From the Editor

Welcome to this Winter issue of the FOGG newsletter. An unusual one in unusual times. The Covid rules plus the pressure to complete the GPT means that  local park staff are under a lot of pressure, our FOGG committee needs to communicate at a distance, and as Leigh reports in Prez Sez we are having problems with Park Connect and the need for us all to have working with children certificates. But we have managed to put together an interesting newsletter I hope. My thanks to member Neil Marriott for contributing an interesting article on burning. Do remember that we welcome articles from members. So don’t be shy!

It is always a dilemma how many photos to put in. We realise that some members’ internet is limited so we don’t want to make the document too big. But what to leave out. I’m hoping to revive the FOGG facebook page and use it to show the photos that didn’t make it here. Volunteer help very welcome.

Here are our hoped for activities for the rest of the year, but note that Covid may cause problems. (The official opening of the new track the Walking Track support Group group constructed at Golton Gorge was cancelled four times!). So please contact the person organising an activity closer to the event for more information, and check for it on Park Connect.

There will be a newsletter coming out before the November meeting, maybe even before the October one.

Prez Sez

We are very sad to learn of the death of Lyn Munro in early July. Judith will be writing about Lyn, in this or the next newsletter. She will be greatly missed, as a loved friend and fellow champion of the bush, plus for all her knowledge and input to FOGG and the Hamilton Field Nats; our deepest sympathy goes to Dave and their family.

As the short dark cold days of Winter start to give way to the (slightly) longer, (at times) sunnier, and equally cold days of late-winter, Spring is showing its presence all through the bush: Acacias and Eucalypts flowering, orchid leaves pushing up through the ground, brilliant red correa bells, fantastic fungi, and birds chasing each other and pairing up ready for nesting. It’s one of the most exciting times to be out in the bush, full of promise, especially after the plentiful rains we’ve been having. I hope you’ve all been enjoying the wet, and able to be out in nature somehow, even during this 5th lockdown.

Thanks to Covid it’s been harder to plan activities, but none-the-less, May saw us having a good Clean up Australia morning at McKenzie Falls, and we have enjoyed 3 great outings this Winter so far; see reports later on the Red Gum Walk working beeFungi with Win Pietsch, and exploring the edge of Moora Moora Reservoir with Ross Simpson. We recorded 21 species of birds at the latter, though there were very few of each species.

Plans and dates are more liable to be changed at short notice, so it’s a good idea to keep checking Parkconnect to confirm, or with a committee member by email or phone. So far, the only month in which we have missed an activity due to Covid was February, as there wasn’t one planned for January.

Following the FOGG fossil outing at Mt Bepcha last year, Bill Gardner has circulated Chris Gouramanis’s paper writing up the fossil arthropod tunnels found in the Grampians. This has been circulated to members.

Now for the business side of things, which affect us all as well as the Grampians-Gariwerd.

On 31 May, with the support of the Committee, I sent a letter to the Premier, Lily D’Ambrosio (Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change), Matthew Jackson (CEO PV) and the Premier re some of the concerns FOGGs and other Friends groups have with the management of the Grampians (and other National Parks) in Victoria. A copy of the letter was also sent to Phil Ingamells at VNPA.

In summary, we questioned the following issues:

  • Lack of sufficient Park staff, leading to a severe restriction on patrolling, particularly at peak visitor periods; keen staff having to work many (voluntary) hours over and beyond what they are paid for, leading to their burn-out; and, a reduction in essential monitoring programmes.
  • Lack of resources to Park staff leading to a lack of basic maintenance such as track clearing and repair, cultural site interpretation upgrades, and the continued use of the savage flash-burns in full-filling their ‘controlled burn’ requirements rather than undertaking small-scale cool-burns.
  • The need for ALL park rangers to be Authorised Officers, as is the case in other less field-oriented Government agencies (such as Aboriginal Victoria). The current lack of power for PV rangers is clearly unacceptable and not in the best interest of preserving the Parks values.
  • The exceptional attention given to the Peaks Trail. These extensive and costly works continue to draw resources away from daily Park management.
  • We are also concerned about PVs current focus on economic benefits of the Park. The Park was established to protect the environmental and cultural values of the Grampians, not as a resource to be exploited for economic gain, particularly when the exploitation destroys many of the values of the resource they are promoting. There is a clear conflict of interest in these two aims, and we stress that the environment cannot be allowed to be held second to any short-term economic gains.

We quickly received a very positive response from VNPA, but responses from Parks Vic and Minister D’Ambrosio were received as this was being prepared.

Matthew Jackson’s (PV CEO) reply was short and summarised in this paragraph:

  • Parks Victoria has determined that all staff and volunteers that operate in parks will be required to hold a Working With Children Check.
  • If you have already applied for, or are in the process of obtaining a WWCC, I want to personally thank you for your commitment to child safety.  If you have not yet applied to obtain a WWCC, the deadline for obtaining one has been extended to 31 December 2021, which will allow you time to apply and work through any practical implementation issues, recognising the challenges of recent COVID-19 restrictions.

No comment was given on our other concerns.

The response from Lily D’Ambrosio was a page of platitudes congratulating us on our past work and to say the budget allows for the 57 ranger positions to be retained and that Parkconnect has been “introduced to enable staff and volunteer groups to collaboratively plan and manage volunteer activities”. A very disappointing reply. A response to both parties will be considered by the FOGG Committee.

We are also looking into the request by PV that all our members need to have a ‘Working with Children’ ticket. The first reply simply consisted of a web address of where to find their brochures.

https://ccyp.vic.gov.au/child-safety/resources/guides-and-information-sheets/#TOC-1

We sent a return email requesting that they answer the specific question we initially sent:

As a community group, Friends undertake works and educational excursions within their respective Park or Reserve. Why is a WWC card required by its members? We do not do specific educational activities with children, and any children that do attend are in the company of their parents or grandparents.
If taken logically this would imply that all parents with children who go to a playground where other families gather will also have to have a WWC card?
Can you please clarify the situation and give reasons, if we have to have WWC cards, why this is so.

So far we have not had a response.

Additionally, from their brochures, it is clear that FOGGs do have to develop a ‘Child Safe Policy’ and a ‘Reportable Conduct’ strategy. These will be developed by the Committee in the near future.

WORKING WITH CHILDREN CHECK

Following our querying to Dept Justice and Community Safety regarding the need for FOGG members to have a Working-With-Children check it appears that legally we do NOT have to have a WWC check. Their email advised that:

The Worker Screening Act 2020 (the WS Act) establishes a framework for those people engaged in ‘child-related work’. Under the WS Act, a person needs a WWC check if they meet ALL of the following five conditions of ‘child-related work’:

  • they are an adult who ‘works’ with children aged under 18 years of age. The term ‘work’ includes engaging in voluntary work and providing practical training as well as paid employment
  • they are working with children at or for one of the services, places or bodies, or in one of the activities listed in the WS Act (see https://www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au/do-i-need-a-check)
  • their work usually involves direct contact with children
  • the contact they have with children is not occasional direct contact that is incidental to their work, and
  • they are not exempt from having a WWC check.

and

  • A person does not require a WWC check under the WS Act if their work involves only occasional direct contact with a child and that contact is incidental to their work.
  • Also an adult is not engaged in child-related work merely because they are participating in an activity with a child on the same basis, for example, playing on the same cricket team.

However, despite this, PV are still requiring every volunteer working on Parks Estates to not only have a WWC check, but also to lodge a copy of your certificate with them.

Margo forwarded the committee a section of the Field Naturalist Club of Victoria newsletter that details PV requirements for volunteers:

From FNCP:

As part of Parks Victoria’s commitment to maintaining a child safe environment, and to ensure it aligns with the Child Safe Standards a Working with Children Check is now compulsory for all volunteers over the age of 18.

The new rule applies to individuals and volunteers within groups, and it applies to everyone who volunteers regularly and even if the volunteering only occurs on a one-off occasion. Importantly the rules apply even if you do not have direct contact or engagement with children during the activities!

What this means for [read FOGG] is that everyone who wishes to participate in club activities on Park Victoria estate (National Parks, Flora and Fauna Reserves, Game Reserves, etc) will need to get a Volunteer Working with Children Check. They will also need to lodge their Working with Children Check number with Parks Victoria via the ParkConnect system.

With the new requirements on Working with Children Checks signing up to an activity via ParkConnect will become the mandatory norm for all Parks Victoria volunteer activities.
The next key steps are:

Apply for a Working with Children Check (no charge for Volunteers):
https://www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au/individuals/applicants/how-to-apply
Nominate the [read FOGG] as well as Parks Victoria as an organisation that you volunteer with. The information to be used for Parks Victoria is as follows:
Parks Victoria, Level 10, 535 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 300.  131 963

In the next section that asks for occupation fields and type, please use the exact information below to complete your application. If you have an existing check then you must update it to include Parks Victoria and the FOGG.
Register yourself with ParkConnect: https://www.parkconnect.vic.gov.au/secure-volunteer-home/
After successfully gaining a WWC Check and registering for ParkConnect you must upload an image of it to your ParkConnect account.
For more information visit: https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/get-into-nature/volunteering

PARKS VICTORIA VOLUNTEERING MANUAL

The new Parks Victoria Volunteering Manual is setting the terms for the FOGG’s relationship with Parks Victoria. It is likely that more actions will be required of us as we work through the implications of the new Manual. This will particularly be the case for trip leaders. You can find the manual on this page: https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/get-into-nature/volunteering.

Given our recent lack of communication from PV, it is worth noting that in the Volunteering Manual it states:

Parks Victoria has the responsibility to:

  • Commit to working with volunteers
  • Maintain regular, effective dialogue and build constructive relationships with volunteers
  • Collaborate with volunteers in activity planning and implementation, paying due respect to management objectives, capacity and responsibilities
  • Develop and work with volunteers to create and support meaningful activities
  • Enable volunteer activities and experiences that support land, waterway and marine management objectives and priorities
  • Ensure volunteers are covered by appropriate insurance (subject to insurance terms and conditions)
  • Provide and maintain a safe and healthy working environment, free from discrimination
  • Provide proper induction to Parks Victoria and orientation to the volunteer activity
  • Provide the level of support, resources and instructions required to effectively perform activities
  • Monitor and evaluate volunteer contributions and activities and incorporate changes as necessary
  • Recognise and reward the contribution of volunteers
  • Genuinely listen to issues raised by volunteers and treat them appropriately
  • Respect and utilise the knowledge of volunteers
  • Protect personal information of the volunteers
  • Provide a child safe environment aligned with Child Safety Standards
  • Consult with volunteers in relation to OHS and communicate OHS Risks

Parks News from the Chief Ranger

From Rhonda McNeil M 0498 441 433   E

It is with great sadness that last week saw the passing of Graeme  “Shonky”  Sherger.  Shonky was a long standing member of the Halls Gap team as was his father before him. He was involved in many aspects of park management but in particular he was involved in machinery use in the park, whether building campgrounds, grading roads or incredible work on the fireline.  Our thoughts are with Danielle and family at this time.

Work on the Grampians Peaks Trail is continuing as we get closer to a Spring opening and it was great to have the Grampians Advisory Group out on site at one of the new day walks and to a campground to share what really was part of their vision for this park.

The management plan is in finally stages of reviewing all the feedback and providing a final version for the Project Control Group which includes our traditional owner partners before it is presented to the Parks Victoria Board. We do not have a launch date as yet due to so many other things happening in the government and parks worlds but hopefully by the end of this year we will have a new plan to guide us for the next 15 years. Thank you to everyone who has provided comments and discussions and I am hopefully we have developed a plan for the future that will protect this amazing place for generations to enjoy well into the future.

More bits from Rhonda:

Some great news to share with you all during these challenging times. We had an amazing capture on site 28 . A southern brown bandicoo.t.   This is the first one we have caught since 2013 on any of our sites.  So over 56,000 trap nights since the last one we have caught.  Also, due to fires etc, this is the first time we have ever caught one  on site 28. The resilience of our small mammal population never ceases to amaze me.  This highlights once again the importance of these long term research programs which are coordinated and support at the local level.

More good news Marlenne Rodriguez Malagon has accepted the Team Leader Environment position until end of August 2021 which is great as she brings a large amount of environmental work experience from across the world and a great personality as well. Hopefully during this time we can advertise the position ongoing as we absolutely need it as the success of the research below is due to having this position in the park.

Grampians Ark position: we hope to advertise this shortly as an ongoing position after so many years of short term contracts so very exciting, Dylan Sortino will continue to act in the position until we have this position filled.

Biodiversity Response Program Coordinator we hope to advertise shortly to back fill for Marlenne, Kailee Savoia is currently acting in this role.

Feral cat program: unfortunately we were unable to get a permit to undertake this years aerial baiting program so we are working on our permit application for next year based on the feedback from DELWP. We were hoping to have two of our staff down on French Island this week to offside their aerial baiting program ( first in the state) but unfortunately due to covid they will be monitoring remotely. This will also help us deliver our own program  next year.

Sallow Wattle program: we are lucky enough to have three staff with us Dianna, Kristina and Tom who will be with us until September this year which is a great help to truly determine a program for ongoing sallow wattle removal.

We have been told we will get further funding for the Biodiversity Response Programs and the Grampians Ark so Marlenne and I will be busy just making sure we have all the paperwork in order so we can focus on getting the great work on the ground undertaken.

As always the whole team are doing an incredible job across the park , grading roads, cleaning facilities, signage , maps and onground works to be ready for the Grampians Peaks Trail opening later this year and working with our amazing volunteers. We couldn’t believe it but in  we had the Golton Gorge opening all planned for the fourth time and had to postpone once again. We hope we will soon get to recognise and thank the amazing volunteers for this work.

Gariwerd Black Range News

From Hannah, Community Engagement Ranger

Parks Victoria has shortlisted the Black Range Conservation Survey, led by the Black Range Land Management Group and NGT, for the funding through the Volunteer Innovation Fund.  The votes of the Victorian public will decide which projects are successful, so read on for more info!

The Black Range is a granite uprising east of Gariwerd/The Grampians near Ararat that formed 400 million years ago. The Range is of cultural significance to its Traditional Owners, and includes Bunjil’s Shelter. Following recent poor land management and significantly reduced annual rainfall, the Black Range Land Management Group is working to increase habitat and biodiversity, control invasive species and erosion, and to conserve more areas of the dry and rocky Range. We have partnered with the Land Management Group to support this project which aims to engage our local community in actions that learn about and address climate change, including re-establishing habitat for southern brown bandicoots and more. If successful, the funding will allow the Black Range Land Management Group to:

  • Develop and deliver a free BIRD, FLORA AND FAUNA ECOLOGY COURSE (10 weeks x 4 hrs p/w) within the Black Range Scenic Reserves, in partnership with Nature Glenelg Trust. The course will develop 20 volunteers’ capabilities in identification and conducting surveys, whilst developing understanding for and love of the Black Range ecology.
  • Convene a half-day CONSERVATION DIGITAL TOOLS WORKSHOP that establishes how survey data will be contributed and used by volunteers via existing mobile apps, identifies gaps in available tools, and plans integration with data management systems preferred by other land management & conservation agencies.
  • Convene an autumn and spring WEEKEND BIRD, FLORA AND FAUNA SURVEY, conducted by volunteers who completed the 10-week course, across designated sites in Black Range.
  • Commission a Black Range CONSERVATION REPORT to be compiled by ecologists from Nature Glenelg Trust, to develop strategic priorities and coordinated land management in Black Range.

Funding for this project has been sought from the Volunteer Innovation Fund and we could use your help! Projects will be awarded funding based on community members voting for their favourite ideas.
Voting is now open. To have your say, visit www.engage.vic.gov.au/volunteeringinnovationfund

Online voting closes at 5pm on Thursday 12 August 2021 so be quick!

Two local groups were successful in the last round.

Nature Glenelg Trust New Tech Volunteering: Novel citizen science for Grampians wetlands $19,997.00
Friends of Lake Modewarre Planting the seeds of environmental passion in young school children $2,100.00

RED GUM WALK (8/5/2021)

As it happened it was only a small group of us who were able to join in our working bee at this FOGG created walk. This was the first walk established for the less-abled in the Grampians  but since then several new ones have been created by PV.

The area was badly burned in the fires of 2006 and recovery has been slow. Interestingly the post-fire growth is now at the stage where it is thinning itself out, resulting in quite a lot of death of 1.5 m tall shrubs and many of these dead plants falling across the path. So there was quite a bit of clearing work to be done. Plus some weeding.

We had quite a bit of discussion as to what needs to be done to improve the walk, and what FOGGS could fund and what we would ask PV to fund. Although currently the track is not that attractive, this will change over the years as the young gums grow, so we mustn’t let it get forgotten. It also makes a useful record of how a forest recovers from fire. Some of the ideas that we will bring to the next FOGG committee meeting are:

Signage: There is no signage from the major road south. The large sign at the carpark is deteriorating and needs replacement. There should be an arrow close to the end of the current track pointing to the big fallen tree. The  smaller signs burnt in 2006 could be re-instated with perspex covers and thus add to the interest of the walk.

The track itself: Most of it is in quite good condition but the end of it definitely needs new gravel. The track used to be circular but only the first half was re opened. Should we seek restoration of the return track? (Not cheap  to make it suitable for disabled folk with a large number of fallen trees). Or should a new piece be constructed leading to the major road?

Later I looked at the online version of the walks for the disabled booklet, which FOGG were sponsors of when it was first created. It was last updated in  21 August 2019 and does include this walk and still acknowledges FOGGS. You can find it on   https://www.ideas.org.au › Books but I am not sure when the last printed version was updated. Mine is 2009.

FOGGS FUNGAL FORAY (13th June 2021)

By Leigh Douglas.

At our last meeting, we were privileged to have Win Pietsch teach us about the problems and fun of fungi identification, and to learn that many do not have common names and have yet to be identified   – what a privilege, to learn from such a scientific, experienced and enthusiastic teacher.

12 of us met at the Halls Gap Botanic Gardens, and Win had us all inspired; she gave us a brief overview of Australian fungi and their properties, bringing along a whole library of fungi books that she spread over the table, plus some exceptional specimens of fungi unlikely to be found in the Gardens.

Fungi are different from other plants; most of the ‘non-plant’ is underground, we only see the fruiting bodies, very useful for our identification and their procreation! Preferred habitats, seasons, classification, ecology and habitat, edibility, the importance (and beauty) of spore prints – and even SLIMINESS in identification were covered. Despite telling us that microscopic investigations have to be used for species identification (at which point some of us were ready to flee), Win reassured us that field characteristics are enough to distinguish major groups. Fungi are undergoing a lot of study and re-classification, so identifying them definitively, even with references, is difficult. Below are listed useful fungi field guides for you to check out.

One of the most beautiful fungi (Cortinarius sp.) has a delicate, cobweb-like veil weaving the cap with the stem; others have intricate gill patterns, a variety of cap patterns, and a big range of shapes and colours, among other differences. Unlike previous years, no ‘Dog Vomit’ (slime mould) was sighted, but a favourite with the younger crew were the minute yellow ‘pin-head’ colonies growing on fallen tree trunks, with Puff Balls coming a close second.

The children in our group were very good fungi scouts in the Gardens, and continued to find different fungi in home gardens and the bush for the next couple of days, excitedly asking us questions about them … which we were mostly unable to answer! However, the more you learn about fungi, the more fascinating they become, and our guide books are invaluable…

Fungi Map.   

For years Win has been involved with submitting sightings of fungi to Fungimap, along with Ian McCann and Dave Munro; Fungimap is a Victorian volunteer group advocating for conservation of fungi, and their important role in biodiversity. Sightings are reported from all over the state, and collated in Melbourne (much like Birdata).

Now Win is urgently asking for a volunteer (s) to take over this valuable work, as she can no longer cover the sites adequately. It’s a great excuse for getting out into the Grampians, and the sightings can be submitted quite easily I believe, with identification of species not necessary; photos are a great help, with locations and GPS coordinates. Finding the fungi can be shared with fellow nature lovers.

More information about Fungimap is available on the web, and Win has given us one of the paper forms to be submitted, if anyone would like to see it.

 

References:

Bruce Fuhrer: A field Companion to Australian Fungi. Bloomings Books, 2001.
I.R. McCann: Australian Fungi Illustrated. Macdown Productions 2003.
Pat Grey and Ed Grey: The Fungimap Guide to Australian Fungi (available through website).

FOGG excursion to Moora Moora Reservoir (Saturday 10/7/2021)

By Andrew Cunningham

A special day was had by 11 of us ably led by Ross Simpson, whom we met at Moora Moora Reservoir at 10 am last Saturday. The weather was amazing, and probably Ross could take no credit for that! Those of us from Stawell took off in thick fog to be greeted a few kms from Halls Gap by gorgeous sun and clarity. On the descent down onto the Victoria Valley from Mt Victory, there was still heavy frost on the shady south side. It was quite an amazing entry to Moora Moora where we met in the sunshine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we did the short stroll up onto the reservoir wall, which I am thinking was built in the early 1900s as part of the Wimmera Mallee channel system, we had a superb vista. The mist had lifted from the south side of Moora Moora so the Serra range was mirrored in the water of the old swamp- turned reservoir. The north side still had glorious mist which disappeared over the next few minutes.

The stroll southwards on the reservoir wall with the warming sun on our backs was magnificent. There was a lot of small bird life in the interface between the bush to our right (west) and the water to our left (east). Because we were high up on the reservoir wall, we looked down into the bush with the sun illuminating the bush.

It was a warming experience for the body and soul as we wandered away from the sun with Neil McCumber and Neil Marriott informing us regarding the flora and fauna. We eventually “toddled off” the reservoir wall and went along a lovely sandy track through the bush. It was memorable and lots of wonderful photographs were taken. We eventually were directed by Ross onto the Glenelg River Road and back to our cars for a well-earned rest after our 11km walk, and enjoyed lunch together in the sun. It was a wonderful day that you would not expect in mid-winter! Thank you again Ross, and to Judith for the good idea.

ADVISORY GROUP MEETING 13 MAY 2021

The meeting started with Rhonda’s acknowledgement of country.

Next Derek Sandow spoke about his experiences working on the Yorke peninsular and about cats.

We then discussed the challenges facing the park; both short term – especially politics – but also long term eg climate change, the fact that DELWP funding is only 1 year at a time which makes research projects etc difficult. Should we contact PV Board? How?

GPT update: They are still airlifting materials into the campgrounds. The trail from the North to Hg is nearly finished, needs more work on Bugiga campground (about 1 month’s work). 4 new staff have been appointed. Several day walks now open: Cascades, Lake Wartook LO to HG. Stony Ck campground nearly finished. Lots of work being done at Mt Sturgeon; some bits being re-aligned to save money.

Opening date is set for Spring 2021. Still working on signage for the trail. One problem is that this work is not being done by the local staff but in Melbourne. Next task is to get it up on the website which local staff are doing and then the marketing department have to approve. The website is planned to be up by end May, and bookings will be available via the website. How to manage relationships with licensed tour operators? Eg use of huts. Problems with funding for carparking spots. Happy with quality of track.

Lessons learnt: would have been good to have someone qualified in project management, not enough opportunity for public comment, local shire participation.

Fire update: DELWP have got quite a bit of burning done, though the Serra range area is hard. Rhonda gave us a diagram of how the different teams work together. It is good that rangers are gaining more understanding of fire. When and how often to burn is a DELWP decision, and they are now also using cultural burns.

Management Plan. Work is continuing on how to implement it. How many staff are needed? Cost?

Topics that received the most public comments were dingoes, camping and rock climbing  and PV will offer some options. This needs to be done by the end of May, then more discussion with traditional owners, then to the PV Board by late July, then the final draft plan in August.

Some issues are: camping, hiking, really popular sites, rock climbing & scrambling, rewilding.

Camping, hiking: Fire rules, hiking and camping off tracks – should this be forbidden in some areas, with fines? eg areas listed as remote& natural, areas close to rock wallaby sites. Use group size as limit? Eg 4 OK , 16 not? Dispersed camping: vehicle based will be done slowly, walk in: Jimmy’s Ck stays as is.

Really popular sites (McKenzie falls, Balconies, Boroka ): parking, rubbish, selfies outside fences, illegal swimming.

Rock climbing & scrambling: A big problem. All rocks close to the Venus Baths track have all undergrowth close by badly damaged. What can be done about it?

Staffing: So many vacancies and difficulties advertising positions where staff are on longterm health leave. Rhonda gave us a diagram.

Stimulus Projects: Brambuk repairs and  re-opening will be done by the Commercial team. McKenzie Falls we’ll discuss at next meeting. GPT trail heads in progress. Ararat mountain bike trails.

Environment: The planned poisoning of cats is slow. Hope to send some staff to French island to watch them (but couldn’t after all). Will explore using a helicopter to drop a fake poison to see how cats react. Deer shooting is happening at the moment. Attacking Sallow wattle difficult with less visiting school etc groups due to Covid. Deakin Uni continuing monitoring with both Elliott traps and camera monitoring.

Traditional owners: A few weeks ago 25 members were here and also met with the PV CEO and some board members. Talked re challenges particularly w Management plan. Time pressures, funding for their staff to respond to so many questions and meetings. All local PV staff are going to do a Cultural awareness course here, and another may be held at Budja Budja.

Possible FOGG actions: write to our local state member re staff shortages, particularly indigenous staff, that the PV and DELWP contracts are far too short (eg only 3 months for indigenous).

ADVISORY GROUP MEETING – JUNE 29, 2021 Peaks Trail and McKenzie Falls

Present: Eight AG members plus quite a few park staff in addition to the GPT staff. We went in mixed groups of AG members and staff in each car.

The morning was very cold, heavy mist. First stop was the group camp site on Stony Ck Rd which is still under construction but close to finished. We first looked at the platforms erected for the tent sites. Rather different to the ones I had seen at the Bugiga camp site. They have a new arrangement to assist in tying the tents down. Also a metal plate so a fuel stove is not on the wooden base. Next the outdoor sitting are with a long table and seats, designed to make removing them very difficult. Then we went on to the large group meeting spot. It has large perspex windows (we were told there is a good view from the end one but all we could see was grey cloud), tables, seats, a food preparation area, a solar powered battery so people can recharge their phones and 4 plug in spots. It is not intended as a place to sleep but it is inevitable that it will be used in wet weather. They talked about lessons they had learnt from mistakes with the first one at the Bugiga camp site (not far from the Mt Rosea car park), also how to make repairs and changes easier. Eg the perspex is in a few pieces rather than just one big sheet so that if initials get carved just that sheet can be replaced. There’s a pin up board for messages etc.

Next stop was Mckenzie Falls. We saw the new tower to enable Telstra connectivity. But it will only work close to the toilets, but a great improvement nevertheless. We discussed the pros and cons of having a cafe plus information kiosk. Pros: such a popular spot and can get info to users who won’t go into Brambuk; cons: people will stay longer and that means more parking spaces needed – how much forest should be cleared just so people can have a coffee? There is money available to spend here, but what on? We will have another meeting to discuss this.

Next stop was Troopers Ck campground where we ate lunch, inspected the toilets, discussed that although the tank is just rainwater it’s labelled “non-potable”. To be able to call it potable requires regular checks and tests which are just not worth it. From where we were we could see the next camp site way up above us and the helicopter going back and forth bringing in construction materials. Then we set off on the Gar waterfall walk, 2 ½ km each way. Beautiful waterfalls at the moment, and although there won’t be much water much of the year the wildflowers will be great. The GPT staff were noting our feedback and taking notes of where they have to improve the track to minimise damage, and which signs need work. They plan to use indigenous names for each camp site and feature.

Back where the cars were parked we continued the GPT discussion. The AG members from Laharum and Horsham commented that as the day walks on the GPT get better known there will be an increase to visitors to their end of the Park. We all agreed that is very likely. (Personally I find myself rather confused about the whole GPT thing. Conflicting opinions. This walk was so beautiful that I took my daughter on it the very next day, and I know there are other sections of the GPT I will explore. I do want people to appreciate what a beautiful park this is. At the same time I worry about too many visitors and the damage that may do to the environment, I worry about creeping commercialism of the GPT, I worry about the rest of the park suffering neglect and low budgets.) I asked about what was happening with the plan to have indigenous ranger tours of parts of the trail. Rhonda replied that the plan had changed somewhat, that rather than PV employing indigenous guides, a contract would be drawn up with an indigenous company. That way the money would go to locals rather than PV consolidated funds. The GPT is planned to open in Spring.  So they are frantically busy.

Finally I also asked about the non GPT track in Wonderland. What was the situation with the closed section in Grand Canyon? The answer was that the ladder needs extensive and expensive repairs, in fact a completely new ladder. And when that will happen is unknown.