From the Editor

Welcome to this issue of the FOGG newsletter. An unusual one in unusual times. No reports on excursions, no photos of us out in the Park, but plenty of reports on meetings held mainly online. I don’t know about the rest of you but I find they work alright, if not brilliantly, for small groups who know each other, but are most frustrating for larger groups.

One positive result of being in lockdown is that both Leigh and I have been able to look back at history and the contributions to the environment of some of our quiet members. I hope you enjoy these.

What activities we’ll be able to do over the next few months is hard to forecast. We will need to have an AGM in November but it may have to be on Zoom. There will be another newsletter before then.

At the very last minute of putting this newsletter together there is an announcement of temporary changes to access to several rockclimbing sites in the Park and near Arapiles, due to new discoveries of important cultural sites. These are causing quite heated discussions and there will be more on them in our next issue. The PV announcement can be found on—aug2020.pdf

President’s Report

Hi Friends,

I hope you are all going well. It looks to me like spring is here and we seem to have missed winter. I don’t know about you but our rainfall is non existent and our seasonal creek and wetlands are still dry. What a disaster for our wetland plants, frogs and water birds. I hope we get some rain soon.

Given the lack of rain, today was another glorious sunny day for the Grampians and I took the opportunity to go for a walk. What a profusion of flowers we have at the moment of all colours yellow, mauve, pink, red and white. We all have our favourites. We will miss our FOGG events and the wildflower show this year, so I hope you can catch up on some webinars and zoom meetings instead.

I have certainly been out in the garden a lot planting and weeding. Talking about weeds, the spread of Sallow wattle south along Mt Zero road in the Grampians National Park and the spread of South African weed orchids in both the Victoria and Mt Difficult range looks relentless. In my opinion, without immediate action there will be no controlling these invasive plants.
I hope that the Victorian Government will provide funding for weed control in our national parks along with everything else that we need and don’t have any funding for. We all have our wish list and mine is getting longer!

We are waiting in suspense for the Grampians Landscape Management plan to be released later this year and hope we get the opportunity to provide comment that will be listened to.

I must say that I am very concerned about the Grampians Peak Trail, in particular the extent of new trails formed (over 100km), overengineering of the track, the amount of cleared vegetation for both the trail and campsites, and the bulldozing of tracks to reach these campsites and all in the Grampians National Park. (I have shortened this quite a bit and replaced with My objections can be found in the report of the meeting on ??.)

Enough complaints from me.

Please enjoy reading our newsletter, thank you once again to Margo and other committee members for an amazing effort. If you have the chance please get a copy of the reprint of Ian McCann’s The Grampians in Flower by David Welch. FOGG have some copies.

I wish you all the best and please continue to stay safe.


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.

Grampians Advisory Group Minutes: 11 May 2020

Meeting held via Microsoft Teams platform, except for Margo who was in the room with Rhonda.

We started as always with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land we were meeting on.

Covid 19 – The park has been closed with opening planned later this week but not campgrounds. Whole team is operating differently and observing social distancing.

Environmental programs – delivered contract ground shooting program but not the volunteer ground shooting. Starting aerial shooting program this week and next week. Completed sallow wattle mulching program. Fox baiting and leg hole trapping continuing. Might not be able to undertake research work on small mammals as per previous years.

Park Operations – Taken advantage of the park being closed and have undertaken tree risk works at campgrounds and some general maintenance works.

Visitor & Communities – reduced work due to school and volunteers programs has meant this team has been busy assisting all other teams and catching up. AS well as taking the opportunity to get into some of our key walking tracks and undertake vegetation clearing and assets updating.

Fire and Emergency – Busy burning season with a number of burns undertaking including around Booroka Lookout, Serra Road and Boronia Peak.

Grampians Peaks Trail – Still working away in construction. There is plans for future meetings with key stakeholders such as advisory committee re huts and the hut experience which know will be operated by Licensed Tour Operators not Parks Victoria.

Brambuk The National Park and Cultural Centre- the current permit expires on June 30 and Parks Victoria will take over the operating of this centre as of July 1. Commercial division will appoint staff to operate this centre.

Landscape Management Plan  – Group discussed feeling not as connected with this plan as with previous plans and that for many on the group emails or documents on websites are not the best way for them to process and understand the information.

Request was to organise a face to face day where the group could come together to discuss the key topics as identified at the Feb meeting and have an agreed position for the members to share with their networks. Also requested that documents that were circulated to the Stakeholder Reference Group be sent to each member of the advisory committee prior to this discussion.

Management Plan Discussion: 28 May 2020

Due once again to Covid restrictions, numbers allowed at the meeting were heavily restricted and yet it was difficult to deal with online. The solution decided on was to have five of us at a time in the Mural Room for an hour to present our comments and questions, then leave and another five come in. I think there were three sessions. There had been quite a few emails circulating before the meeting, which was useful, but it will be interesting to see how much of our contributions will be in the draft plan when that is released.

Advisory Group Meeting: 13 July 2020

Due to an easing of Covid restrictions we were able to meet in person in the Mural room, well spread out. Some of our regulars were apologies, and there was one new member Keith Lockwood representing the rockclimbing group.

The main topic was a detailed report by Mike Stevens on the work of the environment and heritage  team. First he introduced the new team member Marlenne Rodriguez Malagon  ???? and provided an overview of the team structure.

He next gave us some good news on the btrws. The new males have settled in well and some of the females appear to have pouch young bit still a little too early to confirm how many. He followed this by showing a YouTube video that has been made to mark 25 years of the Grampians Ark project, a co-operation between the park and the landholders in Victoria valley. This co-operation has been vital for the survival of the btrws and other creatures. (The video is beautifully shot and yours truly is in it, wearing my FOGG badge – you can watch the video here Mike has said there has been interest from Jalluka Landcare as to whether a similar partnership would be achievable in the more densely settled area on the Halls Gap Pomonal side of the Park.

He told us about how the large amount of money his team received last year was being spent and highlighted the uncertainty whether  large amounts will occur again into the future as the government focus tackles the the impact of Covid on tourism.

Fox update: Fox baiting is continuing, as is research into how to make it more effective and safer. Examples are: looking at ravens helping themselves to fox bait, evaluating live trapping with leg hold, evaluating the effectiveness of cameras along roads v cameras in the bush. I was really impressed both here and later on how important the team takes good science to be.

Cat update: there is now an authorised cat poison available, but it may also be fatal to reptiles. So the current plan is to only use it in the colder months when the reptiles are dormant and the cats probably quite hungry. They will also investigate leghold traps for cats as is already successful with foxes.. Mike gave us a link to a government enquiry into cats, and encouraged us to join it.

Herbivore update: Groundbased shooting by volunteers was done in spring and was planned for autumn but couldn’t proceed due to Covid. Aerial shooting has continued, it’s effective but expensive. There’s a colony of goats on Chatauqua Peak for example which they had hoped to deal with but they need to have staff at every track entry point to keep walkers out, and so it didn’t proceed. Deer they are controlling with both aerial and ground shooting. Deer are very habitat oriented, for example they just love pennyroyal weed, and there is potential for more public/private partnerships.

Sallow wattle update: They are making more use of mechanical mulching rather than manual pulling up of plants. It is cheaper. They are continuing to monitor it and compare sites which have had different treatments. Sallow wattle remains a real problem because of the damage it does by excluding all other vegetation..

Bird Surveys: Mike had hoped to have some extensive bird surveys done this year using “citizen science” with volunteers trained by Greg Kerr of the Nature Glenelg Trust. Firstly at the southern end of the park, and then the northern end. But it has been put on hold due to the Covid pandemic.

Mike and some of his team have also spent quite a lot of time assisting in the Gippsland parks burnt in January.

We could have spent another hour learning from Mike, – we are so fortunate to have him, but it was time to hand over to Rhonda.

Working during the Covid emergency:  Most staff are working from home, but one senior person is in the HG office each day. Out in the park most places are open, but they are keeping an eye on popular places like Mckenzie Falls and Wonderland carpark. Halls Gap is worryingly full of tourists. PV is trying to work out how best to deal with volunteers, and it’s not easy and looks like it will get harder. Leaders need to be trained, go on Park Connect, take names and phone numbers, report back.

Brambuk: There has been a delay in emptying out the offices from the old managers, due to the death of Geoff Clarke’s mother. Representatives of the three traditional owner groups are working together on classifying the artefacts there. An interim commercial manager has been appointed and ads have gone out for a full time indigenous manager to be appointed. It is hoped the information centre will open in September, then the cultural centre later.

Management plan:  The draft public plan is due to come out at the end of the year and then to be open to comment. The draft internal plan was due to come out in September, Rhonda has just received a draft draft draft version. Some of the topics include; upgrade to cultural signage, information hubs in more locations than just HG, discussion on camping, nothing yet on waste management, more thought needed on fire management, more work needed on recreation activities, particularly climbing. Keith asked why not make changes now to climbing areas that have been shown not to have heritage issues. Can it be an evolving document?

Grampians Peaks Trail: We were fast running out of time but I did ask why almost finished sections couldn’t be opened now. The answer was it’s mainly an insurance question but it is hoped that some of the northern section could be opened in September. There have been some staff changes, and some of the team are not here. One for example is based in Sydney! The next AG meeting will spend more time on the Peaks Trail.

At the end of our meeting we were introduced to the new area chief ranger, Rhonda’s boss, Jamie Staples. He, I am pleased to report, is based locally, mainly in Horsham. His area covers west from Ballarat to the SA border, north from Warrnambool to Wyperfeld. Interestingly he is not a longterm PV employee but has joined by applying for this position when it was advertised. He previously worked for the Grains Board but has always been a bushwalker and lover of parks.

Update On The Grampians Peaks Trail: August 5 2020

Rhonda arranged a presentation on the status of the Peaks Trail to both the Advisory Group and members of FOGGS. Due to the Covid restrictions most attended via Microsoft Teams, and only five of us sat in the Mural Room at HG, four from the AG (including me) and one other from FOGGS. On line were two FOGGIES and two AG members and a few more Melbourne Park staff. Prue Daley co-ordinated it but the presentation was from Koel Wrigley from head office in Melbourne. Rhonda was also with us at the start but could not stay due to urgent work commitments. Those of us in the room tended to keep our questions until later, whereas apparently some in the online group were asking questions from early on. However, unfortunately technical problems meant that those of us in the room at HG couldn’t see the questions that were coming in online, and so were somewhat confused at how they were dealt with.

Koel then proceeded with her talk also using a series of Powerpoint slides which I captured on my phone for this report. She started with giving us some background (Slides 1,2 & 3). It will be 160km long, can be done in sections or as a 13 day journey. It is part of a portfolio of 4 walks under the trademark of Walk Victoria’s Icons, and is intended to increase tourism to regional Victoria. This is something I had either forgotten or not completely taken in, and I think it is the reason it is so Melbourne driven. The budget is over $33 million and it is hoped it will be completed by December 2020.

We were given a map of the route (paper one for those in the room). You can see it and more photos and information online at The site has had a community update added after our meeting.

There will be 12 sections of track and 12 camps. To construct the camps clearing of vegetation, movement of rocks etc, installing some boardwalks and stairs are required. Some upgrades to existing access roads are needed. Signage of different kinds too.

So current activities (slide 4) include the track construction work and vegetation clearing, the campgrounds, two bridges in the southern end, stairways on the side of Mt Sturgeon, provision of drinking water both along the track and at campsites, negotiations with traditional owner groups, four local councils, Grampians Tourism DELWP, PV and Regional development Vic.

The next slide (5) was on the design drivers and the trail alignment. Koel talked about the many factors involved : environment, cultural, statutory, local community etc. She told us that the trail and the campgrounds were located to minimise impact by: maximise use of existing trails (over 35%), minimise size of campgrounds, avoid culturally important locations. Expertise of consultants, traditional owners, PV staff and local community has been listened to.

Next slide (6) was on Environmental management. We were told that they were minimising the environmental impact by avoiding sensitive ecological areas, use of boardwalks in some track areas and at the camps, responsible management of grey and black water, vegetation removal mainly by hand, careful management of PC threat. There was full statutory compliance with respect to the various legislation, planning permits, plus accurate recording of vegetation removal to meet DELWP procedures. This is where there was strong disagreement via online comments, particularly with respect to Mt Abrupt and Mt Sturgeon areas.

Koel then went on to more details of accounting for vegetation removal (Slide 7). The transfer of Dunkeld rifle range into the Park was part of this, so was the rehabilitation of disturbed areas at Mt Christabel, some track closures and funding of the sallow wattle programme. We were also told that the compensation for the vegetation removal will be across the state, not just the Grampians, which worried Wendy and me. We were told that there will be a full report on vegetation removal and offsets at the end of the project. They couldn’t give us figures for what has happened so far.

We then moved on to the Hike-In Campgrounds (Slides 8,9). We were assured that each of the 12 has been designed to sit discreetly in the environment and there has been extensive cultural heritage assessments. Each site will have: a main shelter or gathering space (except for the one at Durd Durd), separate toilet building, tent pads, boardwalks and tracks positioned to minimise environmental impact, 11 of them are for general use, one for groups, especially schools.

The next slide had more information on the huts (10). The Master Plan (when?) outlined the intention to provide some roofed accommodation to support a diversity of walkers on the trail. There will be 3 huts at 2 camps (Gar and Werdug), each will have 4 beds. The huts will be built and managed by PV and used by Licensed Tour Operators, including Barenji Gadjin Land Council it is hoped, (see questions later). They will be low impact, not suitable as fire refuges, easily removable (they can be helicoptered out if they don’t get used), sleeping only, no cooking or heating facilities. Where Barenji Gadjin act as tour operators they will be able to light a fire in a fireplace for some teaching about cultural practices, but not for cooking or warmth.

Next steps (Slide11): There will be updates in the community newsletter and online community sessions. A prospectus for Licensed tour operators will be released and information sessions for them held. Meanwhile work on tracks and campsites will continue.

So, further discussion, further questions.

I think we were all (AG & FOGGS) happy with using indigenous names for camps wherever possible. Quite a few of us had concerns that other licensed tour operators were going to be licensed whereas we had thought it would be just indigenous operators. In the past some LTOs had indulged in questionable practices like rock stacking. Will they use that fireplace? Some AG members were disappointed that the question of LTO’s and huts hadn’t come to the AG for discussion previously.

We had several concerns about the discussion on environmental management. I felt that the “tracks closed to compensate for the new tracks created” including the Bomjinna track closure was stretching the facts a bit, but in fact I was quite wrong. It was in the 2014 document. And is Peaks trail money actually going towards sallow wattle control? We have misgivings also about the compensation for vegetation removal being done across the state rather than just this park.

As I mentioned earlier, Catherine strongly felt that the track near Mt Abrupt was destroying old growth moss/lichen forest which is rarely seen in the Grampians landscape and which is impossible to restore or replace. She was also concerned that the Southern Grampians Shire council had succeeded in changing the location of the campsite after it had already been cleared, also concerned about the bulldozed road into Cassidy Gap campground. Tourism being seen as more important than the environment. Ross also was concerned about access for rescue personnel in this area as he had checked part of the track. He was reminded that he shouldn’t have gone into a closed track. Here I want to support him. It’s fair enough to close the track to people who just want to have a walk in the bush, but those who may have really useful feedback should be able to have a look. Indeed early on in the planning, we were invited to take a look. FOGGS were invited to comment on the Bugiga campground back in July 2015 and were accompanied by Mark Whyte from the HG office, the AG were taken to give feedback on whether the track was too close to a newly discovered art site more recently. Other groups of volunteer bushwalkers were also used early on to help decide the track route.
Other questions were on poor communication with the HG Botanic garden group and the HG Recreation Reserve about the track coming through HG, queries about the track crossing busy roads, and the really major one of the maintenance of the track in the future and the effect that will have on the GNP budget, which has been the theme of the AG since the very beginning.

So I do hope that Koel did not feel that she was under attack, our frustration is not with her, but that the need to make sure that this Park’s environment must be the absolute first priority. Tourism must always come second. There were plenty of fine words on some of the slides, but they need to be put into practice.

Committee Meeting Report: 15th July 2020

We met on zoom and Paul Strickland from the Victorian Environment Friends Network had been invited to join us. All the committee were able to join in.

Bill outlined his recent discussions with senior park management regarding Prof Timms research permit problems and had positive discussions and concerns from this meeting. Senior Park management wanted to hear feedback and to have this information to try to improve the system.
Acknowledgment of the lack of funding, lack of staff and time constraints on local rangers due to bushfires, inadequate funding and Covid19.

Paul outlined that Parks Victoria is not a conservation agency. That we are independent organisation and as such can determine our own directions and activities. He mentioned that there is a Draft Volunteer Management Manual which is rules for staff engagement with volunteers. Issues around lack of staff and funding.

Suggestions included:

  • Work with Parks staff to resolve these issues. Our best allies are the people we know locally and we need to involve them in our discussions.
  • Essential vs non essential activities briefly discussed , It seems that Parks are happy to have working bees, seat installation etc, while not approving social activities and bird watching events. We don’t want to do all the hard work and not have any fun social activities. Concern that limiting activities will mean we have members dropping off as people lose interest. FOGG have always said that they are not there to do Park work which should be done by rangers. Paul advised that we should be able to have a balance of activities including personal development/educational and working bees as a Friends Group and that this is up to us to determine.
  • FOGG is an independent organisation and we have our own insurance.
  • Park connect is there to assist us but activities do not need to be put on Park Connect for approval

Committee concerned that we don’t want to upset parks or ignore them.
We decided to ask Rhonda to facilitate a meeting with the new regional head . At this meeting, discuss the issues with our area that we need to get sorted out. Making it clear that we want to support local staff so that they can get more support from higher up to improve the Park.

Future activities were discussed and arrangements planned, but all cancelled due to Covid restrictions.

Further discussion on the progress of the reprint of Ian McCanns book .

The Fish Falls Seat Saga (Bill’s name)

Once upon a time there was a Zumsteins Friends Association, formed originally to campaign that Parks look after their heritage. When they felt that their concerns had been listened to they closed down and gave FOGGS the money left in their account. FOGGS decided that it would be good to use it by placing a seat on the path from Zumsteins to McKenzie Falls. But at that stage, I think, the path was still closed. Then came years of fires and floods. Then we had a look and decided it could best go near Fish Falls and sent a note to that effect to Parks.

Update to 2019 and the committee decide to get it done. But the note has been lost. So we start again. What sort of seat and where? Bill, Rodney and Leigh met with Hannah and chose the spot. But what sort of seat? A recycled plastic one was our choice, only to find that Parks have moved away from these back to timber. Bill did a lot of research and came up with several timber seats on the market. But which is the most environmentally responsible? Many committee emails back and forth, and Hannah kept very busy but quite determined that a new seat would be in by the end of the year. Hooray, there is now one ordered and we hope we can help install it.

Thanks to Bill for his persistence and and Hannah for her patience.