From Our Chief Ranger

As always life in this landscape is forever changing and surprising us all with it beauty and hidden treasures. Recent rediscovers of cultural artefacts at the Bundlaeer and Taipan wall have lead Parks Victoria to implement Temporary Protection zones. These zone request all visitor to not enter these areas as we do not want anyone to inadvertently harm these artefacts. Parks Victoria are working with traditional owners groups and affected recreational users such as rock climbing to determine longer term management of these sites. As I discussed with the team this is an exciting time in land management with rediscoveries but it comes with its challenges as we ask people to change their actions for the future protection of these sites.

Many of the team have also been involved in providing information for the draft Landscape Management Plan which is hoped to be out for public comment by the end of this year. As you can imagine this is a significant amount of work checking, tracks, roads, names and working through strategy development. We are though confident that we will have a plan that provides for this landscape into the future and has was for us to work through the current concerns.

As well as this we have had to close the park again to visitors due to the ongoing Covid19 pandemic.  We have closed all campgrounds and major carparks. This time though we were able to keep the park open for local communities to undertake their daily exercise. I know that this has still caused some confusion as to who is local and how close is local. Working with Victoria Police though we have not had any significant breaches of this and no large parties or gatherings which is what we all really want to stop. Behind these “closed doors” though, the team is still working away on roads, walking tracks, pest animal control and a range of other topics to make sure when we can open again the park is ready for what we expect will be an influx of people wanting to enjoy this amazing landscape.

Rhonda McNeil
Area Chief Ranger Grampians (Gariwerd)

Report from Hannah: Community Engagement Ranger, Gariwerd

I asked Hannah if she could give us a report on what it’s like at this Covid time in her role as Community Engagement Ranger. I know from casual conversations with her that it’s far from easy, with having to tell disappointed groups (not just FOGGS) that their activities can’t proceed, while working from home in rented cold accommodation. Unfortunately she can’t write something for us this time and I quote “All of our communications need to be approved by our corporate office at the moment. The only thing I could suggest is I forward you a media release about the Rock wallaby work and you promote that?” So that’s what I’ll do.

One of the longest running conservation programs in Grampians National Park is marking its 25th year with an expansion into protecting wildlife from feral cats. Established in 1996, the Grampians Ark program is one of a family of ‘Arks’ in operation across Victoria that use baiting programs to control populations of foxes. Foxes are highly efficient hunters that can kill a large number and variety of mammals, birds and reptiles, as well as preying on livestock on neighbouring properties. Large-scale baiting has proven an effective control method for foxes. The Grampians Ark program has assisted in re-establishing a population of critically endangered brush-tailed rock wallabies. This year, Parks Victoria is aiming to expand the Grampians Ark program to include feral cats, which are being detected more frequently on the park’s surveillance and monitoring cameras in many remote areas of the park.

Feral cats are a declared pest animal that exist over much of Australia and have colonised many habitats. They are skilled hunters and a threat to the survival of many native species including small mammals, birds and reptiles.

During the second half of the year, Parks Victoria is planning to bait areas that are known to be frequented by feral cats, with results monitored through a partnership with Deakin University. The Grampians Ark is one of a number of conservation programs being delivered in the Grampians National Park this year. Other activities include aerial and on-ground operations to control populations of deer and feral goats; control of the invasive Sallow Wattle; and ecological burns designed to create a diversity of habitats for wildlife while contributing to management of bushfires and fuel loads. Data provided by Deakin University and a new citizen science bird monitoring program will help us understand how the wildlife responds to protections from both foxes and feral cats.

To recognise the 25th year of the Grampians Ark, Parks Victoria has produced a video of this important conservation program. I (Margo) am honoured that I appear towards the end of the video, wearing my FOGG badge, First being filmed releasing a new male, brought up from Serendip that morning, then talking about deer and goats.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvxW3U9n6RQ&feature=youtu.be

Biodiversity Response Planning (BRP) Update

In the past 12 months the team has removed 188 red deer and 254 goats. The program is heading into Autumn deer control with ground shooting crews and aerial shooting planned to occur in late-April to Mid-May.

Sallow wattle mulching has been completed, however we still need to calculate the number of hectares treated.

Planning is full steam ahead for feral cat trapping and baiting hopefully kicking off in late July.

Grampians Ark

Fox baiting and fox leg-hold trapping is currently occurring.

Since two male Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies were released in spring our cameras have detected 1200 images of wallabies interacting and mating. Hopefully we will see some pouch young soon!

Matt White

Other Park News

Parks staff produce a community newsletter,and here are some pieces from the recent Kooyang one.

Summer Education and Interpretation Program

During January a successful program of education and interpretation activities was delivered to almost 150 kids and adults by the parks Seasonal Rangers. Two guided walks for adults and families were also undertaken. Education and interpretation programs are run in Grampians National Park and surrounding reserves every Summer, Autumn and Spring School Holidays.

Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies

Recent scat analysis from areas around the main Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby population has revealed that four of the colonies offspring have ‘grown-up’ and moved into their own territories. Additionally, two new males have been introduced into the colony to diversify the breeding gene pool. This exciting news provides clarification that young are surviving and predator control is being effective.

Increase in Graffiti

Unfortunately, there has been a steep rise in paint and scratch graffiti within the park. In response, rangers have been removing graffiti and compiling information for follow up compliance. Please report any people undertaking graffiti to Brambuk on (03) 8427 2258.

Report an Issue:  Noticed an issue such as fallen tree, damaged road or sign? Report it to Parks Victoria via the Snap Send Solve phone app.

Visit https://www.snapsendsolve.com/ to find out more and download it to your phone.

Deer control

From the 29th February – 5th March, Parks Victoria is working with professional contractors to control populations of deer in some sections of the Grampians National Park. Deer are impacting the park by rubbing, trampling and eating saplings, ringbarking trees, and wallowing in wetland areas, impacting ecosystems and competing for food against native animals. Deer can also degrade water and soil quality, and carry diseases.

Signage will be in place in the areas of control to notify the public and operations will occur overnight.  Given the locations of these operations, there is not expected to be any impact on park access, although park visitors may hear gunshots. Major visitor sites in the Grampians will also not be impacted.

From The Park Desks

ASSETS AND INFRASTRUCTURE

Recovery (2014 Fire and Flood)

A number of road, walking track and park asset redevelopment projects were completed late last year and focus now shifts to completing the following projects:

  • Nagamadjidj walking track, carpark and art site interpretation signage redevelopment
  • Stapylton loop walking track repairs
  • Zumsteins Cottages Pise repair works
  • Zumsteins heritage site interpretation signage
  • Coppermine 4X4 bush camp and Group Hikers Camp redevelopment
  • Longpoint west Hikers camp redevelopment
  • New Dead Bullock Creek (Barriguwa) campground development. Replacement of Troopers creek.

There have been alignment changes to Briggs Bluff and the Mt Difficult walking tracks. Check for alignment updates at Brambuk prior to venturing out.

Roads

Unsealed roads have been upgraded throughout the park as part of flood recovery works. However, dry summer conditions have resulted in many dusty and corrugated sections. Note unsealed roads cannot be graded until there is an increase in soil moisture.

ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE

The Grampians team was successful in receiving funding for Biodiversity Response Planning last year. The funding will be used to run research and monitoring projects and on ground management of environmental threats.

New technology is assisting with monitoring of the reintroduced Rock Wallaby population.

Hard rubbish dumping is fast becoming a major issue in our smaller reserves surrounding the Grampians. The team is responding to a number of reports of household and commercial waste being dumped in reserves near surrounding townships.

FIRE AND EMERGENCY

While there have been numerous total fire bans and severe and extreme fire danger days, it has been a relatively quiet summer in the Wimmera and South West Fire Districts. The Halls Gap fire crew have continued with fire line slashing works, burn preparation for the Autumn and Spring program, and have also assisted the wider team with Junior Ranger education programs and a safer together community information stall in Halls Gap.

Did you know? Parks Victoria is part of Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV). To learn more about FFMV’s role and responsibilities please visit https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au/who-we-are/forest-fire-management-victoria.

VISITORS AND COMMUNITY

The summer holiday program has been a fantastic success this year. Our Summer Rangers have delivered a range of Junior Ranger programs to over 200 participants.

To assist with emergency response Parks Victoria has recently installed over 110 emergency markers throughout the National Park. These can be used to quickly locate lost or injured walkers, and reduce response times of emergency services.

From Our Rangers – Hannah Auld

G’day Foggies,

My name is Hannah Auld and I am the Community Engagement Ranger with Parks Victoria in Halls Gap. A similar role was previously filled by Caity O’Reilly whom you may have been in contact with regarding volunteer projects. This role will be very similar to Caity’s where I will be assisting the team to plan School programs (including school talks and stewardship sessions), Local school VCAL and Outdoor- Ed program sessions and working on programs such as the Sherpa/TrailRider, Community Volunteer groups and projects including FOGGS, 4WD Clubs, Bushwalking clubs and ensuring ParkConnect is a highly functioning tool. I‘d like to touch base with you and your volunteers as I believe we can help each other with future volunteer projects!

A little bit about me – I’ve recently moved back to Halls Gap after a couple of months working for Parks in Melbourne as their Volunteer Officer. However, before that I spent seven months in the Grampians as the 2017/18 Seasonal Ranger, so I feel very lucky and privileged to be welcomed back into the team. I have a wide variety of knowledge from studying Sustainable Tourism for two years and I’ve also completed my Bachelor of Environmental Science. I have a passion for the protection of the natural environment and want to share that with the wider Grampians community. I myself volunteered all through my university studies and therefore have a particular understanding and appreciation of the hard work invested by individuals and organisations alike and the invaluable impact you have on our parks. Which is why during this role I will do my best to support your projects within the park as much as I can.

Part of my role in Melbourne was to guide rangers and volunteer groups though the ParkConnect transition period. If you are familiar with this system you will understand that it provides a collaborative way to record volunteer activities and openly communicate with rangers. Over the next few weeks I will be running sessions to help you learn how to record your volunteer activities within ParkConnect, it will also give us the chance to have a cuppa and a chat about the future for your volunteer group.

Previously working within the park, I believe I can hit the ground running, so please feel free to call me if you have any questions about activities you have coming up as I’d love to help where I can.

Cheers,
Hannah

Note from editor: see also the news about DELWP’s support for volunteer groups here.

From Our Rangers – Rhonda McNeil

I am excited and honoured to be taking up the position of Area Chief Ranger Grampians. I grew up in Great Western and as a child spent many days in Halls Gap and walking in the Grampians. Whilst studying at university I worked in the holidays serving ice cream from Pip Mangle’s Ice creamery.  I started my real work as an information officer in the old parks interpretive centre. So I remember the tourists and the range of questions but there certainly are more people in the Grampians now. I spent the next 20 years working for Parks Victoria in central Victoria and along the Murray River. A favourite park that I was lucky to look after was Kooyoora State Park which is where my affinity with working with traditional owners began and I am so pleased to see the Dja Dja Wurung people heavily involved in park management of this area. During this time I was involved across the state in many fire campaigns and bring a wealth of experience with me to the Grampians.

In 2008 my family moved to Laharum to farm and I worked in the Grampians for the next few years in the fire and emergency management area, in particular with Jill Read on the fire ecology strategy for the Grampians and Little Desert.  In 2011 I accepted a position with Horsham Rural City Council working with Yarrimabiack, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera Shire Councils to develop the Wimmera Emergency Management Resource Sharing Project. During the Northern Grampians Complex fire I was the recovery manager. For the last three years I held the position of Manager Recreation and Sustainability for Horsham Rural City Council, which included overseeing the major projects such as the Horsham Town Hall, Wimmera Sports Stadium Feasibility Study and the Kalkee Road Children’s Hub.

My family (Gus, Sophie and James) and I are very excited about this role and with their full support and belief in me I look forward to caring for this amazing landscape.

From Dave Roberts – The Next Chapter

It’s been an honour and a privilege to have worked in the Grampians National Park over the past 8 years and with Parks Victoria for over 18. The things I’ve learnt, from the people I’ve met have been brilliant and humbling. Your collective experiences, story-telling, observations and perspectives have ensured that the Grampians Gariwerd landscape is conserved and managed for the future and for the right reasons. Like with all things good, it is often about the people you come across. Just like the Grampians communities, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked alongside and lead an amazing team of people who tirelessly put everything into keeping this place as good as it can be – often under the radar. The Grampians Team have been so generous to me through really challenging times, and are a true example of what being resilient is all about. Through fires, floods, pestilence and the aftermath, these professionals just keep turning up and starting again. Their hearts are in the job and they are invested in the mountains. You have been and will continue to be well served by these fantastic servants.

My next chapter is with DELWP in the Otways, where I’ll buy a new pair of Gum Boots and survey the scenes from a different perspective. But these mountains are magnetic, and I’ll be drawn back to the long views and the glowing escarpments. I look forward to returning as a visitor and look back fondly on all that I was able to achieve with my team of committed people.

Thanks

Dave Roberts

From Parks Victoria

OUR VERY BUSY RANGER IN CHIEF is seconded to the North East at the moment. Thank you Tammy Schoo for a comprehensive update, which I have unfortunately needed to shorten for the printed version.

It was all hands-on deck over the busy Easter and Victorian and South Australian School holiday period in the Grampians. High visitor numbers saw every campsite booked out weeks in advance and popular day visitor areas were brimming with families and international visitors.

Luckily there were minimal callouts for emergencies and antisocial visitor behaviour. Unfortunately however there were a higher than usual amount of campfires left unattended, rubbish left behind and  people ignoring signage – such as ‘no dogs permitted in National Parks’, ‘no entering the Balconies and Boroka lookout rock platforms’ and ‘no swimming at Mackenzie Falls’.  Interviews were conducted at the Balconies for visitors climbing over barriers and fines may be issued.

The Grampians National Park is a National heritage listed area – all visitors are asked to respect the law and any park regulations that apply in order to ensure visitors remain safe and so the Grampians National Park is protected for the future.

STAFF MOVEMENTS:

We’ve had a few team members step up and undertake short team backfills of the Assets and Infrastructure team leader position. Thanks to Ian Hanson, Joshua Brown and Emily Scott for keeping the park facilities, roads and recovery projects rolling.

Next week we welcome Chris Washusen to the Visitor and Community Team as Grampians Peaks Trail Walking Track Ranger. Originally from Victoria, Chris has been working as a Ranger in the Northern Territory for the past few years .

Dave Roberts is still working in the Alpine region which has seen Tammy Schoo and Mike Stevens step in to the Acting Area Chief Ranger Role.

FIRE AND EMERGENCY:

Project Fire Fighters have seen their contracts extended through to early May to assist with the Autumn burning season. Over the coming weeks the Autumn burning program will continue throughout the park so keep your eyes peeled for any closures.

The team are also undertaking and increased amount of Non-burn-fuel-treatments (NBFT) around the township of Moyston. This project has primarily treated the Acacia paradoxa which poses an extreme fire risk to the community. It is difficult to get the right conditions to burn it and mulching has provided positive results in previous trials. The NBFT took place in asset protection zones around communities.

ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE:

As part of the Gariwerd Caring for Country project, rangers and traditional owners recently carried out vegetation removal from a number of rock art sites in the Victoria and Mt Difficult ranges. Impacted by the 203/14 bushfires, vegetation had grown back thickly and increased both fire risk and potential damage to rock art panels. Impacts by feral goats and rock climbing are also being managed as part of this project. 

While the broader Sallow Wattle Management project continues to research and trial best practice control techniques, recently ground crews were engaged to undertake hand removal of satellite populations throughout the park. 

The Parks Conservation Action Plan is in the final stages of approvals. This plan will identify the key environmental threats, goals and strategies to manage the park throughout the future.

E & H Ranger Dave Handscombe has moved into a short-term secondment position as Environmental Project Coordinator to deliver the herbivore management project.

ASSETS AND INFRASTRUCTURE:

Telstra is trialling a reception tower at Mackenzie Falls which is increasing reception in zones around the popular visitor site. A landline will also be trialled. A decision will be made in the coming months as to which option is the most appropriate for safety and emergency communication. The toilets will also see a new solar pump installed to replace the old water powered Glockemann pump, which should mean less breakdowns in peak periods.

Mt Zero Road will be closed for resurfacing works on May 21st for two weeks. A closure will be in place from Red Gum Lease track through to Plantation campground. The works will be completed to improve poor areas of the road which have been caused by ongoing dry conditions. Please see the park website for further details including detour options to access the Plantation Campground and the Northern Grampians.

Fire access road repairs will be undertaken in the coming months on key access roads and once the rain begins to fall, grading is scheduled to continue. Be aware of heavy machinery operating throughout the park. Check for road access on our website.

A number of fire and flood recovery projects are scheduled to begin once the combined GPT/Grampians Recovery Cultural Heritage Management plan is approved – hopefully by the end of May.  This will include Coppermine bush camp redevelopment, Golton Gorge walking track redevelopment, the new Dead Bullock Creek campground, Longpoint west bush camp, Briggs Bluff realignment and Ngamadjidj Art shelter redevelopment.

VISITORS AND COMMUNITY:

Throughout the peak visitation period the Grampians had 3 volunteer camp ground hosts who assisted with the delivery of key park information at Smiths Mill, Borough Huts and Stapylton Campground.  We also had 3 Volunteer walking track rangers assist with safety and visitor information along the Grampians Peaks Trail and Northern Grampians walks. If anyone is interested in volunteering for these or other popular programs sign up to ‘ParkConnect’ via our website: The next Volunteer program will be rolled out over the June Long weekend. 

In partnership with the Northern Grampians Shire, the Grampians Summer Rangers ran a number of activities that were linked to the Premiers Active April program. The team also ran Six Junior Ranger activities throughout the park with great success. The Fire and Emergency team worked alongside Seasonal Rangers for an ‘All Fired Up’ program which allowed Junior Rangers to dress up as fire crew members and learn about fire safety within National Parks. There were bush detectives galore, guided nature walks and a very popular bike scavenger hunt.

The team are in the middle of assessing all visitor sites within the park for the rollout of the Visitor Experience Framework (VEF). This will provide information for future management of visitor sites as well as activities and interests available within the park.  The VEF will also contribute significantly to the provision of better visitor information .

Outside the Grampians but in our Reserves management area, the Ararat Trails project is nearing completion of Stage 1 with contractors finalising the environmental, cultural and detailed planning assessments for the existing but illegally built mountain bike trails in Ararat Regional Park. Concept trails, walking tracks, trailheads, car parks and connections to Ararat will be considered as part of the proposal.  This along with a number of other cycling projects will be considered as part of the Regional Cycling trails strategy currently being developed for the Central and West Victorian area.

GRAMPIANS PEAK TRAIL

Contractors have been working hard at the south end of the Grampians Peak Trail (GPT). Mt Abrupt and Major Mitchell plateau works are still underway as we see upgrading of rock steps, track stabilisation, drainage and surfacing completed.

April saw Chatuaqua Peak walking track re-open and again, old timber steps have been removed and replaced with stone. From all accounts the daily walkers on this track are enjoying the more level step platforms and quicker walk times.

Works for the upper and lower track of the Mt Staplyton area will commence soon. including vegetation removal along the new trail alignments, works in Dunkeld community along Salt Creek, Mt Christabel revegetation and building removal and interpretation and experience planning with traditional owners.

For further GPT project information you can read the latest GPT community update at:

https://www.visitgrampians.com.au/what-to-do/grampians-peaks-trail

There are a number of projects being planned or delivered as stage two of the Peaks trail ramps up

IN OTHER PARK NEWS…

A recent report of animal cruelty in Halls Gap is being investigated. Witnesses reported a kangaroo being fed something inappropriate south of Lake Bellfield township. With the ongoing concerns of wildlife being fed in and around Halls Gap, this is a reminder that Halls Gap has a Wildlife Action Group to tackle the issue on private and council land within the township.  Within the National Park and on other land tenure, significant fines can be imposed if anyone is found to be undertaking these or other wildlife related offences.

Seasonal Road closures will come into effect after the June Long weekend. Some Recovery Closures may also still be in place.

From the Parks Desk

It has been a busy summer holiday period in Grampians National Park. According to the latest figures the Halls Gap area saw a 1774% increase in population – from 316 permanent residents to a peak of 5500 people! This was the largest percentage increase across the state of Victoria and evident by the sheer volume of people visiting the national park.
However, the impact on the park has been both positive and negative. It is fantastic seeing so many people out enjoying this landscape, however disappointingly we have noticed an increasing number of people failing to take responsibility for their own rubbish. Please help spread the message of taking your rubbish with you. The photo below was taken by one of our rangers at Silverband Falls Carpark.

Rubbish at Silverband Falls Carpark

STAFF MOVEMENTS: After 3 years in the Grampians as a Volunteer Coordinator and Project Firefighter, Caity O’Reilly has accepted a new marine focused role with Parks Victoria at Queenscliff. Caity will be greatly missed and we wish her all the best in her new position.

Ian Hanson has returned to the team as acting Ranger Team Leader for Park Operations. With over 10 years of experience in the park, Ian will help guide the team responsible for roads and visitor site infrastructure and maintenance.

In the middle of this month we will also see the addition of Jessica Sharp as Grampians Ark Coordinator. Jessica will bring a wealth of knowledge and skills to the role of protecting native small mammals and managing introduced predators.

FIRE AND EMERGENCY: The F&E team have spent the last month completing a range of activities and works. They have responded to several fires, including a large plantation fire at Mooralla on the western side of the park. The team also played a key role in the successful search and rescue operation for missing bushwalker Julio ‘Lester’ Ascui. Looking forward, the team will continue to work on maintaining access to waterpoints and clearing strategic firelines.

This season be sure to keep an eye out for the team in the new Mercedes Unimog fire tanker. This tanker provides increased capability on the fireline and significant improvements in firefighter protection.

ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE: The E&H team have been busy with several projects. These have included deploying fox and feral cat remote sensor monitoring cameras throughout the park, searching for new Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby release locations, clearing of vegetation regrowth impacting significant rock art sites, successful funding bids for goat and deer control programs in Autumn, and working with the Catchment Management Authorities on National Landcare phase 2 grants for Sallow Wattle and feral animals.

2016 FLOOD RECOVERY: Key recent works have seen Redman Road reopened. See our weekly road report for further detail on what is open and closed in the national park.

2014 FIRE RECOVERY: At Zumsteins the roof on the middle cottage has been replaced and expert stone masons have completed restoration works to the walls. Contractors are continuing to develop new interpretive signage for the area.

VISITORS AND COMMUNITY: The V&C team have been making the most of the increase in visitors. With two enthusiastic seasonal rangers on board, the team has facilitated four Ranger guided walks, five Junior Ranger kid’s activities and a series of information “pop-up’s” at Mackenzie Falls, Wonderland Carpark and Halls Gap Visitor Information Centre to help visitors better prepare for their visit, provide park specific information and promote the Survive the Heat campaign.

The Grampians Peaks Trail (GPT) continues to evolve and take shape. Contractors have completed work on over 1.5km of steel walkway on the remote Major Mitchell Plateau. This was achieved in challenging conditions over a winter that involved rain, hail and snow.

As a result, First Wannon Hiker Camp has reopened, however access is only from Mt William or Mafeking. The walking track between Stockyard Saddle and Jimmy Creek Campground remains closed for extensive stonework.

Major Mitchell Plateau Walkway

Works on Chatauqua Peak remain on track for completion by the end of March. Visitors are reminded that Chatuaqua Peak remains open via the Bullaces Glen Walking Track.