Once again there’s been no shortage of contributions to the newsletter, which is good news to an editor. But unfortunately there’s little room for the many photos which came with them. So there are just a few here, but we’ll get more up on our web page and our Facebook.
I myself am just recently home from visiting family in England and the Netherlands and had an interesting day in the World Heritage National Park in the extremely shallow Wadden Sea, puddling in the mud flats with a volunteer guide. She gave me a copy of their magazine (48 pages, out four times a year) and even with my rusty Dutch it was clear that her group was the equivalent of our Friends Group, and that we face some very similar challenges particularly “how to make tourism a blessing not a curse”. They state their aim as:
“to protect the area and keep it for future generations. We do this by political lobbying, influencing businesses, using the law, and educating the public.”
Here are some of what they want to lessen the impact of tourism on their precious environment.
The whole package needs to be considered (transport to get here, where people stay, what activities are offered).
Tourism businesses primarily look to attract visitors wanting peace and space.
Activities offered should strengthen the central qualities of the area: quiet, space, dark nights, rich biology.
Noisy activities should be kept to a minimum.
Travel to the islands should be sustainable, not disruptive and match the core qualities of the area.
Continuing monitoring of the impact of tourism and recreation activities on the core qualities.
No buildings for tourism in protected areas.
Buildings etc for tourism to be sustainable, energy and water efficient, and produce a minimum of rubbish.
I’ll try to remember to bring it along to our next meeting. Some fascinating activities on their programme. In the meantime, relax and enjoy our Grampians Gariwerd news.
This is an exciting time of year in Grampians National Park. The wildflowers are stunning with the golden and other wattles flowering, hakea in bloom along the Halls Gap Road and the grevilleas starting to come out. This is one of my favourite times of year. Both greenhoods and helmet orchids are showing their flowers.
While we have had below average rain, at least we have had some rain and now we can hear at least 6 different frogs calling in our wetlands. The ducks are happy and for the first time we have grey teal. We have been noticing the ducks up trees and on looking them up we see that mountain duck, grey teal and black duck all nest in tree hollows!
This is certainly the season for cockatoos and we have been seeing large flocks of long billed corellas grazing on onion weed in our paddocks. The blue wrens are in breeding plumage and scarlet robins and Jacky winters are regularly spotted. Weebills and pardalottes are calling.
FOGG have been active over recent months with a trip to Hollow Mountain in June to look at the rock climbing areas and the Aboriginal rock art site. In July the trip to Hidden Lake was postponed but some members managed to get there and find clam shrimps. More about this from Bill.
In July, on Planet Ark National Tree Day, we had a successful planting on our property of over 1000 tea-trees, melaleuca and slaty sheoak into deer and kangaroo proof enclosures we had built. Thank you to all members involved.
In August, Clive Carlyle gave a presentation of the wildlife we see on trail cameras on our property – southern brown bandicoots, feathertail gliders, brushtail possums, echidnas and sugar gliders, plus many birds, yellow footed antechinus, wallabies and kangaroos. Not to mention 3 sorts of feral deer (fallow, red and Samba) foxes, rabbits, hares and cats!
Parks Victoria have started a 3-year deer and goat control program and we hope that this reduces the numbers of these destructive, introduced and unwanted animals.
We are investigating a sallow wattle project and have been contacted by a landowner near Wartook who has noticed new sallow wattle in the park. We understand that a new ranger has started who is leading the Sallow wattle program and we hope to meet her.
The Grampians Landscape Management plan is up for review and the first meeting of the Strategic Reference Group is on August 21st at Halls Gap. There will be 5 meetings over the coming 12 months to put the plan in place. I will be representing FOGG on this group – so please let me know if you have any issues that you would like discussed.
Parks Victoria are having community meetings throughout September so hopefully everyone will be able to attend. The first meeting in Halls Gap is 5th September from 6.30-8.30pm please register online at engage victoria.
FOGG have been contacted by Annie Hobby of DELWP to be involved with Gardens 4 wildlife program – the idea being to make all our home gardens more wildlife friendly by plantings and encouraging wild areas and ponds etc. They have next meeting on 12th September 10am at Pomonal Hall. If anyone is able to attend or would like to be involved, please let me know.
Park Connect. So far FOGG have been unsuccessful in getting our activities up on this forum. There are at least 4 different levels of approval before events make it to Park Connect and we are finding this frustrating.
In May, we met with our Chief Ranger Rhonda McNeil to work through Park Connect issues and we plan a General Meeting with Rhonda on 20th September at 4.30pm at Brambuk. All welcome.
Climate change; FOGG members attended the screening of The Movie 2040, about Climate Change and Hope in Ararat in July – an excellent and inspiring feature film.
The Victorian Government has put out a Roadmap to Zero for the Grampians Region for comment (survey now closed) and following on from this a forum ‘Decarbonising Victoria: Grampians Roadmap to Zero Emissions’ will be held in Ballarat on Friday 23rd August. The forum will be opened by The Hon Lily D’Ambrosio, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and Minister for Solar Homes. Featured guests include Professor Ross Garnaut, Alan Pears, Beyond Zero Emissions as well as industry and community practitioners. Attendees will include representatives from local and state government, community organisations, industry, agriculture, transport, renewable energy developers, not-for-profits and many others. Plus participation in a zero-carbon round-table workshop. We hope to be able to have a report on this in the next newsletter.
Gardens for Wildlife is a program that aims to make gardens a place that supports the local, native plants and animals. This can be done through planting native species and providing habitat features such as logs, ponds and bird baths. A new group based around Stawell and Ararat will bring a pilot of this program to reinvigorate our towns for wildlife. The aim is to conduct garden visits to interested residents and offer practical advice on what species to plant and where to attract wildlife such as native birds, lizards and insects. The pilot will be run as a collective with support from Grampians Australian Plant Society, Ararat Rural City Council, Friends of Grampians Gariwerd, Project Platypus, Stawell Urban Landcare, Upper Hopkins Land Management Group, Yarrilinks and DELWP.
Parks Victoria is excited to share dates and locations of upcoming community engagement activities for the Grampians Landscape Management Plan review.
The new management plan will underpin strategic planning for the Grampians landscape over the next 15 years to ensure that precious environmental and cultural values of this iconic landscape are preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Those interested in the Grampians landscape are invited to take part in a community workshop through September 2019. Workshop dates and locations are as follows:
Halls Gap workshop, Thursday, 5 September 2019, 6.30-8.30pm
Laharum workshop, Tuesday 10 September 2019, 6.30-8.30pm
North Melbourne workshop, Thursday 12 September 2019, 6.00-8.00pm
Halls Gap drop-in, Tuesday 17 September 2019, 12.00-3.00pm
Dunkeld workshop, Tuesday 17 September 2019, 6.30-8.30pm
North Melbourne workshop, Thursday 19 September 2019, 6.00-8.00pm
At the workshops, participants will learn about the management planning process, explore the challenges and opportunities for managing this highly valued landscape for the next 15 years and share their knowledge of the area. Venue sizes are limited, and RSVPs are essential. To RSVP, please visit engage.vic.gov.au/grampians-management-plan
A Stakeholder Reference Group has been established and will act as a key source of stakeholder input. The group is comprised of a range of interests, including conservation, tourism and recreation, to ensure that the park is protected and enjoyed by future generations.
As a key stakeholder, we encourage you to share this information with your networks. We have prepared the attached Briefing Pack to support you. It includes social media posts, newsletter templates and frequently asked questions.
For further information on consultation activities, please contact Koel Wrigley, Stakeholder Engagement Advisor at or via phone on 03 8427 3145.
We are heading into a very exciting time over the next twelve months with the development of the Grampians Area Landscape Management Plan, including Black Range State Park. As a park ranger it is a major milestone to be lucky enough to be part of this process nd it is really about being in the right place at the right time to be involved in writing a management plan which sets the direction for the future. I am also excited to just getting around to as many of the community consultation sessions as I can to hear from the many people who value this landscape and learn about their experiences.
Key achievements for the team over the last few months have been the first year of the herbivore control programme and the sallow wattle programme. We welcome Annike who has joined our team from Broome to lead this programme for the next two years. The Grampians Peak Trail continues to evolve, and Alisa is leading the work on making sure we have a true understanding of what this will mean to the team as it comes on line for us to maintain and service.
Our team has been focussing on our reserves around Ararat and Stawell, and it is disturbing how much wood is being removed from these areas. Not just from the ground but trees are being felled and removed. We are working with DELWP, but it is so sad to see these significant reserves being treated this way.
Park staff produce a most informative newsletter each season, with information about what is happening with plants and animals plus Park news and updates. It’s too long to include in full here but here are some extracts.
Road maintenance: Mount Zero Road is in the process of being graded. A long, dry summer followed by winter rains has led to lots of potholes and corrugation. Be cautious when travelling this
road as operations to repair the surface continue. Be sure to check the weekly road report and monthly park access update on the Grampians page on www.parks.vic.gov.au.
Annual goat monitoring: Rangers have been working hard conducting feral goat monitoring to gain a better understanding of their population size in the Grampians National Park. Feral goats cause significant harm to environmental and cultural values in the park. Impacts include compaction
and erosion from their hard hooves. Their browsing techniques are also damaging to the native flora and they compete with native fauna for resources. Once analysed, the monitoring data will be vital to ongoing and future management of this invasive species. If you are interested in helping land managers, the app FeralScan is a citizen science initiative that enables people to record sightings of several different feral species. Visit the website or download the app to get involved. feralscan.org.au/
Winter ecological burning: Ecological burns recently took place in the heathlands around Lynches and Syphon Track in Southern Grampians. Occurring in winter, these burns are low intensity meaning they trickle through this highly flammable vegetation type leaving behind a patchwork of burnt and unburnt vegetation. Low intensity burns of this kind are an important tool for creating diversity in both the vegetation type and age, which in turn supports a greater diversity in fauna species.
It is hoped that species such as Potoroos, Bandicoots and Heath mice will particularly benefit from this method of land management. These winter ecological burns also proved to be a great training opportunity for South West
Do you want help identifying species in the field? Download Museums Victoria Field Guide App: museumsvictoria.com.au/apps/field-guide-app-to-victorian-fauna/
Grampians Peaks Trail: Track clearing and construction is progressing in sections in the north and south. In the south there are some areas of particularly challenging terrain where we will have steel stairs to allow safe hiking; these are currently being designed. Finalising the key design elements and preparation for constructing the hiker camps is in full swing. Designed to respond to each site’s individual landscape, a light touch will be applied to construction with minimal vegetation clearance and disturbance to the environment. Materials in the area will be used where possible to build seating and other camp elements, ensuring harm and introduced assets are kept to a minimum. Tent pads and boardwalks will be in place to protect the flora and fauna underneath, and each camp is orientated to take best advantage of the view over Gariwerd, and using the natural peaks to provide protection from the elements.
Come autumn 2020, you can walk along precipices, wind through creek beds, climb hand carved stone steps and be dwarfed by the grandeur of rock formations and the ancient landscape. You’ll be able to choose from two new multi-day walks, a two-night / three-day section in the north, or a two-day/two-night section in the south, either as an independent walker, or as part of a signature experience offer. Check grampianspeakstrail.com.au for trail details.
Upcoming Events and Activities
For upcoming events and activities in the park please see the What’s On section on the Grampians National Park page at parks.vic.gov.au The upcoming September school holiday program will feature an exciting range of Junior Ranger activities such as a Bicycle Scavenger Hunt, Compass Challenge, All Fired Up and Minibeast Discovery. Two Ranger Guided walks will also take place featuring waterfalls, historic sites and prominent features. Visit juniorrangers.com.au/ for up to date information and bookings.• Junior Ranger activity sheets are available from Brambuk.
Volunteering: Volunteering with Parks Victoria is a great way to contribute to conserving Victoria’s special places and help others do the same. To find out more visit: parkweb.vic.gov.au/get-involved/volunteer
Become a Campground Host during the Christmas and New Year period.
Volunteer as a Walking Track Ranger over the Cup Weekend or Christmas holiday period.
Become a trained Sherpa and join the Sherpa Volunteer Program.
There are also volunteering opportunities through the Victorians Volunteering for Nature -Environmental Volunteering Plan https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/home/victorians-volunteering-for-nature or email the Environmental Volunteering team at
Rock Wallabies: A new ranger is looking after this (Derek Sandow) and funding has been extended. There are five animals remaining, one of them is a male. In September a new young male is planned to be introduced.
Grampians Ark: Fox control is continuing in partnership with private landholders in Victoria Valley and the Dunkeld area. This project implements a best practice pulse fox-baiting programs to protect threatened species of the volcanic plains grassy communities in a target area of grassy woodland and wetland habitat adjoining the Grampians National Park.
The baiting is timed to coincide with the Grampians Park fox baiting
Sallow Wattle: The aim had been to mulch 100 acres but only 15 acres could be done. There is now a new ranger Anke Spiridis who will get the work going again.
Goats: Shooting has been both from the air and from the ground. The aim had been 165, the actual number was 218. Aerial shooting is the more successful way. The aerial shooting comes as a package. 10% of the shot animals must be checked by a vet to ensure it is being done humanely. The vet gave a very good report. Lots of goats were in the Black range
Rabbits: Very little done as it is a lower priority. The group raised some concerns about how this wet winter may affect numbers, and there was also a query about hares.
Deer: Contractors have killed 135, many more in the Wannon area than had been expected. Plans are to engage with adjacent landowners to use sporting shooters on their properties. Donald suggested investigating the use of drones to locate both deer and goat herds.
Peaks Trail: Channel 9 had a feature on it and the Minister for Regional Development visited. The timeline has changed, and it will not be complete before March 2020. 70% of the track from Troopers Creek to Halls Gap is complete, but not yet open. Halls Gap to Cassidy Gap will be completed by December 2020. The main problem is the hiker camps, 4 will be completed by March 2020, there are 11 altogether. Then pods will be constructed at the same camp sites. These are currently only for people doing the PV indigenous cultural guided tour. About twelve indigenous folk have expressed interest in becoming tour guides, discussions are continuing on how many are needed, from which groups etc. There are quite a few staff working on the trail planning: the construction, water supplies for campers, cultural tours and other guided groups. For updates see the website.
Rubbish: We discussed the problem of visitors to the Park overloading rubbish and recycling bins in surrounding towns Halls Gap, Wartook, Dunkeld and what could be done.
Landscape Management Plan and the stakeholder group. Rhonda showed us the map of the area to be covered. See below.
Nine discussion papers by local staff will soon be available to the general public to assist in thinking through the issues and consultations will begin in September. We had much discussion about the fact that only one person from the AG is included in the stakeholder group. We unanimously agreed that this was a mistake. The AG has been the major voice of community groups with park management ever since the opening of the Park. We are not just an interest group. Also, although united in our concern for the Park, we at the same time are not always in agreement on some issues. It was agreed that our chair should write expressing this view, but until the matter was resolved that he would be our rep on the stakeholder group.
Fire Management: We heard a report on the talk given by Kevin Tolhurst on lessons learnt about fire. Big hot fires are disastrous. Control burns need to be patchy. When staff change years of experience and knowledge are lost.
Update on climbing at Summerday valley: Lots of work going on to resolve some of the issues. Further surveys have found more cultural heritage sites. Training of tour operators is proceeding. Groups are not allowed to use the site unless they are accompanied by a licenced tour operator. Both the PV website and the climbing club websites have maps showing where climbing is allowed and where not.
Conservation Action Plan: Rhonda gave us printed copies of the new action plan for our Park. It can also be downloaded from ParkWeb. This is the plan that Mike Stevens was so happy to tell us about at our October meeting last year and delivers the funding for all the actions we heard about earlier this meeting.
Not surprisingly much of the meeting was taken up with the rock climbing controversy, also that this controversy has brought forward the long awaited review of the management plan which this group has been requesting for some years already (the previous one was published in 2003).
Traditional rock climbing was mentioned in the previous management plan. At that time, they were few in numbers and came with clubs or groups. But today there are something like 45,000 rock climbers coming here, of whom only 5,000 belong to a club.
In the worthy aim to help tourism recover after the 2006 fires, changes were made to Summerday Valley to encourage climbing there. Most climbing clubs are respectfully asking for better information so they can do the right things and Park staff are working on the complex task of getting information on to various apps.
Several of our group asked for a new climbing policy, collaboration, clear understanding as to who makes the decisions. They recognise that there are areas that will remain out of bounds.
Rhonda informed us that PV was working on a temporary plan to re-open parts of the valley, and the PV website now says:
“Tour operators that offer rock climbing and abseiling at Summerday Valley in the Grampians National Park have been issued a variation to their existing licences for three months by Parks Victoria.
This decision allows existing Licensed Tour Operators who currently offer climbing in Summerday Valley to work with Traditional Owners to understand and protect Aboriginal cultural heritage unique to the Grampians.
The agreement will allow Parks Victoria, Traditional Owner groups and key stakeholders additional time to work together to ensure the ongoing review of the national park’s management plan is thorough and considered.
The licence provides strictly conditional authorisation for the tour operators to continue undertaking their activities in three designated areas – Barc Cliff, Back Wall and a section of Wall of Fools – within Summerday Valley until 30 September 2019. Additional three-month extensions could be offered if strict conditions are adhered to.
Conditions will ensure that harm to natural and cultural areas in Summerday Valley, which is in a designated Special Protection Area, is minimised.
Conditions include: a limit on operating locations; compulsory completion of an Aboriginal cultural heritage induction program; ongoing education for operators and their tour groups; identification for tour guides and their customers; use of a booking system to manage and monitor access; and reporting of visitor data to help with planning and review.
Tour operators found in breach of the conditions will have their licences suspended or cancelled. Any breaches will put access to Summerday Valley for all operators at risk. Anyone causing harm to natural and cultural values will also face financial penalties and referral to other authorities for possible further action…….. In partnership with Traditional Owner groups, Parks Victoria is preparing a new management plan for the Grampians landscape, an area that covers the Grampians National Park and adjacent parks and reserves. People can register their interest to be part of the process at engage.vic.gov.au/grampians-management-plan“
Over Easter park staff did a compliance check at several sites. They spoke with 703 visitors, and 67 offences were detected. (road behaviour, illegal campsites, as well as some climbing offences).
Other topics we discussed were the introduced herbivore control programme and how cultural heritage is assessed for projects such as the Peaks Trail.
We then moved on to discuss the development of the new Management Plan. It is a “Landscape” management plan and covers some small reserves to the south of the park as well. A draft plan is expected to be on view by June 2020. There will be a stakeholder reference group consisting of 12-15 members which will meet four times over the next 12 months. Groups involved will be: VNPA, Aboriginal Victoria, Outdoors Education, Grampians Tourism, Bushwalking Victoria, Rock Climbers, Wimmera 4 Wheel drive Club, FOGG, local councils and this Advisory Group.
Two FOGG members started out from Halls Gap collecting rubbish through the Botanical gardens and up one side of the creek to Venus Baths and back down the other side of the creek to the gap. They then cleaned the car park at Silverband Falls and the track up to the falls where they also chipped out some spear thistles. Two bags of rubbish were collected plus a small bag of crushed Aluminium cans separated for recycling.
Ten people assembled at the MacKenzie Falls carpark and cleaned up the area there, plus the walking tracks to the falls and the lookout. About two full bags of rubbish were collected mainly from the carpark area. We then moved to the Smiths Mill camping area and did a general cleanup there and also along the road to the campsite.
And a Pomonal group found very little rubbish at the Tunnel Rd carpark and track, so turned their attention to the roads just outside the park where dozens of beer bottles and several old TV sets were found. The trail between Zumstein’s and MacKenzie Falls was cleaned up by the Wimmera Bushwalking group the following weekend, an activity they regularly undertake.
Fifteen people turned up in reasonable sunshine to visit the Hollow Mountain area. Earl, of the rock-climbing company “hanging out” based in Halls Gap, conducted us on a guided tour of Summerday Valley, highlighting the track hardening work and fencing carried out to maintain and improve the tracks in the area. We learnt that the Grampians was regarded as one of the world’s premier climbing locations, attracting visitors from all over the world, and that numbers doing this had been growing very rapidly until the recent climbing bans. Summerday Valley is special in that it caters for beginner and school groups, with good access to climbs and good toilet and parking facilities.
We heard how the current climbing bans were placing additional strain on other areas where climbing was still allowed, such as Mt Arapiles and closer to Halls Gap.
A discussion evolved round the necessity of bolts for safety in climbing, the use of chalk, and erosion and trampling caused by sheer numbers using popular or beginner climbs. We all agreed that the problem had to be managed and that a major obstacle was a lack of funding for Parks to carry out hardening and upgrades of popular spots.
At this stage, the group split with a number of members retracing their steps to the carpark, and then doing the walk to Gulgurn Manja art site, before proceeding to the Mt Zero Picnic area for a late lunch.
The remainder ascended the 100 steps and rejoined the walking track to Hollow Mountain. A further split in the group occurred at the overhang wall, which is rated as a 23 climb up the crack portion, and a 32 in the smoother overhang bit…and is an international destination for climbers. Two members opted to sit and chat while the others ascended Hollow Mountain. The windblown cave system was investigated, and the view onto Taipan Wall ogled at, before we proceeded to the cave of the west, which contains a bouldering scramble knows as “The Wheel of Life”, again an internationally renowned series of moves.
A quick examination of gnammas nearby revealed a healthy population of Clam Shrimps flitting about. We then descended and walked to the Mt Zero Picnic area via the famous Anderson bouldering area.
Lunch was enjoyed in pleasant sunshine, followed by a short walk to look at historic graffiti (1919) plus more recent stuff on a spectacular overhang at the end of Flat Rock. While the committee met to discuss stuff, others went on an orchid ramble along the Mt Zero track.
Thanks to Catherine for organising an enjoyable and informative day.