ADVISORY GROUP REPORT Monday 18th March 2014

 

 

Advisory Group Meeting Minutes

 

Much of our meeting was of course fire related as we came to terms with the intensity of the fire and the damage done. But we first had a few items of business arising from the December meeting.

 

1. Recruitment process for Advisory Group:advertisements will go in local papers very soon, calling for expressions of interest. Procedures for forming a Traditional Owner Reference Group are nearing completion.

 

2. Camping:Asbestos at Staplyton campground is being cleaned up this week. Staplyton will be included in the Online booking system being rolled out. However Staplyton campground doesn’t easily align with the Grampians Peak Trail. A second campground in the Northern part of the Park would be desirable. Coppermine could be changed from an informal campground into a formal one or a private sector could run a campground on the edge of the Park whether it is roofed accommodation or just basic camping. There is some interest in this but the Northern Grampians Shire would need to rezone the farm land.

 

Strachan’s will be opened next week.

 

 

We then turned our attention to the fire.

 

Dave had taken those available (not me) on a drive through the fire affected areas, the rest of us had looked at what we could see from the opened roads. In many areas the fire was extremely hot.

 

Discussion on the 3 cottages at Zumsteins. The central one is in a reasonable state but the other two are badly damaged. Our suggestion was to fix the one and protect the others from further deterioration, but this will depend on Heritage Victoria’s recommendations.

 

Action: Dave to seek advice from Heritage Victoria ASAP before the winter regarding protecting the cottages from damage.

 

Fish Falls will be open before Easter.

 

MacKenzie Falls will stay closed until after Easter. MacKenzie Falls precinct is badly damaged – the Lookout needs to be re boarded. The house is gone and may be difficult to replace with the bushfire overlay. Should the kiosk be replaced? Winfield’s still have a 3 year lease. Discussions with them are continuing.

 

Investigating using solar and hydro for energy which would mean being able to get rid of the 5km power line from MacKenzie Falls to Zumsteins

 

Funding is not as good as we would like it. $250,000.00 has been allocated for the clean-up.

 

Insurance will cover replacements

 

Summer Day Valley walk can be realigned. There is $80,000.00 for Summer Day Valley and Hollow Mountain clean up.

 

Tree risk is not covered by insurance.

 

Heatherlie Quarry has had some assets burnt.

 

Golton Gorge will move to the back of the list. (it was due for an upgrade).

 

Roses Gap has houses burnt and the Education Centre lost 6 cottages.

 

Cooinda Borrong Scout Camp didn’t burn. However the Exclusion plots were burnt. The yearly lease needs to be tightened up to stop unsuitable user groups using the camp.

 

Most roads will be opened at the end of the week. But we will keep some roads closed as the landscape needs to rest before people are allowed in.

 

 

Environmental and Cultural Heritage Recovery:

 

Ryan showed a map with the dozer lines in the fire affected area.

 

Cultural team, Traditional Owners and AAV are looking for new cultural sites and scar trees in the dozer lines before they are rehabilitated.

 

 

Natural Values

 

Sallow Wattle had been mapped before the fire and will be a major problem after the fire.

 

A researcher from Melbourne Uni is looking into a gall wasp to destroy Sallow Wattle.

 

Parks are looking for grant money for Sallow Wattle work on Park boundaries. There’s a need for both short term and long term strategies for Sallow Wattle.

 

Deakin Uni Students are doing research into small mammals in the fire affected area. Small mammal trapping 36 sites in the Grampians National Park. 4 sites were burnt in Mt Lubra and The Northern Grampians Complex fire.

 

The Borea mirabilis reintroduction site near Plantation Campground was burnt and is being closely monitored. (This extremely rare plant is known from only one natural site near Halls Gap)

 

BTR Wallabies are still okay, no mortality since April last year.

 

There are now 3 photos of the Quoll in the Brush Tailed Rock Wallaby site. The team tried to trap the quoll for 7 days but had no luck.

 

Hair tubing is also being tried in the BTRW site, no cage traps can be used.

 

Local landowners talking about quoll sightings

 

There are now quite a few remote cameras in the Wannon Fan and Victoria Valley with interesting results, including an image of a potoroo in the Mt Lubra fire scare. Species are in the fox baited area of the park

 

Daryl is using soft jaw traps and changing his bait in the hope of catching cats as well..

 

Stone cairns being erected by walkers at the Balconies are not actually injuring lizards or beetles, but should be discouraged.

 

Katherine’s money will run out at the end of the year, and Dave and Ryan are looking for ways to fund her position. PV funds her 3 days a week and CVA does 2 days a week. Katherine has made important relationships with schools etc. and it is important not to lose her.

 

 

ADVISORY GROUP REPORT December 2011

The AG has met twice since the last newsletter.

The September meeting

We clarified what we hoped to achieve by appointing two junior members to the group, and how to go about it.
Mountain bike working group update: Committee met mid-July and 2 members committed to map proposed trial network north of Halls Gap using existing tracks and forward to David Roberts.
Brambuk Management Service Agreement was discussed.
Heritage Events: Next year represents 100 years since Walter Zumstein established the historic visitor site and accommodation, and this clearly will need to be included in ideas for the re-opening of the Zumsteins picnic area. There is also interest in a Forestry heritage event, Spring 2012 tentative date.
Two community forums have been held to discuss Zumsteins renewal plans. Once insurance money is confirmed a site plan will be developed and circulated for community comment.
Fire Ecology Strategy update: Jill Reid described the underlying strategy which guides the Fire Operations Plan for the next three years and explained the maps showing the zones. The biophysical report that underlies these recommendations is available via the ParksVictoria Website.
Dave told us about the Round Table that has been formed to discuss fire management issues associated with the Park neighbours, stakeholders and interest groups. This forum is designed to allow a better discussion between groups about the individual and broader issues of fire management policy (Wendy is the FOGG representative at the Round Table – see her report below).
Pre-planned burn indigenous heritage protection works. Ryan Duffy described how they are preparing to deliver protection works around identified indigenous cultural sites within planned burn areas.
Grampians Peak Trail. Dave described the initial Halls Gap Peak Trail circuit that has been planned and funded, involving a 3 day loop. Planning has been undertaken for the entire Peak Trail, however funding so far has only been provided to develop the Halls Gap loop.
Terms of appointment. The current GNPAG was appointed in early 2008, as the term is for 3 years the AG is up for re-appointment.

The November meeting

The letter to local secondary schools calling for applications for junior membership of the AG has gone out, and we hope to have two young members next year.
Terms of appointment update. This AG will remain until PV management calls for expressions of interest for a new one. There are many important issues facing PV at the moment and this may not be high on their agenda.
Flood recovery update. Much work has been going on to try to have as much as possible open for summer. In some areas there will be temporary solutions, pending new bridges. Access to Mt Rosea will be difficult because Vicroads are beginning their work on the Silverband Rd.
Grampians Fire Round Table. This is being led by DSE and is succeeding in getting diverse interests at the one forum. We felt it was important that the AG should also be involved.
Staffing issues. We discussed the fact that Dave has inherited many of the smaller reserves which were under John Harris (others have been joined in with Casterton and the Little Desert). On paper that brought three of John’s staff over; but two of these are on long-term leave, as are a couple of the Grampians NP staff. PV has budget problems, and is reducing staff by attrition i.e. not replacing staff who leave or are on long term leave. This, we felt, impacted most unfairly on this Park which is currently five positions down. The staff situation is made worse by the rigid way the new fire and pest staff must be used. For example, neither the fire staff nor the pest person are allowed to do any track work. It was resolved that Margo write to Rod Newnham expressing our concern. (I actually already included some of this in my letter last January, which at least resulted in having a Team Leader Natural Values appointed after a long gap, but not these other positions. It’s worth a try anyway.)
There were also discussions on the heritage days and on the Registered Aboriginal Parties / Traditional Owner status of the Park.

HALLS GAP LANDSLIP MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

The Northern Grampians Shire released its landslip strategy and guidelines at meetings in Halls Gap on August 29.
A small number of the 190 landslides throughout the Grampians National Park impacted on private property in the Halls Gap area. The properties impacted by landslide were mapped by geotechnical experts engaged by Council to prepare maps to identify land that is susceptible to landslide. Council have now contacted the property owners who have land that is identified as susceptible to landslide. There are immediate consequences for planning permits for new construction in those areas, and it will clarify who may be affected regarding insurance premiums. Detailed information can be had by contacting the shire direct.

THE LONG DISTANCE WALK Margo Sietsma

In the last issue I reported that the Advisory group had discussed the first stage of the long distance Grampians Peak Trail, which will be a 3 day circuit from Halls Gap, to Mt Rosea area, to Borough Huts area, and back to Halls Gap.
FOGGs were briefed on the plan at our meeting with Dave in August. Government funding for the planning and development of Phase 1 including up to 3 hiker camps and new track development has been secured – $2.3million. New walk in camp sites will be established, one near the old campsite at Mt Rosea, but hidden from the road, and one off Redman Rd similarly secluded. They will probably consist of pads for BYO tents, toilets, fire places, and a basic shelter. Camp sites will need to be booked, at a fee. There are no plans for private investment. It is expected that walkers using the trail will be a mix of independent walkers and people booking through tour companies. These companies may offer a service of providing the tents and meals at the sites, so that walkers only carry a day pack, or they may even pick walkers up and deliver them to the spas and beds of motels and B&Bs. The track for the first two days will mainly utilise the current tracks, along with traditional hikers. The funding will enable these tracks to be improved to cope with the extra traffic.
The route for the third day’s return to Halls Gap hasn’t been finalised. It could go along the fireline along the shore of Lake Bellfield, but that’s a bit boring. It is more likely to be a new track, and different alignments are being examined.
This is just the first phase of the proposed complete walk from Zumsteins to Dunkeld, and it’s due for completion in 2012. It’s not known when further funding will be approved.

FLOOD RECOVERY NEWS: 2 _ VICROADS Margo with help from Andrew Roach

The PV road and track network:
Parks Victoria are currently focusing their efforts on restoring access to the base of MacKenzie Falls and the walking tracks from Sundial Carpark to Lakeview Lookout and the Pinnacle. Repair work on the walking track from Halls Gap to the Pinnacle via Mackeys Peak is also being undertaken. Parks Victoria is endeavouring to have these walks open by the September school holidays. Other popular walks, like the Venus Baths Loop and in the Wonderland area, will take longer. There are numerous bridges lost, and access is hampered by the Vicroads work in the vicinity. The work required is time consuming and complex, particular the difficulties associated with access.

Main roads in the Victoria Valley and Victoria Range were re-opened to visitor traffic in August. These remain very slippery and have soft edges, so if you venture into the park make sure you slow down, obey the signs and drive with care. All seasonal roads remain closed.

So all in all a huge amount has been achieved, and we are most appreciative of the careful thought and hard work that has gone into the recovery effort.
There will be some photos of some of the roads and tracks up on the Fogg website.

FLOOD RECOVERY NEWS: 1 _ VICROADS Margo with help from Andrew Boak of VICROADS

So much done, so much still to be done. I’ll start with the roads.

Saturday 20th August saw the long awaited opening of the Grampians Tourist Road after months of hard work. After so much effort put in by people from Vicroads, Parks Vic and the contractors, the opening was a bit disappointing. The invitation was for an 11 a.m. commencement. However, when we arrived we stood around cheerfully chatting in the sun before being told that the minister was running late due to fog. Come back in an hour. So off we went to drink coffee and admire Grampians art. We duly returned to the locked gate, still no minister. Meanwhile a queue of cars was forming as the signs in Halls Gap declared the road was now open. Eventually it was decided that the two mayors – of Southern and Northern Grampians – would open the road; and they did so while cameras whirled and so forth. I then drove up to Mt William to enjoy the views and the flowers.
Watching television that night was quite a surprise: the minister opened the road! Apparently, when he finally managed to get here (at 2pm), they relocked the gate so he could have the glory of unlocking it and declaring the road open. Ah, politicians.
But setting aside this cynicism, this is a real achievement and worthy of celebration. Not only is the bitumen connection between Halls Gap and Dunkeld restored, access is now open to all the Parks Vic roads in the area. Parks staff have been working hard to ensure that once the main road was open, so too would most of their network that comes off it. So now the road to Mt William is open, Serra Rd is open, Mirranatwa Gap is open, most of the Victoria Valley is open. Mind you several of these are still extremely slippery. Still closed are Redmans Rd and surrounding roads, the top end of Glenelg River Rd, and several others. A detailed list of what is open and closed is on the Parks Vic website and available at Tourist Information Centres and the like.

VicRoads gave an informative presentation recently on what was involved in reopening this road, and I’ll summarise very briefly: Bridges at Bovine Creek, Fyans Ck No 1, & No 2, and Jimmy’s Ck all required significant repairs and upgrades to abutments and beaching; and at least five major landslips required major works on debris removal and construction of culverts. Some of the repairs are temporary and require drier weather to complete them. Edges and shoulders are still soft.

Vicroads also reported on progress on the Mt Victory Rd. It is now open between Zumsteins and the Mt Difficult Road turnoff to Boroka lookout, and will shortly be open as far as the turnoff to the Sundial Carpark. When that section is opened, Parks Vic also plan to have access to the Sundial Carpark open. (But access to the Wonderland Carpark will take longer). The piece between Halls Gap and Epacris Falls was the most heavily impacted by the rain event. Six major retaining walls are required. The work here is 50% complete, waiting for retaining wall components and plant. Work at two further large and four smaller landslips is also under way. Estimated reopening is late November 2011 (weather permitting). The Silverband Falls Rd is also a Vicroads responsibility. It is already open from the bottom as far as the falls, but the next section is a long way off – approximately May 2012 (subject to the contractors’ programme and weather).

Roadworks will continue on all roads under traffic control for a considerable time after the roads are opened.

NEWS FROM THE ADVISORY GROUP Margo Sietsma

The next AG meeting is due on September 13. Each member received copies of the Fire Operations Plan and the new Fire Management Zones to examine and respond to before this meeting. Remember that if people have any questions they wish to raise with Parks Management they can do so via the Advisory Group. You don’t have to be a member of any particular group. The aim is for the AG to be a two way communication: people bringing ideas and suggestions to the Park, and park staff explaining what is happening, so we on the AG can bring that out to the public. In some ways the modern tools of web pages, facebook and the like are changing the way PV communicates with the public, so the role of the AG may need to change. However direct personal contact beats the mass produced content on the internet every time. But then there’s a corresponding responsibility for the AG members to pass on their info to their communities.

RECENT TRACK OPENINGS

Temporary Easter Openings: Halls Gap to Pinnacle Lookout and Silverband Falls Walking Tracks.
Parks Victoria has worked hard to provide access to two walks in the Wonderland Range for visitors during the Easter break. These walks have been built for temporary access and will be closed at some stage after Easter to restore the tracks to their original standard.
1. The Pinnacle from Halls Gap 2. Silverband Falls Walk

Properly open:
Halls Gap surrounds:
FYANS CREEK LOOP, BORONIA PEAK CHATAUQUA PEAK TUNNEL TRACK FROM POMONAL

Access from Dunkeld:
MT STURGEON THE PICCANINNY

Northern Grampians:
HOLLOW MOUNTAIN GULGURN MANJA SHELTER MT ZERO MT STAPYLTON LOOP
NGAMADJIDJ SHELTER BEEHIVE FALLS BRIGGS BLUFF MOUNT DIFFICULT

Grampians Update – Mt Difficult to Briggs Bluff Long distance Walk

Parks Victoria is happy to inform our licensed operators and interested groups, that the long distance walk from Troopers creek over Mt Difficult to Briggs Bluff and then down to Beehive Falls is now open. This walk provides a overnight walking experience in the Grampians with the following conditions:

· The tracks from this walk to Longpoint track and to the Plantation campground remain close.

· Bush camping is only available at Mt Difficult and Briggs Bluff hikers camps (please see attached map).

· Registration of your walk is required: There is a limit of 24 people at each hiker camp.

· Please plan ahead. The Major Mitchell, Wonderland and Fortress walking tracks are still closed, this walk will be on high demand and may not be avaliable to your group..

· The registration process is to be completed through Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre

Parkwatch Article

The March issue of the Victorian National Parks Association’s Park Watch journal had an interesting article on a 1917 tour of the Grampians by a group of Field Naturalists from Melbourne. They also made a movie of their trip, which is now in the National Film and Sound Archives, and was shown a couple of years ago at the Halls Gap Film Festival. The article in Parkwatch was based on a book called Pioneer Tours by Vivienne Worthington, which is available from her (5241 9491).

ADVISORY GROUP REPORT

The Advisory Group met in February and, not surprisingly, the flood damage was the major agenda item. Before we went out to inspect a little of the damage, Dave explained some of the complexities involved in establishing priorities for recovery work. For example: some roads are Parks responsibility, some are shire responsibilities – and there are 4 shires involved – , and three are VicRoads. The road to Mt William is a PV road, but is needed for access to the communication towers. So that access was very high priority (via Redman Rd,as the bridges on the Vicroads Dunkeld road were so badly damaged). Roses Gap Rd is a Northern Grampians Shire Rd, so the parking for the Beehive Falls walk is their responsibility. Halls Gap to Mt Zero Rd (Bolte Highway) is a PV responsibility, so although the shires would love to see it upgraded, all the costs would come out of our meagre budget. And this recovery work is so expensive! Even producing a map of the landslips cost over $5,000. PV has insurance, but it falls far short of what will be needed. There’s an excess of $500,000 for each event – and there have been 3 events – and it covers replacement only. So for instance, the Silverband Falls walking track bridge was about 20 metres long.; the new bridge will have to be 60 metres.
On a positive note, we were pleased to hear that the letter we sent after our December meeting, deploring the failure to replace Mike Stevens as Natural Values Team Leader, had had the desired result and an appointment had been made. (see Welcome to Ryan Duffy on p2).