Newsletter #23 – Autumn 2000

A newsletter for people interested in the Australian Alps

Australian Alps Liaison Committee

Tidbit’s…

First Annual Meeting of the Australian Institute of Alpine Studies

The first annual meeting of the Australian Institute of Alpine Studies was held at Jindabyne on 9/12/99. It was a largely informal get together of people currently working on research projects in the Alps. Graeme Enders (acting Regional Manager, Snowy Mountains Region) welcomed everyone and then followed 19 scheduled talks. Dr. Catherine Pickering spoke on the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism, Subprogram in Mountain Tourism at Griffith University. This was followed by four sessions dealing with pest species, botany, zoology and human impacts.

The talks are summarised in the newsletter of the AIAS (available on the AIAS website at http://www.aias.org.au/ ). About 50 people attended the meeting, the main aim and value of which was to discover what everyone was doing and to make links between researchers doing similar projects – or dissimilar projects but with equipment, field sites etc that could be shared. As such it was a great success with a high degree of cross fertilisation of ideas with the venue becoming very much a research hybrid zone.

The AIAS now has over 50 formal members involved in Mountain research across Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, ACT, Queensland and New Zealand. The next meeting will be similar in its aim but more formal and will probably be held as a symposium within the Ecological Society of Australia’s annual meeting at Latrobe University from 29 November to 1 December.

Closer Liaison with Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife

Recently the Australian Alps Laision Committee met with representatives from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (TPWS) to discuss foraging closer links between the Alps program and our Tasmanian colleagues. Max Kitchell, Director of Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, supported the concept of exploring closer liaison and agreed that quality work was being done on both sides of Bass Strait in terms of protected area management; experiences that should be shared.

The Tasmanian Parks Service has much to offer with extensive experience in recreational, natural and cultural heritage management. The objective of the new arrangement is for closer Tasmanian involvement on a bioregional approach to alpine park management, refining best practise management techniques and expertise with associated economies of scale. Initially the arrangement will involve the appointment of Tim O’Loughlin as a Tasmanian Liaison Officer to the Alps Program. Tim will act as the first point of contact between the Alps Program and the TPWS and assist in facilitating the flow of information across Bass Strait.

Now available…

Wildguide launched

Some people love books about plants, while others love books about animals, WILDGUIDE combines the best of both in a guide to one of Australia’s most loved places.

It is an easy to use field guide for all visitors to the Australian Alps. Written by Barbara Cameron-Smith, sponsored by the Australian Alps Liaison Committee and published by Envirobook, WILDGUIDE is an informative, easy to use field guide.

The Hon. Tim Fischer during his annual ‘Tumbatrek’, within Kosciuszko National Park recently launched the book. “WILDGUIDE will entice visitors, especially families, to enjoy the natural beauty of the Australian Alps,” said Mr Fischer, “It is easy to read and well-organised – easy to find the animal or plant you are looking for – and the information inside is spot on,” he continued.

Barbara Cameron-Smith has skilfully written the book to suit a broad audience, particularly those not familiar with the Australian Alps environment or with identifying plants and animals. WILDGUIDE is filled with vibrant full-colour photos for easy identification of species and watercolour illustrations of feral and introduced plants and animals. This informative backpack guide is ideal for anyone wishing to identify, or find out more about commonly seen plants, animals and habitats of the Australian Alps national parks.

Another great product from the Community Relations Working Group that owes it existence to a number of people including Neville Byrne, Peter King, Andrew Tatnell, and most recently Ann Jelinek.

WILDGUIDE is available from good bookshops, national parks and tourist visitor information centres or by contacting:

the Australian Alps telephone sales centre AusInfo on 13 24 47 for only $14.95rrp.

Everybody needs a copy in their backpack or glovebox next time they visit the Australian Alps!!

Australian Alps products

Just a phone call away! The Australian Alps Liaison Committee (AALC) has recently entered into an exciting partnership arrangement with AusInfo to undertake distribution and marketing of all Alps related products and publications.

AusInfo operates an Australian wide network which incorporates a national call centre, consumer information services, publication warehousing and distribution, along with nine (9) retail outlets in all states and territories. On-line product ordering facility is also available.

Underpinning this operation is a state of the art databases management system and a wide area network supporting substantial inventory management, subscriber services and electronic information distribution and access operations.

The AALC is very keen to enhance and supplement arrangements with AusInfo for the marketing and dissemination of Alps information and products through this comprehensive network.

To order any Australian Alps national parks publication and/or product simply ring AusInfo on 132 447.

Visitors from Vietnam

In mid-November several senior officials from the Vietnamese National Environment Agency visited the northern end of the Australian Alps national parks – Namadgi. A rather different environment to the mostly tropical and sub-tropical parks they have under their charge. First stop was Namadgi Visitor Centre where they were welcomed and introduced to the Australian Alps by viewing the slide presentation ‘Imagine Namadgi’ and the new Alps video ‘Stories among the snow gums’.

The Vietnamese visitors manage a range of protected areas that share international borders with Laos and Cambodia and they were interested in the Australian Alps Liaison Committee and cross-border management – how it works and what it achieves.

Finally, we got out in the bush and the visitors, while interested in camping facilities, cultural heritage and composting toilets, were far more excited by seeing hundreds of kangaroos lolling about in the sun!

Scientific sites database

The Australian Alps Liaison Committee has recently established a database of all known significant scientific sites throughout the Australian Alps national parks. The project has also identified sites, which may be re-established for assessment and for further monitoring.

The project involved the production of a database, which addresses scientific site details, references and relevant contacts relating to long term monitoring and other significant research. The database also contains an instructional manual.

The Scientific Sites database will greatly assist researchers in ascertaining what methods were used in a particular field of study, the location of relevant data and the period of time in which the study occurred. The database currently holds information on 227 known scientific sites with details relating to publications relevant to research sites listed and contact details of existing and previous researchers.

The complete database is held by each Agency at a central location with information updated annually. The Australian Alps Liaison Committee has committed resources to ensure wide application of the database amongst park agencies as well as tertiary institutions. A brochure outlining the project and the tangible benefits of the database has been produced.

For more information on the database contact:

Evan McDowell
Parks Victoria
Phone 03 5755 1577

Genevieve Wright
NSW NPWS
Phone 02 6450 5555

Geoff Young
ACT PCS
Phone 02 62072900

Feature article: How a DC3 came to rest in the Australian Alps

If you’re ever at the headwaters of the Murray you may come across the remains of a RAAF Dakota DC3 forced to land there years ago. Its presence raises many questions. How did it come to be there? Were there survivors? Was the plane

found quickly in this remote part of the Australian Alps or did it take years as with the Southern Cloud near Cabramurra? On 24th August 1954 RAAF Dakota DC3, A65-50 took off from Sale bound for Bathurst and Richmond. The crew were pilot Flight Lieutenant Laurie Hawes, co-pilot Flying Officer Berne Mullein, navigator Flight Lieutenant Eric Walker and signaler Pilot Officer Frank Howie. During the flight the starboard engine lost power but the plane was able to make a safe landing at Canberra.

No cause for the engine failure could be found and the next morning the DC3 departed Canberra for Sale.

At approximately 11am, just before reaching Mt Kosciuszko, the starboard engine again failed. This time however the plane lost altitude dramatically and was subject to severe turbulence. The only option was to attempt a forced landing. At that point an open flat appeared amongst the mass of forested mountains. Laurie Hawes and Bernie Mullen struggled to control the stricken aircraft while Frank Howie sent out a distress signal. They circled the flat and made their approach. Before the Dakota could land it had to clear a ridge which resulted in too much height and speed for landing on the open ground.

The Murray River had to be negotiated, which runs across the flat as a small gully, as well as the severe turbulence and only one functioning engine. In the few remaining seconds Laurie made the decision to stall the plane into the timber on the south-western side of the flat. There was a group of three trees in a triangle, which he attempted to position the plane between. Hopefully they would take the force of the wings and nose. One of the trees was a little further forward than anticipated and as the Dakota hit the timber it skewed around. A large eucalypt crashed into the cockpit destroying the starboard side where Bernie Mullen sat. The port wing sheared off and one of the blades of the starboard propeller sliced through the floor of the signaler’s compartment. Finally the plane came to a halt. Laurie recalls “the silence was deafening”.

Frank and Eric escaped with slight lacerations and they released Laurie who was trapped by his legs and had sustained a deep laceration to his calf. All were suffering from shock but fearing an explosion they dragged the unconscious Bernie away from the wreckage. Nothing could be done for him. He had multiple injuries and died a few minutes after the impact.

The survivors set about finding some shelter and wondered if they would be rescued from this remote location and when it might be. The weather was cold and miserable. The only shelter was the chimney of an old stockman’s hut ruin on the northern side of the flat. Fortunately the distress signal that Frank sent immediately prior to the crash had been received. A little over one hour after impact a RAAF search plane piloted by Flight Sergeant Frank Daniel located the survivors. Through a series of weighted paper messages search planes were able to communicate with those on the ground and drop them survival rations.

Two ground search parties then set out. The first was led by Omeo policeman Lionel Baddeley and contained several men with local knowledge, amongst them four of the Pendergasts, one of the local pioneering mountain families. The second party was the RAAF search party led by Group Captain W.N.Gibson. Baddeley’s party camped out then pushed on in the early hours of August 26. They drove as far as they could and then continued on foot via an old overgrown mining track for another 10 miles. Late that morning they reached the survivors.

After a short rest the long trek out began. The airmen were stiff, sore and no doubt still in shock. Their rescuers were tired having already covered the rugged, densely vegetated terrain.

In addition they had to carry out Bernie Mullen’s body on a bush stretcher made from saplings. All found the trip arduous. Just before nightfall they reached the vehicles. From there they drove to Benambra and spent the night at the pub. Frank Howie recalls “After the hospitality of the locals in the public bar no one needed rocking that night.” The next day the airmen returned to Sale. Before long Laurie Hawes was flying again. It was business as normal and the flat at the headwaters of the Murray returned to its former tranquility.

Nowadays there is little left of Dakota DC3, A65-50. The RAAF removed parts for the crash investigation and the Snowy Mountains Authority built a hut using materials salvaged from the shell. People wanting a souvenir of the site took the remainder piece by piece.

With so little of the aircraft left, the story of Dakota DC3, A65-50 was likely to be lost and with it another part of our alpine heritage. Historian’s Noel Gough and Dianne Carroll have spent a great deal of time and effort researching this story and documenting it. They tracked down survivors of the crash and their rescuers and a reunion was held to mark the event on 15th and 16th March this year at the Benambra Hotel, where the aircrew was first taken after their ordeal.

Staff attended the gathering from Alpine and Kosciuszko National Parks who now manage the grassy flat where the DC3 came to rest. As one of the attendees at the reunion, it was a privilege to hear the survivors and rescuers recount their versions of the events first hand. A commemorative souvenir has been produced which gives a full account of this story. It is available from Dianne Carrol.

Amanda Carey Ranger
Namadgi National Park
ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Communicating across cultures – Indigenous issues awareness

In mid November last year 22 participants representing all four agencies involved in the Alps Program gathered at historic Currango Homestead in Kosciuszko National Park to take part in the Communicating Across Cultures workshop.

The workshop, developed by the Cultural Heritage Working Group (CHWG), provided field based staff and managers working in the Australian Alps with an insight into, and greater understanding of, the issues faced by contemporary Aboriginal people. It also provided them with valuable skills to assist them in the development of more effective working relationships with Aboriginal people who have an interest in the Alps.

The workshop was originally inspired by a similar, although perhaps somewhat more generic, Indigenous Issues Awareness Workshop developed by the NSW NPWS. From the onset the CHWG wanted to have a workshop that would be relevant to field staff and managers and have a distinctly Alps oriented focus. The working group consulted widely with Aboriginal people and organisations dealing with Indigenous people and their heritage in the lead up to the workshop.

The workshop itself was facilitated by Graeme Moore, Robert Clegg and Kevin McLeod. All three facilitators have extensive experience in illustrating the issues of concern to Indigenous Australians and working with government agencies at both the State and Commonwealth level to improve understanding of Aboriginal issues.

Almost from the moment that participants arrived at the workshop (and surrendered their watches), they were immersed in a challenging journey of discovery that allowed them to view issues and events from a uniquely Aboriginal perspective. Participants assumed traditional Aboriginal names and clan totems, they were instructed in the lore of their clan and they took on important roles and responsibilities. The two and a half days were both physically and emotionally demanding, with participants having their views and values challenged through exercises and open debate of many of the stereo-types attached to Aboriginal people and culture.

The seclusion of Currango Homestead and the beautiful sub-alpine environment of northern Kosciuszko National Park provided participants with opportunities for learning and sharing of experiences that would not have been available to a workshop held ‘in town’. Another significant bonus was the diversity and enthusiasm of the workshop participants – In the true spirit of the Alps Program there were numerous opportunities for the transfer of ideas across borders and park boundaries.

The AALC believes that this workshop made such a valuable contribution toward the development of improved understanding and management of Aboriginal heritage in the Australian Alps that it has approved funding for the course to be run a second time in 2000. If you missed it the first time, and are interested in improving you understanding of Aboriginal issues and achieving better communication and working relationships with indigenous interest groups, then keep an eye out for the Workshop Application Forms.

There are a number of people whom the CHWG would like to express their thanks to for helping to make the workshop such a success. Helen and Ted Taylor and their family for providing delicious home cooked meals and welcoming workshop presenters and participants into their home. Their hospitality was a significant factor in the success of this workshop. We would also like to thank the NSW NPWS Tumut District for logistical support and the, Tumut Visitor Centre for helping with the booking of Currango Homestead.

For more information contact:

Alistair Grinbergs on 02 6274 2078 or Kathryn Maxwell on 02 6274 2513
Environment Australia Cultural Heritage Working Group

“The workshop achieved so much that it provided almost too many things to mention! My consciousness, awareness and knowledge were all greatly raised through the well planned, gently presented and beautifully sequenced program delivered by Kevin, Robert and Graeme.”

Bernard Morris, Ranger, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

“The thing that helped me on this workshop was that I learned a great deal about my culture which I did not know before. Meeting Graeme, Robert and Kevin has also given me more confidence in speaking to non-indigenous people about my culture. The way they got the message across has to be commended. I now hope to go on to bigger and better things and to strive to be a role model for my local community”

Dean Freeman, Aboriginal Trainee Ranger – Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Spending a couple of days around a fire and learning your clan law was a fantastic way to gain an understanding of Aboriginal culture. Looking after your own, living the law and sharing common knowledge was the backbone to the workshop. A sense of belonging to a place and knowledge of the place was instilled. Territory, laws, protocol and respect. Most of all the communication with each other will stay with me and the sense of belonging and relying on our mob – the Tharlta (kangaroo). A workshop that is well worth attending to gain an insight into the Aboriginal way of life.

Stuart Ord, Regional Manager, Alpine District, Parks Victoria.

Parks ponder poo…

Alright, let’s call it human waste then … Whatever we call it, having produced it, we prefer not to have to think about it again. That’s ok in the cities and towns where we can flush it, but in the bush, particularly in sensitive environments, it’s a problem that doesn’t go away by itself.

The Human Waste Management Workshop aimed to increase the level of awareness, expertise and interest in contemporary approaches to human waste management at visitor facilities, trailheads and in the backcountry of the Australian Alps national parks. For a week last month, national park managers, staff and a variety of others met in Canberra and Jindabyne to discuss the management of human waste in sensitive environments. The workshop sponsored by the Australian Alps Liaison Committee attracted over ninety delegates from the USA, UK and New Zealand, as well as a strong local and national representation.

In the past simple solutions were considered the best – bury it – in individual holes if bush walking – or pit toilets in picnic or camping areas. However, now more and more people are visiting our national parks and producing more and more… human waste. And it has a habit of not staying where its put. Ground water moves through pits and into streams and lakes. In high altitudes and cold climates, breakdown can take a long time, and winter visitors can leave lots of messages to be delivered in the spring thaw.

A range of new and old technology solutions were discussed at the conference. When they came on the market a few years ago composting systems promised so much but in many instances they have failed to deliver. They require intense management and design tailored for the particular climatic and load conditions that they operate under. In domestic situations these are easier to manage, but in the bush the required staff aren’t always available to keep them finely tuned. A range of cart-out options were also discussed with viable systems operating in various parts of the world.

For individuals wanting to cart-out, another popular topic was the development of the ‘Poo Tube’. While it could probably do with a name change, this method for carting out waste from remote areas is a logical extension of the “leave no trace” ethic of many bushwalkers. It consists of a sealed plastic tube which can be strapped to the outside of a pack and emptied outside the park. Popularising and developing a commercial model will be a worthy challenge for the marketing industry.

The Australian Alps Liaison Committee provided a unique forum for discussion of this difficult-to-resolve problem, and many are glad they did.

Andrew Christie
Out In the Open
Phone 0417 461 901

Toilet quandries

A summary from the Best Practice Human Waste Management Workshop…

Human waste is an important management issue for the Australian Alps national parks, as it is for other conservation areas around the world. With visitor numbers to the Alps increasing, the issue of how to deal with waste is becoming critical. Pollution of glacial lakes, and increased nutrients in soils around informal campsites has already occurred in the Alps. Active management programs are underway including the provision of vault and composting toilets, and the use of carry out systems. The effectiveness and relevance of each system is still being determined.

As part of the process of increasing awareness of the issue, and assisting in the exchange of ideas and resources, a five day workshop addressing human waste management was run by the Australian Alps Liaison Committee, with some assistance from the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in Sustainable Tourism.

The workshop identified six key questions that need to be addressed when dealing with human faecal waste management in national parks.

  1. Do you need a toilet?
    Is it appropriate, is it practical, is it economically justifiable, what are the environmental costs of not putting in a toilet, what are the costs of putting one in, will the visitors use it, where should I put it, would a carry-out system or regulation be a better alternative? All these questions need to be addressed.
    When deciding if a toilet is the answer to the waste management issue at a particularly site it is important to take into account factors such as:

    • the environmental characteristics of the site,
    • biophysical conditions of the site,
    • management objectives,
    • accessibility,
    • management resources, and
    • visitor use patterns.

    A systematic way of considering options is important. Paul Lachapelle (University of Montana, USA) outlined a decision-making matrix for managing sanitation in natural areas that can help to answer these questions.

  2. What are the technical options?
    There is a continuum from: Leave it cart it out compost and remove it pump it out. All of these techniques have been used in the Australian Alps.
    The workshop and proceedings detailed many technical options including the problems and advantages of each type of method. One issue common to all options is occupational health and safety. Currently, most methods are suboptimal in terms of handling and disposal of the final waste.
    This is an issue for cart-out technologies such as the Poo Tube, right through to pump-out toilets.
  3. Is the visitor faecal experience index high in your park?
    Another common issue identified at the workshop, was that people tend to be faecal-phoebes. They don’t want to see it, smell it, and certainly not handle it. How much they have to face their fears influences the quality of the ‘visitor experience’. This includes issues such as odour, disposing of tampons and toilet paper, the location and aesthetics of the toilet building (while a loo-with-a-view is nice, a loo-in-the-view is not) and often most importantly, the maintenance of the system.
    While technology can help with these issues, they are only 20% of the solution. A significant 80% of the solution are the people themselves. The more comfortable visitors are and the better maintained the facilities, the more likely people are to use the loo and use it correctly. Therefore, park agencies may need to get more involved in educating visitors about waste issues including ‘dunny dos’ and dunny don’ts’.
  4. Who has to do the dirty work?
    Ongoing maintenance of the waste disposal system is vital. A clear theme was that although there may be funding and enthusiasm to set up a system, there is usually less commitment to maintain it. It does not matter how good the disposal system is to start with, it’s how it is maintained that will determine the real success of the disposal system. Some of the toilet systems described and visited during the ‘field trips’ require stamina and fortitude above and beyond the call of duty to maintain.
    Visions of climbing down into small dark smelly holes to deal with other people’s poo is asking a lot of staff! The design of toilets should always keep the person who has to maintain the system in mind. The budget for a system should also include maintenance costs and who is going to cover ongoing costs. In some cases, the cost and ease of maintaining a system will be critical in deciding which system to use.
  5. What type of philosophy should we be promoting?
    The mantra ‘leave no trace’ is especially poignant when dealing with the disposal of human waste. Some of the environmental impacts of human waste and its disposal were examined. These included the most obvious impact on water quality.
    Other issues that were identified include: inappropriate methods of disposing of human waste can result in the spread of diseases to other animals, alter soil process and nutrient levels, damage native vegetation (all those holes in the alpine) and potentially facilitate the establishment of weeds in national parks.
  6. What works where?
    Other organisations have had a lot of experience in dealing with waste, particularly in cold climates. For example the parks and forestry service in the USA have tested many variations on the basic themes outlined in the workshop. We can learn from their mistakes and successes. It is important that we monitor the success of the systems that have been used in the Australian Alps, so we can also learn from our own mistakes and successes.

The exchange of information and experience that occurred at the workshop needs to continue. One source of information is the list of web sites collected at the workshop dealing with human waste management. This will be included in the Australian Alps web page.

The dilemma of how best to ‘handle’ human waste management in our national parks is a problem which is not going to go away, improved technology may be the answer with refinement and further development.

Copies of the workshop proceedings are available by contacting in the first instance:

Brett McNamara
Australian Alps national parks Program Coordinator
Phone (02) 62071694

More information about the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism and the Mountain Tourism Subprogram is available from:

Dr Catherine Pickering
School of Environmental and Applied Sciences
Griffith University
PMB 50, Gold Coast Mail Centre, QLD 4111

The National Nature & Ecotour Guide Certification Program

For people committed to tour guiding and to the heritage they protect and present

The National Nature and Ecotour Guide Certification Program (NNEGCP) is an industry initiative that has been developed in response to the need to assess and promote best practice guiding standards. Nature/Ecotour Guide Certification will provide both industry and visitors with an assurance of guides that are committed to providing quality nature or ecotourism experiences in a safe, culturally sensitive and environmentally sustainable manner.

Who set it up?

The NNEGCP has been developed with funding support from the Office of National Tourism (ONT) and the Ecotourism Association of Australia (EAA). The program has developed under the guidance of a national steering Committee representing guides, tour operators, industry associations, land managers and training providers.

Is it relevant to all guides?
The program is designed so that it is relevant and accessible to experienced guides who have gained competence through life experience, on-the-job training and/or formal training courses. It is also designed to encourage entry-level guide development and influence the provision of guide training.

Why get involved?

Certified guides will gain the advantage of a nationally recognised and portable qualification that will provide a defined competitive edge. Operators will gain a simple method of recognising quality guides, a guiding standard to use for training purposes and greater product appeal (especially once consumer recognition of guide standards exists). Visitors gain a guarantee of guides that are committed to providing quality nature and ecotourism experiences in a safe, culturally sensitive and environmentally sustainable manner. Protected area managers gain the ability to identify, with ease, operators who employ staff with appropriate training and qualifications when reviewing permit applications in sensitive areas.

Could you be an assessor?

By the end of February a number of NNEGCP Assessors will have been trained – however the NNEGCP are still keen to hear from anyone with extensive experience in nature/Ecotour guiding and who would be interested in doing some assessing in the field.

More information?

If you are interested, either as a candidate guide or as an Assessor, or if you would just like further details, please contact

Alice Crabtree
Phone: 07 4099 3862
Fax 07 4099 3861

Working Group progress reports

English Broom update

The Broom (Cytisus scoparius) Management Strategy for the Australian Alps national parks (AAnp’s) has recently been completed. The project came about as a result of a partnership between the Australian Alps Liaison Committee (AALC) and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE).

English/Scotch broom, (scientific name Cytisus scoparius) is an upright evergreen shrub of European origin. Historical records reflect that broom was deliberately introduced into Australia for its ornamental value around 1800. However, outside of its native range broom becomes an aggressive invader of a broad range of ecological habitats and as such has been declared a noxious environmental weed in the South-eastern states of Australia. Broom has successfully invaded large areas of the Australian Alps national parks since its introduction over 150 years ago. While the historical introduction of broom into the high country is not well documented, it is likely that broom was first introduced into the area through garden plantings associated with construction/logging townships and mining settlements. There is, alarmingly, a lack of natural factors limiting the spread of broom throughout the Aanp’s.

Broom currently occupies, on last conservative estimate over 200 000 hectares of the natural environment in Australia, the majority of this within the Australian Alps. Broom has a significant impact on the biodiversity and natural values of invaded habitats through the formation of chokingly dense understorey infestations. Broom also threatens the survival of rare and endangered plant communities, one of which, the extremely rare Enigmatic Greenhood Orchid, Petrostylis aenigma, is found only in areas that are presently infested, or are under threat, from this invasive weed.

In 1998/99 the AALC’s Natural Heritage Working Group commissioned a review of the occurrence of broom within the AAnp’s and the development of an integrated broom management strategy for use by field staff. Researchers from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment have prepared the Broom Management Strategy for the Australian Alps National Parks in collaboration with AAnp’s Rangers and Park planners.

The project brief issued to DNRE’s Keith Turnbull Research Institue was as follows:

  • To develop a broom control strategy for field managers across the Aust. Alps.
  • To assist land management agencies in minimising the threat of broom infestations
  • To develop control expertise amongst field staff across the AANPs.

The strategy incorporates information and ideas on the best practice management of broom into a practical integrated management strategy for use by field staff throughout the Australian Alps biogeographical region.

The strategy recognises the need to prevent the establishment of new broom infestations within the AAnp’s and to contain the spread of existing infestations. The need to develop targeted education and awareness campaigns is also recognised as a critical requirement in minimising the impact of broom. The strategy identifies areas of integrated broom management requiring research and development if land managers are to continue developing broom control expertise.

For more information contact:

Kate McArthur
Keith Turnbull Research Institute
Phone (03) 9785 0111

Population ecology of feral horses in the Australian Alps

Horses are a feral species capable of damaging the unique and natural values of the Australian Alps. They are also of cultural interest. It has been shown in central Australia and other places around the world that research into their biology (relevant to their impact and control) not only improves management, but also helps abate conflict between interest groups.

In 1999, Michelle Walter commenced a PhD partly funded by the Australian Alps national parks at the University of Canberra (Applied Ecology Research Group) on the population ecology of feral horses in the Australian Alps. The project has three main components: distribution and abundance, population dynamics, and factors limiting population growth. Preliminary results are available for the first two components. Feral horses are not evenly distributed across the Alps. The most extensive populations occur between Thredbo (NSW) and Buchan (Victoria). The second most extensive population occurs north of the Snowy Mountains Highway in northern Kosciuszko. There are smaller scattered populations elsewhere in the Alps. Total abundance will be estimated from an aerial survey in 2001.

Feral horses have recently recolonised the alpine area of Kosciuszko National Park after being absent since the grazing era. Michelle has monitored abundance and distribution between Kosciuszko and South Ramshead (~20km2) every three weeks since May 1999. The horses did not use the area in the winter months (between July and October) nor are they always present in the warmer months. Numbers have varied between 0 and 22 individuals (average 5.3) and have been concentrated in the Swampy Plains River valley and the low areas just north of South Ramshead. Evidence of grazing has been observed on Luzula spp., Celmisia sp., Chinochloa frigida and Craspedia sp.

Demographic parameters are being measured at three sites each spring and autumn for 3 years. Population estimates for spring 1999 are 73 for Currango, 57 for the Big Boggy and 80 for Cowombat. Preliminary analysis suggests a foaling rate of 0.31 foals/adult female. Similar foaling rates occur in New Zealand and central Australia, while higher rates are evident for populations from 5 states of the USA.

When more results are available, models will be fitted to the data to assess trends in the population under a variety of future potential management scenarios.

For more information contact:

Michelle Walter
University of Canberra
Phone 0410 464 242

Protecting the natural treasures of the Australian Alps

The science of the Australian Alps is stimulating and complex – nowhere else in the world is quite the same – recently the natural treasures of the Alps was put under the microscope at a workshop in Canberra. This six-month project is providing a strategic assessment of the significant natural features of the Australian Alps national parks and the threats to them, to help the AALC direct its natural heritage funding to the most strategically valuable projects. Specialists in alpine plant and animal research gathered to count the natural treasures of the Australian Alps and work out what threatens their existence. Bringing together a range of experts from the park management agencies, universities and other research facilities encouraged a broader view of the importance of those values.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by some of the pest plants and animals that are so obvious in the mountains. However, it is important to gauge the potential of all species and processes that threaten the mountains in order to manage the most damaging ones best. The Natural Treasures of the Australian Alps include:

  • the mountain pygmy possum, a unique hibernating, food storing marsupial, has been threatened over the years by habitat change and global warming;
  • the alpine tree frog has all but vanished form the alpine zone because of UVB radiation, and
  • the anemone buttercup, now returning to its habitat after being threatened by long term high country grazing.

About 1000 significant natural features have been identified, principally on the basis of rarity or threat, from park management plans, species recovery plans, government reports and scientific papers. On the other side of the ledger, about 90 threats have been identified and documented. Where the information is available, the threats to each specific feature have been listed. This will be the first time such a comprehensive assessment of the natural values of a bioregion such as the Australian Alps national parks has been undertaken. The project will be completed in June 2000.

For more inforamtion contact:

Peter Coyne
Australian Alps Project Officer
Phone 02 6274 1111

Australian Alps cultural heritage ‘Strategic New Directions’ project

The Cultural Heritage Working Group has recently seconded Debbie Argue (Environment ACT) to undertake a multi faceted project to:

  • Obtain information on Australian Alps cultural heritage held by the agencies
  • Examine this information against the new Principal Australian Historic Themes, to identify possible places and themes of national heritage significance in the Alps.This includes Aboriginal heritage themes.
  • Identify the gaps in our knowledge about these cultural heritage themes
  • Recommend a strategic program of projects to be undertaken over the next 3 – 5 years so as to ‘fill the gaps’

The project is also to prepare a report on the quality, format and compatibility of data held by the various agencies and to make recommendations on whether it’s feasible to establish a simple database of sites in the Australian Alps.

Some interesting ‘gaps’ are emerging. For example, just when we thought we knew all about mining in each of our parks, we find that we don’t actually know the story of mining in the Alps as a whole. We know something about bushranging, cattle and sheep duffing, but not about these themes across the Alps. Nor do we know about schooling and the education of children in alpine environments.

Overall, we know very little about Aboriginal heritage in the Alps. What use was made of the Alps in the deep past, how did people adapt to the dramatic change in climate about 10 000 years ago? Or were the Alps only occupied during the last 5000 years, as happened in several other ‘marginal’ areas in Australia? These are just a few of the gaps identified in our knowledge thus far. Debbie extends her thanks to all those people who have given their time, provided ideas and knowledge for this report.

For more information contact:

Debbie Argue
Australian Alps Project Officer
Phone 02 6207 2167

Feasibility study: Cultural Heritage Residential course

Cultural heritage (both indigenous and non-indigenous) of natural areas, and the management of that heritage, is a difficult concept for some land managers and sections of the community.

In order to address this issue, Earthlines (Marion van Gameren and Dierdre Slattery) was engaged to determine the viability, recommend the content and spell out the logistics for an Australian Alps residential cultural heritage course. To determine the level of interest in such a course, 158 questionnaires were sent to park agency staff. 85% of the 39 responses received expressed high to very high interest in such a course. The poor response from the community perhaps reflecting a lack of interest or understanding of the relevance of cultural heritage to the Australian Alps – important arguments in favour of such a course.

Based on the needs of course participants a course outline proposes progressing from provision of core information, to developing expertise in methodologies and the use of expertise, to small group research, investigation and planning projects. Heritage themes are recommended to provide some coherence and a means for helping participants develop a deeper understanding of certain aspects of the cultural heritage of the Australian Alps national parks.

The proposal envisages using a person with proven educational skill and experience to coordinate and lead a team of motivated heritage professionals with proven communication skills, committed to spending time leading and interacting with course participants. Overtime the proposal envisages that such a course would achieve tertiary accreditation.

While strongly supporting the concept of the course, the AALC has asked the Cultural Heritage Working Group to try and identify suitable partners who might share the cost of staging such a course.

For more information contact:

Ray Supple
Parks Victoria
Cultural Heritage Working Group
Phone 03 9816 1130

Around the Agencies: correspondents report

Victoria

An update from south of the Border … Chris Rose Chief Ranger Alpine National Park

Life is never dull in our profession and this last quarter has been proof of that!

A highly successful Waste Management workshop engaged staff from Parks Victoria and other agencies late in March. The results of the workshop will hopefully be seen across the Alps and wider over the next few years with better environmental protection and health protection for users. Our congratulations to the organising committee.

Parks Victoria has been busy with Alpine Grazing dominating efforts earlier in the year. The Mountain Cattleman’s Association of Victoria appealed against Parks Victoria’s decision to continue the suspension of grazing in the Caledonia fire affected area for the 1999/2000. The three-person panel unanimously turned down the appeal. The results speak volumes for the effort put in by a whole team of staff, and that the science which was the basis of the decision, proved to be beyond reproach. Parks Victoria will now continue to work with the licencees to ensure the protection of the alpine areas under licence.

The Minister has recently announced some changes to Parks Victoria to ensure the government’s policy in relation to park management in Victoria is implemented. The changes will see Parks Victoria remain (of which staff and stakeholders are particularly pleased) and two main streams; National Parks and Melbourne Metropolitan Parks and Bays formed within the organisation. The structure of the Alpine District is likely to remain as is. Final details are still being worked through by the Chief Executive and his team, with implementation to be carried out as quickly and with as little disruption to business and staff as possible.

On a more local level, our huge program in the District this year has progressed well, due to the great efforts of a number of staff, and also partially due to the thankfully quiet fire season.

Major repair work on the dams at Buffalo (Lake Catani and the Reservoir) has seen them drained for the first time in many decades.

The trackwork on Mount Feathertop is progressing well with many great comments (a story on this will appear in the next Alps news in Spring), and all of our environmental initiatives and recurrent programs are nearing completion for the year.

We also welcome back Kris and Andrea Rowe who have been off travelling the world for the past three months. I spent a day with Kris last week and there are some very interesting stories as you would imagine!

New South Wales

The word from the Lyrebird … Andrew Harrigan, Area Manager (Alpine)

Snowy Mountains Region

Staff and restructure

The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service is well down the path of a major organisational restructure which has seen some significant changes in responsibilities and organisational reporting with major emphasis being placed on whole of landscape conservation objectives and improving partnerships with the community. A copy of the new structures and mangers for the Southern Directorate is now available.

A lot of familiar names are assigned against the managers positions such as Dave Darlington, Steve Horsley, Penny Spoelder, Liz Wren and Graeme Enders. Which means that while the way you may deal with us may change slightly, it is good to know that the people you are dealing with are all familiar faces with a wealth of experience in the mountains.

Equally there has been some staff who have taken the opportunity to branch out from the Service, try new careers, write a book or just put their feet up. Janet Mackay (former Alps coordinator and well know across the agencies) has left the Service to try her hand as a consultant and is in the process of setting up offices in Berridale. Others who are leaving the Service in the near future include Bill Beattie and Adrianne Barry both with 25 years service, Debbie Byrne, Steve Hunter, Damien Walsh and Heather Emery.

Kim Barry who has been managing the Roads Unit for the last two years is leaving us to return to the “old dart”. Kim leaves us with a legacy of quality risk management on the Alpine Way, major engineering works associated with Thredbo and by the end of this season a fully sealed Alpine Way.

On the ground As always in summer things have been ticking along with numerous plans and projects including:

  • Kosciuszko now has its own mobile Phoschek trailer which can be deployed to any airstrip in the area which enhances our aerial firefighting capabilities.
  • Completion of the Kosciuszko summit walking trail and revegetation between Rawson’s Pass and the Kosci summit.
  • Significant volunteer student programs with seed collection and visitor survey’s in the alpine area
  • Establishment of the Perisher Range Master Plan team to implement the recommendations of the Ski 2000 Plan of Management amendments and Commission of Inquiry outcomes.
  • Major upgrade of the Perisher Valley sewage treatment plant
  • To date over 125,000 people have visited the Snowy Mountains Visitor Centre this financial year.

ACT

The Gang-Gang gossip …Margot Sharp

Namadgi National Park

Over the last few weeks staff from Parks & Conservation Service (P& CS) have been assisting with the development of the new regional visitor center at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. This work recently culminated with his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh officially opening the center on the 27th March. Refer to photo Some people never miss an opportunity to extol the virtues of the Alps program!

The P&CS “Future Directions” process is working towards a review of operations and structure, however there is little to report as yet apart from the reclassification and upgrading of the Tidbinbilla Manager position to a SOT C level.

Some temporary changes have also occurred in the head office area, with Tony Corrigan to act in the position of Manager P&CS for April and May while Stephen Hughes fills in as Manager of the Environment ACT Wildlife Research and Monitoring business unit. Namadgi has had a few more staff changes since the last Alps newsletter. Dave Dwyer has been working part time and Lori Gould has been bravely doing the other half of his position and running the shop at the Visitor Centre. Unfortunately for us, Lori has just been offered an exciting NHT project position with Greening Australia. Lori will be working on the Bidgee Banks project which will provide funding for environmental work to rural landholders along the Murrumbidgee River.

With Lori going, Angie Jenkins has decided to come on down south and take up the duties Lori was doing, consequently, we hope to get a new Bendora ranger soon too!!!. Trish Macdonald and Joss Haiblen have headed off on their long service leave and will probably be enjoying the Queensland sun by the time everyone reads this. While they are away, Geoff (and others) will endeavour to cover their many projects and ongoing work. We welcome Simon Tozer on board for seven months in early April. Simon has spent the last few years at Googong Foreshores and while he may still meet the occasional illegal fisher-person, I am sure he will be happy to explore the wilds of Namadgi and learn about campground management!.

Steve Welch has finished as full time project manger for the Boboyan pines project and while he is back to ranger duties, the pines project is still keeping him very busy. Some of Steve’s major wins have been; an Olympic Landcare Grant (in conjunction with the Gudgenby Bush Regeneration Group) allowing planting and fencing of 2000 seedlings and to secure the Greenfleet project. Greenfleet is a Federal Government sponsored scheme that allows people to contribute money towards revegetation projects through their car registration. Through this scheme, Steve has managed to get a commitment for a spring planting of 15000 seedlings at the pines. This will lead to an ongoing partnership between Namadgi and this scheme.

Steve has also been working with an ANU honours student who has commenced a research project on the impact of kangaroos on revegetation. This has involved the building of a series of exclosures of differing design. A number of different electric fence designs will be trialed. Steve has also been doing the planning for burning of pine slash this coming spring and is working toward a Ministerial media event at the pines in early April.

Namadgi staff recently enjoyed a few days with Kosciuszko and Queanbeyan NSW NPWS colleagues in a very informative and scenic tour of our adjacent areas. One evening was spent at Currango where a cross border ranger meeting was held. Some of the participants also had a night enjoying the hospitality of the Bendora Hilton in Namadgi. Despite all the staff changes, everyone has been busy with weeds work and other projects. Some of the major projects which have progressed over the past few months, include:

  • a final draft Interpretation Strategy for Namadgi;
  • engagement of a consultant to develop and design innovative interpretation at the former Honeysuckle Tracking Station site and ongoing success of the Calendar of Events at the visitor centre.

Commonwealth

What’s the buzz with Parks Australia … Paul Stevenson

Environment Australia (EA) staff are working on a series of administrative issues –

  • New Regulations for the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. These comprehensive regulations must be in place by 16 July, when the new Act comes in to force.
  • Compliance and enforcement strategies also have to be revised to conform to the requirements of the new Act. Many field staff are now studying a new warden-training course accredited by the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Bureau (CLEB).
  • Staff and management are also negotiating a new certified agreement for EA. A substantial portion of the new agreement (CA2) will cater for conditions covering remote locality staff over 5 time zones (Norfolk Island to the Cocos Keeling Islands).
  • Similarly, all park agencies are having to prepare for the introduction of the GST in July – How does GST apply to park entry fees and especially to contributions to the Alps Program are issues currently under the microscope.

The EA website is also undergoing renovation. Work on the site will continue for some time. The website is still hosting the Alps site.

Dr Peter Coyne (who normally runs a Natural Heritage Trust funding program) is enjoying the opportunity to focus on one project for six months, developing the Alps Natural Heritage Strategy under the guidance of the Natural Heritage Working Group.

This project should be finished by the end of June. EA staff (including officers from GBRMPA) have been conducting workshops focused on developing a more rigorous approach to measuring performance in park management.

Heard Island

Did you know that Australia’s highest mountain is not Mt Kosciuszko …?

The Australian territory of Heard Island lies some 4100km south west of Perth in the Southern Ocean. The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) manages the islands as a wilderness reserve.

Why is there an article on a sub-antarctic island the Australian Alps Newsletter? It’s a long shot but there is a connection. Heard Island has Australia’s only active volcano – Big Ben. The one and same peak is also Australia’s highest mountain at 2745m. That’s nearly half a kilometre higher than Mt Kosciuszko!

In January this year Alistair Grinbergs was seconded to the AAD for the purpose of participating in the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) 2000 program. The purpose of the expedition to Heard Island was to record and assess the condition of the Old ANARE Station site at Atlas Cove and to effect a clean-up of station debris that was identified as interfering with the islands natural heritage values.

The sheer remoteness of Heard Island is striking. It took the expedition 16 days to reach the island by ship. A journey that crosses what is arguably the most fearsome stretch of water on earth – the Southern Ocean. In a very real sense, Heard Island is a terrestrial component is a much greater wilderness, and despite the obvious physical reality, metaphorically Heard is no ‘island’. With few exceptions the islands fauna derive their livelihood or rely in some other way on the surrounding ocean. Elephant, Leopard and Antarctic fur seals and King, Gentoo, Rock Hopper and Macaroni Penguins abound on the island. The wilderness experience is made all the more rewarding for those that do visit through the fact that these creatures have learnt no reason to fear humans.

The old ANARE station, dating from 1947, is considered to possess significant cultural heritage values. Since it’s closure in 1954 the station has suffered considerably from the effects of the fierce winds that lash the island throughout the year. AAD are keen to protect and conserve the heritage values of the Old ANARE Station, but recognise that this has to be achieved in a context that includes internationally significant world heritage values that centre on the undisturbed sub-antarctic ecosystems found on Heard Island It is clear that an effective conservation management plan will need to recognise both natural and cultural heritage values and to take a balanced and integrated approach toward their management.

There will be valuable lessons to be learnt from the development of the heritage management plan for the Old ANARE Station. Lessons that can enhance the management and conservation of significant cultural heritage places within the Australian Alps national parks – particularly in wilderness and other ‘sensitive’ natural heritage places.

Alistair Grinbergs
Environment Australia
Phone 02 6274 2078

Dates for your diary

3-5 May 2000

Frontline of the Alps Training workshop, Jindabyne

17-18 May 2000

2000 / 2001 Works Program

AALC & Working Group Convenors meeting

Share your copy of News from the Alps

If you think someone else might be interested in reading about news from the Alps, please pass it on to them or suggest they ask for their own copy by contacting the Program Coordinator.

Please tell us your stories What makes your ‘slice of heaven’ in the Australian Alps so appealing, tell the world. We want articles up to 500 words, with pictures on any topic, be it current issues facing land managers, to interesting and humourous stories about your work in the Australian Alps. A prize will be awarded for the most interesting article!

Send your article or short story to the Program Coordinator ASAP.

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