Advisory Group /Round Table Meeting – April 19

Neither Wendy or I, the usual reps from FOGGS, were able to be present but Ben Gunn and David Steane were able to take our places.

These are the official minutes, I’m sure Ben or David will be happy to fill you in.



Ecological Asset Discussion – David Roberts

Fire Ecology Strategy 2011/2012

What are the assets in the Grampians National Park?

  • Water Storage
  • Tourism visitation/economic
  • Cultural Heritage – European inc Pre Settlement, National Heritage Register, Aboriginal
  • Biodiversity – Threatened Species & communities, Diversity – flora, fauna, species, Iconic Species – Western Grey, Brush tail Rock Wallaby, small mammals etc.
  • Apiary Assets, species diversity, timing
  • Comments

Need to manage the park for its complexity and diversity – No single species driving the burn program in the Grampians National Park (GNP), not single purpose management

Protection/treatment/management of non-native species including, setting priorities & competing priorities. (Fellow & Red Deer, Fox, Cat, Sallow Wattle, goats)

Small Mammals and their response to Fire – John White

Note – Danielle will circulate the presentation

  • 10 year project, one of the very few long term research programs in Australia
  • Climate Changes needs to be factored into fire planning
  • 36 sites in the Park, 2 remain unaffected by fire
  • Takes 3 months every year to check sites

Grampians National park, quite unique as a drought, Fire and Flood all happened in a short period of time.

Boom and Bust Patterns

So much more…

Re-cap and Group Discussion – Glenn Rudolph

  • There is a need for research to inform decisions – Documenting/Research into local stories and local beliefs (lightening example)
  • Needs to be a balance between research and practice knowledge
  • Using fire as a management tool, from a cultural burning perspective, linking Traditional Owners into the planning
  • Raising people’s awareness into what ‘we’ are doing including outcomes of research in the park and ‘good news’ stories. How?
  • Asset Based approach
  • The need for different age classes in the vegetation communities
  • Does it all have to be fire management, are there other alternatives?
  • Need to monitor what we are doing and what affects it is having and using this to build trust of the planning
  • Empowering the operational staff to deliver
  • Private bush, shared responsibility and challenges.

March Committee Meeting Report

 

Financial report

Currently we have a balance of $13,811.26. Of that $4250.00 is  for the ‘All Abilities  Walking Track’ booklet (see elsewhere) and $1306.65 is money from Friends of Zumsteins which also is already spoken for. (see below).
 

Flora books for Grampians

Steffen Schultz is working on a Grampians Flora Book. He will let Wendy know what plants he still needs to photograph over the next 12 months and ask FOGG and others to let him know so he can go and photograph them.

Ian McCann’s book – In view of the fact that Steffen is working on a book and no one on the committee currently has time to organise the reprinting of Ian’s book this is not being acted on at this stage.
 

What to do with the money we received from Friends of Zumsteins

(Received in 2010/2011 financial year.) In September 2011 we had decided to use the money for interpretive signage or some other distinctive use at Zumsteins. With the floods and the fire we never got round to finalising spending this money. It was suggested we look into erecting a board which has either birds, flowers or fungi of the area. However this has not been able to be done and seeing there is nowhere to sit and rest along the Fish Falls walk we now plan to put a seat along the track dedicated to the friends of Zumsteins.
 

Name Badges

Wendy showed us several business card designs. We chose one and will proceed to have them printed.
 

New sign board

It was decided to go with a double sided rectangle or feather style flag and organise some sort of weights for the base so it does not blow over.
 

Artist’s Pictures Donation

Artist John Kellett contacted our Ranger in charge Dave wanting to donate a large set of limited edition prints to support work in the Park and Dave suggested giving them to us. We are very grateful, but as we have limited opportunity to display them we are going to share them with the Walking Track Support Group who can sell them more easily at stalls in Halls Gap.

FOGGs will keep some to either sell or have as speaker gifts. The rest we will let the walking track support group sell to raise funds which will go directly into walking track works. We will advertise them on Facebook and in our Newsletter for Sale in case any of our members want to buy them. A price of around $80 was suggested.
 

Personal Locator Beacons for Hire

Some Parks staff have proposed the idea of FOGGs purchasing GPS units to hire out to the public possibly through  Brambuk. The hire fee would recoup the costs and could earn FOGGs some money. We need to think this through before making a decision.
 

Working with children checks

Margo has received her working with children check and has lodged a copy for FOGGs. Rodney also has one, but needs to add FOGGs.
 

All Abilities Walking Track Book

The new booklet is almost ready. Margo responded to the draft Matt sent out and he is taking our feedback into consideration.
 

Roundtable meeting

The next meeting was to be held on 15th March but it has been postponed to April 19 in order to organise speakers. The organisers are ‘aiming to gather local researchers to come in and update the group on local flora and fauna studies, particular in fire affected areas and how this may influence our future planning strategies.’

Advisory Group – Oct 2016 and Nov 2016

The AG has met twice since our last newsletter.

20 October

Well, not really an AG meeting, but we were part of the annual fire conference. The main theme of the presentations was the ten years since the Mt Lubra fire: what had been learnt, what was different now, new challenges. Then we went out to look at some of the challenges surrounding the current fire plan. Some of the same material was presented at the Roundtable meeting that Wendy reports on in this newsletter, so I’ll try to be brief.

Police Superintendent Paul Margetts, who was stationed in Halls Gap in 2006 but has since been promoted to a senior position in Horsham, gave us a most appropriate quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also unique for their apparent disinclination to do so.”, but then proceeded to show how some things have indeed been learnt from both our fires and those in other locations.

Dave Roberts then gave us his Top Ten observations:

  1. The increase in large landscape size fires: from a previous history of an average of once in 35 years, to 3 here in the last 10 years; Why? Climate? Fire regimes? Other? Where are we heading?
  2.  A new emphasis on community engagement: AG, Round Table, motto of Safer Together.
  3. More use of Risk Analysis tools.
  4. But also higher levels of risk: more people, more often, in more areas of the Park and closeby.
  5. I’ve mislaid!
  6. I’ve mislaid!
  7. Incident management is a profession now, with its own team within Parks.
  8. The Park is a huge economic driver for the region ($430 million annually). When it shuts down it hurts.
  9. The resilience of both the environment and the communities living here.
  10. New technologies coming in: smart phones, drones and more.

After lunch we inspected a private property where the owners have agreed to have it burnt as part of a wider planned burn near Pomonal. Then we drove to Lake Bellfield to have a look at the same burn plan from the other side. It’s desirable to break up the regenerating forest (burnt in 2006), to get a patchy age distribution and slow down any wildfire. But that’s not easy, especially so close to popular tourist areas. See Wendy’s Round Table article for more on this challenge.

November 8

Saw our final meeting for the year and it was a field trip. First to Mckenzie Falls to discuss options for parking within the limits of available funds. There is no intention at the moment to rebuild the house or the kiosk. Having a mobile coffee van seems to be working well. The parking plan is to move it further uphill leaving an open green area near the river.

Then we went to inspect where the Peaks Trail will travel along the escarpment approaching the Boroka Lookout area. Very close to the proposed track they have come across an unrecorded art site. We agreed that the site was too vulnerable and the track would have to be rerouted. (photo).

Our final stop had us again looking at the area near Halls Gap planned to be burnt in stages. Dave informed us that weatherwise, it would be best to burn at Easter, but for some reason that isn’t their planned date!

Margo

Round Table Report – Nov 2016

The last Roundtable meeting for the year was held on 30th November and its focus was the upcoming planned burns.

There are several strategic burns planned to manage fuel loads and reduce bushfire risk for the Halls Gap community. In order to carry out these burns there will be a significant impact on the tourist industry and residents of Halls Gap.

There are a number of fires planned to be carried out over a couple of years and done in a way to give a patchwork effect on the bush and at the same time reduce the overall fuel loads. There was a lot of discussion on the lack of real time information on planned burns and how the lack of warning can impact on tourist operators. There needs to be a better way of getting information out to those in the tourist industry as well as the public. A school camp operator pointed out that it is very difficult to change plans for a hike for fifty students with no notice. More notice is required for tourist operators to be able to change planned activities and there is a need to be given alternative areas to visit. This could be an opportunity to promote alternative areas in the Park.

Another suggestion was that the perceived ugliness of burnt areas could be an opportunity and how can we engage visitors to sites after fires to educate them and change the way people see the results of burns. Interpretive signs could be erected after burns to indicate when an area has been burnt. Planned burns could be an opportunity for Incident Management  training and any traffic management points could be used to disseminate information on the burn.

It was felt there is a need to use a range of techniques to communicate information, including social media and face to face opportunities for the public. An update on the planned burn program and progression from discussions of this meeting will be the agenda items for the next meeting which is scheduled for February.

Round Table Report

Nothing to report this time. Wendy was away for the last roundtable meeting and we did not have a representative. If there is any member who would be interested in attending these meetings as the FOGGs rep could they please let Rodney or Wendy know as we feel it would be good to keep our presence at these meetings, there are only 2 to 3 a year as well as the annual fire conference.

This years ‘Fire conference’ is being held at the Pomonal Hall on Thursday 20th October, the themes are ‘Ten years on from the Mt Lubra Bushfire’, ‘Safer together – A new approach’ and ‘Cross tenure Fuel management’. The day usually runs from around 9.30 am to 3 pm with a catered lunch. For further information and to RSVP contact Danielle Leehane at   Any FOGG member interested in attending this day should contact Danielle direct.

Advisory Group

The group met on 29th August with once again a full agenda.

Fire Operations Plan – 2016 – 2019 and Safer Together introduction

 Glenn Rudolph of DELWP explained to us the philosophy of Risk Landscapes: using the best science and knowledge to think about fire risks in a changing environment due to climate change and other factors. The need to balance so many variables eg the minimum fire intervals different species need. The vital need to have and keep some really old unburnt areas, but to protect them you need to prevent fire occurring there or spreading in from elsewhere. Glenn demonstrated the way the computer modelling works by showing us various different ways a burn at Cassidy’s Gap would behave in conditions similar to Black Saturday if there were no preparatory control burns, and then with the recent burn having taken place. Then a similar exercise for a fire in the Ararat Hills, so much closer to homes.

We were given a pamphlet on Safer Together: A new approach to reducing the risk of bushfire in Victoria, which sets a whole-of-sector policy for bushfire management. It combines stronger community partnerships with the latest science and information to more effectively target our actions to reduce bushfire risk. It  is available from the internet: www.delwp.vic.gov.au/safertogether

I asked Glenn about the contentious issue of spring burns. His response was that, although they do affect the new growth of species such as orchids, and newly born birds and animals, with our weather conditions and the need to protect the Park from huge fires they are necessary. He added that burns at any time of the year have some damaging effects, and that a variety of timings could be beneficial. This echoed something I remember Kevin Tollhurst saying at a seminar some years ago.

Fire Recovery – Grazer Management

  • Deer Mgmt
  • Goat Mgmt

Next Mike Stevens spoke to us about the damage being caused by excessive grazing, particularly in the area burnt so severely in 2014. Damage to the floristic diversity, to the fauna diversity, the whole structural complexity, plus the damage being done by goats to some cultural sites. The culprits are both introduced and native animals, but until the numbers of goat, deer and rabbits are substantially reduced there will not be resources available for the problem of too many macropods. For rabbits the only affordable solution will be some sort of biological control. But how to deal with the deer and the goats?

Mike has spent a heap of time working on this, following up references, talking to researchers etc.

Just a couple of examples: studies showing that in what should be an open herb-rich woodland, it is now dominated by wattle and tea-tree. In another area prostrate heath species are dominating what should be a floristically diverse herb rich ground layer.

Next he showed a slide showing the alarming growth in the number of goats in the park. The population is now estimated to be 460+, that is 1.67 goats per sq km.

So what do we need to do?

  • Control red deer in high priority herb-rich woodland areas.
  • Feral goat control using live GPS tracking in remote arduous terrain to protect rocky knoll ecosystems and rock art sites.
  • Zero tolerance, opportunistic control of Fallow and samba deer to prevent population establishment.
  • Large scale biocontrol of rabbits in priority herb rich woodlands.

What can be done and how?

Goats are reasonably simple: Judas GPS and partnerships. Six three-week shooting sessions over the next two years, with a review in June 2018.

But what can be done about deer? At Wilson’s Promontory they recently did a successful trial of closing the park to visitors and then used a small group of well trained, tested and approved volunteer shooters to kill the deer under stringent conditions: no photos, no social media, no trophies. Is that possible to do here? Much more difficult, but what else could work?

After these two quite lengthy presentations and discussions we moved fairly briefly on to other topics.

Native Title Claim   Three traditional owner groups are working together for a combined claim over Gariwerd. This has any number of possibilities including a management partnership with Parks Victoria across the National Park. More information next time.

Grampians Peaks Trail   The team are busy with doing the environmental and cultural heritage assessment of the trail, including looking at the best route near the Wannon because of the presence of potoroos and Bandicoots.  They are evaluating the design of the Bugiga campsite, to learn lessons for creating further campsites. Talks have started on who pays for maintenance of the track once it’s built.

Cultural Heritage:     There will be two weeks of work removing graffiti and moss from art sites during October. Four new art sites have been found, one of them very special.

Zumsteins Update:    Work is proceeding on protecting the central cottage from the weather and restoring the less damaged ones.

McKenzie Falls precinct:     A sub committee was formed to look into plans for this area.

As you can see a very full meeting. Our next one is November 8. Don’t forget if you have something you would like me to bring to the attention of the group, do let me know.

Meeting at Parks Office with Parks Representatives – 24/06/16

Rod Thompson

On the last Friday in June 2016, FOGG’s members had their annual catch up with Park Management. It was attended by 8 members and 3 rangers, Dave Roberts, Tammy and Ryan.

We were given a basic rundown of the structure of the management of the park, consisting of 2 teams. A park management team which includes Tammy, Ryan, Mark who have all been involved with FOGGs and our activities over the course of the last year. The park team has a total of 14 people under Dave himself. This is complemented by a Fire Management team of 13 staff. The two teams try to work together to manage various impacts, but have to diverge in some areas too. Caity will most likely be continuing in her position as the volunteer coordinator. This is 97% sure but Conservation Volunteers Australia need funding to match Parks Vic. who have funding locked in. The park and the Halls Gap office could easily use 3 or 4 Caity’s (volunteer coordinators).

The discussions went on to cover topics such as fire management and recovery, resourcing of the park and funding of staff.

We had the opportunity to raise topics that concerned us as well as hearing about the things that Dave wanted to inform us of.

These topics included,

  • Funding,
  • Fire management, and trialling of new regimes of control and fuel reduction.
  • Disaster recovery, after all our park has been hammered in recent years.
  • Peaks trail planning and construction, there is only 18 months left to spend the funding that has been set out.
  • Helicopter  flights were raised by the group, but the response from Dave indicated it was more an issue for community patience than environment at this stage as impacts appear to be minimal due to regulations imposed. Hopefully they stick to planning requirements and it’s not a big issue, only the same level of concern as B-double trucks, motorcycles or noisy school groups.
  • Phytothera (cinnamon fungu) impacts were raised by another member of the group. It was noted that water dispersal could be a concern with a wetter season setting in, after many years of dry, but not an increasing issue as impacts have not been noticed yet. Anything off track is high risk for contamination, and if working in areas known to be impacted hygiene is essential.
  • Rock Wallaby reintroduction programs,
  • Sallow Wattle control and eradication.
  • Options for seats or signage at Zumsteins with the funding we have available. With plans afoot to do other works on cottages etc, we can contribute, but delayed until it can be combined with those plans. Anything we contribute needs to fit with the current standards, whether it be signage, or a seat. It was suggested that we could also  put that contribution towards the Wartook/Zumsteins trail. A heavy hardwood or even a stone seat could be done with the use or parks equipment.
  • Signs to discourage stone cairn construction by visitors. It is possible these signs might even cause a resurgence in something they believe is declining.

In other news shared with us, Mark Whyte has just returned from the International Rangers Conference. Its an asset to our park having someone like Mark, young and enthusiastic about the future, especially after the conference that has brought him in contact with staff from parks management world wide. Those of you who have met Mark know what I mean

The new CEO of Parks Victoria is passionate about conservation and scientific studies, using knowledge and evidence to determine the future of National Parks in our state. He has been to the Grampians  three times since appointment (6 months), which bodes well for our park and the support it needs from the seat of decision making at head office.

We finished off the evening with a convivial meal at the hotel chatting about the topics discussed with the staff, and others of our own choosing.

Committee Meeting February 2016

Membership fees At the AGM it was tabled that we discuss an increase in subscription fees at a committee meeting in time for the new membership year on 1 July 2016. The membership has been $10 since 2006 with various costs increasing markedly since then it was agreed we needed to increase membership fees. We also discussed whether to offer associate membership for those who just want to get the newsletter and don’t necessarily wish to be active members. However, we decided to just have 2 levels of ordinary membership being $20 for a single and $25 for a family (those living under the same roof). This level of membership will allow us to pay increasing insurance, postal and other running costs.

Activities for rest of year

A  proposed activity calendar was drawn up in order to be well organised and able to advertise our activities more widely in the hope of attracting some new membership.

March and April activities have already happened and are written up in this newsletter.

Proposed activities, and more details will appear in Newsletters and emails closer to events.

  • May: Ross Cayley to give us a talk and a field trip. (See calendar at end of this newsletter for details)
  • June: Park update from Dave and other staff.
  • July: A bird outing, with Horsham Bird Observers club somewhere in the Park.
  • August: Red Gum walk tidy up.
  • September: A wildflower trip perhaps led by one of our local experts.
  • October: AGM with a walk to Mt Rosea and hopefully with good weather we can have our meeting on site otherwise we will need to adjourn to a venue in Halls Gap.
  • November: Denis Crawford  19th November to run an insect day at his property.
  • December: It was suggested we have another try at a twilight picnic on Mt William in the hope of better weather.

What to do with the money we received from Friends of Zumstein

Received in 2010/2011 financial year. September 2011 we had decided to use the money for interpretive signage or some other distinctive use at Zumsteins. With the floods and the fire we never got round to finalising spending this money. It was suggested we look into erecting a board which has either birds, flowers or fungi of the area. If the money we were given is insufficient for this, the other suggestion was that there is nowhere to sit and rest along the Fish Falls walk and we may be able to put a seat along the track dedicated to the friends of Zumsteins.

FOGGs Facebook page

A facebook page has been setup in the hope of capturing an audience which use this form of communication. The page will be managed by Rodney and Margo. Its main purpose will be to be another avenue to advertise and report on our activities with the hope to gain membership from it.

Zumsteins History Book

Margo will write a book review on the book for our next newsletter.

Sallow Wattle

Wendy and Rodney have put pegs in to mark photo points. Rodney has made the stands to sit on the star pickets to line up the spot for the photo shoot. Wendy needs to create a map with GPS points and write the instructions and send to the people who indicated they wanted to participate in this project.

Other points of discussion

It would be nice if we could wear badges when we are out doing activities to advertise that we are FOGGs.

Ben mentioned that there could be a proposal to produce a book on rock art sites and we may be able to help with publishing.

Student Presentation at February Meeting

Susannah Hale, a PhD student from Deakin University, spoke to us about the findings of a study on ‘The Effect of Fire and Climate on Small Mammals’. The study started after the 2006 Bushfires and has been running nine years. There were 36 study sites established and each are of 150 square metres. When surveying the sites, baited Elliot traps are used and are checked twice daily, captured animals being tagged, weighed and measured before release. Populations go through a boom and bust phase which are affected by the previous 18 months rainfall and the ‘time since fire’. In the years straight after fire, exotic species predominate. In the first year of the study, 85% of captures were exotics. The house mouse occupies areas quickly after fires and then declines. Four years after fire, 91% of captures were native species.

Small mammals respond strongly to ‘time since fire’; native species do better in wetter periods which are a boom phase and ‘time since fire’ is less important.

Some study sites have been affected by more than one fire as well as the floods and dry seasons.

We don’t think of the Grampians as an arid region but the boom and bust population dynamics observed in the study indicate that it is acting as an arid region. This Grampians study provides a unique data set helping to understand dynamic ecosystems.

It is hoped that monitoring can continue long term through trapping at these sites. More can be learnt about the immediate post fire responses of small mammals and the role of climate refuges in the temperate zone.

Where to now?

  • continue to monitor long term trapping sites
  • immediate post fire response of small mammals
  • role of climate refuges in the temperate zone
  • fuel and structure dynamics – climate change scenarios.

Several of us (including Susannah) continued on to the pub for a very social evening.

FOGGs have a strong commitment to encouraging and supporting research into the biodiversity of our Park. Susannah was not one of the students we supported financially, but whose work is so important and we will help followup work if needed. We hope to have at least one student presentation on our calendar each year.

Wendy & Alan Bedggood

Advisory Group Report

As usual, the March meeting of the AG had a very full agenda, which we struggled to complete. The main discussion was an update on the Grampians Peak trail.  Dave has mentioned in his piece just what a huge task this is, and now here is the somewhat more detailed presentation the AG were given. The money for the trail ( $30.2 million)  has to be spent by September 2019 so there is a real urgency now. The finished track will be 144km long (61km existing track, 83km new), with 10 hiker camps, 1 new school camp, several trail heads and carparks, with waymarking, interpretative signage, link and maintenance tracks. In addition an online booking system and phone apps need to be developed. A massive task. At this stage no funding has been set aside for maintenance equipment and facilities (such as quad bikes to service the camp sites) and there is no expectation that roofed accommodation will happen on park land.  Potentially in the budget are water storage and preparing guidelines for roofed accommodation in case a future government allows it. Nice to have, but not currently funded, would be mobile phone coverage and seed funding for tracks to lodges outside the Park.

There are three staff working on it fulltime.: Project manager Mark Gallon,  “paperwork manager” Annie Wilson, “ground manager”  Rod Spinks. Mark reports direct to PV CEO and the Project Control group, who in turn report to the Project Steering Group which also has representatives from Regional Development Victoria, DELWP and local councils. Annie’s tasks include getting approvals from all and sundry. Not just what you would expect: cultural heritage, threatened species, bushfire overlays, but also two Catchment Management Authorities, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water, plus some roads are local council, some are VicRoads, campgrounds need approvals ….. She is a busy woman! Rod at the moment is dealing with what needs to happen on the ground. The 83km of existing track need to be assessed and some re-alignment will be needed – increased traffic affects the sustainability, and they want to give walkers a really good aesthetic experience. A local volunteer scoping group is walking these tracks and reporting on them, as well as taking a preliminary look at where the new sections of track should go. And of course Annie can’t organise cultural and vegetation surveys until the proposed route is more or less decided in some detail.

The trail will be built in three stages: Stage1 is already under way: get existing tracks up to standard; Stage 2: the new sections where the approvals are simple: Stage 3: the new sections with more complex approvals.

The team are well aware of the daunting task ahead, but confident and committed.