Newsletter #25 – Autumn 2001

A newsletter for people interested in the Australian Alps

Australian Alps Liaison Committee

Tidbit’s

Stop press … rising to the challenge

Recently the AALC and Working Group members met to discuss the implications of changed funding arrangements. Not surprisingly everyone turned their thoughts to a new model for the Alps Program.
In brief, the meeting agreed to:

  • Retain opportunities for on-ground liaison;
  • Continue to provide forums for best-practice land management;
  • Maintain 3 – 4 Working Groups of discipline specialists plus short-term project Task Forces;
  • Operate within $280K pa with additional agency funding for special projects eg. feral horses;
  • Support Australian Alps IYM 2002 activities;
  • Investigate complementary Alps plans of management; and
  • Advertise for a Program Development Officer across all agencies.

Some of these actions are being implemented as this newsletter goes to press, with a Works Program Development meeting scheduled soon.

Farewell to the Alps

Greetings (for the last time…)

As someone once said, “All good things must come to an end…” and so it is with my time as the Program Coordinator with the Australian Alps program.

Virginia Logan will temporarily take responsibility for coordinating the Australian Alps cooperative management program. She will hold the reigns until a new Program Coordinator or Program Development Officer can be appointed. Virginia has recently been working with the NSW NPWS in and around Nowra, and has returned to the Environment ACT to work on the Alps program.

The role of Program Coordinator is an incredibly unique opportunity. What other job provides the opportunity to work with such a diverse group of individuals on a day to day basis from four separate governments agencies, each with their own “cultural” nuances!

One of the most striking aspects of the Alps program is the energy and enthusiasm people bring to the program. There is a genuine sense of commitment and belief in making a real difference ‘on the ground’ through cross border cooperation and the sharing of resources and experiences right across the “Alps” region.

Some of my fondest memories over the last three years will be the people, the places and the projects. Highlights are many, but the ones that come to mind include:

  • “Shouting” the then Victorian Minister, Marie Tehan a “Tharwa” pie while discussing the inclusion of Mt Buffalo National Park into the schedule of the Australian Alps was certainly something different.
  • Flying into Mansfield “international” airport in a light aircraft to buzz the local grass cutters (sheep!) off the strip was again something different, getting the passport stamped is another story!!
  • Discussing in some detail the merits of “cutting edge progressive park management techniques” with colleagues from across the agencies over a glass of red at the end of a long day!!
  • Driving up and down the Hume Highway, on what sometimes felt like a daily basis, to attend various working group meetings. I can highly recommend the bakery at Holbrook!

In terms of Alps projects, the production of such high quality material such as the Alps Touring Map, Video and Wildguide stand out as setting the benchmark for similar products. Projects such as the development of an integrated management strategy for the control of Broom and the “Natural Treasures” strategic framework for future funding allocation will, with time, make a real difference to on-ground park management.

The successful delivery of the highly acclaimed International ‘Poo’ Workshop which examined (!) human waste management in the Alps was truly a memorable project… never before has the Alps program received so much media interest! The confronting and challenging Aboriginal Workshop “Communicating across Cultures” stand out as highlights!

Yes, I depart the Alps program with a certain degree of job satisfaction…

Finally, I would like to record my thanks to all of you for your support, without your energy and commitment, I doubt the Alps program would have achieved as much as we have over the last few years. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge an integral member of the Alps program, Ms Cath Renwick, our tireless media / special projects officer. Cath embodies the Alps program, possessing energy, commitment and dedication to the job at hand.

While I will be moving on to take up another challenging job, this time back with the ACT Parks & Conservation Service as District Manger, the Alps will never really be too far away from my thoughts. I look forward in staying in touch with you all and catching up somewhere in the great Australian Alps national parks!

Kind regards to you and yours,
Brett McNamara
ph: 02 6207 2925

International Year of Mountains 2002

The IYM 2002 program, outlined in the last newsletter, has been acknowledged by the Commonwealth as being appropriate and worthy of implementation. We hear on the international grapevine that it has even been held up as a model for other countries to follow. However, at this time the Australian IYM Committee’s request for funding support through the Commonwealth Environment portfolio has been turned down. Funds have been sought from other Departments and any funding support available will come in the next financial year.

Several overseas organisations have indicated a desire to develop collaborative projects with the Australian IYM Committee. These will be further discussed by Roger Good at a mountains conference in Canada in June and at a workshop in Switzerland in October.

For information about international activities visit www.mountains2002.org

Roger Good
NSW NPWS
Ph: 02 6298 9718
Fx: 02 6299 4281

21 years on, the flora is better than ever

The best book ever to describe the unique flowering plants of the Australian Alps, Kosciuszko Alpine Flora, has been fully revised and is now available. The book has been out of print for more than 10 years and in that time copies of the original 1979 edition have fetched record prices on the ‘black’market. Amazingly the revised books with better than ever photos and detail on all alpine habitats in Australia, are not expensive: $59.95rrp for the full hardback edition & only $29.95rrp for the paperback field edition.

The four authors Colin Totterdell, Dane Wimbush, Alec Costin, and Max Gray are recognised as world experts on the plants and ecology of the Kosciuszko alpine region. The Flora was proudly published in partnership by CSIRO Publishing, the AALC and CRC Sustainable Tourism.

Fenner Conference 2001 Canberra 3-6 September

The main theme this year is The management of tourism in National Parks, World Heritage and other land tenures, based on scientific study of outcomes from existing tourism activity and management tools. Other topics will be applying science to the management of nature tourism, including economic issues, the characteristics of nature tourism and its effects on the physical and biological environment and tools and techniques for managing visitors and natural resources.

For further information contact

Karen Sullivan
Ph: 07 5552 8677

Alps at frontline of 4th World Ranger Congress

Anyone visiting Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, in March 2003 will be forgiven for thinking the spectacular park had just received a massive intake of rangers. At the Third International Ranger Federation Congress in Kruger Park, South Africa last September, Australia was successful in securing the 4th International Ranger Congress.

The 4th World Congress, scheduled for March 2003 in Melbourne and Wilsons Promontory National Park, is expected to attract in excess of 300 rangers and wardens, with quite a few coming from mountain protected areas throughout the world. Opportunities for Australian parks and rangers will be many, not least the opportunity to participate in the congress. There will also be opportunity for Aussie rangers and agencies to host rangers staying on as part of the “ranger shadowing” program.

The location of the congress places the Australian Alps national parks at the doorstep of the 4th World Congress…a unique opportunity to display our alpine protected areas and the staff behind the Alps’ many recent achievements.

Congratulations go to the Victorian Rangers Association, the Australian Ranger Association (ARA) and Parks Victoria, as the major sponsor, for securing this important event on the Nature Conservation World Calendar.

If you would like more information on the 4th World Congress, the Victorian or Australian Ranger Associations, Victorian enquires can be forwarded to Andy Nixon and NSW/ACT enquiries to Adrian Johnstone. More information soon on the ARA website www.ranger.org.au.

International Year of Ecotourism 2002 UPDATE

The IYE Committee and consultants have been busy updating initiatives on the website, meeting with international agencies involved in IYE coordination and seeking sponsorship for coordinating Australia’s Program and implementing core initiatives.

The response to Australia’s IYE website has been excellent, with many stakeholders making use of the interactive website to join or work on an existing initiative for 2002. For all of you who have contributed and are coordinating an initiative for IYE 2002, the next step is to think about a possible time-line for your initiative, including key dates and events. As soon as you can provide an indicative date for an announcement or launch of your initiative in 2002 we will include it in the IYE 2002 Draft Calender of Events. This Draft Calender of Events, will be listed on the IYE 2002 website at www.ecotourism.org.au/IYE2002 in March/April 2001.

An IYE 2002 Action Plan has been prepared to guide the development of Australia’s Program. The Action Plan contains a detailed process for developing and implementing Australia’s IYE 2002 Program.

Australia’s IYE Program needs considerable funds, not only to coordinate the Program but to resource the core initiatives. A corporate sponsorship drive is currently in progress and a funding application has been submitted to the Regional Tourism Program.

We hope to be able to announce some exciting partnerships within the next two months that will make the national IYE 2002 coordination possible and provide benefits to all the IYE 2002 initiatives.

Isabel Sebastian
IYE 2002 Project
Ph/Fx: 02 9959 4221
www.ecotourism.org.au/IYE2002

PAPE Youth Ecology Camp – in the International Year of the Mountains

Tuesday 2 – Friday 5 October 2001
Caulfield Grammar School and Melbourne High School Yarra Junction Campuses, Melbourne, Australia

The Youth Ecology Camp program will focus on developing an understanding of mountain ecosystems, our place within the natural world and the links we have to the environment. Through modelling best practice and sustainable resource use, participants will leave the experience having clear action plans to implement in their own schools and communities to further develop a culture of sustainability.

The Summit will draw together young people from around the Pacific Rim to share an understanding of the issues we face. Students will have an opportunity to focus on their relationship with the land and through living in a sustainable environment they will reflect on their own life styles and consider sustainable alternatives for the future.

Students from around the world will have the opportunity to share with the group a personal perspective from their country that gives an insight into their relationship with the land, the challenges they face in their local community and the steps they are taking to address them.

For more information visit www.pape-international-conference.com

Environmental impacts of tourism on the Australian Alps National parks

‘Perceptions of national parks managers’ is the title of an article to be published soon, written by Catherine Pickering and Janice Harrington. It will examine perceptions of staff from park agencies responsible for managing tourism and its environmental impacts in the largest area of snow country in Australia. Results will be in the next issue of News from the Alps.

For more information contact:

Dr. Catherine Pickering
Ph: 07 5552 8259

Communicating across cultures – workshop at Currango

Links and relationships

In the 24 hour period prior to this training course I gave some thought to my knowledge of Aboriginal culture and decided that it was not that bad. After all, I had undertaken some subjects at University involving Aboriginal studies and I had supervised Aboriginal staff in the past couple of years. [How wrong I was]

On arrival at Currango I immediately thought of the information listed on the course brochure: ‘your watches will be taken … expect your views to be challenged and debated … you are expected to fully commit and participate’. It all seemed to be a bit daunting, however, it was not very long before I felt at ease, as Chris (a facilitator) briefly explained the intended relaxed approach and emphasised the need for everyone to have fun. [Have fun we did]

Things continued to improve (even after losing our watches) when Graeme (another facilitator) mentioned that the classroom would be outdoors and a lot of learning and knowledge would come from ‘yarning’ around a campfire. Being an avid lover of outdoors and campfires, I thought, ‘This has to be the best training course I’ve ever attended, as long as it didn’t rain’. [Rain it did not]

From the first afternoon I immediately felt part of a large group of people where links and relationships were very important, where each person had a special role to play. This all became much clearer as each day went on and we learned more. [Many roles we did play]

Within our small groups we began learning from each other and within the wider group we were finding our other relationships, even though guidance and direction were at times cryptic. The deliberately slow building of knowledge was excellent and the role playing twist nearing the completion of the program provided a moving experience for most. This twist had an immense impact, particularly when the facilitators got tough. [Rough they were not].

This is a training course I will never forget because of its unique style of education through a hands-on approach outdoors that allowed a slow building of understanding. The knowledge of Aboriginal culture I gained in these few days will also never be forgotten – I highly recommend it to all.

Peter Galvin
District Manager
ACT Parks and Conservation Service

“Boy, am I in trouble…”

Being a local, of course I arrived late at Currango and when I was met some distance from the rest of the group with “You can take that watch off and don’t be surprised if no-one talks to you when you reach the fire”. I thought “Boy, am I in trouble for being late”.

The weather and setting were superb for such a hands-, minds- and emotions-on course. I remember commenting at the end of the course, having spent all but the sleeping hours outside, that this was a course where I took minimal notes, yet remembered most. Even 4 months later I have goose bumps thinking about the experience of Currango.

The best part of the course was not what we learnt but how we learnt. To feel first hand how the early mobs felt when white man took over the land was emotionally, spiritually and mentally challenging. Yet the errors of white mans ways were not drummed into us instead there was a different attitude of, ‘What had happened has happened and it was up to us to move on and grow from here’.

Some of the things I encountered, and there were many times I found myself questioning my own beliefs and my own prejudices, I have taken into my own life and my families life. We all need time to sit back and re-evaluate our lives and this course gave me the chance to do it.

I have raved about the course to my own family, friends and work mates. I would have no hesitation in saying that this course should be compulsory for all Australians. What a great country we would have then.

Mick Pettitt
ADM NSW NPWS, Tumut

Frustrations eased

As public land managers, most of us have to consider the cultural implications of the works programs we undertake. This generally means that a communication link needs to be established between the Government agencies and the responsible Koori community members. My experience in trying to set up a communication link has been one mainly based on frustration. Mine. As a reasonably articulate person with reasonable inter-personal skills I could not understand why a simple matter could not be resolved quickly.

The problem with frustration is that it feeds on itself, is usually one-sided and eventually ends up with one party feeling less than satisfied. Given my level of frustration and apparent inability to solve a simple issue, I resolved to attend the Communication across cultures workshop at Kosciuszko, get all the skills to fix my issue.

What a culture shock for this little “Gubba”!!

Taking yourself out of your own comfortable environment and joining a group that you don’t know is one thing, but completely changing from a member of the dominant majority to a member of a group that is considered by many to be inferior, is something else!

During the 3 days at Currango we challenged our perceptions and considered the barriers to communication from an Aboriginal perspective. This process is aided by the formation of groups of course participants. Each group has law, relationships and boundaries that form its structure.

Obviously this was a role play situation but for me it was startlingly real and to a large degree distressingly relevant. It “put the boot on the other foot” from a cultural perspective and made me think about how best to establish meaningful communication links with the indigenous community. the formation of groups of course participants. Each group has law, relationships

In all, the most confronting and challenging 3 days of learning that I have ever spent. My perceptions were challenged and so was my attitude.

Rod Collocott
Ranger, Croajingolong National Park.
Parks Victoria

Mountain tourism Kenya style

Mountains are promoted as tourism destinations in several African countries. The most famous of these mountains are the two highest peaks in Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro (5,950 m) and Mt Kenya (5,199 m). In September this year, I climbed Mt Kenya for the second time. I found that the local parks service (Kenya Wildlife Service) has to deal with many of the same issues that we face in the Australian Alps when managing environmentally sustainable tourism.

Origins of the mountain

Mt Kenya lies just slightly south of the equator in the central high volcanic plateau in east Africa. It is the remnant of a large volcano that developed between 3.1 and 2.6 million years ago during the formation of much of the Great Rift Valley (Bhatt, 1998). The summit was thought to be over 6,500 m, with around 35% of the volume of the peak lost due to processes such as glacial erosion. The current peak is 5,199 metres. Distinctive features such as U-shaped valleys, a range of moraines, and ice-smooth surfaces on the mountain document its glacial history. A few glaciers still remain on the central peaks, with 12 found in the 1990s down from the 18 recorded late last century (Hastenrath 1998).

Flora and fauna

The central area of the mountain is conserved within the 715 sq km of Mt Kenya National Park (Nyeki, 1993). This is surrounded by the Mt Kenya Forest Reserve. The park contains extensive natural forests, heathlands, alpine and nivial zones. The tropical alpine zone contains the distinctive giant rosette plants (Senecio and Lobelia) that are characteristic of east African mountains. At lower altitudes wildlife is found including elephant, buffalo and rhino in the forests. At higher elevations the main animals tourist see are the attractive rock hyraxes, the small and attractive relatives of elephants along with the friendly mountain chats (Nyeki 1993, Young 1998).

Kenya

Tourism in Mt Kenya National Park predominantly consists of ‘adventure’ tourists, with trekking the most popular activity (Fletcher et al. 2000). The main goal is sumiting the attractive but not technically demanding Pt Lenana (4985 m), although some people also circumnavigate the peaks, a walk that can be quite demanding. With the increasing promotion of Mt Kenya there are people who are poorly equipped in terms of gear, experience and fitness more frequently attempting the trip. The impressive location and relative ease of access also attracts many overseas climbers to Mt Kenya with most climbing the two main peaks, Batian (5199 m) and Nelion (5188m). A comprehensive map and climbing guides are available for the area. Although technical climbing guides are available, most people have previous experience and do not utilise guides for the technical sections.

Guides and porters

The vast majority of climbers and trekkers hire porters, cooks and guides (Allan 1998, Fletcher et al. 2000). For many tourists this dramatically increases the quality of the experience along with their chance of getting to the top and avoiding altitude sickness. Porters and guides can be booked from overseas (e.g. fax and phone as well as e-mail and the World Wide Web), in the larger centres (e.g. Nariobi), or in the local towns (Fletcher et al. 2000).

The hiring of guides is clearly beneficial as it provides employment for locals, often from the surrounding towns. It also, however, amplifies some of the negative impacts of tourism with each tourists impact amplified two or three times.
Kenya Wildlife Service regulates guides and porters issuing registration cards to guides that meet their accreditation standards. An additional system has been introduced by the tourism industry, with trekking companies, guiding organisations and hotels often members of the Association of Mount Kenya Operators (AMKO). There are also ‘unregistered’ porters/guides who operate, mainly from the local towns. In theory they should not be able to enter the park (Allan 1998, Fletcher 2000).

Routes up Mt Kenya

There are three main routes up Mt Kenya; Naro Moru, Sirimon and Chogoria. Each commences at a park gate. Access is also possible along less well-used routes, but all fees and bookings must be completed at one of the gates. People found in the park without registration documentation can be arrested with stiff fines and the costs of any search paid by the tourist (Allan 1998).

Access to the start of the three main routes is usually by 4WD along badly eroded dirt tracks that can be impassable in the wet. Naro Moro has been the most popular and shortest route. It can take from 3-4 days to walk from the top of the highest road access point to the peak and back. The other routes are longer and more scenic taking 4-6 days. A fast assent-decent is not recommended as it dramatically increases the risk of altitude sickness.

Accommodation

Most of the huts in the park are run by private organisations. They range from bivouac shelters high on the peaks to moderately extensive dormitory style bunkhouses at lower altitude. Several of the smaller/higher huts are owned by the Mountain Club of Kenya, with some unavailable to the public. Other larger bunkhouses at lower altitude are owned by private lodges based outside of the park. They are available to the public for a fee.

The condition of huts on Mt Kenya contrasts poorly with the well-maintained huts elsewhere such as Mt Kilimanjaro. On Mt Kenya several of the huts are dirty, cold, poorly equipped and badly maintained despite the presence of a resident ‘caretaker’. They are often both visual eyesores and hygiene risks in an otherwise relatively pristine environment. The poor condition of the huts may contribute to a trend for tourists to camp in the areas around the huts, with the accommodation in the huts reserved for the porters and guides.

Camping is permitted anywhere on the mountain, although a fee is levied ($2 US for non-residents per night). Most tourists, however, camp near the huts and utilise their facilities including water and toilets. The parks service requires tourists to lodge details of their trip, including each nights camping site, to assist in monitoring and safety on the mountain.

There is more to come next issue with Kenyan park fees and regulations; impacts and safety issues…watch this space.

Dr Catherine Pickering is an academic with the School of Environmental and Applied Sciences at Griffith University. She is also the director of the Subprogram in Mountain Tourism for the CRC for Sustainable Tourism.

Dr Catherine Pickering
Ph: 07 5552 8259

Part 2

Working Group progress reports

Cultural Heritage Working Group (CHWG)

Australian Alps Mining Heritage Conservation & Presentation Strategy

Mining is one of the important historic themes reflected in a variety of sites and landscapes within the Australian Alps national parks and adjoining historic reserves. These sites and landscapes document how mining and the people involved, influenced and were influenced by the Alpine and sub-Alpine environment.

There is a considerable amount of information available about the mining heritage within the parks and reserves within the alps. However there has been no comparative assessment or coordinated management of historic mining sites or landscapes across the Alpine parks and reserves.

A consultant is being engaged to develop a consolidated understanding of the mining heritage of the Australian Alps and develop strategies for conserving and presenting a range of mining heritage places to the public. This project will support efforts to increase the recognition of Australia’s mining heritage for the 150th Anniversary of the Australian Gold Rushes, and will be developed within a framework provided by state strategies for the management of mining heritage places. The document produced by this project will provide a framework and be a guide for the ongoing management of the historic mining sites and landscapes of the Australian alps.

The project involves the following tasks:

  • Identifying and assessing the information that is available about the mining heritage of the Alps;
  • Identifying and filling any gaps in the available information;
  • Assessing the available information on the mining heritage of the Alps against State/Territory and Commonwealth heritage criteria and establishing the level of significance of the historic mining sites and landscapes;
  • Developing an overview history and identifying the special characteristics of the mining heritage of the Australian Alps.
  • Recommending appropriate management strategies and guidelines for the conservation of this resource. The strategy will include Heritage Actions Plans (conservation management plans) for a limited number of different site types as examples to guide ranger staff on the conservation and management of historic mining sites and landscapes.
  • Identifying opportunities for linking historic mining sites with regional tourism programs, and select a representative group of places which could be developed for visitor use.
  • Recommending a staged and coordinated program for developing a representative set of historic mining sites for visitor use.

A number of heritage consultants were invited to tender for this project. The submissions which were received are now being assessed and one of the consultants will shortly be engaged to commence this project. The project is due for completion in August 2001.

Ray Supple, Parks Victoria

Scientific Sites

The Cultural Heritage Research and Implementation Report undertaken by the Cultural Heritage Working Group (April 2000) identified a number of gaps in our knowledge of cultural heritage in the Australian Alps National parks. One of these gaps is to be the focus of this project: the need for a strategy for protection and interpretation of the cultural heritage values of scientific sites in the Alps national parks.

Early alpine scientists were inspired to undertake research in the alpine flora, so different from the rest of the continent. The affinities with alpine flora of other continents were of interest to local and overseas botanists, who pursued studies of flora under remote and trying conditions. In the mid 1800s, geologists and geomorphologists began studies in the Alpine region. Following the initial discovery of the scientific significance of the mountains, a great wave of scientific investigation occurred in the 1900s. Many important cultural features remain from this work.

The CHWG is in the process of seconding a suitable person for a period of up to four months from a State or Commonwealth government agency to develop a thematic interpretation strategy for scientific sites of cultural significance in the Australian Alps national parks. They will:

  • identify key themes in scientific research,
  • identify the places associated with each key scientific theme in each of the Australian Alps national parks
  • establish the significance of these places
  • develop conservation management strategies for each set of thematic sites
  • for each theme, identify the sites that best represent that scientific significance.
  • develop an interpretation strategy for promoting to the public the most appropriate places which represent each theme, including an outline of options for interpretation.

This project builds upon work the AALC has already undertaken: Griffiths and Robin’s report on the cultural heritage significance of scientific sites (as opposed to their acknowledged scientific significance) and the Australian Alps Scientific Sites Database.

The seconded person will discuss known scientific sites with parks managers and relevant staff to decide which ones are likely to be suitable for promotion to the public, in terms of conservation requirements, accessibility and other relevant considerations. They will also be required to seek the views of major stakeholders in relation to cultural heritage significance and promotion of sites.

Debbie Argue, ACT Heritage

Recreation and Tourism Working Group (RTWG)

Minimal Impact (MI) messages

In 1998/99 an evaluation was carried out on the ‘Alps Minimal Impact Codes’ by Elizabeth Beckmann and Assoc. of Canberra.

The many recommendations included the production of a series of ‘introductory’ minimal impact messages. Initially these would be printed in brochure form but other distribution methods may also include a range of other media including posters, signs, magazine articles etc.

Consequently, a project was developed for the ‘Refinement and redevelopment of minimal impact messages and dissemination techniques’. Again Beckmann and Assoc. were selected to do the work.

The 3 main goals of the project are:

  1. To develop and test basic MI messages for the Australian Alps national parks;
  2. To identify creative and effective delivery methods for those messages; and
  3. To devise a program to evaluate the effectiveness of the above into the future.

To date, Dr Beckmann has developed a list of basic MI messages which includes phrases such as ‘pack it in, pack it out’, ‘leave it as you find it’, ‘take only photographs, leave only footprints’and so on. These messages (or slogans) were tested on members of both the Recreation and Tourism Working Group and the Community Relations Working Group at a combined meeting in Wodonga on 7 February. This brainstorming session was designed to eliminate unsuitable messages, thereby creating a ‘working set’ of MI messages.

Dr Beckmann is presently testing and ranking the core set of MI messages with the target audiences by way of mini-focus groups, telephone interviews, and email or mail surveys. She is also canvassing effective dissemination mechanisms with the target audiences.

It is anticipated that the final set of messages and effective delivery methods will be developed within the project timetable.

Simon Allender, NPWS, Tumut

Australian Alps Recreation Strategy

The objective of the Australian Alps Recreation Strategy is to develop a framework and management tool that will assist Alps managers to:

  • provide a range of quality recreation opportunities;
  • provide some direction in recreation management;
  • make logical and defendable decisions in relation to recreational use; and
  • develop a wider recreation strategy for the Australian Alps.

The final model will be presented as a simple guide to assist the thought process in dealing with recreation issues in a smaller defined area of the Alps or in relation to a particular issue.

The project has progressed in three stages:

Stage 1: Snowy River Pilot project
In 1997, a project to develop a recreation planning model for the Alps was carried out for a pilot area embracing part of Snowy River corridor. The study area included a variety of settings, activities, environments and cross border issues.
The Pilot project produced an eight step planning process and model to develop a recreation plan that meets the diverse needs of visitors to the Alps while protecting and conserving natural and cultural heritage values.

Stage 2: Recreation Opportunity Mapping and Character Statements
This stage provided:

  • a strategic overview of the alps in terms of the location and range of recreation activities and settings (ROS mapping); and
  • statements for each management unit of the particular character and offerings provided and the strategic fit with the whole of the Alps.

Stage 3 Refining and Implementing the Model
The project is now being implemented in the Northern Kosciuszko/Western Namadgi area.
Facilitated by consultants Janet Mackay and Stig Virtanen, a project team of NPWS and ACTP&CS staff are going through the eight stages of the model. This has led to much valuable discussion about identifying visitor groups and their needs/impacts, identifying and maintaining charactar settings, managing horseriding and cross border issues, amongst others.

The outcome of this stage will be:

  • a solid recreation plan for the Northern Kosciuszko/Western Namadgi area;
  • a good understanding of the role that monitoring and measuring visitor impacts and attitudes has on recreation planning in the alps; and
  • a well refined model for implementation in other parts of the alps by managers as required.

The project will be completed in May 2001.

Peter Jacobs, Mt Buffalo NP, Parks Victoria

Natural Heritage Working Group (NHWG)

Wild horse research update

The Australian Alps funded project on the population ecology of wild horses in the Australian Alps has just entered its third year. It is running on time and to plan (!), and I hope to have it completed in July 2002.

One of the first objectives of the research is to map the distribution of wild horses across the Australian Alps national parks. This has been done on 1:100 000 maps. The next step is to digitise them. I hope to have the digitised maps available by August 2001 for comment before the final draft is made. I have also been interviewing locals and discussing long-term trends in the horse populations to give a historical perspective on distribution and abundance.

A broad-scale aerial survey to estimate density and abundance of wild horses is a major part of the research. It is the first time such a survey has been done, and it was successfully completed in March 2001.The survey is designed so that it can be repeated to allow long term monitoring of the population. Preliminary analysis indicates that the average density of horses in the areas surveyed is about 2 horses per square kilometre. The full analysis will be more reliable as it will attempt to correct for the horses not seen from the helicopter. For example, the average group size observed from the air was 3.1 horses while the average group size from ground surveys is 5.2. I hope to tackle the full analysis once the autumn field season is over.

The areas covered in the aerial survey were northern Kosciuszko (north and east of the Snowy Mountains Highway, 795km2), Snowy Plain (78 km2), southern Kosciuszko (south of Little Thredbo River and west of the Snowy River, 768 km2), northern Victoria (Davies Plain south to Nunniong, 1056 km2) and the Bogong High Plains (91 km2). It was not feasible to survey some areas because horses are in such low densities. Areas not surveyed include west of the Talbingo Reservoir, and east of the Snowy River.

A point of interest especially for the ACT, a mare and foal were observed during the aerial survey at Murray’s Gap. They were in NSW, just.

The ground surveys at Currango, Big Boggy and Cowombat are continuing. The aim is to survey each area twice a year for three years to study the population dynamics. I am part way through the fourth survey session. Recognising individual horses is most successful at the Big Boggy as the horses tend to be easy to approach, and I visit the site more frequently. The data collected at the other sites is still very useful, but not as detailed. Preliminary analysis suggests that annual survival rates are very high.

I have been receiving support from many park users. Bushwalkers/cross-country skiers have been providing me with information on the numbers and locations of horses in the alpine area and the Big Boggy. The horse-riding community (in particular members of the Alpine Brumby Management Association, Victoria), have been informing me of numbers, age, sex and location of horses removed as well as general information on current and historic distribution and behavioural observations. It is becoming apparent that brumby-running is the primary factor limiting wild horse numbers where it is permitted in Victoria. I aim to model this effect as accurately as possible with the information provided.

Once the autumn field season is over, I will begin to spend most of my time on data analysis and writing. By this time next year, I will have more facts and figures at hand to share with you.

Michelle Walter
Applied Ecology Research Group, Uni. of Canberra

Australian Alps Liaison Committee (AALC)

Economic value of tourism in the Australian Alps

This is a joint project of the Australian Alps Liaison Committee (AALC) and the CRC Tourism at the University of Canberra. Its aim is to measure the economic impact of tourism to the entire Australian alpine areas, including the ACT, NSW and Victoria, over all four seasons. La Trobe University is assisting with the data collection in Victoria.

The methodology of data collection will be a questionnaire printed on two sides of a single sheet of paper, which will be distributed through Visitor Centres, and other means. A lottery incentive prize of $500 will be used to encourage a good response rate. Reply paid envelopes will be used, as well as return bins to be placed in centres throughout the study area. It is hoped that the co-operation of various business houses can be obtained to assist with the distribution and collection of questionnaires.

The first distribution of questionnaires will occur at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in the ACT at the end of February. It is anticipated that distributions in the Snowy Mountains region, and in the Victorian Alpine Parks will commence shortly thereafter.

The data analysis from this project will enable measurement to be made of the economic impact on each of Victoria, NSW, and the ACT of visitation to their respective alpine areas. The analysis will also show what economic value is placed on each of the State/Territory alpine areas by the visitors who use them.

Trevor Mules
University of Canberra

Around the agencies: correspondents report

Victoria

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

Another long hot summer is drawing to a close in the Victoria Alps and the staff and all associated contractors and other helpers have helped deliver another huge works program.

While being hot and dry and very long, we have been lucky not to have had too many destructive wildfires which has allowed us to concentrate on our works program.

Parks Victoria’s environment program has been increased over the last year and the Alpine District has been the recipient of much attention. All work centres have been delivering increased pest plant and animal control programs that will help maintain our biodiversity over the long-term, which is much appreciated by both the staff and the community.

Especially pleasing has been the emphasis on implementing the Alps Broom Strategy with both biological and chemical agents, and a joint effort with Mount Hotham and Falls Creek resorts on reducing predators around the Mountain Pygmy Possum habitat.

On the staff front, Evan McDowell, known to many people as one of the Victorian reps on the Natural Heritage working group, has taken 10 weeks off and is currently touring Central America. Parks Victoria has recently advertised for two new Rangers in Omeo and it is hoped that by the time this newsletter is published, Kris will have a full permanent complement at Omeo.

As we move into another planning phase for next years works program, our efforts will continue to focus on management and protection of our biological diversity and natural values as well as providing for a wide range and increasing number of visitors.

New South Wales

The word from the Lyrebird …Stuart Cohen, NSW NPWS

Wild horse management plan for alpine area

The issue of wild horses causing damage to the Alpine area of Kosciuszko National Park is being tackled by a community based steering committee comprising scientific experts, horse riders, conservationists, members of the regional park advisory committee and animal welfare groups.

The committee has been working towards drafting a wild horse management plan for the alpine area of the park.

This plan will look at the values that people place on the environment and the wild horses while considering options for the relocation of the wild horses from the alpine area.

Kosci grows with new additions from CRA

The recent Southern Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) conducted throughout much of southeastern NSW has resulted in the establishment of 89 new reserves and major additions to existing reserves which formally came into being on January 1. Covering a total area of 320,000 ha the package included 25,000 ha in additions to Kosciuszko National Park as well as 20 new reserves on the Monaro tablelands and a dozen on the South West Slopes.

Liz Wren moves on

Well known Australian Alps identity and long suffering NPWS media whiz Liz Wren has swapped the pen for a rangers uniform. Liz was recently appointed to the position of Senior Ranger neighbour relations based at Jindabyne after having served just over a year as the Community Programs Unit manager for the NPWS Southern Directorate.

Wilderness exhibition underway

The NPWS recently placed its Southern CRA Wilderness Assessment Report on public exhibition. The community is being asked to consider some 200,000 ha of land for wilderness declaration including three new wilderness area proposals in Kosciuszko and a Brindabella Wilderness Proposal covering much of the existing Brindabella National Park. The NSW Government will consider all public submissions before making any decision on what will be declared.

ACT

The Gang-Gang gossip … Geoff Young, Namadgi National Park, ACT Parks & Conservation

Staffing

The ACT Parks and Conservation Service is well down the path of a major organisational restructure which has seen an amazing amount of changes in staff and responsibilities.

Peter Galvin has been permanently appointed as manager of the West District, incorporating Namadgi National Park and the Murrumbidgee River Corridor. As you have no doubt read Brett McNamara is now manager of the East District
Trish MacDonald and Joss Haiblen are now working at the Googong Foreshores, an area of land surrounding Googong Reservoir just south of Queanbeyan. On behalf of the Alps program, I would like to thank Joss and Trish for their tireless efforts and dedication to the management of the mountains. I’m sure their knowledge and assistance will be missed.

The population of the District has grown since the last edition. Congratulations go to Dave Dwyer for the birth of his second son, Rory, Brian Summers for the birth of his daughter Hannah and to Tony Corrigan for his son Jack. Apparently, Rory is already being used to haul water-bars and hardwood steps up and down steep mountains trails for his daddy! Stay tuned for more baby news because there are more on the way. There must be something in the water.

On the Ground

A lot of exciting projects and activities have occurred in the new West District over the last few months including:

  • A regional and cross-border feral goat control program – 6 radio-collared sterile goats and partners were released in areas known to have populations of feral goats, including the Clear, Booth and Scabby Ranges. In late April we will begin to monitor and assess numbers of feral goats in these areas with an intention to undertake culling mid-May.
  • Willow Control – We have continued on our quest to remove willows from Namadgi National Park. Willows in the Gudgenby River, Rendevous Creek, and the Cotter were all poisoned in the last couple of months. We have now set our sights on the Naas River, which remains as the only river that has untreated willows.
  • The Gudgenby Bush Regeneration Project (aka Boboyan Pines) – During the last twelve months, growth of seedlings in over 200 hectares that were once pine-covered has reached a stage where trees can be seen from a distance. The Gudgenby Bush Regeneration Group and other volunteers along with Green Corps groups have planted over 2000 seedlings. The regular summer rains have ensured a high success rate. Last October, Greenfleet, a campaign that raises funds from motorists’ subscriptions and uses these resources to combat greenhouse emissions, planted 15000 seedlings at Boboyan Pines. The success rate appears to be more than 85%. Greenfleet is aiming to plant 50000(!) trees this October, all grown from seed collected in the Gudgenby area. 24 hectares of pine, felled last autumn, are to be burnt this May, weather permitting. Given the success of hand broadcasting seed immediately after previous burns, the Gudgenby Bush Regeneration Group and other volunteers plan to do the same this year.

Interesting wildlife sightings

ACT Parks staff have recently come across a number of interesting species.

  • The remains of a koala were found at Glendale Crossing – an animal that hasn’t been seen in the park for at least 15 years.
  • A Rosenbergs monitor in the Naas Valley.
  • A common scaly-foot at Corin Dam, and mosquito fish at Glendale, both of which have not yet been recorded in the Park.

Commonwealth

What’s the buzz with …Parks Australia, Paul Stevenson, AALC Secretary

Revision of Commonwealth funding

The Commonwealth has advised other agency partners in the Alps program that due to changing funding priorities the Commonwealth will not be able to continue with direct funding for the Alps program from the end of this financial year.

Given the success and importance of the Alps Program, the Commonwealth wishes to remain a party to the MOU and Environment Australia staff will continue in the work of the Liaison Committee and to participate on the Working Groups. However it would aim to provide financial assistance on a targeted basis, aligned with the Commonwealth’s more direct interests in matters of national environmental significance. This may be through applications to the Natural Heritage Trust. Possible projects could include a regional recovery plan for the Alps and a combined listing for the Alps under the new Commonwealth heritage legislation.

Websites

One of the Commonwealth’s contributions to the Alps program is to host the Australian Alps national parks website. This well-designed site is at http://www.australianalps.environment.gov.au.

The Alps website is only one of the key websites covering protected areas across state borders. Another important but less known site are the webpages for the ANZECC Working Group on National Parks and Protected Area Management. This site can be found at www.biodiversity.environment.gov.au/protecte/anzecc/index1.html and contains ten reports on best-practice in park management across park agencies in Australia and New Zealand.

While the Australian Alps national parks covers nine such areas, the full list of all national parks and reserves in Australia (5,800 of them) can be found at the website of the National Reserve System. Why not see if you can remember what the Australian World Heritage Properties are and check your memory from www.environment.gov.au/heritage/places/world/index.html and maybe view a few photos of these important sites.

New heritage legislation

The Commonwealth Government has recently tabled new legislation to establish a mechanism for the identification of heritage places of national significance. Such places will be entered on a National Heritage List consisting of natural, historic and indigenous places that are of outstanding national heritage significance to the nation as a whole. The Minister will be guided by advice from an independent body of heritage experts – the Australian Heritage Council – which will be established as a separate statutory authority.

Places on the National List will be identified under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 as matters of national environmental significance. This will ensure that, for the first time, heritage places of national significance receive appropriate statutory protection.

The legislative package repeals the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975. With the repeal of this Act, the Register of the National Estate will no longer be a statutory register. However, the information on the Register will be used as a valuable source of information in considering the effect of proposed actions under the EPBC Act. It will also continue to be publicly available as a heritage information resource.

Another Cross-border Management Agreement: This time to protect Lake Eyre Basin

In March the Commonwealth Government introduced legislation to protect the Lake Eyre Basin. Lake Eyre Basin contains areas of national and international ecological and environmental significance, such as the Ramsar-listed Coongie Lakes, areas of high economic worth such as pastoralism and tourism, and areas of social, cultural and heritage value.

The Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement Bill 2001 gives approval to an Agreement, signed by the Commonwealth, South Australia and Queensland in October 2000. South Australia has already introduced legislation to give effect to the Agreement and the Queensland Government has been asked to introduce similar state legislation. The Agreement provides for New South Wales and the Northern Territory to become involved at a later stage should they wish to do so.

The Agreement establishes the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum which will develop and adopt policies and strategies for the integrated catchment management of water and related natural resources associated with major cross-border river systems in the Basin. The Agreement also establishes a Community Advisory Committee.

Origins of the Alps Agreement

Bruce Leaver, Executive Director, Australian Heritage Commission

My involvement in the Alps began as a seasonal Ranger in Kosciusko in 1964 and continued in forestry and park management in the area until 1986.

NSW

By 1979 the second Wran government had been returned with Paul Landa, as parks and planning Minister.

Landa was dismayed at the ski resort development pressures. He was determined to treat the skiing industry as a regional planning issue. He accepted that skiing was a legitimate use of the park but that associated urban facilities were best located in the adjacent local government areas. As planning Minister he was determined that an integrated planning approach be taken and the park resources be directed to solving the chronic visitor management problems without degradation through accommodation development. Accordingly Landa directed that the park plan of management be rewritten and subregional planning and transport strategies were implemented to ensure his commitments were enshrined in statutory planning and park management instruments.

Paul Landa met a premature death and managers found that the plan of management revision exercise a complex, ugly and unpopular undertaking.

The new plan curtailed urbanisation, established expansion of winter recreation on a day use basis (two new day-use resorts – Blue Cow and Selwyn), solving the chronic winter access crisis with an underground railway into the resorts and stimulating massive accommodation development in local government areas.

During the debate one strategy was to identify Kosciusko as an asset of national significance to put development pressure in context. This was pre-World Heritage days. The first acknowledged national framework through a cooperative agreement between governments recognised the Australian Alps in a national context. The Australian Alps agreement idea was born.

NSW was also using the national perspective to bring outside alpine-subalpine areas into the parks system, particularly the Bimberi area and the Brindabella National Park to the north-west of the ACT.

Victoria

Like NSW there was a climate of change and the incoming Cain government addressed some long standing conservation aspirations including the establishment of an Alpine National Park.

Minister Kirner made very heavy work of the Land Conservation Council’s alpine park proposals as the alpine cattle grazing issue erupted. Like the NSW resort issue, it was considered that debate about Victoria’s parochial problems could be put on a more balanced footing by elevating the conservation values of the Victorian Alps to a national level. Victoria became the co-founder of the Alps agreement concept.

ACT

In the early 80s the ACT was moving to self-government. The Gudgenby Nature Reserve was proclaimed under Commonwealth territories legislation and was to become the Namadgi National Park.

The ACT had a desire to be a partner in the company of Australian governments. There was a ready willingness to be part of a national scene and they became enthusiastic participants in moves towards an Alps Agreement.

The Commonwealth

The new Fraser Government implemented the Whitlam Government’s Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act. The Australian NPWS were quite keen to join the Alps partnership and support it through its States Assistance Program.

Conclusion

The Alps Agreement was thus conceived as a mechanism to satisfy the particular interests of participants in focussing on the national significance of the Australian Alps. Whilst the parties joined for different reasons, there was the common objective to see the area’s national status recognised and managed in partnership. The Agreement was the first recognition that our outstanding natural areas have to be recognised as assets of national significance. This concept of national common purpose has continued on to the recognition of the role of World Heritage listing.

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.

Return to top