Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby Update

Ryan Duffy
Team Leader, Cultural And Natural Values

Since November 2012, the Grampians rock-wallaby reintroduction has experienced its share of highs and lows. November  saw the largest single release of wallabies to date, with 17 animals being released at Moora Creek. This was part of a new strategy to introduce greater genetic diversity into the population which was anticipated to alleviate depressed breeding. This was certainly a high for the diverse partners involved in the Victorian Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby recovery team.

Soon after the release the program experienced a steady succession of mortalities. Wallabies are radio-tracked on a regular basis, mortalities are retrieved as quickly as possible in order to aid post mortem investigation. Few post mortems delivered conclusive results, however it appears fox predation is still one process threatening the reintroduced colony. This is despite Parks Victoria’s Grampians Ark fox baiting program delivering a Rolls Royce fox control program in proximity to the colony site.

The recent succession of mortalities has exceeded what was identified to be a manageable level of mortality for the reintroduced colony. As a result DEPI and the Victorian Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby Recovery Team decided to suspend further releases until a program review is complete in November 2013. We anticipate the review will look back over the past year to draw upon any learning’s and also look forward to determine if Moora Creek is still a suitable site and if the current strategy is likely to achieve its overall objective, to secure a second wild population of Victorian Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies.

Reintroduction programs are challenging and the highs and lows experienced since November 2012 echo this sentiment. Despite the challenges, although strategies may change our ultimate goal to secure Victorian populations of Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies remains clear.

Sharing The Dilemmas: How And When And What Should We Burn?

Glenn Rudolph DEPI

Glenn started by showing photos of the experimental burn they did in the Wannon heathland mid July this year, which Dave R has alluded to in his piece. This area has not been burnt since the 60’s and is a very valuable small mammal habitat. It would be disastrous to have a large fire go through it so they wanted to see how a winter burn would help break it up. They used only 3 matches to light it, no accelerants. They waited till a day when the temperature was below 15, and the fuel moisture level was 16% and lit it in the afternoon. There was much dead grass. Flame heights reached 2 to 3 m. By 5.45 the edges were starting to self extinguish, by 6pm only small pockets were still alight, by 10 pm it was completely out. It reached 8 ha and were very happy with the outcome. They did prefire camera monitoring, and will continue post fire , and used a Tasmanian expert on button grass fires to help the planning.

Glenn then started discussion on this year’s FOP.

Total burn targets – each of these includes about 1000ha of other methods of control eg slashing:

  • yr1: 24,500ha,
  • yr2: 27,000 ha,
  • yr3: 35,000ha.

Most of the work will be done in the Serra Range area. He showed us a map of one large  complex area with different needs, which will need different patterns of burning. There was a query why such a large area selected? Answer: because they want to make the control lines on existing tracks.

We discussed the dilemma of what and when to burn of the 2006 fire area, in the light of research on how the vegetation of different vegetation classes changes in time after a fire. If we do nothing, too much of the Park will be the same age, with no space for new plants to come in. He drew a rough graph of how it would look in 5 years, 10 years. So they would like to start burning up to 100ha of the 2006 burnt area each year, except for the mature trees. There was general agreement that this made sense. We would like to see some winter burning near the old growth areas to protect them. Someone  commented that before the Mt Stapylton fire over 30 years ago the moss beds on Flat Rock were 18 inches deep, and they are only now coming back.

There was a question about monitoring the spread of the African weed orchid as the burnt part of Rocklands had lots of it. Ryan admitted they hadn’t done anything as yet, and didn’t know what they could afford to do.

Protecting the gullies as John White says presents a real problem and dilemma. They are vital refuges, but in a wildfire they are also the chimney that takes a fire up to the top. The burnt wet gullies on the Victoria Range will take 30 years to recover.

There was much discussion of need to mosaic burn and aboriginal burning practices. Also for the desirability of unburnt patch areas for refuges against the desire to have the fire blacked out. Public outcry if a planned fire escapes eg Terrick Terrick.  Discussion of indigenous practices, more burns in winter, more small burns, how to resource, how to better work with CFA inside park especially with changing  management structures and shrinking resources in PV and DSE. There was some discussion of township protection. Halls Gap has a good level of treatment of fuels. Some thought that Laharum is a problem as it is largely the fuel on private properties that causes concern.

In general unofficial discussion after, I felt that many in DEPI and Parks agree the post Black Saturday burn targets are wrong, but they are trying to live with them in the hope they will be changed.

The FOP is on the website of DEPI, and you are encouraged to  make comments.

Cultural Heritage Post 2013 Fire

Suzi Coates (DEPI Ballarat, cultural issues)
Suzi is herself indigenous and has worked on several interesting projects.

There are 99 known Aboriginal cultural sites in the Grampians of which 69 are rock art. All are very vulnerable to fire, as are scar trees and quarries. Damage is caused by ash, smoke, heat. And not just the fire, also the clean up and subsequent erosion. Damage to the art work (heat flaking etc), the surrounding infrastructure, and the subsurface archaeological deposits. The damage may not be apparent to casual inspection, as the micro climate has effects.

The post fire team had 3 requirements: assess and conserve, repair and replace infrastructure, assess control lines prior to remediation works.

Teams have so far gone to 23 known sites and have found 3 new ones. More are likely to be found. The teams have consisted of people from four traditional owner groups and 3 agencies.

Preliminary learnings:

  • It takes time (at least 4 weeks) to get the right teams organised
  • the need to use experienced staff
  • the need for a formal debrief, feedback and evaluation mechanism for both successes and things needing improvement
  • heritage assessment is a priority early on.

It was lucky that there had been plans for a prescribed burn in the area, so work had gone into clearing vegetation from the sites, thus there was less defoliation of the rock as less heat close by.

It will be important to use the more open bush to look for sites and register them with AAV. A team is coming soon to register and reregister sites, both within and outside the burnt area.

Partnerships, both with natural values work and cultural heritage will be essential. Traditional owners and AAV. Rock art conservationists are rare and expensive.

There was quite a bit of discussion about how non-indigenous people can get involved in cultural heritage.  Rock climbers make discoveries, some pass them on, others keep quiet over fear of losing sites. But many are passionate about preserving the sites. Other members of the public are keen to help but don’t know how to. No definite answers, but at least the question has been raised.

CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF ZUMSTEINS – 22 SEPTEMBER 2013

 

The 100 Year celebration of Zumsteins will be held on Sunday 22 September 2013 at Zumsteins Picnic Ground in the Grampians National Park. The day will be also a celebration for the restoration works that has happened since the 2011 flood and storm event.

A small group have come together from the local community, the Horsham Historical Society, Wartook Tourism Association and Parks Victoria to plan for this special day. They would like to invite anybody who has enjoyed or has a strong association to the area, to come and celebrate this much-loved place created over one hundred years ago by Walter Zumstein. The celebrations begin at 10.30am with a number of speakers and displays bringing to life the many memories of the area, and of Walter Zumstein and his family. There will also be many activities such as a community bike ride from Rosebrook, a community picnic and children’s games. Restoration works from the 2011 storm and flood event at Zumsteins will be completed for this event. Visitors will see plenty of evidence of the site’s recovery both in the picnic area and in the surrounding environment.

 

Zumsteins memories, stories or photos can be emailed to  Rod Jenkinson  or call into the Historical Society rooms at 33 Pynsent Street on Tuesdays or Wednesdays between 1.30 and 4.30pm or phone Ron on 53822573 evenings.

 

 

FLOOD RECOVERY UPDATES

Fish Falls Walking Track Reopens for the June Long Weekend

In a significant milestone for the Grampians Flood Recovery Program, Parks Victoria advises that the MacKenzie River Walk between Zumsteins Picnic Area and Fish Falls has re-opened.

 This walk sustained extensive damage during the January 2011 floods that impacted the Grampians region. Works have been completed along the entire length of the track to reduce ongoing maintenance and improve the experience for visitors.  

 While the restoration of Zumsteins Picnic Area continues, visitors are advised to park in the car park at the western end of the picnic area and following the directional signs. These signs will guide visitors across the MacKenzie River, past the three Pise Cottages and along a new section of walking track before linking with the original MacKenzie River Walk.

 The section of walking track between Fish Falls and MacKenzie Falls will be open in late June 2013.

 The works on MacKenzie Falls walking track to the base has been completed and is now open for walkers.

Venus Baths and Wonderland Area

The Wonderland Loop Walk suffered significant damage from the January 2011 flood event that devastated the Grampians National Park,

Flood waters caused destruction along the entire length of the walk which has led to the lengthy recovery program. Two footbridges have been replaced, another footbridge has required extensive repairs, two large landslides have required the construction of new walking track alignments, and almost the entire length of the walking track has required repairs, ranging from complete realignments, to the reconstruction of stone staircases and retaining walls.

Eight contractors, a Landmate crew from the Ararat Prison, up to 25 locally employed staff and Parks Victoria staff have completed works on the loop walk across the recovery program. The stonework is really impressive. Parks are going to be working with the Halls Gap and Grampians Historical Association on new interpretative signs here and at Heatherlie Quarry.

The Mt Rosea walking track has also been re opened with a realignment in some areas, and new railings at the lookout. (actually not flood recovery, but as part of the Grampians Peak Trail).

FLOOD RECOVERY UPDATES

 

Fish Falls Walking Track Reopens for the June Long Weekend

In a significant milestone for the Grampians Flood Recovery Program, Parks Victoria advises that the MacKenzie River Walk between Zumsteins Picnic Area and Fish Falls has re-opened. This walk sustained extensive damage during the January 2011 floods that impacted the Grampians region. Works have been completed along the entire length of the track to reduce ongoing maintenance and improve the experience for visitors.

While the restoration of Zumsteins Picnic Area continues, visitors are advised to park in the car park at the western end of the picnic area and following the directional signs. These signs will guide visitors across the MacKenzie River, past the three Pise Cottages and along a new section of walking track before linking with the original MacKenzie River Walk.

The section of walking track between Fish Falls and MacKenzie Falls will be open in late June 2013. The works on MacKenzie Falls walking track to the base has been completed and is now open for walkers.

 Venus Baths and Wonderland Area

 The Wonderland Loop Walk suffered significant damage from the January 2011 flood event that devastated the Grampians National Park, Flood waters caused destruction along the entire length of the walk which has led to the lengthy recovery program. Two footbridges have been replaced, another footbridge has required extensive repairs, two large landslides have required the construction of new walking track alignments, and almost the entire length of the walking track has required repairs, ranging from complete realignments, to the reconstruction of stone staircases and retaining walls.

Eight contractors, a Landmate crew from the Ararat Prison, up to 25 locally employed staff and Parks Victoria staff have completed works on the loop walk across the recovery program. The stonework is really impressive. Parks are going to be working with the Halls Gap and Grampians Historical Association on new interpretative signs here and at Heatherlie Quarry.

The Mt Rosea walking track has also been re opened with a realignment in some areas, and new railings at the lookout. (actually not flood recovery, but as part of the Grampians Peak Trail).

 

From our Ranger in Charge – Dave Roberts June 2013

 The months keep rolling by and our Park keeps us busy working through a myriads of Projects. It is with great satisfaction that our team starts to wind up the Flood Program and unveil the countless days, weeks and months of effort that has gone into the reinstatement and reconstruction of the Park’s assets. We look forward with anticipation to your feedback on the new designs, materials and final outcomes which have been built with a long term view in mind. This work has been lead by Andrew Roach and Kyle Hewitt who have ensured that presentation and sustainability has driven the decision making around any assets being reinstated. Huge credit goes to these 2 individuals and also the local walking track crews who have evolved and crafted their skills over the past 2 years to really be high quality track construction specialists. It is a sad thing to see them finish up on June 30 as there is always more work.

 

The Flood program has yielded some great outcomes for our environmental and cultural values in the park via a range of research and assessment projects. Possibly the most rewarding project we have initiated has been the engagement with Traditional Owners to come out on Country and get involved in protection works around important Cultural Sites in the Park. Parks Victoria has worked hard with our Traditional Owners to ensure all have access to employment opportunities as part of the recovery effort. It was great to have these important members of Gariwerd’s community active and engaged capably lead by Jake Goodes and Suzie Deason.

 

Environmentally our focus has been on measuring and assessing the impacts on our critical park values. Understanding Aquatic values, refugia, location and extent of Citrid and Cinnamon fungus, small Mammal Response to seasonal events and funding initiatives such as the incredibly important Museum Victoria Bioscan has been a huge undertaking in the past 2 years. The reward of these endeavours are longer term as we continue to learn about the park and adapt our management regimes accordingly. Knowledge is the key and as we all know, the moment you stop is the moment you should probably give up. This team has been ably lead by Ryan Duffy and Jacinta Williamson. Their commitment to getting the best outcomes has been faultless.

 

The theme of this update is really around the fact that all recovery requires an effort from a lot of people and the entire Grampians Team whether directly employed on Flood Projects or continuing on with normal business, have gone above and beyond due to the passion and commitment for this place and this community. The effort should be and will be acknowledged not through formal occasions or ceremony, but more importantly by the fact locals and people visiting our Park will be able to access fantastic features, on high quality infrastructure while continually learning more and more about what this park is and what it means to people. It really is easy being the Ranger in Charge of such an important Landscape and team when the people around you make it so rewarding.