Advisory Group Report

Margo Sietsma

The Advisory Group met in December for a very busy afternoon. We always start with lunch and a short time to catch up, then proceed to business.

Dave introduced Caitlyn O’Rielly, our new Volunteer Co-Ordinator to the group (replacement for Kathryn Dyson). I had already met her and in fact we had put together an unsuccessful grant application together back in September.

Caitlyn has her position funded for 2 years, she will be working with School Groups and Volunteers, establishing partnerships with long term groups and with the disability sector with less abled volunteers.

Grampians Peaks Trail Master Plan

The Liberal Government announced funding for the trail to $10,000,000, Labour has committed $19,000,000 and a contribution from the Federal Government up to $10,000,000.

Local governments have been lobbying local members for funding for the trail.

Plans need to be ready after the election as there will only be 4 years for the funding to be spent.

Concerns, from the last meeting, regarding the trail still stand.

Position of Convenor

I announced my decision to retire as convenor now that the new group has been established. I will stay on for the rest of my term as an ordinary member. Members who are interested in taking on the position should send an expression of interest to Dave. The position is decided by PV Management and we felt the term should be 2 years and be spread around through the group.

Discussion about the way AG members can contribute followed. The need for “special interest groups” or sub committees was discussed aligning members’ skills/experiences to issues affecting the Park, such as education, recreation, fire, community engagement, heritage, indigenous culture etc. These groups would meet outside of the AG timeframe and report back at each meeting. For it to work well it will require the broader community to be more aware of the advisory group and a mechanism to make contact with AG members.

Natural values and Cultural heritage

Ryan Duffy provided a quick update on the Environmental projects in the park after the fire and the University studies that have been done in the Park.

Sallow wattle will need to be monitored in the fire affected ground. Seedlings will need to be at least 12 months old before treating them.

The Brush Tailed Rock Wallaby joey is surviving in the colony.

A new art site has been discovered and will be examined by the appropriate specialists .

Other items of news

Walter Zumsteins granddaughter has been in Victoria and has helped Dave with information and photos of the site.

MacKenzies Falls Lease

A settlement between the Lessee and Parks Victoria has been completed, meaning the site has been handed back to Parks Vic to manage. Options will be address in the coming months, which will look at a short term plan 2-5yrs and a long term plan 5+years.

Field trip

We then were taken to look at some of the Mt Difficult Rd fire affected areas and then the almost finished Grampians Peaks Trail – Hikers Camp for Wonderland. We did a loop on the still-closed road from Boroka Lookout round Lake Wartook. It still hurt to see how bare the rocky heights still are 10 months after the fire. Such a hot fire and then such a dry spring.

Advisory Group on Mt Difficult Rd

It was a delightful contrast to get out and walk through a thriving button grass patch.

Button Grass on the Mt Difficult Rd

Next we headed to the camp site being erected for the Grampians Peak trail which I will deal with in more detail separately. It was well after 5 pm when we got back to Halls Gap, where most of us were able to join for a meal at the Indian restaurant and continue our discussions informally.

Committee Report – Advisory Group

I was an apology due to illness but here are some items from the minutes.

Grampians Peaks Trail Master Plan

Key discussion points: Summary of consultation process and feedback. Around 90 responses. Major points of issue included: On Park Accommodation, Maintenance/management responsibility, environmental and cultural values.

Discussion: The Advisory Group believes it is critical that the issue of a fully resourced operation is investigated and recommended as a matter of priority, so the Park and PV isn’t left with a liability and therefore the reputation is damaged and the park resources drained. A world class Trail and infrastructure needs world class customer service and management/maintenance.

Question: When, who and how do the AG advocate and lobby for (PV to undertake) a business operations plan?

Action: We will write to Dr Bill Jackson and Minister Ryan Smith to emphasis the need for proper, objective and well researched operations plan for the trail.

Brush-Tail Rock Wallaby

Ryan Duffy provided a recap of the re-introduction program from start to now. Highlighted the purpose of the program, the key partners, the challenges and the realities of the recovery program to date.

Described the current dilemmas facing the program and sought a discussion about where to from here.

Fire Recovery

MacKenzie Falls precinct

  • Limited access to MacKenzie Falls should be achieved by the September 2014 school holidays
  • Kiosk and the house have been cleaned up, however there are still negotiations being had with the lessee about their future plans
  • Walk from Zumsteins to the base of the falls will be open around the same time.
  • The Powerline to the site will be reinstated by Powercor.

Zumsteins

  • The Pise` cottages at Zumsteins have been wrapped in plastic to protect them.
  • Burnt Radiata Pine at Zumsteins being removed this week.
  • Ornamental planting will be replanted upon removal of pines.
  • Heritage consultant engaged to formulate plan for Cottages future

Mt Stapylton/Hollow Mtn

  • Contractors are currently doing works at Summerday Valley and Stapylton.
  • Staplyton campground asbestos has been removed. The works will now be programmed to repair fire damage to the site

Environmental

  • Sallow wattle will need to be monitored in the fire affected ground.
  • Seedlings will need to be at least 12 months old before treating them.
  • Monitoring for small mammals in the fire affected ground.
  • With the rainfall and wind over the last week erosion control may be needed.

Advisory Group Report

We have a new Advisory Group. Advertisements asking for expressions of  interest went out in April, and the new members were appointed in early June for a three year term. The first meeting of the new group was held last week. There are five returning members, (Rex Beveridge, Kevin Bolwell, Margo Sietsma, Donald Carter, Gil Hopkins), and ten new members ( Bill Weatherly, Cecilia Myers,  Faith Hardiman,  Ray Zippel,  Deb Millard,  Dick Gill, Tracey Skinner,  Barry Clugston,  Lisa McIntyre, Malcolm Matheson). I remain convenor but will probably hand over to one of the new members well before the three years are up.

Much of that first meeting was taken up with introducing ourselves, defining the role of the AG, our terms of reference, how it relates to the Traditional Owner Reference Group currently being formed, and  to the Fires Roundtable. Dave gave us a snapshot of the park and how it sits in the Parks Victoria “empire” etc.  We had a good discussion of the Grampians Peaks Trail, and how it might impact on the park and decided to prepare a group response, which has now been sent. We also discussed the impact of the new camping fee structure, which the previous AG had had real concerns about and had passed those concerns on to PV management. And Dave flagged that the current management plan (dated 2003)  would be coming under review, probably later this year.

The new group is quite varied, a good representation of younger folk, good male/ female balance, quite a wide range of interests, and all quite passionate about how important the Grampians Park is.

Grampians National Park Update – Northern Grampians Fire Recovery June 2014

Considerable progress is being made towards the reopening of fire affected areas of the Grampians National Park. The Mt Zero Rd (North)  re-opened  for the June long weekend, providing visitor access along the north eastern boundary of the park.

The rehabilitation of dozer-lines created during the suppression (fire-fight) phase is now complete, along with the treatment of trees that presented a clear and immediate risk to park users and staff along park roads.  Trail crews are completing tree risk and soil stabilisation works along walking tracks affected by the fire. Major trail works are commencing in the Hollow Mountain and Stapylton Amphitheatre to improve climbing access.

The September school holidays is the next major milestone for a number of projects including;

  • The re-opening of MacKenzies Falls car park with access to the base of the falls (no kiosk facilities)
  • The re-opening of the Stapylton Amphitheatre climbing area from Mt Zero car park
  • The re-opening of the Hollow Mountain car park with limited climbing access in Summerday Valley climbing area.

ADVISORY GROUP REPORTS (2)

The Advisory Group has met twice. I’ll try to condense our discussions.

OCTOBER 14

  • We agreed that the Zumsteins heritage day was a great success, 400 attended and was a healing day for many of the locals.

   Environmental issues;

  • There are clear photos of a Quoll in the Rock Wallaby site, which is most exciting but raises some questions.

    • Halls Gap Zoo lost a quoll a few years ago and there are captive quolls near Dunkeld.

    • Quoll males can travel long distances. It could conceivably come from Mt Eccles.

    • Baiting program won’t change after Quoll sighting as they have demonstrated a dislike to Foxoff in previous studies. Also, we bury baits below 10cm which is best practice and space 1km apart which is greater than recommended in quoll country. Foxes compete for the same food resources and in East Gippsland healthy quoll populations coincide with low fox numbers.

  • Rock Wallaby health checks last week 1 female with pouch young.

  • Weeds in the Park and Reserves need to be a priority, particularly the South African Weed orchid.

  • Remote cameras are being used more in the Park.

  • A project has started to put Radio collars on cats and goats to find their ranges.

  • Culture & Heritage

  • Traditional Owners are coming to assess sites in the fire affected area from February 2013.12 new art sites have been found so far.

 Problems with Asbestos

  • Stapylton Campground closure continues due to Asbestos. A full site clean up will cost around $150,000 or more. PV will continue to investigate management options . Asbestos is also a problemat Strahans.

  • Advisory Group Future

  • This advisory group has come to the end of its term. Calls for expression of interest will come in early 2014 after some thought as to whether changes are needed.

  • Traditional Owner Reference Group:

  • Parks Victoria will progress the establishment of a Traditional Owner Reference Group to specifically engage and seek expertise from surrounding Interested communities.

 People and Parks Foundation

  • Margo and Dave to continue to explore whether we can set up a foundation to gain extra funding for our Park.

  • Grampians Peaks Trail

  • Hold up with the master plan with Parks Victoria.

  • Testing for new guidelines for development in Parks.

  • Master plan to consider the element of “On Park” Development” Guidelines.

  • 30th Anniversary of Park Declaration

  • AG in favour of doing celebration in Park, Borough Huts was where the Park was declared. Mid May 2014 a suggestion. Advisory group, Grampians Historical Society and FoGGs to be included in an organising committee.

 

DECEMBER 9

 

Major discussion topics.

 

  • The proposed changes to camping fees and methods of booking. Dave had sent us the information and after emailed discussions I had sent a response on behalf of the AG, which the meeting endorsed. Basically I said that while we liked the idea of online booking, so that people could tell if there was room at a campsite before arriving, we thought the massive increase in fees was unjustified and would cause many newproblems.

  • The Grampians Peak Trail Master Plan is almost complete and then the process of getting planning permits for the camping sites will start. It is planned to have pads for tents, a toilet and a 3 sided shelter at each site. We looked at possible sites near the corner of Silverband Rd and Rosea track, and recommended a site on the Wonderland side, which would have least impact on vegetation.

  • The restructure of PV staff has so far had little impact on our local Park, except that we will be getting two new fulltime staff in fire related positions.

  • We looked at the proposed new format for the next Advisory Group, and how it will relate to a proposed Traditional Owner reference Group and to the Round Table. We were happy and it now goes to senior management and then the expressions of interest for the next AG will be called.

 

 

 

 

ADVISORY GROUP REPORT June 2013

 

The group has met twice this year. The first meeting was a combined meeting with the Round Table, and the second was a stand alone meeting.

The meeting with the Round Table group on 9 April was interesting. I was there wearing two hats, substituting for Wendy as FOGG rep, and as Advisory Group convenor. Wendy was unable to attend, but has been keeping me up to date on what has been happening. The meeting specifically focused on the recent Victoria Valley Complex Fire which impacted on private property and National Park Estate. It looked at the fire, its impact, the response and recovery processes. It was also going to discuss the implications on our burning program which is of particular relevance to the Advisory Group, but ran out of time.

Attending the meeting were Graham Parkes and Russell Manning who were both Incident Controllers throughout the fire as well as Dave Roberts and Glenn Rudolph in operational roles. Some of the Round Table members had involvement in the fire as did a number of advisory group members

We had a lengthy discussion on the fire, and its frustratingly unusual behaviour, in that it started when the weather forecast was for low fire danger then spread so fast during the night. The stretched resources of PV and DSE were also a hindrance as firefighters had to be called back from the Mallee and Gippsland fires. Unfortunately we ran out of time to discuss the impact on the Park’s natural and cultural values or the wider implications. So it was good to have our regular AG meeting in April.

At the April meeting we started the very full day with discussing the Round Table Forum. The group felt that it had been an excellent idea to have us there, and should be continued.

We do not see the round table as a replacement for the AG, because of its focus purely on fire, and its uncertain future. We then had a closer look at the fire. DR showed us a map of fire severity. It showed just how hot some of the fire was, and also how last year’s Fuel Reduction Burn slowed the fire and achieved patchiness in some areas. A rapid assessment team has been and has produced a report which will be generally available shortly. This will go to the Department of Finance and request about $3m, but given the huge bill of all the fires in the state this year ($110m) we are unlikely to get that much. DPIE are running the recovery. There’s about $1/2 million damage to roads: 44 culverts and kilometres of damaged road from the heavy machinery, plus170 km of control line needing rehab …., plus damage to infrastructure at cultural sites etc.

Lessons learnt:

The value of a few sensitive burns, and the preparations which were made when it was planned to put a burn in some of the area. Not only the patchiness in the burnt areas, but some cultural sites were better protected. (There’s some ex-foliation at the Camp of the Emu’s Foot, and where arsenic treated pine was used, a specialised team will have to be used to remove it.)

FRB implications. 15,000ha of this fire were planned to be burned this autumn, and now obviously won’t be. But on the current way targets are interpreted, this is not subtracted from the district quota. Some of the group expressed their disappointment with the fact that FRB targets do not take into account wildfire. However this is not something the AG can change. Individuals should consider writing to their local members. (as I have subsequently done: see my letterbelow.)

We covered a lot of ground during the meeting and I’ll deal with the major points.

Flood Recovery Update (Andrew Roach):

Milestones, openings. In all 67 local roads and 12 walking tracks have been worked on, and most work is now complete or almost so. However at Zumsteins there have been frustrating delays. The painting of the bridges was poor and the contractors have to redo it. Paper work from Melbourne has been slow. A decision on a date for the official reopening will be made soon. (Now confirmed as 22 September)

Environment and Heritage Update (Ryan):

    1. BRTWs. The project is facing real challenges,with several more deaths.

    2. Foxes. There will be extra fox baiting in the fire affected areas. Next year it is planned to put gps collars on some foxes to track their movements.. Cats are also a concern, and it is hoped that there will be better control techniques soon.

    3. Bioscan. In addition to the youtube clips, a more comprehensive written report will be done. DVDs of the history interviews have been produced.

    4. Deer research. The student’s PhD on deer diet in different vegetation communities is complete and will be presented soon.

  1. Flood and Fire recovery Projects.

    1. Mammal trapping has recommenced and is extended . Four of the sites were affected by the fire, so having several years prefire data and getting in quickly post fire will be very valuable.

    2. There are three new research projects. One is on Smoky Mouse. The second is on birds, and follows on from the Bioscan. Recorders will be set up, able to identify the birds from their calls, and also a study of data from long term bird watchers. The third is on aquatic refuges.

    3. Volunteer Co-ordinator. Thanks to Katherine, a big impact has been made on the outlier sallow wattle infestations.

Staffing update (Dave Roberts)

The Volunteer Coordinator position has commitment from PV & CVA(Conservation Volunteers Australia) for another 12months. The AG group welcomed this news and confirmed our support for the position to continue and build. Parks Victoria still need to shed 100+/- positions. The impact will be non “front line staff” initially, via voluntary redundancies. However, inevitably there will be impacts to on ground capacity. The amalgamation of DSE and DPI has not altered the status of PV. Parks will not be absorbed into the new body.

Commercial development in the Park. The group was divided on whether this would help or hinder the park, which is so strapped for funds. But we all agreed that adherence to the guidelines and community consultation was essential, and that the AG should get early notice of proposals.

Finally,Dave informed us that the Grampians would star in the forthcoming series of The Biggest Loser. Participants would be filmed out exercising in the Park.

If anyone is interested in more details of any of these, do contact me.

Margo