The last Grampians Roundtable meeting for the year was in December. We reviewed the original purpose and role of the roundtable and decided it was still relevant and a worthwhile group to keep going.
It aims to:
- Improve communication between stakeholders, land management agencies and the community
- Develop a shared understanding of complex land management issues, including fire management
- Provide information that can contribute to DEPI and Parks Victoria’s decision making procedures, practices in relation to land management in the Grampians
- Provide information that can contribute to government policy without being an official or formal source of advice to government.
I represent FOGGs, other members of the group represented are Hamilton Field Nats, CFA, Landcare, Wine growers, Apiarists, tourism industry, rockclimbers, the VFF, CMA’s, councils and the indigenous community, some of these groups are not regular attendees and we will be looking at ways we can help improve their attendance. Of course Parks and DEPI staff are also present and we have an independent facilitator. Some people wear several hats as they are members of more than one group. We are all struggling with ways to disseminate the information we gain by being on such a group and at present I use this newsletter.
Some of the suggestions discussed in earlier round table meetings have been taken on board during the past two large fires, leading to better response from the community.
Dave Roberts gave an update of the recovery works from the January 2014 fire and how many of the areas where infrastructure is being replaced will be better than before the fire. While many popular sites have been reopened to the public there are still many where the vegetation has been slow to recover and which will hopefully be reopened by Easter next year.
Horsham Rural City Council and Northern Grampians Shire each employed a co-ordinator to assist with activities to help communities from the January fires. We had a report from these two ladies on the activities they have been running and where some of these communities are at with their recovery process. These positions will end in June 2015.
About a dozen people met in the Mural room and Mike Stevens and Ryan Duffy gave us an update on park activities.
Mike explained in much detail the events of the January Northern Grampians Complex fire. On Jan 15 several lightening strikes started fires across the Grampians, Parks, CFA and DEPI staff worked hard to put these fires out, but inaccessibility and bad weather lead to a couple of fires in the Wartook area not being able to be controlled. Mike described to us how events unfolded and showed us a program called Phoenix Rapidfire which illustrated how the fire progressed. The program had been used during the fire to predict the fire behaviour and to give people warning of the likely path it would affect. Phoenix Rapidfire was developed after the 2006 bushfires and has been improved each year as more information from each fire season is fed into the model.
On the extreme weather days planned burns 3 years and older had no effect on slowing the fire front.
Ryan Duffy cultural and natural values ranger updated us on animals which have been captured on cameras around the park, the Brush tailed Rock Wallaby program and the use of trained dogs to sniff out Quoll scats. See Ryans article for more details.
After the meeting we had a meal together and made a few decisions: FOGGs will put in an application for ‘Communities for Nature’ grant for a fence around the Caladenia audasii site in the Ironbarks.
We have run out of FOGGs membership application forms and will start looking into getting them reprinted. We allocated up to $2000 dollars and a print run of 1000 to 2000.
General Meeting Minutes(shortened)
- Minutes from the meeting at the Parks Office on 24th April were accepted.
- Treasurer Mabel that in August we donated $3000 to Museum Victoria to help travel costs for two of their post graduate students who are working on projects in the Park.
- Bioscan final report still not out.
- The Grampians Peak Trail so far has had preliminary approval for camping sites along the way consisting of a pad for a tent, a 3 sided shelter for bad weather and toilets. More luxurious accommodation so far has not been proposed.
- The proposal to put a chair lift to the top of the Pinnacle has been dropped.
- Membership forms need to be redone.
Wendy has checked on what we need to do re the changes to model rules. We have no need for action at the moment, just to remember that our committee should be Pres, VP, Treas, Sec and at least two ordinary members. We need 3 committee meetings a year and the quorum is 4 members.
- FOGGs applied for a Healthy Parks Healthy People grant last December to do a planting at McKenzie Falls. We asked for $2800 and we were given $425. After discussions with Parks staff we decided to see if the money can be used to do some planting at a camp ground where sallow wattle has been removed or if it has to be used at McKenzie Falls we may just plant some trees in the car park.
- Katherine Dyson the Parks volunteers co-ordinator hurt her ankle while out in the field requiring an operation and she will be away from work for several months. FOGGs will send a get well card.
- Wendy passed round a draft letter to be sent to politicians, from FOGGs expressing our concern at the environmental impacts the burn targets will have on the biodiversity of our Park. Some small suggestions were made and this letter will be sent out shortly.
- Proo moved that Margo be made a life member, all were in agreement. Mabel suggested that a certificate be made and presented to Margo.
- Proposed activities for next year, were a meeting in February (probably 3rd weekend), March Cleanup Australia day, April meeting with Dave Roberts July an evening talk at Parks Office, other months to be decided.
The meeting was closed and six of us set of to do the new Zumsteins to McKenzie Falls walk
The AG met in July, and the Round Table in August.
AG meeting. We heard updates on the flood and fire recoveries. All work on the flood recovery should be finished by the end of August. The walking track crew, who have done such a good job, finished at the end of the financial year. This work was relatively well-funded, in contrast to the fire recovery work, which received no extra funding. They have some insurance money for built assets, and some for rehabilitation of fire lines and damaged roads, but almost nothing for the cultural heritage surveys needed, and other important work.
We also had an update on the staff situation. PV is still cutting staff state wide. Long term ranger here, Geoff Pitt has decided to take one of the redundancy offers and will finish up in August. We thanked him for his work and wish him well in retirement.
We had some discussion of on park development proposals, but despite ideas being floated, there were no firm proposals to consider. We will be informed promptly when that happens. A business case for the proposed long distance walk (Grampians Peaks Trail) is under development. The first version of that was for tent sites, toilets, and a small basic weather shelter. Whether the new legislation will mean a push for cabins etc remains to be seen.
A major part of our meeting was taken up with a discussion on future directions for the AG. What skills and experience are useful for the next AG? How can we better support our park in these days of lessening staff and money? This discussion will be an ongoing thing.
At the Round Table meeting on August 6, I was wearing two hats, as AG convener, and as FOGG rep., neither Wendy nor Proo being available. It was a fascinating meeting and I’ll report on the individual topics below. We looked at the research being done on the effect of wild fire on the park, we heard about the cultural heritage surveys being undertaken, we heard about the experimental winter burn, and looked at some of the dilemmas in drawing up Fire Operation Plans. We didn’t actually get to look closely at the current FOP, but were encouraged to comment via the website or by phone.
Flood recovery work after 2 ½ years is nearly complete. Last to be finished will be the Zumsteins area hopefully in time for a spring opening. The footbridge damaged at McKenzie falls during the floods will be air lifted out in the next week or two and it is hoped the walk from Zumsteins to McKenzies Falls will be open in 2 months time. Venus Baths and Splitters Falls will be open to the public in the next couple of weeks.
Recent fires in Victoria Valley. These fires took 5 weeks to get under control. There were some areas of intense fire and some areas where prior planned burns 8 months prior had moderated the fire. The area has been gated off and as areas are assessed and deemed safe some roads will be opened soon. There is only funding to rehabilitate the dozer lines, money for all other repair and rehabilitation work will have to be found from else where.
An outcome of the floods and fires has been that many cultural heritage sites have been worked on and 60-70% of the known cultural sites have now been assessed.
Natural Values: Ryan reported that the bioscan report was not yet finished but will let FOGGs know when it is. There are a couple of videos on the web taken during bioscans.
Grampians Peaks Trail master plan will be released soon it will be about 150km long and use 75 km of existing track. There is some seeding money to start on the first stage.
Staffing: Parks are currently having another restructure with the intention of shedding staff. As yet Dave does not know what impact it will have on Grampians.
Volunteer Co-ordinator Katherine Dyson reported on her work over the past ten months as volunteer co-ordinator. School groups, scouts, Conservation Volunteers and other community groups have been organised by Katherine and successfully carried out tasks such as campground clean ups, repairs to tables and seats and the weeding of vast areas of Sallow wattle. We hope funding can be found to continue her valuable work.
Bit added by Margo: Before our meeting with Dave, Proo, Wendy and Margo met to look through the new model rules for incorporated bodies and how well they fit FOGGS needs. Wendy had put a lot of thought into this and we will be putting some proposals to our AGM in September. Then after the meeting we adjourned to Margo’s for a quick meal and discussion and then home or off to watch a movie.
Proo had contacted Will Flamstead and indicated our concern that no environmental representation was on the long walk committee, as we have heard no more she will contact him again.
Electronic letters were sent to Ryan Smith, Joe Helper, Hugh Delahunty and Ted Baillieu, voicing our concern at the proposed granting of 99 year leases to developers to allow private development inside National Parks. It was suggested a copy of our letter be sent to VNPA.
Wendy has drafted a letter to the papers which will be circulated to the committee and sent to papers in the new year.
Mabel presented the current financial state of the group.
Wendy sent out by email, and post notification of some additional activities not included in our newsletter. This worked well and the email reminders of FOGGs activities seems to be working well.
Proposed Planting at McKenzie Falls
After the floods we were approached by Trevor Winfield, about FOGGs helping to plant a small area near the kiosk at McKenzie Falls. For a variety of reasons this had not eventuated. FOGGs have now put a grant submission in to the ‘Healthy Parks Healthy People Grants for Community Groups’. We will find out in February if we have been successful in obtaining a grant. We can then arrange for appropriate plants to be propagated specific for the area. Site preparation and planting will occur in Autumn of 2014. The intention is to have the plants named to help educate visitors about the plants of the area.