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.