My name is Hannah Auld and I am the Community Engagement Ranger with Parks Victoria in Halls Gap. A similar role was previously filled by Caity O’Reilly whom you may have been in contact with regarding volunteer projects. This role will be very similar to Caity’s where I will be assisting the team to plan School programs (including school talks and stewardship sessions), Local school VCAL and Outdoor- Ed program sessions and working on programs such as the Sherpa/TrailRider, Community Volunteer groups and projects including FOGGS, 4WD Clubs, Bushwalking clubs and ensuring ParkConnect is a highly functioning tool. I‘d like to touch base with you and your volunteers as I believe we can help each other with future volunteer projects!
A little bit about me – I’ve recently moved back to Halls Gap after a couple of months working for Parks in Melbourne as their Volunteer Officer. However, before that I spent seven months in the Grampians as the 2017/18 Seasonal Ranger, so I feel very lucky and privileged to be welcomed back into the team. I have a wide variety of knowledge from studying Sustainable Tourism for two years and I’ve also completed my Bachelor of Environmental Science. I have a passion for the protection of the natural environment and want to share that with the wider Grampians community. I myself volunteered all through my university studies and therefore have a particular understanding and appreciation of the hard work invested by individuals and organisations alike and the invaluable impact you have on our parks. Which is why during this role I will do my best to support your projects within the park as much as I can.
Part of my role in Melbourne was to guide rangers and volunteer groups though the ParkConnect transition period. If you are familiar with this system you will understand that it provides a collaborative way to record volunteer activities and openly communicate with rangers. Over the next few weeks I will be running sessions to help you learn how to record your volunteer activities within ParkConnect, it will also give us the chance to have a cuppa and a chat about the future for your volunteer group.
Previously working within the park, I believe I can hit the ground running, so please feel free to call me if you have any questions about activities you have coming up as I’d love to help where I can.
Note from editor: see also the news about DELWP’s support for volunteer groups here.
I am excited and honoured to be taking up the position of Area Chief Ranger Grampians. I grew up in Great Western and as a child spent many days in Halls Gap and walking in the Grampians. Whilst studying at university I worked in the holidays serving ice cream from Pip Mangle’s Ice creamery. I started my real work as an information officer in the old parks interpretive centre. So I remember the tourists and the range of questions but there certainly are more people in the Grampians now. I spent the next 20 years working for Parks Victoria in central Victoria and along the Murray River. A favourite park that I was lucky to look after was Kooyoora State Park which is where my affinity with working with traditional owners began and I am so pleased to see the Dja Dja Wurung people heavily involved in park management of this area. During this time I was involved across the state in many fire campaigns and bring a wealth of experience with me to the Grampians.
In 2008 my family moved to Laharum to farm and I worked in the Grampians for the next few years in the fire and emergency management area, in particular with Jill Read on the fire ecology strategy for the Grampians and Little Desert. In 2011 I accepted a position with Horsham Rural City Council working with Yarrimabiack, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera Shire Councils to develop the Wimmera Emergency Management Resource Sharing Project. During the Northern Grampians Complex fire I was the recovery manager. For the last three years I held the position of Manager Recreation and Sustainability for Horsham Rural City Council, which included overseeing the major projects such as the Horsham Town Hall, Wimmera Sports Stadium Feasibility Study and the Kalkee Road Children’s Hub.
My family (Gus, Sophie and James) and I are very excited about this role and with their full support and belief in me I look forward to caring for this amazing landscape.
It’s been an honour and a privilege to have worked in the Grampians National Park over the past 8 years and with Parks Victoria for over 18. The things I’ve learnt, from the people I’ve met have been brilliant and humbling. Your collective experiences, story-telling, observations and perspectives have ensured that the Grampians Gariwerd landscape is conserved and managed for the future and for the right reasons. Like with all things good, it is often about the people you come across. Just like the Grampians communities, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked alongside and lead an amazing team of people who tirelessly put everything into keeping this place as good as it can be – often under the radar. The Grampians Team have been so generous to me through really challenging times, and are a true example of what being resilient is all about. Through fires, floods, pestilence and the aftermath, these professionals just keep turning up and starting again. Their hearts are in the job and they are invested in the mountains. You have been and will continue to be well served by these fantastic servants.
My next chapter is with DELWP in the Otways, where I’ll buy a new pair of Gum Boots and survey the scenes from a different perspective. But these mountains are magnetic, and I’ll be drawn back to the long views and the glowing escarpments. I look forward to returning as a visitor and look back fondly on all that I was able to achieve with my team of committed people.
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.
It has been a busy summer holiday period in Grampians National Park. According to the latest figures the Halls Gap area saw a 1774% increase in population – from 316 permanent residents to a peak of 5500 people! This was the largest percentage increase across the state of Victoria and evident by the sheer volume of people visiting the national park.
However, the impact on the park has been both positive and negative. It is fantastic seeing so many people out enjoying this landscape, however disappointingly we have noticed an increasing number of people failing to take responsibility for their own rubbish. Please help spread the message of taking your rubbish with you. The photo below was taken by one of our rangers at Silverband Falls Carpark.
STAFF MOVEMENTS: After 3 years in the Grampians as a Volunteer Coordinator and Project Firefighter, Caity O’Reilly has accepted a new marine focused role with Parks Victoria at Queenscliff. Caity will be greatly missed and we wish her all the best in her new position.
Ian Hanson has returned to the team as acting Ranger Team Leader for Park Operations. With over 10 years of experience in the park, Ian will help guide the team responsible for roads and visitor site infrastructure and maintenance.
In the middle of this month we will also see the addition of Jessica Sharp as Grampians Ark Coordinator. Jessica will bring a wealth of knowledge and skills to the role of protecting native small mammals and managing introduced predators.
FIRE AND EMERGENCY: The F&E team have spent the last month completing a range of activities and works. They have responded to several fires, including a large plantation fire at Mooralla on the western side of the park. The team also played a key role in the successful search and rescue operation for missing bushwalker Julio ‘Lester’ Ascui. Looking forward, the team will continue to work on maintaining access to waterpoints and clearing strategic firelines.
This season be sure to keep an eye out for the team in the new Mercedes Unimog fire tanker. This tanker provides increased capability on the fireline and significant improvements in firefighter protection.
ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE: The E&H team have been busy with several projects. These have included deploying fox and feral cat remote sensor monitoring cameras throughout the park, searching for new Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby release locations, clearing of vegetation regrowth impacting significant rock art sites, successful funding bids for goat and deer control programs in Autumn, and working with the Catchment Management Authorities on National Landcare phase 2 grants for Sallow Wattle and feral animals.
2016 FLOOD RECOVERY: Key recent works have seen Redman Road reopened. See our weekly road report for further detail on what is open and closed in the national park.
2014 FIRE RECOVERY: At Zumsteins the roof on the middle cottage has been replaced and expert stone masons have completed restoration works to the walls. Contractors are continuing to develop new interpretive signage for the area.
VISITORS AND COMMUNITY: The V&C team have been making the most of the increase in visitors. With two enthusiastic seasonal rangers on board, the team has facilitated four Ranger guided walks, five Junior Ranger kid’s activities and a series of information “pop-up’s” at Mackenzie Falls, Wonderland Carpark and Halls Gap Visitor Information Centre to help visitors better prepare for their visit, provide park specific information and promote the Survive the Heat campaign.
The Grampians Peaks Trail (GPT) continues to evolve and take shape. Contractors have completed work on over 1.5km of steel walkway on the remote Major Mitchell Plateau. This was achieved in challenging conditions over a winter that involved rain, hail and snow.
As a result, First Wannon Hiker Camp has reopened, however access is only from Mt William or Mafeking. The walking track between Stockyard Saddle and Jimmy Creek Campground remains closed for extensive stonework.
Works on Chatauqua Peak remain on track for completion by the end of March. Visitors are reminded that Chatuaqua Peak remains open via the Bullaces Glen Walking Track.
The Victorian Government has indicated it will officially move to declare cats as pest animals on public land in mid-2018 paving the way for feral cat control.
The important next step will involve community engagement to consult on the types of control techniques that will be allowed. Being able to complement large-scale fox 1080 poison baiting with large-scale cat poison baiting could be the next evolution of the Grampians Ark project. Data is indicating that aerial baiting for feral cats is extremely effective during the colder, winter months when natural food resources are scarce and feral cats are under a higher metabolic requirement, thus, less fussy and more willing to eat a bait. It is the type of sophisticated “once-per-year” program the Grampians could deliver, complementing the long-term fox poison baiting efforts.
The Western Quoll reintroduction project in the Flinders Ranges continues to get excellent results – feral cat numbers remain low as a result of large-scale cat baiting and control strategies and quolls are breeding. Imagine if we could return Eastern Quolls, Spot tailed Quolls, Eastern Barred Bandicoots, Eastern Bettongs and more rock-wallabies to the Grampians!
Ranger Tammy Schoo has sent us a detailed Grampians National Park Community Update and we have more from other staff. Thank you Tammy, Mike and Tracey. Our readers from afar really appreciate learning more about our great Park from those who work in it.
Update from Tammy:
With winter officially over and Spring (or Petyan) finally here, the Grampians National Park is starting to put on its annual wildflower show. Here’s a few finds from the Northern Grampians recently.
Works were recently completed on the Stapylton and Asses Ears Flood Recovery Packages. Cultural heritage inspections and preservation works have been an important part of the process. After final inspections and gate removals, Asses Ears, along with a number of other roads in the north, will open mid-September.
This means that the only roads that will remain closed (pending further culvert and crossing works) are Redman and Mitchell roads and the annual seasonal closures (until Nov long weekend). Four Wheel Drive Victoria and local 4×4 clubs will be assisting with track clearing prior to these seasonal tracks reopening.
The Zumsteins cottage interpretation project is in progress with consultants undertaking background research to gather themes and local stories. Contractors removed a small amount of asbestos from the site which means repair and conservation works will start on ground at the beginning of October.
The Sallow Wattle management program continues in the northern Grampians with the assistance of contractors and volunteer school groups. We’ve seen a fantastic recovery of the Large Leaf Ray Flower in areas where the wattle has been removed.
Environment and Heritage Team
Heathland ‘small patch’ mosaic burning has continued along the Wannon River in the Southern Grampians this winter. Deakin University students are using images captured from the ‘supergrid’ of 170 cameras to monitor habitat and predators of the Long Nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot. It is hoped that over time the mosaic of small burns of varying age classes will support healthy populations that are protected from the impacts of fire in what is a very fiery landscape.
Parks Victoria, Monash University researchers and Traditional Owners met recently to establish a project to undertake a ‘palaeo-environmental’ reconstruction of vegetation and fire history of the Grampians landscape. This research will help inform bushfire history and human use of fire in the Grampians landscape.
Grampians Peaks Trail (GPT)
Spare a thought for the contractors who have been working in freezing conditions on the Major Mitchell Plateau recently. Battling through rain, sleet, sub-zero temperatures and snow falls, the team has moved over one kilometre of locally made steel boardwalk panels and other materials ready for installation over the coming months, as well as completing a huge amount of stone work.
Stage two track upgrades continue at Mt Sturgeon and Lake Wartook and further track upgrades will begin in Spring on the Flat Rock section to the Mt. Staplyton Summit, Mt Difficult Eastern escarpment, Chatauqua Peak near Halls Gap and Mt Abrupt track at Dunkeld.
Parks staff have been working with Gariwerd Traditional Owners to complete cultural heritage assessments along the GPT trail. These assessments have been searching for artefacts and scatter sites along with testing for pathogen spread of Phytophthora cinnamomi.
SPRING SCHOOL HOLIDAY PROGRAM
September is Biodiversity month – come join Park Rangers for some fun and educational Citizen Science activities in the Grampians National Park.
These holidays, Parks Victoria is running ‘BioQuests’ throughout our parks. For gamers that like nature, this activity is for you! Download ‘Questagame’ onto a smartphone, create an identity, join the Parks Victoria Junior Ranger Clan, grab your ’supplies’ and you’ll be on your way… searching for cool plants and animals. Go head to head with park rangers to find the most species in your area and go in the running to win all sorts of cool prizes!!
Did you know the Grampians National Park has its very own Earthwatch Institute Climate Watch Trail? As a citizen scientist you can help us monitor our local species, and the climate over time. The Venus Baths ClimateWatch Trail begins at the Halls Gap Botanic Gardens and makes its way along the Northern side of Stony Creek to Venus Baths. Prior to beginning the walk, visitors are encouraged to download the ClimateWatch app or print off a recording sheet. While on the walk visitors can record the species they see in the app or on the recording sheet. If using the app, the data can be submitted in real-time, and if using the paper-based recording sheet the data can be submitted after your walk on the ClimateWatch website.
Getting out in nature is good for body mind and soul…Recently, in partnership with the Wimmera Regional Sports Authority, Friends of Grampians Gariwerd and Grampians Walking Track Support Group we reproduced the “Grampians All Abilities Walking Guide”. This time round, we have included detailed information on the all-terrain TrailRider and Volunteer Sherpa program in the park; there’s really clear maps and grade descriptions for a variety of accessible walking tracks, including those for prams.
Purchase your copy at Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre or download a digital version from our website. Grampians Peak Trail
In her article Tammy said “Spare a thought for the contractors”. Tracey has sent us some photos which show just what it has been like.
The Grampians National Park’s winter heathland burning program aims to provide small patches of diverse, new habitat for some of the parks most threatened small mammals whilst leaving large areas of long unburnt habitat that are important refuges from predators. This program targets heathlands throughout the park with a particular focus on areas of long unburnt heath.
Capitalising on clear, calm and dry winter weather days, for the past five years the Grampians team have been burning small patches bordering the Wannon River stretching from Yarram Gap Road to Lynches Crossing Track. The team is working to provide a mosaic of habitat for the nationally threatened long nosed potoroo and southern brown bandicoot. Using only matches to ignite the fiery grasses, in August this year the team burnt a total of five patches covering 18Ha of the 900ha burn unit; the largest being 11ha and the smallest 1ha.
To complement the burning program, a research partnership has been established with Deakin University to camera monitor small mammal populations, foxes and feral cats. One hundred and seventy camera stations have been set up 400m apart and is colloquially known as the Wannon River “supa-grid” for pre and post-burn monitoring. Deakin have recently completed the second year of monitoring and we are eagerly waiting to receive the results – standby!
FOGGS have a policy of financially supporting students doing research in the Park, and of inviting them to share their knowledge with us and the public. It is so good that this kind of longitudinal study is happening, and that such a good partnership is in place between our rangers and the Universities.
David Roberts, Area Chief Ranger, Grampians Gariwerd
We would like to publicly acknowledge the contribution of Ryan Duffy, outgoing Ranger Team Leader Environment & Heritage, as he moves to NSW Parks & Wildlife to take on a new career challenge. Ryan has been a strong member of the Grampians Parks Victoria Team for 7years, and has played a stable and level headed role during times of change. Of note, the Bioscan in 2012, the ongoing commitment to the Brushtail Rock wallabies, the refinement of the Grampians Ark, the initiation of Sallow Wattle control and the relationships established and progressed with research institutions has been outstanding.
Of most significance however, has been Ryan’s dedication to the area of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage. Previously a minor part of the program, Ryan has grown the knowledge and effort of Rockart management and Traditional Owner engagement to a point where we are now actively conserving, cataloguing and evolving our knowledge of management techniques around cultural site management in Gariwerd. Thank you Ryan.
In other Grampians News,
Works are progressing on the stabilisation and conservation of the Zumsteins Pise cottages post the 2014 fires following the receipt of a permit from Heritage Victoria on the 17 January 2017.
Recent media about the rock wallaby colony has been pleasing as we celebrate some small successes, while highlighting the overall challenges of the program
The production of an accessibility guide for the Grampians National Park is nearing completion which will aid people with mobility issues, wheelchairs, prams/pushers and specialist equipment like the Trailrider. Keep any eye out for it over the coming months.
“I recently accepted a job with NSW Parks and Wildlife to assist with a threatened species reintroduction project – http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/SavingOurSpecies/extinct.htm. Not only is the job pretty cool, my wife (May) and I have chosen to move near a larger population centre (Halls Gap is pretty small for a lady from Bangkok) and closer to my parents and sister. We will be moving to Coffs Harbour.
My last workday at PV will be the 24th March. I will be leaving PV with a heavy heart as I have really enjoyed working on some amazing projects, with amazing partners, in an amazing landscape. Highlights include seeing recent rock-wallaby pouch young persisting to adulthood, working with Ben Gunn and ranger Jake Goodes to record 36 new rock-art sites that have been re-discovered in the last 5 years, detecting a quoll on remote camera. In all honesty the greatest highlight has been to work alongside the awesome Parks Victoria crew and volunteers who help us manage this amazing landscape.”
Ryan, we in FOGGS will miss you greatly and wish you and May well as you leave us for Coffs Harbour. We have greatly appreciated the way you have encouraged co-operation with Universities so that learning about the natural values of our Park is so much more available than it used to be. And as Dave has said, it has been so good to see your work with Jake and our member Ben Gunn on our cultural heritage.