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).