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.

UPDATE from the Parks Victoria Grampians Team


What a different Easter from last year back to full capacity so a busy time for all our team. One of our growing issues is waste management and this has unfortunately increased we believe over Covid due to the feeling of safety that comes with disposable items. But where to dispose of them. This Easter we placed a skip bin at Plantation Campground as in past years this is the campground where we have had the most rubbish left in bags at trees. Well, it certainly worked as the photo shows with the entire skip bin full and three large tandem trailer loads all around it. What to do is our next question as this is not sustainable with our budget.

Last week saw the departure of Derek Sandow. Derek was acting in the Team Leader Environment position and prior to this was our Grampians Ark Coordinator. Derek will be greatly missed by the team and the park as his work over the last two years to reinvigorate the Grampians Ark program by bringing the resources inhouse rather than contractor delivery and his work on the Brushtailed Rock Wallabies was amazing. Derek and his family are moving to the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia where he will take up a role rewilding the Yorke Peninsula. We are working hard on getting this team leader position filled as it is so vital to many aspects of our work here but there are many pressures on us at the moment regarding resources.

Hope you are all enjoying the crisper mornings

Rhonda McNeil

From Our Chief Ranger

The Draft Gariwerd Landscape Management Plan has been launched and we encourage everyone to go to engage.vic website to find all the information. This includes an executive summary, frequently asked questions , a summary on rock climbing, a short video and the plan, so plenty to start reading and join the conversation.

All our project firefighters have returned and are busy working across the park and we are currently recruiting for 2 seasonal rangers. Lots of recruitment is currently occurring with new staff coming on board for the Grampians Peaks Trail.

A successful aerial shooting operation occurred last week as part of the biodiversity response programs,  with the total numbers of the 2.5 years being 378 deer 364 goats been dispatched. The team will know be working hard to promote the value of this level of investment in landscape scale programs so we can continue these programs.

We expect to have Brambuk the National Parks Information and Cultural Centre back open within the next few weeks.

Congratulations to Margo on the release of her book on the Grampians.

Rhonda McNeil

Area Chief Ranger Grampians (Gariwerd)

M 0498 441 433  T  8427 3612


From Rhonda, Our Chief Ranger

Surprisingly things are still very busy in the park and assisting staff including myself juggle the home schooling thing.

The whole of the Grampians National Park is closed to all people, including not being available for locals to undertake exercise within. These closures are very different to anything we have had in place before as they are under the public health act which is administered by Victoria Police not by my staff. There were a number of stages to this full closures with us first closing campgrounds, then a week later closing picnic tables & BBQ’s and then a week later full closure. All this caused some confusion to locals, understandably.

We did have discussions regarding a potential part closure of the park eg allowing locals to exercise but with a park with 55 entrances and numerous communities who believe that the Grampians is their back yard including Ararat, Stawell, Horsham, Hamilton it was deemed as too difficult to enforce and be fair. Also the aim of the closure was to reinforce that staying at home is what we have to do and taking a drive to go for a hike is not what is considered exercise.

We know that is a very challenging time and hope that people can understand that the decision was not made lightly and was taken to protect the whole of the community.

We do not know when this closure will be lifted as it will be determine by the chief health officer. We are, though, in the park required to undertake a full patrol of the park daily and report our findings and I know that Victoria Police are also do regular patrols and providing information. At this stage our patrols are indicating a high level of compliance however this week we have had a number of incidents of our signage being removed that we have to replace.

If there is any silver lining to this tough time is that we are still able to work in the park and with this closure in place we are taking the opportunity to do as much maintenance work as possible in high visitor sites, in particular hazardous tree work in our campgrounds and a full walking track maintenance program at MacKenzie Falls and Balconies as examples. We are hoping to complete the burn between Boroka Lookout and Halls Gap which is such an important strategic burn whilst the park is closed, having significantly less impact that it would if the park was open.

Our new District Manger Jamey Staples has started and I have had him out into the park a number of times already showing him the range of amazing things that this park encompasses. I will start to briefing him on our challenges over the next few weeks.

Hope you are all doing ok and looking after yourself and we can all get back out and enjoy the park soon.

From the Park Desk

Rhonda McNeil

Area Chief Ranger Grampians T 8427 3612


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.

Peaks Trail

Mark Gallon

Works progress on the Grampians Peaks Trail with a number of upgrades to pre-existing tracks on the alignment being brought up to a sustainable standard and improved with good drainage and stone steps in certain areas.  Approximately half of the 60KM of pre-existing tracks that can be upgraded are under contract at the moment with the balance out for public tender.  We anticipate that the remaining 30km or so of pre-existing tracks on the alignment will be under contract by Summer.

A number of local and interstate Contractors have established themselves on sections of trail between the Mt William summit on the Major Mitchell Plateau to Jimmy Creek and are busy organising materials and set out of the works for this very difficult part of the project.  The work through this section could take up to a year to complete.  You may have seen recent footage on the Channel 9 news showing helicopter lifting of materials into the rugged and remote sites from the Mt William summit.

Field surveys with archaeological specialists and Traditional Owners started on the new sections of track, future hikers camp sites and proposed parking areas/staging points (we call them Trailheads).   There is more than 80 km (potentially around 100km) of new trail to be assessed, thirteen trailheads and eleven hikers camp sites.  Traditional owners will also be collaborating with the design team for the hikers camps over coming months.

Park Update Autumn-Winter

Dave Roberts

Planning works

Cultural Heritage Management Plan field work has been occurring since late May 2017, which will provide management advice around sites of Aboriginal significance including:

  • The Grampians Peaks Trail Walking track alignment
  • The GPT hiker camp locations
  • The new campground at Dead Bullock Creek
  • The formalisation of campgrounds at Coppermine Tk, Long Point West, Long Point East
  • The walking track realignments at Briggs Bluff, Ngamadjidj Art shelter and Golton Gorge
  • And Carparks/Trailheads for the GPT, Dead Bullock Creek and Ngamadjidj.

This planning work will be finalised and approvals granted by the end of September which will mean works associated with Fire Recovery can commence and the GPT development is a step closer to construction on the new stages.

Conserving Victoria’s Special Places

The Environment & Heritage team have been actively working on key landscape projects including Grampians Ark (Fox Control), Sallow Wattle Containment, Herbivore control (Deer & Goat), broader reserve management and fire ecology. Of note is the recent project managed by Mike Stevens around using Volunteers from the Sporting Shooters Association and Australian Deer Association to undertake Targeted Deer and Goat control in sensitive ecosystems. This effort, complimented by our staff and contractor programs will grow the program whereby we can become more effective in our introduced herbivore program.

The team successfully completed another round of Rock Art conservation works in May, which focused on sites in the Black Range SP and surrounding reserves where graffiti and other visitor impacts are being managed and mitigated.

Connecting People & Parks

Our assets team have recently completed an upgrade to the Pinnacle viewpoint with new timber treads. This compliments works completed at Boroka lookout and upcoming improvement works at Reeds lookout/Balconies walking track. The team have also taken delivery  of a new Grader which will greatly assist the team in delivering its annual road management program.

Our visitor & community team have put the finishing touches on the soon to be published and released Accessibility Guide for the Park which incorporates new features like Trailrider information and improved maps.

The year has been very successful for Volunteer engagement and contribution. Caitlyn O’Reilly our Volunteer Coordinator has worked with a diverse range of volunteers achieving over 5500hrs of effort across the entire park area. Caitlyn’s role as it currently stands will unfortunately finish on the 30th June 2017, as it was funded through funding received from the 2014 Northern Grampians Fire. Parks Victoria is exploring alternative funding sources to continue the position as the value is clear and the opportunities are there to continue and grow Volunteer opportunities in the Park.

Providing Benefits Beyond Boundaries

Our Fire & Emergency Team had a quiet Fire Season (thankfully), but have been very active in Fuel Reduction burning, planning and delivery. The Park is implementing its winter burning regime through our heathlands with good results. This type of burning is growing in its importance and is perhaps a window into how the landscape was managed 160years ago.

Key strategic township burns around Ararat, Stawell, Halls Gap and Dunkeld will be a key focus in the next 6-12 months.

From Our (Very Busy) Ranger In Chief

David Roberts, Area Chief Ranger, Grampians Gariwerd

We would like to publicly acknowledge the contribution of Ryan Duffy, outgoing Ranger Team Leader Environment & Heritage, as he moves to NSW Parks & Wildlife to take on a new career challenge. Ryan has been a strong member of the Grampians Parks Victoria Team for 7years, and has played a stable and level headed role during times of change. Of note, the Bioscan in 2012, the ongoing commitment to the Brushtail Rock wallabies, the refinement of the Grampians Ark, the initiation of Sallow Wattle control and the relationships established and progressed with research institutions has been outstanding.

Of most significance however, has been Ryan’s dedication to the area of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage. Previously a minor part of the program, Ryan has grown the knowledge and effort of Rockart management and Traditional Owner engagement to a point where we are now actively conserving, cataloguing and evolving our knowledge of management techniques around cultural site management in Gariwerd. Thank you Ryan.

In other Grampians News,

  1. Works are progressing on the stabilisation and conservation of the Zumsteins Pise cottages post the 2014 fires following the receipt of a permit from Heritage Victoria on the 17 January 2017.
  2. Recent media about the rock wallaby colony has been pleasing as we celebrate some small successes, while highlighting the overall challenges of the program
  3. The production of an accessibility guide for the Grampians National Park is nearing completion which will aid people with mobility issues, wheelchairs, prams/pushers and specialist equipment like the Trailrider. Keep any eye out for it over the coming months.

Regards David Roberts

From the Park Desk

Rainfal DeficienciesUndoubtedly the main talking point around the National Park Office has been how dry the Landscape is, and the implications for us all. Immediately our minds and energies focus on the fire risks to our park and communities which we have had such vivid experiences of over the past 10 years. The dryness is isn’t just a here and now phenomena. We have experienced incredibly dry conditions for the past 3 years which is well illustrated by the diagram.

These conditions not only heighten the Fire risk but also place significant stress on the entire ecological system. Over the past few years, our partners at Deakin University have seen a decline in small mammals across the Grampians landscape as part of their ongoing monitoring into the effects of Fire and now climate has on small mammal populations. It is becoming more and more apparent that rainfall is a key driver for populations, and that when things are wet, we have a response in the positive. However when things are dry, and repeatedly dry, our population numbers decline and become further vulnerable to major changes in the landscape like Fire.  It is during these high stress periods that we believe our Fox baiting programs become even more important to assist small mammal populations in persisting while the climate is dry and the environmental resources are limited. One species which we are pleasantly surprised to report is persisting above our own expectations is the Smoky Mouse(Pseudomys fumeus). Recent work by Melbourne Museum(MV) and Parks Victoria in the Victoria Range has confirmed that this critically endangered Federally Listed species is persisting in isolated gullies despite the big dry and recent severe fire history. Prior to the 2013 Victoria Range fire, the Park and MV undertook the Bioscan which yielded a population of Smoky Mice in the Vic Range of 28 animals. Immediately Post fire that number reduced to 9 and then in 2014 just 3 individuals.

The survey effort in 2015 was expected to result in a challenging data set with Ranger Ben Holmes anticipating “This year [in 2015] we were going back with bated breath – we thought this would be the year that we would not catch any mice”. However 7 animals were trapped including the same 3 from the previous year which tells us that this species is able to persist despite the challenging conditions. PV believe our Grampians Ark Fox baiting program has been instrumental in providing this buffer against predation, allowing the remaining population to stabilise and survive. There’s more information and photos in an article in the Guardian.

It is both PV & MV intention to continue to monitor these populations where we can, however a recent funding application to assist in the project was denied which is a knockback for the program. Other options are now being investigated.

To all Friends of Grampians Gariwerd members, we hope you had a happy and rewarding 2015 and have great plans for 2016. For the Park, we have a massive year ahead with big initiatives like the Grampians Peaks Trail and the continuation of the Fire Recovery Program to keep us interested. I’ll continue to keep you informed about these projects at key milestones across the course of the Year.


David Roberts

Area Chief Ranger, Grampians Gariwerd

From Our Ranger In Charge – David Roberts

A busy few months in the park as we hit some critical milestones with the fire recovery program, completed some important strategic fuel reduction burns, ramped up the spring fox baiting program and commenced grazer control in the form of removing goats from the Mt Difficult range.

Caitlyn O’Reilly, our conservation volunteer coordinator has hit the ground running and quickly established partnerships and programs in all areas of our business. I can’t overstate how much we value this role and how much potential it has to assist us and communities get good outcomes on park.

The Walking track support group, under the leadership of David Witham have been active with works in and around the Heatherlie Quarry tracks. This site is in store for a spruce up as we invest in new signs and investigate a possible trail realignment.

It is amazing to reflect on the number of groups actively working in and around the park in an effort to improve, explore, add knowledge and contribute. Deakin University continues its small mammal research, Museum Vic have commenced some spring surveys, Australian Native Orchid Society have been busy, bush walking clubs have assisted in scoping out GPT alignments, school group tackling sallow wattle, historical societies assisting us with information, funds and advice.

All in all, it is clear that the community is well involved and contributing significantly to the way the Grampians is managed. As park managers, our role is to develop program’s, support, lead and prioritise in all the areas of our business which can be challenging given the competing demands, limited resources and unlimited interest in the park.

We do however embrace this challenge and have a strong commitment to getting the best outcomes, work with our communities in this amazing place.

Let’s all hope for a quiet summer, but let’s be prepared for what ever is thrown our way.

David Roberts