From the Editor

Welcome to the winter newsletter, whether you are receiving it in the post or by email. Remember that you can also access  previous newsletters via our website http://friendsofgrampiansgariwerd.org.au

It has ended up quite a long missive this time, and still more and more interesting and important mail keeps arriving as I try to get this out. One of my long term interests has been how to better manage and control the feral animals which cause such huge damage to our flora and fauna. You may have seen that the Threatened Species Commissioner (federal)  is campaigning against feral cats, and yesterday I received the report from the Victorian Parliamentary committee’s report on feral animals with more of an emphasis on deer and goats. So I am really pleased that our July meeting will hear from an expert on deer, and I hope that in our next issue we’ll have a report on this and the cat issue for those of you unable to attend.

Please note that it’s time to renew your membership, via the form included.

Please check if we have your correct email address so we can contact you with late news.

Prez Sez

Its been a nice autumn season of late. The weather has been beautiful. It has been cold overnight, and often foggy in the mornings, but the days have been truly magnificent. Good for walking, photography or any other activity enjoyed in our great park. Its always a pleasure to be here regardless of weather, but I have truly enjoyed myself lately, and we have had some great activities in and near the park.

The sense of achievement at the end of our planting session for Mabel was uplifting. To know we had honoured JanBert by helping to get Mabel’s garden planting well underway truly gladdens my heart. They have both done much for our group over the years, it was nice to be able to return the favour to them. And the garden will be a great example of native plantlife, a beacon of how beautiful and varied a garden can be without bringing in introduced plants. My thanks to all who were able to participate, it was an enjoyable task with many hands making the work a joy rather than a chore.

Our catch up with Dave Roberts was informative, depressing, frustrating and enjoyable. Mostly the latter. It is always gratifying to know that our group is valued enough within the park that the management will give time to us for sharing information, and to ask us what we want to see or help with. Some of the numbers shared with us were quite surprising and gave us a great idea of how tough managing the budget for the park is. We were saddened to hear that we are loosing our volunteer coordinator. I fear what becomes of all the work that a massive number of volunteers contribute. Who will it fall to without a coordinator to make sure it all happens? Will any of it continue, or will it just be added to park staff’s already overloaded plate?

We are still facing a peaks trail that will drain maintenance funds from elsewhere in the park after completion as there is still no increase in the maintenance budget. Interestingly, any earnings will be treated the same as the rest. The money goes to a central point and not to the park that earns it. So if 1000’s of people use the peaks trail, the money it generates will leave the park, rather than being used to maintain the facilities that generated the income. It kind of looks like the whole concept is an iconic fund raiser more than an iconic environmental experience. Don’t get me wrong, I think it will be a great experience and I’m looking forward to walking more of it, but if I let my inner cynic loose, I don’t think the experience is the reason its being built.

Our most recent activity was a citizen science operation organised by Bill Gardiner. I must apologise to Bill for not getting to his first organised event for the FOGG’s. He was just unlucky that the first event I have missed in several years had to be his, but a prior commitment took me elsewhere. I understand it was a success, with Doctor Timms getting many samples to analyse in his quest to identify and catalogue Clam Shrimp in the region.

I must also address the tragedy of a death at a Friends activity. The details are covered in the activity report. What I want to raise, is the frustration of trying to get 000 to understand what our location was. The call centres are very city centric. What street?, what house number?, what cross street? These questions don’t pinpoint a location in a large wilderness area. Especially if the nearest road is 100’s of metres away, and the cross street is 12 kilometres from there! And the location has to be pinpointed before the job can be assigned to the correct Ambulance, Police, Fire and SES station. The delay this created made no difference to our tragedy, but it might to some others. It is definitely frustrating in an emergency, trying to make someone who doesn’t know the area and can’t read a map understand where you are before they can move on to sending help.

I feel maybe we should have an EPIRB or a personal locator beacon at all our activities, just in case another emergency arises. We have never needed the technology before, but maybe we will in the future. If its available at a reasonable price, why wouldn’t we cover ourselves? We had a request from the parks office to purchase some for the purpose of hiring to park visitors. If we need one, maybe others do too!

I’d love to hear what you think on the matter. 

Cheers,
Rod

Peaks Trail

Mark Gallon

Works progress on the Grampians Peaks Trail with a number of upgrades to pre-existing tracks on the alignment being brought up to a sustainable standard and improved with good drainage and stone steps in certain areas.  Approximately half of the 60KM of pre-existing tracks that can be upgraded are under contract at the moment with the balance out for public tender.  We anticipate that the remaining 30km or so of pre-existing tracks on the alignment will be under contract by Summer.

A number of local and interstate Contractors have established themselves on sections of trail between the Mt William summit on the Major Mitchell Plateau to Jimmy Creek and are busy organising materials and set out of the works for this very difficult part of the project.  The work through this section could take up to a year to complete.  You may have seen recent footage on the Channel 9 news showing helicopter lifting of materials into the rugged and remote sites from the Mt William summit.

Field surveys with archaeological specialists and Traditional Owners started on the new sections of track, future hikers camp sites and proposed parking areas/staging points (we call them Trailheads).   There is more than 80 km (potentially around 100km) of new trail to be assessed, thirteen trailheads and eleven hikers camp sites.  Traditional owners will also be collaborating with the design team for the hikers camps over coming months.

Park Update Autumn-Winter

Dave Roberts

Planning works

Cultural Heritage Management Plan field work has been occurring since late May 2017, which will provide management advice around sites of Aboriginal significance including:

  • The Grampians Peaks Trail Walking track alignment
  • The GPT hiker camp locations
  • The new campground at Dead Bullock Creek
  • The formalisation of campgrounds at Coppermine Tk, Long Point West, Long Point East
  • The walking track realignments at Briggs Bluff, Ngamadjidj Art shelter and Golton Gorge
  • And Carparks/Trailheads for the GPT, Dead Bullock Creek and Ngamadjidj.

This planning work will be finalised and approvals granted by the end of September which will mean works associated with Fire Recovery can commence and the GPT development is a step closer to construction on the new stages.

Conserving Victoria’s Special Places

The Environment & Heritage team have been actively working on key landscape projects including Grampians Ark (Fox Control), Sallow Wattle Containment, Herbivore control (Deer & Goat), broader reserve management and fire ecology. Of note is the recent project managed by Mike Stevens around using Volunteers from the Sporting Shooters Association and Australian Deer Association to undertake Targeted Deer and Goat control in sensitive ecosystems. This effort, complimented by our staff and contractor programs will grow the program whereby we can become more effective in our introduced herbivore program.

The team successfully completed another round of Rock Art conservation works in May, which focused on sites in the Black Range SP and surrounding reserves where graffiti and other visitor impacts are being managed and mitigated.

Connecting People & Parks

Our assets team have recently completed an upgrade to the Pinnacle viewpoint with new timber treads. This compliments works completed at Boroka lookout and upcoming improvement works at Reeds lookout/Balconies walking track. The team have also taken delivery  of a new Grader which will greatly assist the team in delivering its annual road management program.

Our visitor & community team have put the finishing touches on the soon to be published and released Accessibility Guide for the Park which incorporates new features like Trailrider information and improved maps.

The year has been very successful for Volunteer engagement and contribution. Caitlyn O’Reilly our Volunteer Coordinator has worked with a diverse range of volunteers achieving over 5500hrs of effort across the entire park area. Caitlyn’s role as it currently stands will unfortunately finish on the 30th June 2017, as it was funded through funding received from the 2014 Northern Grampians Fire. Parks Victoria is exploring alternative funding sources to continue the position as the value is clear and the opportunities are there to continue and grow Volunteer opportunities in the Park.

Providing Benefits Beyond Boundaries

Our Fire & Emergency Team had a quiet Fire Season (thankfully), but have been very active in Fuel Reduction burning, planning and delivery. The Park is implementing its winter burning regime through our heathlands with good results. This type of burning is growing in its importance and is perhaps a window into how the landscape was managed 160years ago.

Key strategic township burns around Ararat, Stawell, Halls Gap and Dunkeld will be a key focus in the next 6-12 months.

Mount Abrupt Walk – 9th April

This activity was aborted early due to unforeseen circumstances. I need to share what transpired with members.

Six of us met at 10.30 am at the Mount Abrupt car park. A new member joined up, and a couple of our committee arrived with four guests to join us for a pleasant walk up the mountain on a cold grey, drizzly day.

After completing our normal pre-activity procedures and a weather discussion we agreed to set off. (If conditions worsened, or became unsafe in anyway, we could cut short and find a hot coffee in Dunkeld)

We had only travelled about 400 metres up the track, we were not on a difficult part of the track, our pace was reasonable and measured. No one was being pushed beyond their abilities. At this point one of our guests collapsed and stopped breathing.

One of our attending members is a doctor and she went into action taking charge of CPR. Another member got straight on his phone and called 000. Our newest member is part of the Dunkeld SES, and he got in touch with his SES captain to organise a stretcher carry out. (We were lucky to have mobile service). In short we were doing everything we could. I can see no way we could have improved our response. Perhaps an EPIRB beacon could have pinpointed us for emergency services a little quicker, but really it turned out to be a moot point. Our guest had suffered a major heart attack.

His wife told us he loved to play golf alone. He was fit for his age and quite active. He was currently filming a new TV series. He took great delight in walking in the natural environment, photographing nature, and spending time in the natural world with like minded people. In short, if it was his time, she was pleased it happened with nice people around him. People who enjoyed the same interests, and did everything they could to save him.

After ambulance staff arrived and ran basic tests of heart function and body temperature, he was pronounced deceased. The required processes for an unexpected death were then followed. This included waiting for police, and undertaker. We called off our walk and abandoned the activity. After the police arrived we aided the SES with the stretcher procedure.

The guest who sadly passed was John Clarke. Comedian, actor and all round good bloke. One of my heroes and some one I respected greatly. He is missed by everyone who met him.

Vale John Clarke

I hope anyone who has been affected by events at the activity has sought help, if not please contact us. I know I struggled with a feeling of responsibility for depriving the world of a beloved comedian. Every news broadcast that mentioned his death was a bit of a knife twist, as I had been organiser and coordinator for the activity. Counselling and peer support has been offered by Parks Victoria.

Working Bee at the Brouwers

On a sunny Autumn day in late April, 14 of us gathered at the Brouwers new house.

JanBert and Mabel had been purchasing hundreds of native plants to plant in the garden around their new house. Unfortunately with JanBert’s sudden passing this was going to be a huge job for Mabel. Several working bees were organised and most of the plants were put in the ground before Mabel headed off overseas.

Our FOGGs working bee got over 150 plants planted, fertilised, watered in, mulched and a dripper watering system in place. A garden bed planted by an earlier working bee had already started growing and looking really good. In a year or two there will be a spectacular garden to look out onto from the house and it will attract many birds. We will have to include some pictures in a year or two.

We were treated to hot soup for lunch and sat round having a very sociable time in the sun as well as getting a good job done which was very much appreciated by Mabel.

Meeting with Park Management – 26th May

For our annual catchup with Dave Roberts, we had 12 members sitting around the board table at the Parks office in Halls Gap. As usual there were many topics, and lots of information covered. I’ll try and condense it down to a shortish report.

Dave began by giving us a summary of important numbers for our park:

1.3 million visits last year, of which 500,000 visited McKenzie Falls, the most visited site in the park. 40,000 children involved in school camps and educational activities come through the park. This makes the Grampians the third most visited park in Victoria. We are beaten by the 12 apostles, with 3.8 million, and Great Otway NP is the second most visited.

There have been 30,740 volunteer hours spent in the park on a wide variety of projects. (This is the equivalent of 18 additional full time staff!) This figure may well drop with Caitlyn O’Reilly’s position probably ending on June 30th, due to lack of funding. I just can’t see how volunteer work can be run so effectively without our dedicated volunteer coordinator. The trail rider and Sherpa programs may well be at risk without her role.

Tourism in the Park contributes $475 Million of the $20.6 Billion to the Victorian economy. From $140 Million in assets. And yet less than 8% of Victorian tourism recognise the Grampians as a location.

There are many licensed tourism businesses operating within the park. 395 to be precise, covering everything from bus tours, guided walks, birdwatching, fourwheel driving to action sports like canoeing, cycling and rock climbing.

We have the largest concentration of Aboriginal cultural and art sites in Victoria, with 88% of all known  sites within the Grampians region, including one of the oldest, confirmed at 22,000 years old.

There are so many more details, but it would take all day to list them. In short, ours is a very important piece if countryside for Parks Victoria, the state and the nation.

We then moved on to staffing matters. Ryan has gone to NSW to do species reintroduction, something he enjoyed while working on the Rock Wallaby project  here. But as compensation Mike Stevens has returned to replace him. Mike is a small mammals expert. Monitoring programs and Grampians Ark project were originally driven by his push and we are lucky to have him back. His most recent project has been designing and implementing the Feral grazing animal control project. 12 months funded herbivore control program for deer and goats

The Judas goat program has been working well, with 12 goats in one shift last week. However the Deer program is slower progress, with 7 shooters, seven zones resulting in a total of 12 deer. Private property permissions and operations adjacent to the park may be more effective. This does seem important to get right with the park now containing 3 or even 4 species of deer, perhaps due to recent illegal releases by deer hunting enthusiasts within the park.

We came then to the topic of fire. A senior staff member has been here 35 years, this is only the second year he hasn’t attended a fire in the park! This has been great to see, as there has been a lot less environmental and asset destruction than in many years prior.

No controlled burning took place Easter weekend, which has traditionally been a big part of the fire program. They were not too stressed that the wet came in early, previous fire history means there hasn’t been as much need to burn. There is no longer an area based program. More risk focussed planning will become the standard.

The Peaks trail is still a major work underway with September 30th 2019  the  projected end date for works. The planning is quite an arduous process. 8 different planning approvals to be gained for each stage. Cultural approval, Fire safety,  Emergency management, Local Government, Native Title process, and finally biodiversity/environmental management for all 3 levels of government!

The planning framework is the same as for a high rise in the city, even for a bush campsite!

Any vegetation removal has to be offset by buying other vegetation. This cannot be done for this length of track, 100 km of new trail, so planning has to come up with another proposal, such as the purchase of private land adjacent, or  maybe closed trails could contribute to offset. The North South runway of Victoria valley air strip will be decommissioned soon, as it is no longer used. This will be a major contribution to the offset. Unfortunately we are the first park to go through this process under current rules, so it is trial and error procedure.

11 campsites are yet to be built. With environmental offsets adhered to.

There is still no extra money to maintain new facilities and sites. A pity considering the use the trail may be getting after completion. The first 12 months Bugiga campsite saw 1300 walkers, generating $20,000 revenue that goes to central revenue, Victorian parks are not allowed to retain revenue, so it goes to Central and is redistributed, not necessarily back to maintain the facilities that earn it. $17,000 was expended to maintain the campsite, toilets etc from the park budget.

This would indicate the State invested in trail not for Parks Victoria’s sake but their own.

We also discussed the fox and feral cat control programs. 100 cameras in park are recording 3 cats for every fox seen. It would appear they are a bigger problem, but harder and more expensive to set up control programs due to the fact that cats (even feral, marsupial hunting monsters) are a domestic animal. They must be taken alive to a vet for microchip check, and given the green dream needle, at the park’s cost.

The recently adopted single use Candid injectors for 1080 are being employed on fox control. They are well designed and set up so that only a large animal can be dosed. There are 40 in use, but Ravens have been eating lure meat and rendering them useless! Cagy foxes eating lure from side. The design ensures that only an animal of a certain size, pulling upwards on the bait with 5kg of force will set off a spring that launches a 1080 pellet into the mouth of the animal. This prevents other species from being effected, and those dosed get a strong dose  and are killed rapidly. The biggest issue is they are single use and need to be reset after each firing. There is a multi dose bait injector in use in U.S. Hopefully after going through the process it will be approved here soon.

At this point we decided Dave had been in the interrogation chair long enough, and sent him home to his family, and the rest of us adjourned to an evening meal together to continue talking.

Yes I know, its not that short!

Cheers.
Rod

Grampians Clam Shrimp Day – June 18


Bill Gardner

In June 2016 a new species of Clam Shrimp was found in a rock pool at Flat Rock, in the Northern Grampians. and Professor Brian Timms who studies invertebrate biodiversity in a variety of temporary waters across the inland was interested in investigating further. FOGGs decided to assist this June.

In the morning, armed with instructions from Bill and Professor Timms, volunteers went to several different high up areas across the park to collect samples of water and inhabitants. Then we met up at Laharum for Brian to check what was found and to tell us more about these surprising creatures.

  1. Lots were found on Flat Rock, Hollow Mountain and Mt Stapylton…including another new species…limited to that area? None found at Mt William or Lost Lake or track from Beehive falls to Briggs bluff. However the museum has recorded species from Mt Difficult in the past.
  2. One person brought in a sample from Arapiles which was actually a different species (pea shrimp….more rounded clam shape…widespread species)…Arapiles people are going to look harder in that area
  3. FOGG will monitor the Flat Rock pools at monthly intervals until they disappear and let Brian know how the population proceeds over time. Brian is an emeritus professor and is volunteer funding this research largely personally, so FOGG can be very helpful in taking this work in the Grampians forward. So, if you are interested, head out to look for some yourself.
  4. Samples can be posted to Brian in vials with cotton wool moistened with metho.

Some information about clam shrimps:

  1. Live in gnammas…rock pools formed by chemical dissolution of the sandstone at water/ air interface…overhanging brows typical and flat bottoms. Other gnammas in other rock types evolve differently.
  2. Gnammas need to be min 15 cm deep and a couple of metres across to be likely habitat for clam shrimp. Filamentous algae seems to clog them up and is not a hopeful sign in a gnamma…but still worth looking.
  3. Require dry period to mature eggs, so not found in permanent water.
  4. About 30% of eggs hatch on the first rain after dryness…lifecycle is about 6 weeks so limited time to see them.
  5. Hard to see, shadows on sunny days often easier…need to get your eye in.
  6. Filter feeders
  7. Mate guarding…clasp females until they moult when they can be mated with…so often seen joined together. Claspers diagnostic of different species (prevents wasting time trying to mate with wrong species?)
  8. Detailed egg surface structure diagnostic of species. Eggs often lock together to reduce blowing round.

More information on Brian’s other research interests and posters of Brian’s work on gnammas and various shrimp genera are available.

Contact Bill Gardner

  1. Email
  2.  Phone 0438838286

Caladenia audasii Update

The Caladenia audasii near Stawell is well protected with a fence which was erected with a Communities for Nature Grant we got back in 2015.

This plant was pollinated and some seed was obtained last spring. Also last Spring another plant was found in the Ararat area and so another Grant application has been submitted to get funding to protect this plant. It is also hoped the grant will allow seed to be collected from these plants which will allow propagation of this plant at Cranbourne Botanic Gardens with the intent of planting them back into protected areas.

There are currently only around ten wild plants known in Victoria. The population in central Victoria was able to be hand pollinated several years ago and plants propagated from these plants have been successfully re-introduced back into the wild. It is hoped we can do the same with our local Stawell/ Ararat plants to insure its existence into the future.

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.