What The Prez Sez

Hello FOGGies, another quarter has flown by. We have had a mixture of science and volunteer work. Passive and active. Our promotion of activities is bringing guests and new members to each activity, and credit for this must go to Janbert Brewer for his efforts. We know how great our group and its activities are, now others are hearing it too. We have even made it onto  ABC Mornings! Our dedicated little group is really kicking goals at the moment.

Our first activity this quarter was Susannah Hale’s PhD research presentation “Longterm Responses to Fire and Climatic Variability in the Grampians National Park”. It is great to see the enthusiasm of someone working on a longterm project within the park. Susannah has been involved in the smoky mouse study from early on as an honours student, and has a real love for these cute little marsupials.

Cleanup Australia Day has become an institution. We are proud to do our bit within the park, and bring some attention to the rubbish problems. This year was no exception. Thanks to Caity O’Reilly (Parks Vic./CVA), and her volunteer coordinating skills, we were joined by other groups this year. It was not all icky rubbish and hard work. We also got to indulge in a little destruction, taking down hundreds of rock cairns. The builders think they are showing their inner Zen, not realizing that their impact on the environment is far from Zen! More on this later! We enjoyed a barbecue together afterwards. Thanks Caity.

Our last activity this quarter was Archeology with our own resident expert Ben Gunn. His walk and talk from the side of the Goat track was enjoyed by everyone. And the numbers were up for this activity! This shows how well Janbert’s promotion is working, aided in no small part by Ben being interviewed about the FOGG group and this activity the day before on ABC Local Radio. Ben was a founding member of the group, and it was great to have him share his expertise and local knowledge.

Our future activities for the year should prove to be no less exciting, with local experts aiding us in activities like birdwatching or insects and pests. Our next gathering on the calendar is a geology session with renowned local expert Ross Cayley. I am excited about this one, Ross is a great presenter with incredible knowledge due to passion and his position at Victorian Geological Survey. He takes great photos and explains in layman’s terms. We will even be looking at fossils on Mt. William!

I want to come back to the rock cairns on the walk to the Balconies. The purpose of national parks is conservation, education and preservation. The idea is to maintain natural areas for the population to enjoy the real world and get back to nature. Making your mark on the landscape in a national park doesn’t really fit with these aims. Especially when it involves vandalising the landscape, and destroying the homes of the native wildlife that has limited space to maintain population numbers. Exposing small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates to predation just so you can build a memorial to your own selfishness really gets under my skin. Not to mention the impact on the mosses and slow growing vegetation on an exposed mountain top rock face. But you already guessed that.

The trouble is, most of the people building their zen(?) stone piles probably don’t realise how bad their actions are for the environment that they have come to visit, and enjoy. Maybe they don’t understand the concept of the web of life. That impacting on the smallest organism can affect things further up the chain so to speak. Many might say its only about insects and slimy reptiles. But there is another organism that depends on them to survive, and another that depends on that and so on. Until it happens we never know what the impacts on the rest of the web will be.

One construction probably isn’t too bad. But when there are hundreds being built in one location everyone else thinks its okay so they do it too. This can result in lasting damage.   Unfortunately I think there needs to be signage to tell people this. Both on the wall in the visitors centre, and in the carparks of locations where it takes place. With the over stressed budget that runs the park this is not a priority. I would like to make it our priority. I feel it would be a great use of some of our funds to sponsor some signage. The one design could be used in numerous locations, and could help protect sensitive environments from damage. If people know their actions are detrimental they may not be so keen to build. And I think this is a scourge that needs to be stopped before it becomes worse.

If you think I’m wrong I can accept that, and I welcome feedback. I just feel parks are about the environment more than people and their desire to prove something about themselves by leaving their mark, and this action is no better than vandalising trains, public buildings or homes. I know I come from a very Dark Green background and want to defend the environment, but I feel that with the threat of development in national parks, dwindling budgets and the pressure of climate change, anything that detracts from the few untouched environments we have left has to be combated before things are lost!

Cheers,
Rod

Prez Sez

So we come to my first president’s report. It seems like only yesterday that as a youngster I attended the declaration of the Grampians National Park. After the official event, a dedicated group of people moved off to one side and formed a friends group, under the auspices of the VNPA, to support the new park and help to get the community involved. I was only a young fella, but I am  proud  I was there. So began the next chapter of my life in the Grampians.

The group has been supported by some truly great advocates of conservation and education within the region, Val Hastings, Sue McInnes, Sam and Jettie Spyer, Ben Gunn, Stan Parfett, Kees and Margo Sietsma,  Dave Munro and my father, David Thompson, among them. I am honoured that the group that has been a part of my life for nearly 30 years has now seen fit to elect me as an office bearer, president no less. I hope I can live up to the needs and expectations of the group.

Many thanks to our outgoing president Margo Sietsma. She has been a stalwart for many years and done an inspirational job as president. I am pleased she is to continue with her newsletter duties, and as an advisor to a green president finding his feet. I have a head swirling with thoughts and ideas for the future. We had a good year last year, with some great gatherings and activities. It is a joy to be involved with a group that socialises with one another so well, and enjoys working together.

Our wild flower walk before the AGM suffered a bit from the dry season, and it was a struggle to find much, but we all enjoyed ourselves, as did 3 new members attending their first FOGG activity. (Thanks to Janbert’s promotional work) The meeting itself was a truly inspirational gathering, in the shade of a magnificent old Eucalyptus camaldulensis in the Dunkeld arboretum. What other group could vote on office bearers in the shelter of a tree that predates white settlement. Our office bearers were voted on, and a supporting committee selected.

Our final activity was purely a social event, but the location was one of the natural wonders of our favourite national park. The top of Mount William is a special place, although the wind cuts through you like ice. We broke bread together, shared many delicacies, chatted and enjoyed the magnificent views, as well as the wonderful alpine vegetation. The clouds prevented us from seeing the sun as it set, but the colours were magnificent as we made our final descent in the gathering dusk.

I am pleased to say we have managed to retain Wendy as our secretary, she is brilliant, dedicated, and the best in the business. We would be lost without her. We have already done some behind the scenes work setting up photo points for the FOGG’s Sallow Wattle monitoring program. Once we had our routine sorted out the work of installing the posts was easy, but selecting the points took a bit of focus, and we had to haggle a bit over the choices. This is a program that will be vital in providing information used to apply for grant money to aid in weed control programs, and as such I am pleased we can help with this. I feel frustrated that we can’t just remove them, but the monitoring needs to take place, in order to plan future control programs. And apply for funding grants.

The plans for the next year are shaping up well, with the early program looking very good. One of my aims as a president will be to try and bring in some new/younger members to ensure the group outlasts us all. This might mean a few different activities, it might mean we need to step up our promotion work. It might mean some new ideas from our current members are required.

Janbert’s promotion work at the end of the year has done a great job, and will be continued next year. I am hoping to see a raft of new attendees, and hopefully members due to a wider promotion of the group. Due to the efforts of Caity, the Parks/CVA volunteer coordinator, we now have a Facebook page. This will become another promotion point for the group. I am negotiating my way through the process of uploading photos, and posting on the page, with only a few mistakes so far. If you are on Facebook, have a look, and maybe even add a photo or two.

I am looking forward to 2016 as a great year for FOGGs, with some exiting activities involving some great people. We will be also drawing on our expertise within the group to run a few different activities (thanks Ben), and drawing on some experts from within and without the region to deliver a great program new members will be clamouring to attend.

Cheers,
Rod

Editor’s and President’s Piece

Welcome to our Petyan edition of our newsletter. My apologies for a late and rather brief newsletter. Time has run away from me yet again and you need to get it in time. Between going to England for my son’s wedding , having the newlyweds here on a visit and preparing for the Wildflower Walkabout in Halls gap this weekend this newsletter has had little priority. Better luck next time.

We have had three group activities since the last newsletter, and the committee made a submission to Ararat Council on an application for a commercial helipad in Pomonal.

Our next activity is coming up very soon, October 17 is our AGM. Details are on the calendar page, but I do want to reiterate the importance of electing officebearers, mixing newcomers with the longer term members. FOGG has been in existence for 30 years by now and some of our committee members have been with us for much of that time. It has been good to have new members, but we could do with more. It is vital that we ensure that we remain relevant to both our longterm members and newcomers.

Please note that if you have not renewed your membership your period of grace has expired and this will be your last newsletter. Our Park needs Friends in so many areas. We always have advocated on behalf of the Park, we have given feedback to management, we have sought to educate the public. But there are always new challenges and new opportunities and your membership is important in our advocacy role.

President’s Report

We have succeeded again in having activities more or less every month, and in working together where possible with other local groups caring for our environment. I get newsletters from Trust for Nature, Project Platypus ( my local Landcare Group) and the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA), and  it is good to see how much other groups are doing to preserve biodiversity in our region. Private owners of land can often work quickly and effectively to achieve outcomes that Park managers must envy.

FOGGS are members of the Victorian National Parks Association and as such the committee gets a copy of the quarterly magazine covering the whole state. There are often articles on subjects that have relevance to us here, such as deer, cats, landscape changes. I would strongly recommend that you consider joining the VNPA as individuals, not just for the excellent magazine but also to support our parks. We also receive a quarterly “FriendsNet” which also has so many good articles. I had intended to include  a summary of an article from the May issue on animal extinctions but space has run out If you would like to receive it, please let me know.

In addition to our own FOGG activities, Wendy and I are your representatives on the Grampians  and Surrounds Round Table and the Grampians National Park Advisory Group and try to report back to you on these deliberations. Fire and Recovery from fire still keep us busy. How best to restore burnt sites such as McKenzie Falls precinct, how to protect the regenerating forest from browsing animals (cherry ballart from deer is a real problem), and what prescribed burning regime will best help protect the Grampians in a drying climate, are among the issues that we are reporting on.

But it is not just group meetings that keeps the committee busy. We also get asked to support or comment on issues on the fringe of our responsibilities and sometimes it is difficult to decide. So for instance we have not contributed to the discussion of the future of the Stawell Gold Mine, but we did send a letter re discussions on future planning decisions concerning Laharum / Wartook valley. We appreciated some of the council’s dilemmas, were appreciative of the strongly stated desire to look after the environment but could see problems if the size of bush blocks was lessened and we wanted stronger action on issues such as cats. If you want to read the full letter please contact me.

We are registering our September activity with Bush Care’s  Big Day Out in the hope that we can attract new folk to join us. We have not been good at publicising ourselves, either on new or old media. Any volunteers to take on a publicity role?

Our AGM will be  in October and will creep up on us quickly. All office positions will be open for election. In particular, please note that I have now served my two years as president. Some years ago we decided that the maximum term of president should be two years; so it is now someone else’s turn. It is enjoyable and not too onerous. It is also good to have fresh folk on the committee which we have been achieving in the last couple of years. Do let us know if you are interested in any position.  You don’t need to live locally as much can be done by email these days.

President’s Report

The first quarter of the year tends to be quiet as far as FOGG meetings are concerned.

But on the two occasions we have got together we found plenty to talk about as you will read in the two activity reports. And Wendy and I have been attending Round Table and Advisory Group meetings, as you will see in our reports.

And of course plenty has been happening in the wider scene. The new state government has just announced changes to the controversial camping fees introduced by the previous government, and made some good decisions for the Alpine National Park and Pt Nepean. But whether our parks system will get any improvement to its budget, and what will happen to the plan to open up our parks to commercial development is yet to be seen. In the meanwhile no proposals for development inside our park have been put forward.

This time last year I reported on the study into Victorian Public Lands which several of us had participated in. Their report has now been published and can be found on the web at http://www.landscapemap2.org/publications/StatewidePVreport2014.pdf

The report makes quite interesting reading, as much sociologically as the findings which in general are quite encouraging. Who participated, where they lived, how old were they, what income was all investigated to try to ensure that the results were a valid reflection of the Victorian public.

Locally the big news for our Park has been the retirement of Graham Parkes. Of recent years Graham has been District Manager for South West Victoria, covering the Grampians as well as all the other regional parks (Little Desert, Mt Eccles, Lower Glenelg). Before that of course he was for many years Ranger in Charge of the Grampians National Park, after stints at several other parks. 42 years in all. There is a generous  tribute to him in the current VNPA publication “Park Watch” – “always willing to listen to community concerns, and one of Victoria’s most respected park managers, his knowledge and experience will be hard to replace.”  Those of us who know him closely certainly appreciate how passionate he has been for our park in both his roles and we wish him well in his retirement. I will be attending a farewell for him on April 30.

From the Editor (also From the President)

Welcome to the Summer edition of the newsletter. Once again I am writing this summer newsletter with worrying news coming in of fires in our neighbourhood, including in our park yet again. The Moyston fire was scary with quite a lot of farmland burnt.  And the Rocklands/ Black Range fire was in that most important state park, under the management of our Grampians team and containing quite a few important cultural heritage sites. The change brought lightning strikes within our park, and a few small but worrying fires, but also rain. It has been a torrid start for the year for our Park staff and still several months of fire weather to go. For Stawell, the whole year was the fifth driest on record,and was the third successive year of below average rainfall, with a particularly dry Spring .

However visitor numbers have improved, and it is good to see how the vast majority are respecting the environment they have come to see. I am not a user of instagram – a social media photo sharing site – but Grampians Tourism set up a Spring Break competition on it which attracted an amazing 350,000 likes to over 4,000 photos, which all had to be of the region’s natural beauty. If only that translated into more money to resource the park.

Since the last newsletter we have had an election and now a new government. It was depressing to see how little both parties promised for the environment. Tourism such as the Peaks Trail yes, but silence on staffing of Parks Vic and DEPI. We will have to keep up the pressure on our politicians.

Once again in this newsletter you’ll find reports from Wendy and myself on the wider committees we are part  of, and reports on our our recent activities. We also have a tribute to Thelma Argall and some notes from the records of the Stawell Field naturalists. Plus an article from Mike Stevens as he tells us about the long-nosed poteroo and encourages those of us who live on the edge of the Park to help conserve them.

To finish, I join with Dave Roberts to commend our local team here. It is good to be reminded of the work of the unsung workers, those he has focused on and the other admin staff. Such a good bunch.

President’s Report

It has been an unusual quarter. I got the last issue out just before I left for a visit to Europe, leaving Wendy to look after the various activities we had planned and got home just in time to work with the committee on our response to the proposed Grampians Peaks Trail. (see my article on the trail, and the response we sent).

Wendy and Noushke put in an application for ‘Communities for Nature’ grant for a fence around the Caladenia audasii site. We are yet to hear the outcome.

January’s severe fire has an ongoing  impact on several of our activities, as well of course on what the Park staff have to do. They are struggling with an enormous workload and very little money to help with all the recovery work. We are so fortunate to have such a dedicated and capable group here. Our volunteer co-ordinator Katherine Dyson has resigned and is heading back to Melbourne. We will miss her; she has been such an asset. But it is good to learn that she will be replaced. Funding from Conservation volunteers, PV and others has been found. Unfortunately this funding is once again for a limited period, so the person appointed will again be on a contract, with little certainty year to year. He is Jonathan Lee   0409 425 058 

We have run out of membership brochures and have decided to revise our existing one and do a reprint. Our membership is not growing much and if we are to survive into the future it is now that we need to do some active recruiting of the next generation. Something to think about at our AGM.

This quarter again we are having difficulty arranging dates for some of our activities. We were hoping to have a July school holiday presentation on the small mammal trapping programme, but didn’t manage to find a suitable date. The Fungi explore which last year had to be cancelled  was rescheduled by the landcare group with little notice, so our apologies for the late notice we sent out by email and snailmail just to locals. Also, we have had to change our arrangement whereby most meetings were on the second Saturday of the month, due to unavailability of key people. Sorry, we know it makes it harder to plan ahead. So do please make sure you contact the person listed if you are planning to come to an event.

Margo

President’s Piece

David Thompson - Fungo Frolic, 2004 (with Dave Munro and Alison White)
David Thompson – Fungo Frolic, 2004
(with Dave Munro and Alison White)

I was deeply saddened by the recent death of David Thompson. David was an enthusiastic worker for the establishment of the Grampians National Park and has been a very active member of FOGGs from its inception. For many years he was our president.

He took on many battles to ensure that the importance of National Parks to the protection of the natural environment was always respected. He led a campaign against private development in the park under the Kennett government, and I’m sure it was with great sadness that he found recently this battle needs to be won all over again.

He was a tireless campaigner for the environment and never missed an opportunity to write letters or be interviewed on the radio in support of a cause. All  of us who care about the current threats to the environment will miss his concise focus and constant energy which is a major loss. Our deepest sympathy goes to Judith and his family.

I  had the opportunity to walk on two of the tracks which have recently been upgraded as part of the flood recovery. The  Zumsteins to McKenzie Falls, and the Beehive Falls to the plateau walks. I was extremely impressed at the work which had been done, particularly the stone work. The excellent work has resulted in very much improved walks. Congratulations to the park staff and everyone else involved.

As I write tonight the frogs are croaking and  today walking in the mountains the Scented Sundews and Early Nancies were a picture flowering  in the moss beds. Birds were singing, insects were buzzing in the wattles and all the creeks were running and it was hard to imagine being in a more beautiful environment. We are fortunate that there was such foresight in preserving  these beautiful  places in National Parks. Let us not be the ones who allow these areas to be despoiled. Please join our current campaign to prevent this current attack on the sanctity of national parks.

From our president June 2013

 I have become extremely concerned about the increasing threat to National Parks around Australia. From opening Parks up to cattle grazing in drought affected areas of Queensland to shooting of game and recommendations for logging in NSW, to the attempt at cattle grazing in alpine areas and now prospecting in Parks in Victoria. At a federal level there was an attempt to scuttle the management plans for the new Marine Parks and a statement that they will be changed with a change of government.

 I think many of us who have been involved in the movement to promote National Parks declared in areas of great natural significance, believed this was the best way to ensure that these areas would be managed to maximise the survival of their biodiversity and natural beauty for future generations to enjoy. I no longer believe that we can feel so reassured and we are required yet again to fight for the survival of our National Parks.

 

 

As members will know we have written to the relevant ministers and the Premier regarding our concerns at the proposal to allow private development in National Parks. Recently we have been approached from Friends of the Prom. to join them in a letter writing campaign to show the government that there is a ground swell of opposition to this proposal. FOGG committee agreed we should join this campaign.

 

 

Further concerns are with the Guidelines the government has approved for Tourism Investment Opportunities of Significance in National Parks.

 

While these guidelines are peppered with fine sounding words of “complements local environmental heritage”, “environmentally sensitive investment opportunities” and “ proper community consultation” The key guideline seems to be that these proposals will need to generate a “net public benefit” and yet nowhere in the document is there any attempt to explain how this is to be determined.

 

This is a five stage process

 

Stage 1. Pre Proposal Information.

 

Stage 2. Preliminary Concept assessment.

 

Stage 3. Public Notification and in principle approval by minister.

 

Stage 4. Full Proposal.

 

Stage 5. Lease Negotiation and Preparation.

 

 

This ensures that the public have no opportunity for input before the proposal is well developed in consultation with the assessment agency and the minister.

 

The public is then given 28 days to comment on “the interaction of the proposal investment opportunity with :-

 

local values and the local economy

 

local Aboriginal cultural and historical heritage

 

existing public access and use”

 

No opportunity to mention any of the environment or biodiversity concerns the public might have.

 

We would like to encourage you to get as many people as possible to use this material and the letter we have already sent to the minister to express their own concerns about this proposal (see last newsletter). There is more information available via VNPA (Victorian National Parks Association). We know one original letter counts for many form letters, and at this time believe it will be our most effective action.

Proo

 

 

Editor’s Note:

 

Just in is the news that apparently there is a serious move to apply to build a cable car from the Brambuk precinct to the Pinnacle. This idea has been floated before, but this time there is more money behind it, and of course government encouragement of this kind of development. It looks like those guidelines are going to be put to the test.

 

 

President’s Report

Our plans this year have been somewhat disrupted by the large fire, which burnt approximately 25% of the Grampians National Park in the beautiful Victoria Range on the western side. This now means 75 % of the Grampians National Park has been burnt in the last seven years. If the requirement to control burn 5% of the park annually regardless of what other burns have occurred is going to be implemented again this year, then I believe this will be of great concern to members, as soon there will be very little long-time unburnt habitat left in the park.

It was excellent to catch up with so many members at the Ian Mc.Cann reserve  for Clean Up Australia Day. Much of the rubbish that was collected had been dumped in the reserve quite a number of years ago so hopefully the reserve will remain clean with no repeat of this type of dumping in the future.

Issues which we will need to continue to be vigilant about this year are firstly the Government’s intention to allow private development in the park, See Margo’s “From the Editor” for information about the government policy release which interestingly occurred on Easter Sunday. Is it possible they didn’t want people to know about it??? Secondly the plan to sand mine and establish a tailings dump very close to the northern edge of the park, see Wendy’s article for more information.

I look forward to catching up with everyone for the walk with Ben in the Brim Springs area to explore further our indigenous heritage on Saturday 13 April. I’m sure it will be a fascinating day as previous ones have been with Ben.

Proo