News from the Alps #35 |December 2007

People working together for the Australian Alps

Australian Alps national parks

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Welcome

coverno35…to this issue of news from the alps, coming to you from the ACT for the first time in over six years, and for good reason. The Program Manager’s position is designed to rotate every two to three years through each of the states – Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

This keeps the Program fresh and alive, strengthens involvement and awareness of the Program especially within the current ‘host’ agency, and perhaps provide a slightly different Alps focus. For all these good reasons I’ve now taken on the position of Alps Program Manager from Gill Anderson.

I consider it to be a great privilege to be in this role and I’m looking forward to many challenges and enjoyable moments over the next three years. I’d also like to send a personal thanks to Gill for all she has done over the last three years in the job. Gill continues to be a great model and mentor. Thanks Gill.

Now to this issue of the magazine.

Regardless of your view of tourism, it’s a key aspect of the Alps. And while many would probably like to keep the Alps to themselves, its beauty and heritage should be for all Australians, and the rest of the World for that matter, to share, value and protect. The key is to make sure that any use of the Alps is compatible with the conservation of its precious natural and cultural values. Our lead story about the National Landscapes Program provides an insight to how this might be achieved. Of course there are many other stories and regular columns to wander through, most about our Alps, but others from further afield, so enjoy!

Rod Atkins program manager & editor

A big thankyou to those who have made time to be interviewed; and to the photographers for their images (among them Gill Anderson, George Bradford, Stuart Cohen, Joel Deenen, Matt Hoskins, Klaus Hueneke, Robin Moseley, Dave Whitfield and Graeme Worboys). Without this support, news from the alps would not be possible.

Getting strategic with tourism

For most success stories, hindsight shows that the key aspects were already in place waiting for the right moment. In this case, the catalyst is the National Landscapes initiative. The result? Delivery of one of the Australian Alps’ key aims, as explained by Peter Jacobs, Convenor of the Australian Alps Liaison Committee (AALC).

“Tourism is a part of the Alps and our role is to provide opportunities for sensitive, responsible and sustainable tourism experiences. We’re already achieving a great deal, but given the many layers of local, regional and state tourism bodies – multiplied over three states – what we don’t have is the big picture or a strategic plan.”

However, thanks to those existing tourism layers, what the Australian Alps does have is a very good chance of becoming one of Australia’s key tourism destinations – newly branded and marketed internationally. If successful, being a branded National Landscape will benefit existing tourism in the Alps. “At present, we struggle to gain a profile. The National Landscapes Program gives us a chance to look at it as a whole – an opportunity we haven’t had before.”

For those who haven’t yet heard of the National Landscapes initiative, it’s origins can be traced back to the international tourism campaign which starred Paul Hogan and ‘put another shrimp on the barbie’. This successfully positioned Australia as a place everyone is familiar with and would like to visit, but it fell short on two counts. We’re known only for our reef, rock and opera house, and due to distance most tourists put us in the ‘some day’ basket.

The latest Where the bloody hell are you? Tourism Australia campaign targets this on two fronts. Firstly, it has identified and speaks to a very specific international market. As a destination, we appeal to the worlds’ 25 million ‘experience seekers’. These people are educated, adventurous, keen to learn and to engage with locals. They’re environmentally ethical, wishing to tread softly and, while luxury is not a necessity, they are prepared to rough it, as long as they can relax at the end of the day in comfortable quality surroundings. From an Alps perspective, they are a match made in heaven. This market sits very comfortably with its low volumes, high yield and small ecological footprint.

Now that we have our market, we need to prepare to offer it Australia’s best – which is where the National Landscapes initiative fits in. As Bruce Leaver from the National Landscapes Reference Committee (and AALC member) so aptly puts it, “Rather than, Where the bloody hell are you?, it’s more a case of where are the best places, those areas which can offer our visitors superlative natural and cultural experiences which are distinctive to Australia?”

As it embarks on the path to becoming one of these, the odds look good for the Australian Alps. As part of the process, which began in earnest earlier this year, an Australian Alps National Landscapes Steering Committee was formed to represent a united Alps. The AALC has taken on a primary administrative role and sitting amongst the large group of stakeholders is Tourism Snowy Mountains (NSW), North East Regional Tourism (Victoria), Gippsland Regional Tourism (Victoria), Tourism Victoria, Tourism NSW, Tourism ACT, local government tourism bodies, Alpine Resorts, Australian Ski Areas Association, Parks Victoria, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and ACT Parks, Conservation and Lands.

“Having put forward our submission, we’re pleased that, in recognition of its strength, Tourism Australia has agreed to fund two projects that will provide the information we need to consolidate our bid. Work is now being carried out, both to establish what experiences are available, and to develop our own unique brand.”

“This is not about replacing existing tourism, but rather how we will all benefit from the National Landscapes strategic approach. As partners in the bid, we’re all very confident there will be considerable long-term economic benefits for the regional economy.”

As the process unfolds, the value of the Alps’ existing co-operative management arrangements, which already sit across boundaries, will become obvious. And perhaps most importantly, the branding process offers anyone associated with the Alps the opportunity for a fresh look at what we all value.

In a nutshell

The National Landscapes initiative ignores tenures, land classifications, local, regional or even state borders in it’s quest to help develop exceptional tourism destinations. It’s National Landscapes Reference Group is co-chaired by Tourism Australia and Parks Australia, and it’s members are James Cook University, Ecotourism Australia, Tourism & Transport Forum Australia, the World Commission on Protected Areas, Indigenous Tourism Australia, and the Australian Tourism Export Council. The aim of this lean and highly effective group is to assess proposals and coach those involved through a detailed process so that they become not only linked to the brand but have the systems

and infrastructure to deliver that brand. It’s still early days, but other significant Australian sites already under development are the Red Centre, the Flinders Ranges, the Great Ocean Road and Kakadu, while those being considered are the Mt Warning rainforest region, the Murray Border area, Cradle Mountain-Tarkine, and Kangaroo Island.

For more information visit www.tourism.australia.com/nationallandscapes

A wrinkle in time

Past Australian Alps national parks Program Managers  (L to R, and in the order they occupied the position): Janet Mackay, Neville Byrne, Brett McNamara, Virginia Logan and Gill Anderson toast the Alps

Past Australian Alps national parks Program Managers
(L to R, and in the order they occupied the position): Janet Mackay, Neville Byrne, Brett McNamara, Virginia Logan and Gill Anderson toast the Alps

Gill Anderson had a hand in the organisation, and as she explains, “Our objective was to have a reunion; to bring people back; to inspire new staff or staff new to the program; and to give people the chance to meet those who’d been involved for many years. We looked back over the past 20 years; we looked around at how and what is being achieved at present; and we were also keen to look forward with the benefit of all those present.”

“It was also a great time to pay respect and recognise the ongoing connection of Aboriginal people with the Alps…the welcome to country and contributions by the three Aunties was appreciated by everyone present”.

Planned activities helped people share their knowledge and experiences, from the moment people formed a line based on their length of involvement with the Alps, to the ‘speed dating’ moments where participants put forward their individual passion for the Alps.

The celebration generated a vision statement for the future direction of the Alps. It has gone through several drafts but will soon be on its way to the Heads of Agencies for consideration.

On the surface, the celebration marking 21 years since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, which forms the basis of our current management of the Alps, was straight forward. However the 80 people, gathered at Thredbo over two days in early June, represented a range of associations and eras. The result was much more than a birthday party.

This good little book is back

newsletter-35-img-3Given that the initial print run of Explore the Australian Alps – a Touring Guide to the Australian Alps sold out a couple of years after its release in 1998, anyone planning a mountain road trip from Gippsland to Canberra (or vice versa) would have had to borrow one, or wait for this useful guides’ re-release. Well here it is, a revised edition with a brand new cover, full of information designed to help visitors plan a trip (in either conventional or 4WD cars) through the Alps, and encouraging them to get out of their cars along the way. There are ideas of where to go and what to do as well as insights into native flora and fauna and cultural heritage.

For a copy, email tabletoppress@bigpond.com

When pictures say it all

newsletter-35-img-4Spanning 35 years, this collection of mountain images is so varied it can’t help but connect with any reader who has had some experience of the Australian Alps. As author and photographer Klaus Hueneke explains, Mountain Landscapes and Historic Huts gives “a taste of some of the dramatic landscapes in this highly changeable environment, and the historic dwellings in it.” This book is a wonderful record of a highly valued landscape so is ideal for those who understand why the Alps are so precious.

For a copy, email tabletoppress@bigpond.com

Yarrangobilly Caves House is back on the map

newsletter-35-img-5One of the challenges faced when managing environments such as the Alps is the management of infrastructure. This challenge often becomes more complex when the infrastructure is historic. Combine the historic with a fragile and complex environment such as karst landscape and that challenge is magnified even further. The Yarrangobilly Caves precinct is a good example of how this challenge has been tackled in the northern end of Kosciuszko National Park.

As George Bradford (Caves Manager) puts it, “When managing an environment such as this, you need a well planned and holistic approach because visitors, infrastructure and environment are intertwined. Given each has the potential to affect the other, it’s important that we find a balance which protects both the environment and the heritage values, but also offers wonderful visitor experiences.”

But let’s start at the beginning, and take the theme that runs consistently through this story – the interaction between the site and people, and the need for balance. To begin with, research has confirmed the presence of transitional Aboriginal camps in the area. Local grazier, John Bowman, is thought to be the first European to see the Glory Arch in 1834 when he went looking for sheltering cattle. Certainly by the turn of that century, the Yarrangobilly Caves had become a significant tourism destination and basic accommodation was being offered in cottages. Soon after, in 1901, the single storey section of the Caves House was constructed. This was an era when people embarked on an epic journey into the wilderness, to stay at a resort, to visit the caves and go fly-fishing.

Between 1916 and 1918 the two storey section of the House was constructed and later promotional literature was to rave about its state-of-the-art flushing toilets and the now heritage listed septic tank. The era that followed through to the fifties was the golden age for Caves House, with visitors spending hours in the caves, in the thermal pool then singing, dancing and enjoying poetry recitals in the evenings.

But two main factors were to change all this. The family car became more common in the fifties and the novelty of a treacherous journey into the mountains became just another day trip. And the style of accommodation offered at the House – a series of rooms with a bathroom down the hall – suddenly became old fashioned. Visitor numbers dropped and the caves precinct fell into disrepair.

Eventually the Department of Corrections established a minimum security remote prison camp within the precinct. Prisoners lived in Caves House, made use of the two storey wing for storage and worked to repair and improve the caves. Galvanised steel railings and concrete steps were installed and the Thermal Pool was upgraded and enlarged to include a wading pool. Then, as part of the establishment of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the caves were re-opened to the public.

Over the last 40 years the Parks Service has faced many challenges in managing the complexities of the Yarrangobilly precinct, which is in many ways like running a small town – all achieved through the effort and dedication of the many people involved over the years. In more recent years, stainless steel railings have been installed in the show caves; new lighting is soon to be installed into the South Glory Cave; and interpretive signage is being upgraded. A new sewerage treatment facility and toilet block now manages increased visitor numbers with minimum negative impact, while power usage and hydro power generation has been designed to be more sustainable.

Added to all this is the refurbishment of Caves House. As George Bradford puts it, “As part of managing the heritage values we have an obligation, not only to maintain the buildings, but also to let people stay in and experience Yarrangobilly Caves House”.

“There had been a great deal of discussion over the years about how best to approach setting up the House, including bringing in private enterprise. The result recognises the limitations we face, among them being an hour from the nearest town.” So while there won’t be a bistro serving lunches to day visitors and dinners for those who stay overnight, the house offers two private wings with areas for self catering. Those who’ve been staying since it was opened in mid-October bring their bed linen and an esky full of food, and are immersed in a previous era.

“There’s been a massive amount of support to get to this point. So many park managers along the way have left their legacy and to them I am incredibly indebted and grateful. I’ve been fortunate to be able to come in at this point and be able to open the door.”

Remote sustainability: The facts

newsletter-35-img-8The aim has been to build in efficiencies within the precinct while managing the environmental impact – all on a limited budget while maintaining visitor services. For those who aren’t familiar with Yarrangobilly, within the precinct there is a visitor’s centre, new toilet block, a thermal pool, picnic areas and barbeque shelters, Caves House, two staff houses, four show caves, two discovery caves and around 320 wild caves.

Sewerage treatment works and Hydro electricity plant at Yarrongobilly

Sewerage treatment works and Hydro electricity plant at Yarrongobilly

the lighting

  • in the caves, movement sensor-based lights will reduce the growth of moss and algae as well as reduce energy consumption.
  • 1000 watt floodlights are being replaced with energy efficient 6 watt alternatives, while pathways are being lit with 1 watt globes rather than 20 watt.
  • battery banks will assist in storing power and supplying emergency lighting.

the sewerage

  • treatmentusewerage treatment had reached the point where the existing septic tanks couldn’t deal with day visitor demand let alone Caves House opening, hence the construction of a new treatment facility.
  • a new toilet block and collection facility has been constructed near the visitors’ centre.
  • black water is pumped to a treatment facility located away from the caves precinct (karst) to reduce the potential of negative impact.
  • treatment is chemical free and the water used irrigates a plantation of grasses which are harvested for seed and slashed to produce native mulch as part of the former Snowy Hydro-revegetation projects.

the hydroelectricity

  • an existing spring fed dam supplies the hydro plant through a pipeline.
  • previously the system had to be managed manually and inefficiencies meant that when the water ran out, the diesel backup would kick in.
  • a radio link now monitors dam levels, automatically switching between water and diesel to conserve water.
  • in the near future an upgrade of the main switchboard will include a system to monitor energy use throughout the precinct, providing data needed to design further sustainable improvements.
  • and funding is being sought to install a large battery storage system as the basis of an uninterruptible power supply system, solving the problem of if-we-don’t-use-it-we-lose-it.

For more information, contact George Bradford, George.Bradford@environment.nsw.gov.au

Around the Alps

News, big or small on Alps-based projects,people and events

By far our biggest output since last issue has been through fire recovery – we are currently delivering over $3 million worth of works. This is to repair and reinstate park assets dealing with the post fire effects of pest plants and animals as well as the rehabilitation of particularly sensitive areas such as the fire affected alpine bogs. And just as the 2002-03 fires offered opportunities to survey those areas burnt for Indigenous cultural sites, the 2006-07 fires have exposed other areas not burnt then. Bob Jones has been appointed project manager and, working together with Indigenous

Dave Burton reporting from Victoria’s far east – Snowy River and Alpine (Tingaringy area) National Parks

Since the floods in June, recovery work has consumed a large share of time and resources. Staff from Parks, Department of Sustainability and Environment and contractors have been working for the past four months assessing damage, reporting, making repairs – proof that environmental and emergency management go hand in hand.

In terms of works, the cabins at Cape Conran have been re-roofed, the toilets refurbished and road and track upgrades carried out. Five new wilderness retreats have also been completed and opened by the former Minister John Thwaites in March, after nine months of construction and several years of planning. These luxury tents, complete with centralised cooking and bathroom facilities, provide a luxury camping option. Together with the campground and the cabins, Cape Conran now has a wide range of accommodation on offer.

In other works, local community stakeholders are being consulted over two new jetties. Funding is being sought from Marine Safety to construct one at Cape Conran’s West Cape boat ramp and the other at Corringle foreshore.

There have been a few staff changes in the far east. Dennis Matthews, previously East Gippsland District Chief Ranger has taken on a new position, Chief Ranger Fire and Emergency Services for Eastern Victoria – a role to which he brings a wealth of experience and expertise. Will McCutcheon is the new District Chief Ranger, previously from Albert Park in Melbourne, where he’s had ample experience managing stakeholders, major works and large contracts. Ranger Dave Preece and his partner Tracy Stolman (Fire and Ecology Planning Officer) have moved from Orbost to the Gulf country in the Northern Territory where Dave now works as a facilitator with a local Indigenous community. The very capable ranger Sue Bartlett has moved from Cann River to Orbost as a temporary transfer, and Robyn Calnin has just completed her Bachelor of Parks Management; a great achievement.

And possibly the most significant achievement for the period was the cross cultural tour of East Gippsland where Parks and Department of Sustainability and Environment staff were taken on a tour of local Indigenous sites and stories, the aim being to improve the way in which these values are managed on behalf of Indigenous peoples.

Peter (Jack) Jacobs covering Victoria’s Alpine District, spanning the Upper Murray area and Alpine and Mount Buffalo National Parks

By far our biggest output since last issue has been through fire recovery – we are currently delivering over $3 million worth of works. This is to repair and reinstate park assets dealing with the post fire effects of pest plants and animals as well as the rehabilitation of particularly sensitive areas such as the fire affected alpine bogs. And just as the 2002-03 fires offered opportunities to survey those areas burnt for Indigenous cultural sites, the 2006-07 fires have exposed other areas not burnt then. Bob Jones has been appointed project manager and, working together with Indigenouscommunities and across boundaries which define national parks and state forests, this new survey will add to an existing body of information.

The most recent fires burnt three huts – Bluff, Ritchie’s and Weston’s – all of which will be rebuilt. The decision was made with advice from the huts stakeholders’ group (of which the Victorian High Country Huts Association (VHCHA) is a member), and it was based on the fact that each of the huts has a significant social and refuge value. Construction of both Bluff Hut and Roper’s Hut (burnt in the 2002-03 fires) will take place this summer by volunteers from the VHCHA, family groups associated with each hut and support from Parks Victoria.

Gravel is currently being stockpiled for the sealing of the 34 kilometre section of the Bogong High Plains Road from Falls Creek to the Omeo Highway. The material is a by-product of tunnelling works associated with the Kiewa Hydro Power Scheme and new Bogong Power Station. Parks Victoria is contributing nearly $5 million to the $10 million project through supply of the gravel, transporting of the gravel to the site and $2 million cash. Parks Victoria’s contribution to the project is being carried out in partnership with project managers, the Alpine Shire. The remainder of funds is being sourced through an Auslink Federal Government Roads grant, and other stakeholders. In accordance with the highest environmental engineering standards, construction is being managed to the existing footprint and maintaining minimal disturbance, and when complete, will support tourism by providing better access to the Bogong High Plains and an important sealed linkage to the Great Alpine Road.

The process for gathering information upon which to base future decisions for Mount Buffalo – following the destruction of the Cresta Valley Lodge in the 2006-07 fires, and the closing by the operators, of the Mount Buffalo Chalet – continues. Input has been provided by the community reference group together with consultants (who’ve just completed reports on the business case and infrastructure). Ultimately, decisions will be made of how best to provide for visitors to Mount Buffalo in the future, and while this process is taking place, temporary facilities have been in place. This has included enhanced snow play, and improved services for visitors this summer. Interestingly, last snow season saw increased numbers of visitors as compared with years past despite ski lifts not operating.

As for people news, Cath Kent is now Cath Richardson and has returned two days a week to work on the Bogong High Plains Road project; Darin Lynch is now the Alps District Program Co-ordinator; Ranger Dannica Shaw is now working out of Mansfield; following twelve months at Mount Buffalo, Chris Hayward is now a ranger at Dargo; and Ross Grant is acting Ranger In Charge for the Bogong Unit. Bart and Fleur Smith recently announced the arrival of their new baby boy, Archie.

And finally, since licensed cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park ended in June 2005 there have been only three occasions when, following an extensive process of consultation, stock have needed to be impounded. As Peter Jacobs puts it, “We’re committed to being fair, but firm.”

Andy Gillham reporting from Baw Baw National Park in the south-west corner of the Victorian section of the Alps

Maintenance on a significant chunk of the Australian Alps Walking Track – 35 kilometres’ worth – was completed just prior to the snow season in June. The surface has been improved, boardwalks repaired overgrowing vegetation trimmed, all with the help of local contractors working together with members of the Friends of Baw Baw National Park and local bushwalking clubs.

Also completed is the 20 year long control program for gorse or furze (Ulex europaeus). Through hand-pulling, cutting and painting in sensitive areas, and poisoning in others, this particular weed is now virtually gone from the Park and will be kept that way through ongoing monitoring.

This is the seventh year of pussy willow control (Salix cinerea) with 993 willows treated at 301 locations using 1,911 volunteer hours. Flying over the area, the numbers of this seed-generated species decreases as you move east, lending support to the theory that the original source was seed, blown into the park on the north-west winds following the 1939 bushfires.

This year’s snow season was one of the best in recent years with a 12 week season and two metre cover over the plateau. As always, a temporary office and first aid station at Mt St Gwinear was staffed seven days a week throughout the season with support from the Mt St Gwinear Volunteer Ski Patrol, and this site which is well known for cross-country skiing and snow play saw up to 15,000 visitors over the season.

The big rain event in June which led to the Gippsland floods had a major impact on the Baw Baw area where over 450 millimetres of rain fell over a 36 hour period – with the heaviest rain being recorded at nine millimetres every ten minutes. The effect on Park infrastructure was considerable with damage to bridges, roads and walking tracks. All will be replaced and work has started and is expected to continue for 18 months. Also affected were the Thomson and Aberfeldy rivers whose banks have been stripped clean of vegetation including mature trees, enabling weed colonisation.

The Friends of Baw Baw National Park were finalists in the Victorian 2007 Regional Achievement & Community Awards, which recognise significant contributions made by and for the community. One of three finalists in the environment and sustainability section, they were judged for their willow control work in late October. Although the group didn’t win on the night, it was a fantastic achievement to make the finals with over 350 nominations received and only 25 finalists across Victoria.

And in people news, Andy Gillham has been appointed ongoing Ranger in Charge for Latrobe, a region which includes the Baw Baw National Park.

Tonia Liosatos Kosciuszko and Brindabella National Parks

As the fire season approaches, a warning has been issued by the NSW Police, NSW Rural Fire Service and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to arsonists in the Snowy Mountains. A number of suspicious fires have already been recorded in the area over the last month and authorities say their priority this season will be the investigation of such fires and the prosecution of those responsible. The NPWS Snowy Mountains Regional Manager Dave Darlington, Jindabyne police’s Bob Grimes and the RFS Monaro team manager Sean McArdle have urged anyone seeing anything suspicious to act quickly and contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

NPWS staff together with Kosciuszko Huts Association have rebuilt Broken Dam mountain hut, near Kiandra in Kosciuszko National Park. While it was not one of 19 huts destroyed during the 2003 fires – Broken Dam hut was destroyed in November 1998 in a fire thought to have been accidentally lit by campers – it retains its social and cultural significance although the fabric of the original hut has gone. Meanwhile the process of rebuilding Paton’s hut is underway with plans currently available for comment.

Australia’s highest toilet, located at Rawson’s Pass just below the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, is due to be completed before the onset of the next snow season. This will provide toilet facilities in an area that is now attracting up to 60,000 walkers a year.

Island Bend, the site of a township which once housed Snowy Scheme workers during the construction phase of the Scheme, is in the process of being rehabilitated by parks staff. Minor earthworks and revegetation are planned to stabilise its landforms and it’s planned that the site be managed as a visitor node complete with picnic and camping facilities as well as interpretive signs acknowledging and celebrating its Aboriginal and European connections.

Weed control will be an ongoing part of the site’s management. Lupins and Shasta daisies, once commonly grown by those who lived at Island Bend, are now garden escapee weeds. Control is planned along with the creation of a showcase garden bed, sited within the former township, as part of the interpretive materials.

After being closed for almost half a century, the NSW NationalParks and Wildlife Service has reopened Yarrangobilly Caves House in Kosciuszko National Park for overnight accommodation. The official opening coincided with extensive celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the NPWS.

The Tumut Regional Visitor Centre has, for the third year in a row, been named winner in the General Tourism Services category in the Canberra and Capital Region Tourism Awards – a significant achievement given that this year the visitor centre was up against the ‘Snowy Region’ Visitor Centre in Jindabyne which was nominated for the first time.

And in people news, Dr Tony Fleming has resigned from the NPWS after almost a decade working both as Director Southern for five years and then another four as head of the NPWS. A very popular chief among the NPWS staff he will be sorely missed. Tony has taken on a position as the National Operations Manager for the Australian Wildlife Conservancy which has purchased properties for conservation Australia-wide.

Lisa McIntosh provides an ACT perspective centred on Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Construction continues on the Tidbinbilla Nature Recovery Centre, and as part of this, a relationship is being built between the Reserve and Birrigai, an adjacent educational facility. Given the shared educational objectives, the plan now is to build a close working relationship where expertise and resources will be shared, a task being managed by Rod Hillman who has recently been appointed Manager of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, initially for six months.

Conservation Volunteers Australia has just signed a memorandum of understanding where it will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Tidbinbilla Visitor Centre, and with the support of parks staff, continue to promote conservation values to visitors.

Monitoring of the enclosed population of the endangered Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies has resulted in further joeys being sent to South Australia as part of a managed captive breeding program. And as part of another program, Corroboree Frog eggs, collected post-fire from affected areas of the alpine bogs, have developed into adults. These endangered frogs will form the basis for breeding with the potential for future release.

Post-fire regeneration and weed growth has necessitated trail clearing in both Tidbinbilla and Namadgi National Park. Work on serrated tussock continues and willow removal on the Gudgenby River has just been completed.

The new Mt Franklin shelter was recently opened. Designed not to replace nor replicate the Mt Franklin Chalet which was destroyed in the 2002-03 fires, instead it combines basic function with a means of acknowledging the significance of the former Chalet. The shelter is the product of a student design project offered through the University of South Australia’s School of Architecture and Design – a project which has supported both its design and construction.

A significant portion of time has been spent in preparation for the fire season through fire training. Equally time consuming has been parks staff’s cross-border support for the Equine Influenza education program.

In people news, David Whitfield has been awarded an ACT Landcare award for his work on bog rehabilitation; and as part of the recent restructuring, Stephen Hughes has taken up the role of Manager Parks & Reserves, Brett McNamara is Manager of the Rural Region, Lisa McIntosh is Visitor Services Manager, Graham Blinksell is Ranger in Charge of the Northern Region while Bernard Morris is the southern equivalent, and Field Officers Mark Rodden and Marty Gardner have come across from Googong to be based at Namadgi.

Now not so horrible

Elaine Thomas planting in April - the hoped for results are already starting to show.

Elaine Thomas planting in April – the hoped for results are already starting to show.

For those who haven’t heard, there’s a bog out in Pretty Valley called The Horror Bog, and with good reason…

When Alpine National Park staff came across it as part of the post 2003 fires assessment, it was a shocking example of what a combination of negative impacts can produce. As Elaine Thomas, who is based at Mt Beauty, explains, “This was obviously a spot where cattle would have come in the past* because it’s fed by a continuous spring. Their hooves had broken the sphagnum into islands, exposing the peat and allowing it to dry out. When the fires came through, the bog burned.”

Given the amount of creative restoration work that’s being carried out on bogs across the Alps, there was a fair amount of methodology to choose from. “However, compared to other systems, bogs are not well researched. They’re complicated by their peat soils and complex hydrology so we’re developing methods and testing restoration techniques, adapting these to suit each site.”

In the case of the bog, formerly known as The Horror Bog (and that’s a hint that this story has a happy ending), a group of alpine rehabilitators, ecologists and Parks Victoria staff gathered not only to put a range of treatments in place, but also to monitor the results. “We’re working in partnership with Latrobe University’s Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology. Warwick Papst and his students worked with us to put various systems in place, and Henrik Wahren has designed and set up the ongoing monitoring.”

The methods being used include: weirs, made with coir logs and hessian-bagged wood chips wrapped in a geotextile material; hand broadcasting of seed, and plantings of sedge and grass seedlings; and mulches of Poa straw and jute. Control of weed species is also an important component of the rehabilitation work. Work took place in April this year and the happy results are already beginning to show. “The weirs appear to be doing what they were designed to do – to slow the water flow and help the peat to stay moist. The erosion on the slopes has been reduced by the mulching which has also helped reduce the effects of frost heave.”

Of course the real winner here is the information which will be available through the monitoring. “We’re looking at peat depth, ground height, vegetation species and where they occur. Together this will give us a three dimensional view of what the bog itself is doing. We need to know more than just what’s happening to the works we’ve carried out. We’ll also need to give it a new name…”

For more information contact Elaine Thomas: ethomas@parks.vic.gov.au

*Licensed cattle grazing the Alpine National Park ended in June 2005

Where conservation builds peace

Protected area managers from Alaska (US) and Yukon (Canada)- Borderlands Conference, Glacier Bay National Park - not unlike an Australian Alps get together less the boat and glacier in the background.

Protected area managers from Alaska (US) and Yukon (Canada)- Borderlands Conference, Glacier Bay National Park – not unlike an Australian Alps get together less the boat and glacier in the background.

“It opened my eyes to the importance and number of organisations out there working across international borders in conservation.” Gill Anderson (Regional Visitor Services Co-ordinator – Parks Victoria) “Particularly in places like Africa where there is violence and poaching, there are huge challenges. Potentially we have a lot to offer to help set up cross-border conservation.” Peter Jacobs (Convenor – Australian Alps Liaison Committee)

These are the thoughts brought home by Gill Anderson and Peter Jacobs following the recent Parks, Peace and Partnerships conference at Waterton Lakes, Canada. Back in 1932, the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which straddles the border between Canada and the United States, was the first to be established and it remains today a great example of what can be achieved when conservationists work together to foster respect and co-operation between nations. In some places, the dialogue between parks may be the only dialogue between hostile countries.

This year’s conference marked the 75th year of the existence of Peace Parks worldwide and it provided the opportunity for International Peace Park and transboundary academics and management professionals from every continent to meet to discuss trends, experiences and best practices in transboundary protected areas management. The Australian Alps presentation focused on 11 lessons learned during the last 21 years. “What people found most interesting was what we achieve with our top down, bottom up approach, with a balance of support from both ends – the Ministers to the on ground staff.”

In the lead up to the conference, Gill and Peter were also invited to present at a cross-border gathering of park managers from Alaska (USA) and the Yukon (Canada) at Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. “Parks in Alaska and the Yukon are very different and while there is high visitation around the edges, within these parks are some of the world’s most remote, untouched and beautiful mountain environments.”

Lessons learned

…well more helpful hints for a successful program…

  1. Make a start: establish a champions group
  2. Have a solid program structure: top down – bottom up approach
  3. The program must have a sense of belonging: building a sense of pride, ownership and empowerment with staff and the community
  4. Synthesize the cross jurisdictional arrangements into normal agency identity to build trust and overcome concerns of loss of corporate identity and inconsistencies in policies
  5. Dedicated program support: have a strong, defendable and well positioned funding base (a little money can go a long way when there is co-operation)
  6. Evolve the program to stay relevant and fresh
  7. Build on the strengths of a cross-jurisdictional approach
  8. Look outward to build partnerships and expand connectivity opportunities
  9. Work to a strategic plan and evaluate achievements
  10. Education and science give powerful support and a knowledge base
  11. Communication is all: build awareness both internally and externally

International Perspective

Glacial lake, Waterton Lakes National Park

Glacial lake, Waterton Lakes National Park

A regular update from Dr* Graeme Worboys, Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (Mountains Biome). The IUCN WCPA Mountains Biome is a network of technical, scientific and policy experts dealing with mountain protected areas globally- and many Australian Alps staff and supporters are members.

This has been an important year for protected areas, and for mountain protected areas in particular. For Australia there has been a new emphasis on a key message: that protected areas are critically important for conserving life on Earth and for sustaining healthy ecosystems and healthy futures for people.

The World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Australia and New Zealand Region, led by Penny Figgis, has been particularly energetic and its 2007 work has included:

  • responding positively to the NSW Government’s announcement of the A2A connectivity conservation initiative (February); providing input to the Senate Inquiry into protected areas and reporting its findings (April);
  • convening important Australian forums for park professionals including at the Academy of Science, Canberra (jointly hosted with WWF) Buffering Nature against Climate Change symposium (June), and a meeting of WCPA members at Gap Bluff in Sydney (July);
  • advising the Federal Government of the positive role that Indigenous Protected Areas can play in assisting with the Government’s involvement with Aboriginal communities;
  • briefing the dominant political parties on the importance of protected areas and 21st Century issues that need responses in the lead up to the elections (September).

An outstanding Parks and Protected Areas Forum was convened in Fremantle (September) by Western Australia’s Department of Environment and Conservation; the Conservation Commission; the Conservation Council; The Parks Forum; and others and helped to maintain a national focus on parks. The Forum discussed many of the key issues to be dealt with by protected area managers as we move forward in the 21st Century.

Internationally there have been important developments. An outstanding achievement is the new Global Environment Facility funds being made available (for eligible countries) to expedite the establishment and management of protected area systems. This realises a long held dream of IUCN, originating from 2003 Durban World Park’s Congress resolutions and initiatives, and is based on the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Program of Work for Protected Areas. The first and second rounds of Global Environment Facility financing are currently underway.

IUCN WCPA internationally has also been busy. It has committed resources to the refinement of a critical document, the Guidelines for Protected Area Management Categories. It has also resolved, at its September Yellowstone National Park Steering Committee meeting, to invest in promoting parks as a key priority for IUCN. The focus of this work will be conducted at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress in Barcelona 2008 where securing support of major donors and members of the IUCN World Congress will be critical.

This is the 75th anniversary of Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park and USA’s Glacier National Park being established as a transboundary peace park. A special conference was convened to help celebrate this event, and the Parks, Peace and Partnerships Conference attracted delegates from around the world. (See also story opposite.) Lessons learned from a range of transboundary and peace parks were shared.

Gill Anderson and Peter Jacobs speaking about the Australian Alps Memorandum of Understanding presented 11 key lessons for co-operative management, and stressed the need for a “top down” and “bottom up” approach to management. Their well illustrated presentation was extremely well received by attendees. Australia can be justly proud of its Alps Agreement and its representatives.

For further details about these initiatives visit the IUCN WCPA’s website (http://www.iucn.org/themes/wcpa/) or contact Dr Graeme Worboys by email at g.worboys@bigpond.com

*Congratulations to Graeme who was recently awarded his PhD. Well deserved and well done!! Yet another feather in the cap of an illustrious career. Ed.

Program Update – Works around the Alps

The 2007-08 annual program and budget was signed off by the AALC at their meeting in July. Some of the new approved projects are…

Cultural Heritage

Indigenous Interpretation Training and Employment Program Version two of the successful program run by Bob Jones and John Pastorelli (Ochre Training) last year will see a number of new Indigenous rangers and trainees from across the agencies and range of Traditional Owner and community groups undergo this training.

Interim Australian Alps Indigenous Reference Group A meeting planned for Autumn 2008 will see a selection of Traditional Owners coming together to discuss how to establish an ongoing Indigenous Reference Group that will be the key point of contact to get an Indigenous perspective on a wide range of Alps-wide issues and projects. This group is not intended to replace individual agency processes where Indigenous consultation is required. The process of selecting Traditional Owners to come to this meeting is at various stages of development across the Alps.

Natural Heritage

State of the Catchment report This is a major project to pull together information from around the Alps to identify the major hydrology factors in the Alps that will be affected by climate change scenarios. The report produced is intended to form the basis of a submission for major funding to governments for rehabilitation works in wetland systems throughout the Alps to maximise natural water retention and flows. Negotiations are currently underway to get support from the Australian Greenhouse Office for this project. This approach was identified as a major outcome from the Alps Science Management Forum on Climate Change held earlier this year at Falls Creek.

Deer Management Workshop This workshop has already been run in August as most of the planning was done in the previous financial year. The workshop outcomes should be available on the website before Christmas.

Community Relations

Fact Sheet series The first in the series of Fact Sheets has been prepared (on wild dogs) and will be going onto the website shortly. Funds have been provided by the AALC to continue to produce Alps-wide fact sheets on other topics of interest and scientific research. AAWT interpretive/promotional signs These signs are just being finalised as we go to print and we hope to have them going in the ground over summer. The signs will highlight Aboriginal heritage and custodianship, the “One Park” concept and site specific values and/or walks along the Alps track.

One Park ‘Welcome to Country’ entry signs Earlier this year the Australian Alps Heads of Agencies Group ticked off on concept designs and policies regarding the location of these signs and asked that we develop detailed designs, identify specific locations and determine specific costs for these signs to be located throughout the Alps national parks. This project will be led by the Community Relations Working Group in conjunction with the Cultural Heritage and Visitor Recreation and Facilities Working Groups.

Recreation & Visitor Facilities

Science / Management Forum The 3rd joint IUCN/WCPA & Australian Alps Science Management Forum is planned for Autumn 2008 on the topic of visitor impacts in mountain protected areas. Planning has started but a venue is yet to be determined.

The Alps’ Ten Great Walks and Ten Great Drives This is a scoping project to determine which are the icon walks and drives in the Alps that should be the target for future, specially sourced, investment. This is being carried out in the context of the bid for National Landscapes recognition of the Australian Alps Region and will help us focus on those walks and drives that profile the key visitor experiences to be had in the Alps.

Integrated Landscape Management

National Landscapes Program The bid for recognition of the Australian Alps Region as a National Landscape continues to be supported by the Alps Program.

Entangled whales

newsletter-35-img-15Ok. This is going to stretch a few people’s take on what’s involved in managing mountain regions, but this story proves that there is no point in drawing rigid boundaries. When there’s a job that needs to be done, co-operation and fluidity are the key (mild marine pun intended). It’s also proof that our Alps do run down to meet the sea.

Dave Burton works out of Orbost. His section of Victoria’s far east includes a wide range of parks from the Snowy River National Park, sections of the Alpine National Park as well as the long stretch of the coastline to Cape Conran Coastal Park. He’s a ranger who can be at the top of a mountain one day, and out in a boat dealing with an entangled whale the next. This demonstrates how pointless boundaries – geographical or political – can be.

“We’re too busy drawing lines saying that is yours and this is mine, when we’re better off putting boundaries to one side so we can get on with what needs to be done.”

Working together often starts in sharing knowledge and expertise, which is just what happened in September.

“Large Whale Disentanglement is a nationally accredited competency”, explains Dave, “and there are people scattered all over Australia with these skills.” Dave happens to be one of them, (“from a previous life in Western Australia”), and he was taking part in a whale strandings and entanglements information day being held at Wilson’s Prom when a call came in that a Southern Right Whale and her calf had been seen near Cape Woolamai (Phillip Island). “She was entangled in a cray pot line, which was making it difficult for her to surface and breathe.”

By the time they reached the scene, it was late, but there was just enough time to get on the water to make an assessment of the situation. Staff travelled through the night and by the next morning the right people and equipment had been gathered – some from as far as Warrnambool – but the spotter aircraft couldn’t find the whale and it wasn’t until late the second day that a cargo vessel spotted her well out of the range of help, 20 kilometres offshore.

“If was too far out and the weather had turned lousy. We talked to light houses, oil rigs, shipping traffic and agency people in Tasmania and New South Wales, letting them know she was out there and to report any sightings.”

Despite the fact that she’d been heading south when last seen, she was next spotted three weeks later near Bermagui.

“New South Wales Parks and Wildlife staff welcomed us to come along to help out and learn which we did, though as it turns out, the weather played around and in the end we weren’t there when a window of opportunity let them cut her free.”

And the point of all this? We were taught to share when we were in kindergarten and the same principle still applies.

The more you give – resources, information, knowledge and expertise – the more everyone can achieve, especially when you all have the same agenda.

Nearly there

newsletter-35-img-16Back in the early 1960s, Geoff Moseley* walked an estimated 1,500 miles in Tasmania as part of his PhD research into the aspects of the geography of recreation. Despite this, the walk from Canberra to Walhalla – which he took on, originally to demonstrate the unity of the Alps parks – has proved a tricky one to finish.

Geoff reports that a lot of other things had changed since 1971. In the southern-most section, Baw Baw had become a national park (1979) and the Thomson Dam had been built (commissioned 1984) and, last but not least, some major fires had recently affected the area north-east of the Thomson catchment.

So it was that they spent the first two days walking through heavily burnt forest. The Black River (site for the first camp) was even blacker and the Australian Alps Walking Track advice concerning the option of walking up the bed of the river was made redundant by the hundreds of fallen trees.

As a result of the drought there was no water on the tops and they were forced to resort to scooping up a dirty brown substance from a ditch. Eventually, many fire roads later, and after negotiating a huge logging coupe above the Thomson Dam (Geoff wonders what happened to the size limits on these clear fall areas), they reached the serene scenery of the Baw Baw National Park and tested that track work described in the summer- autumn 2007 issue of ‘News from the Alps’.

The Plateau was alive with Easter walkers and campers and the Park was a joy to be in. Unfortunately, as Geoff reports, his stomach was no longer co-operating (possibly due to dirty water), and at the Mt Erica Car Park it was decided to leave the walk down to Walhalla to another day in December.

*Geoff has had a lifelong association with the Alps through his years of research and work in national parks and wilderness areas. His aim is to gain World Heritage listing for the Alps and forests. “It’s a long journey. We’re still on it. We haven’t reached the end yet.”

Ten years on

Many will remember that July, ten years ago, when a section of the embankment below Thredbo’s Alpine Way collapsed, destroying two ski lodges resulting in the death of 18 people. As NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff, together with family members and friends of those who died, marked the anniversary, NPWS head, Dr Tony Fleming, noted this as a difficult time for many people.

“I would, like to offer some consolation by saying that much has been done in the last ten years to significantly reduce the risk of any such similar event occurring again.

“In short, all the recommendations of the Coronial Inquiry which concluded in 2000 have been implemented. Close to $80 million has been spent by the NSW Government on the Alpine Way to improve stability of road embankments and road surfaces. All fill on the Alpine Way embankments above the village has either been removed or been treated with appropriate engineering structures to stabilise and manage risks.

“Anyone visiting Thredbo today will not fail to notice the enormous number of gabion retaining walls which have been installed along with soil anchors and specialised rock bolts, horizontal drains, monitoring devices as well as a complete tar sealing of the Alpine Way. The entire storm water drainage system above the village was also upgraded.

“Geotechnical experts have carried out a full risk assessment of all major public roads managed by the NPWS within Kosciuszko National Park. A review conducted only this year has endorsed the NPWS approach to the management of this issue. Monitors have been put in place to keep watch over any movement in the landscape, not just in Thredbo but at strategic points along the length of the Alpine Way.”

Thanks to all this, the slope above Thredbo village is now arguably one of the most heavily engineered and monitored sites in Australia, if not the southern hemisphere, and everything that can be done to significantly reduce the risk of any similar event befalling the village has been completed.

Vale, Glenn Sanecki

by Ken Green

newsletter-35-img-17In an all too short professional career, Dr Glenn Sanecki made a significant contribution to a much-neglected topic of interest to alpine biologists – the ecology of snow.

Snow is something that is at best avoided by many biologists who confine their fieldwork to the summer period. To take up studies of snow, (especially for a PhD), given its unpredictable nature from one season to the next and within the course of a season, requires a level of dedication that Glenn had in abundance.

In his studies in the Snowy Mountains, rather than making generalised statements about snow and its impacts on the animals he was studying or relying on experience from overseas studies, Glenn went back to basics in his 2006 paper ‘The characteristics and classification of Australian snow cover: an ecological perspective”.

He measured the physical characteristics of our snowpack and the environmental variables from scratch to come up with a classification of our snow and even came up with the suggestion that in an international snow classification scheme there should almost be an ‘Australian’ category, so unique was our snow.

Throughout the world, mammals under the snow have been studied using bins etc. placed in a grid system in the summer and allowed to stand until the snow falls so that the subnivean space (that space between the snow and the ground) can be accessed without disturbing the snow cover. This is time consuming, poses certain dangers to the animals and to the researcher because when your traps are open and animals likely to be caught you go out regardless of weather.

Glenn took two ideas – the subnivean pitfall trap assemblage that I used for my insect studies and the old Australian standby of hair tubes, to come up with a means of looking at distribution of small mammals on a landscape scale. He set tubes up on an altitudinal transect looking at four broad vegetation types on both snow accumulating and ablating aspects. The resulting paper ‘A technique for detecting winter active small mammals in the subnivean space using hair tubes’ was published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research and drew much attention from overseas including from Bill Pruitt the doyen of snow ecologists.

Using this technique, and identifying many hundreds of samples of hairs from the sticky tape used under the snow, Glenn was able to examine the distribution of small mammals across the landscape in his paper ‘Winter distribution of small mammals in relation to snow cover in the subalpine zone’. His other papers looked at influence of snow cover on home range and activity of the bush rat and the dusky antechinus, the implications for small mammals in the subnivean space, of snow-based recreation. He also wrote on the control of milfoil and on responses of subalpine birds and mammals to the 2003 fires.

When we first met, Glenn was working at Kosciuszko National Park and also undertaking study for a degree at Charles Sturt University. Glenn went on to take a B.Sc. with Distinction and won a Deans Award in three consecutive semesters. At the time I was considering how to undertake winter fox baiting in the snow and Glenn’s interest was awakened by these twin aspects that were to dominate his next few years: snow and fauna. Glenn did the fox baiting for the next three years. He went on to do Honours at Charles Sturt University in 2000, looking at habitat fragmentation of small mammals in his thesis ‘The effects of linear disturbances on the movement behaviour of small mammals in Kosciuszko National Park.’

Needless to say he got a First Class Honours degree and capped that off with a University Medal. He came back with a proposal to do a Ph.D. and was accepted at both Charles Sturt University and the Australian National University. He chose the latter and again delved into the question of small mammals and snow. Glenn submitted his thesis, ‘The distribution and behaviour of small mammals in relation to natural and modified snow in the Australian Alps’ in 2005.

His degree conferral was the realisation of a dream that had started as a Field Officer at Kosciuszko National Park. Basically all that work was an apprenticeship for the research and the glittering prizes that lay ahead. Unfortunately that was not to be. Glenn died at home in early July and we share the sorrow of his family – his wife Karen and daughter Otylia at his untimely death.