued to email further comments over the next week or two. Tina replied at the end that “We don’t usually have the opportunity to meet with an advisory group to discuss CAPs so this has been a great exercise in getting some perspective outside of government agency colleagues.”
Mike anticipates hardcopies of the plan will be available around June and will send out a link to an online version once available.