Annual Report 2011-2012 | Australian Alps Program

Australian Alps Liaison Committee

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Foreword

In 2011, the Alps Program celebrated 25 years since the first Memorandum of Understanding was signed back in 1986. It is quite a remarkable achievement for an inter-governmental agreement to survive a quarter of a century, with 10 changes of government at State, Territory or Federal level during that time. This simply highlights the fact that the Alps Program is an effective arrangement which produces management focussed outcomes for the four Alps Partner agencies. The aim of the program back in 1986 was for the agencies across the Alps to work in partnership to achieve excellence in conservation management of natural and cultural values through an active program of cross border cooperation, and this aim remains the same today.

Over the past 12 months the Program has continued its focus of delivering projects and providing operational support to staff across the four agencies. The extensive list of these projects is laid out in this report. The Program is constantly looking for practical ways of providing the right information and tools for managers of the Australian Alps to assist them in providing the highest standard of management across this outstanding and unique region.

Steve Horsley

Convenor, Australian Alps Liaison Committee

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Glossary and abbreviations

AALC
the Australian Alps Liaison Committee, established by the MoU

AATORG
the Australian Alps Traditional Owners’ Reference Group

AAWT
the Australian Alps Walking Track

AOG
the Alps Operational Group, composed of Rangers-in-charge, Area, District and Operational Program Managers, and other key operational staff

Alps program
The Australian Alps national parks Cooperative Management Program, established by the MoU, and the subject of this report

Annual cooperative works program
the group of activities and projects undertaken each year under AALC funding and cooperative arrangements

Australian Alps national parks
those protected areas included in Schedule 1 of the MoU

Australian Alps national parks Cooperative Management Program
the ongoing activities, projects, works and administration undertaken to implement the MoU.

Australian Alps national parks Heads of Agencies
the Heads of participating agencies

CCRG
the Climate Change Reference Group

CHRG
the Cultural Heritage Reference Group

Cooperative management
fostering a culture of goodwill, involving activities, projects, and complementary and supportive relationships and adding value to those relationships through associated economies of scale, going beyond line management and individual agency constraints to ensure consistency and best practice across borders

IUCN WCPA
International Union for Conservation and Nature, World Commission on Protected Areas (Mountain Biome)

MoU
the Memorandum of Understanding in relation to Cooperative Management of the Australian Alps national parks (as amended from time to time)

NRMRG
the Natural Resource Management Reference Group

participating agencies
parties to the MoU.

protected area
means an area of land managed for protection and maintenance of biodiversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources

SECRG
the Stakeholder Engagement and Communication Reference Group

Strategic Plan
the three-year plan prepared by the AALC (for this reporting period the ‘Strategic Plan 2008-2011’) to guide the annual cooperative works program.

VEMRG
the Visitor Experiences and Marketing Reference Group

WCRG
the Water and Catchments Reference Group

Australian Alps Cooperative Management

Australia’s alpine and subalpine environment stretches from Canberra through the Brindabella Range in the ACT, the Snowy Mountains of NSW and the Victorian Alps to West Gippsland. It is a unique part of our nation, a mountainous biogeographical region in a predominantly dry and flat continent.

The Australian Alps is a rich landscape. It contains: plants and animals found nowhere else in the world; significant examples of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage; outstanding recreational opportunities. The Alps are also home to the headwaters of some of Australia’s most important rivers and streams.

In 1986, with the signing of the first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), State, ACT and Australian government national park authorities formally agreed to manage this important national asset cooperatively. Through this spirit of cooperation, the Australian Alps Liaison Committee was formed to ensure that the parks and reserves in the Alps are managed as one biogeographical entity, to protect them for generations to come. In practical terms this involves: fostering a culture of goodwill, involving activities, projects, and supportive relationships; adding value to those relationships through associated economies of scale; going beyond line management and individual agency constraints; all to ensure consistency and best practice across borders.

The 11 national parks and reserves in the Australian Alps link across State and Territory borders. Together they comprise over 1.6 million hectares of protected areas. These parks and reserves are collectively referred to as the ‘Australian Alps national parks’, a conservation zone of international significance. Responsibility for strategic policy setting, planning and day-to-day management of the Australian Alps national parks listed in the MoU remains vested in the relevant participating agency.

Vision

To achieve best practice in cooperative management of the Australian Alps national parks.

Mission

Through the MoU, participating agencies agree to the following objectives:

  • to pursue the growth and enhancement of inter-governmental cooperative management to protect the important natural and cultural values of the Australian Alps national parks.
  • to cooperate in the determination and implementation of best-practice management of the Australian Alps national parks to achieve:
    • protection of the unique mountain landscapes;
    • protection of the natural and cultural values specific to the Australian Alps;
    • provision of outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities that encourage the enjoyment and understanding of alpine and subalpine environments;
    • protection of mountain catchments. Refer to the MoU for the Terms of Agreement that describe in detail the working arrangements agreed to by participating agencies.

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Organisational Structure

The following entities have functional roles in the Australian Alps Cooperative Management Program (ie the Australian Alps Program) under the MoU.

Australian Alps Ministerial Council

The Ministers responsible for participating agencies, which are in turn responsible for high-level intergovernment relationships and the MoU.

Australian Alps National Parks Heads of Agencies Group

The Heads (or their representatives) of participating agencies meet to consider strategic issues and direct the Australian Alps Liaison Committee on policy, priority and emerging issues.

Australian Alps Liaison Committee

The Australian Alps Liaison Committee facilitates the development, co-ordination and implementation of the Cooperative Management Program. Its members include a senior officer from each of the participating agencies in NSW, Victoria, ACT and the Australian Government.

Australian Alps Program Manager

The Australian Alps Program Manager is the only full-time employee of the Program and is responsible for co-ordinating the day to day work of the Program and ensuring the annual works program, as agreed by the Australian Alps Liaison Committee, is carried out. The Program Manager position is hosted by each of the State/Territory park agencies for three years at a time. During this reporting period the position was hosted by NSW.

Australian Alps Traditional Owners’ Reference Group

The Australian Alps Traditional Owners Reference Group was established in 2008. The reference group was established to advise the Australian Alps Liaison Committee on a range of issues relating to the cooperative management of Indigenous cultural values and issues across the Australian Alps national parks.

Reference Groups

A number of reference groups are established to advise the Australian Alps Liaison Committee on specific matters, and to assist with the implementation of the Cooperative Management Program. These groups usually have up to two staff from each of the cooperating agencies as members.

During the reporting period, six reference groups operated under the Australian Alps national parks Cooperative Management Program. They were the:

  • Natural Resource Management Reference Group;
  • Cultural Heritage Reference Group;
  • Visitor Experiences and Marketing Reference Group;
  • Climate Change Reference Group;
  • Water and Catchments Reference Group;
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Reference Group.

The terms of reference for each Reference Group are set out in the Strategic Plan, and are aligned to the Key Result Areas in that Plan. In addition to the reference groups, the Alps Operational Group, the Australian Alps Walking Track sub-group and the Feral Horse sub-group exist to advise the Australian Alps Liaison Committee on a number of operational matters.

Refer to Program structure at Attachment 1.

Alps Operational Group

The Alps Operational Group is composed of Rangers-in-charge; Area, District and Operational Program Managers, and other key operational staff. The Group meets annually to review the previous years work plan and provide advice to the Australian Alps Liaison Committee on the upcoming Annual Works Plan.

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Program Budget

To assist in achieving the objectives of the MoU, a financial contribution is made by participating agencies. The responsibility for financial management is generally vested with the agency providing the Australian Alps Program Manager position. In this reporting period, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service provided financial management support for the Program.

An annual budget of $315,000 was provided from participating agencies; Victoria and NSW each contributing $120,000, the ACT $40,000 and the Australian Government contributed $35,000 in addition to website maintenance.

The Australian Alps Liaison Committee allocates funding to the Australian Alps annual cooperative works program, which is developed through the submission of project proposals addressing the Key Result Areas of the Strategic Plan. The 2011-2012 annual works program budgets are presented in Attachment 3.

In addition to the annual contributions for the four Alps Partner Agencies (totalling $315,000), additional contributions have been made by the three state / Territory Alps agencies, plus the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, the Victorian Department of Primary industries, and ForestsNSW. These contributions will total $85,000 over a three year period (2009/10 through to 2012/13). This additional contribution is to conduct specific research into feral horse management, with the 2 projects being: the development accurate on-ground methods for estimating feral horse density and an assessment of the impacts of feral horses on streams and other waterways. A summary of these projects is provided under ‘Key Result Area 3 – Invasive Species Management’.

The total expenditure for the Alps Program in 2011/12 was $466,000 (Attachment 3). However, the true cost of the Alps Program could be considered to be the total annual expenditure, plus the additional costs of agency staff and any other costs incurred by the agencies when carrying out work for the Alps Program (although, it is reasonable to suggest that the Alps Program is carrying out work for the benefit of the agencies, not the other way around). To obtain an estimate of the total input into the Alps Program, a survey was conducted by the Alps Program Manager of staff time and costs associated with the Alps Program over the 2011/12 financial year. The estimation was that $92,000 in salaries (including oncosts) was attributable to the Alps Program (a little over the equivalent of a full time salary for a year), plus another $10,000 in additional costs (travel, etc). Therefore, it is a reasonable estimation that the total cost of the Alps Program for 2011/12 was $568,000.

Annual Reporting of Performance

The Strategic Plan 2008-2011 requires the Annual Report to:

  • evaluate the success of the MoU and the Australian Alps national parks Cooperative Management Program;
  • detail the outputs of the program’s projects and their benefits to Australian Alps national parks;
  • communicate this information to the Australian Alps national parks Heads of Agencies group, relevant Ministers, and other interested parties.

During the reporting period the Strategic Plan for 2012 – 2015 was developed and endorsed at the Australian Alps Heads of Agencies meeting.

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Key Result Area 1: Climate Change and Adaptation

Objective

Implementation of contemporary approaches to planning, responding and adapting to climate change in the mountain protected areas and determining needs and mechanisms for further research, particularly related to the impact of climate change on natural heritage conservation.

Outcome

The level of knowledge amongst agency staff and other stakeholders is increased regarding climate change impacts on the natural values of the Alps and the measures required to address them, with a number of activities implemented that are designed to adapt management to those changes.

Climate Change Survey

In recognition of the difficulty in finding projects which address the issue of Climate Change in the Alps and meet the objectives of the Alps’ Program, the Climate Change Reference Group proposed a survey of managers across the Alps. The aim of the survey was to find what they would like to see researched or addressed to assist in managing Climate Change. This in turn will allow projects to be developed which have tangible outcomes for managers. The survey was undertaken by Griffith University and was incorporated into a larger research project on Climate Change being run by the University for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF).

The draft Report titled ‘Climate change research and monitoring needs for the Australian Alps national parks: Results of survey of park staff and researchers’ indicates that there is a need for focussed research into the spread of invasive species, the loss of endemic species and communities, species phenology, erosion, stream-flow and changing fire regimes. Also, the increasing influence of social values has identified a need for research involving community stakeholders and the dissemination of Climate Change information to a wider audience. The need to build multi-disciplinary collaborations to address knowledge gaps was also identified. The final report will attempt to quantify these recommendations into projects which the Alps Program can consider in the future. The report will be made available on the Alps website: australianalps.environment. gov.au.

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Key Result Area 2: Water and Catchments

Objective

Implementation of contemporary approaches to management and restoration of catchments in mountain protected areas, through supporting good practice philosophy and principles for sustainable use and minimal catchment impact, to yield sustained supplies of high quality water for uses external to the protected areas such as irrigation and domestic consumption and flow regimes to sustain ecosystems dependent on the natural water regime both within the Alps and downstream.

Outcome

Management and rehabilitation activities are implemented according to best practice guidelines with demonstrated improved water quality and water retention reflecting a natural state.

Carp Report

A Report was commissioned and funded by the Alps Program titled ‘Distribution of carp and other invasive species in the Australian Alps National Parks’. The aim of the report was to obtain baseline information on the presence of carp within the Australian Alps national parks as well as within a 15km buffer beyond the park boundaries. The University of Western Sydney, through Dr Nathan Miles, wrote the report with information being obtained via existing government databases and surveying staff and anglers. This allowed the cost of the Report to be kept to a minimum.

The Report identified that incursions within the national parks system were not high, however that was not the case for the 15km buffer. It also identified areas of future research, which included ground-truthing certain areas within the national parks where it appears that recent range increases have occurred, particularly in Victoria where there are a larger number of unregulated, low elevation rivers extending into national parks. Other areas of suggested research include improving the understanding of these exotic fish on native species as well as barriers for dispersal. The report is available on the Alps website: australianalps.environment. gov.au

Catchments Report

With the completion of the independent technical report ‘Caring for our Australian Alps Catchments’ (Worboys et al, 2010), which contains many management recommendations, the Water and Catchments Reference Group undertook a review of these recommendations. The review was presented to the AALC for consideration by them as well as the Alps partner agencies.

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Key Result Area 3: Invasive Species Management

Objective

Implementation of contemporary approaches to management of pest plant and animal species in mountain protected areas, through supporting best practice principles for research, identification and control and, where possible, eradication of new outbreaks and species and appropriate responses to pest species problems exacerbated by climate change.

Outcome

Support cooperation and collaboration on identifying and managing emerging and known invasive species to reduce their impact on the natural and cultural values of the Alps.

Feral Horse Projects

Two years ago the Alps Program identified the need to prioritize specific research into feral horse management, given the outcomes of the ‘2009 Aerial Survey of Feral Horses in the Australian Alps’ (Dawson, 2009) which showed that feral horse numbers across the Alps are increasing drastically. The Alps Program sought additional funding from the four Alps Partner Agencies (Parks Victoria, ACT Parks and Conservation Service, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Parks Australia) as well as other land management agencies within the Alps (Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victorian Department of Primary Industries and ForestsNSW).

The areas of research are:

  • Horse Impacts Study – The horse impacts survey is complete in all jurisdictions: Kosciuszko National Park in NSW (83 sites), Bago and Maragle SF (7 sites) in NSW, Namadgi National Park (4 sites) in the ACT and Alpine National Park in Victoria (92 sites). A total of 186 sites were surveyed. A database was developed and data entry is complete for NSW and the ACT. Data entry and checking is underway for Victoria. Analysis and a report (with additional publications) will be prepared in the remainder of 2012 and early 2013
  • Develop accurate methods for estimating feral horse density – This project commenced as a PhD in February 2012 in a collaborative arrangement between Charles Sturt University (Albury) and the Alps Program. The Alps program is providing funding and on-ground support to this project. The exact methods of research are still being finalised, however the intention is to focus around three main questions:
  1. Which is the best method for estimating feral horse density at a local scale?
  2. What are the seasonal and daily patterns of habitat use by feral horses in the Australian Alps?
  3. Are feral horses adversely impacting water quality and macroinvertebrate assemblages in mountain streams?

Improved Decision Making for Weed Management in the Australian Alps

The Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (University of Melbourne) teamed up with the Alps Program to trial a process for making informed decisions about weed management in the Australian Alps based on a structured decision making process with the aid of computer modelling. The aim of this workshop was to collaboratively develop a framework and tools to assist prioritisation of weed management across the Australian Alps to facilitate more cost-effective weed control, and develop strategies for species that are a problem now, or may be in the future. Key Alps staff met in May in the first of two workshops to develop the process, with a final one to be held in October. The aim of the workshops was to establish the fundamental objectives of weed management, followed by strategic objectives. Then, a suite of weeds relevant to the Alpine and sub-Alpine areas of the Alps were identified.

These weeds include those which are fully established, such as blackberry, to those which have a high potential to spread but have not yet invaded the Alps. A list of potential control strategies was developed, along with ‘best case’ and ‘business as usual’ costings. This information was fed into a modelling program, which will assist manages in adopting the most cost effective program for managing weeds with the greatest likelihood of success.

The second workshop will be held in October, which will finalise and fine tune the process.

Feral Horse Exclusion Plots

In addition to the feral horse management plots above, the Australian Alps Program, in collaboration with the ‘Friends of the Cobberas’ and Parks Victoria provided financial assistance to the remeasuring of a series of feral hose exclusion plots at Cowombat Flat (on the NSW / Victorian border) and at Native Cat Flat, near the Cobberas in Victoria’s Alps. These are the only long term exclusion plots for feral horses within the Alps and they provide a monitoring point for potential horse impacts, just as Maisies Plots did for cattle grazing on the Bogong High Plains for many years.

The exclusion plots were compared with unfenced plots, with both types of plots having watercourses running through them. Stream depth and incising was greater in the unfenced plots, as was pugging. In general, fenced plots were exhibiting an improvement in condition, whereas the opposite was occurring in the unfenced plots. A diverse response in plant species was recorded. The full report and a fact sheet is being finalised and will be available on the Alps website: australianalps.environment. gov.au.

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Key Result Area 4: Fire Management

Objective

Implementation of contemporary approaches to management of fire compatible with the conservation of mountain protected areas, through supporting best-practice principles for research, planning and control, and appropriate responses to fire problems exacerbated by climate change.

Outcome

Increased cooperation in research, planning and control of fire in the Alps.

The Alps Fire Plots

The analysis of the 40 plots across the Australian Alps has continued. These plots were established back in 1987 to provide information on the changes to floristic structure following fire. The intention was to treat the plots with prescribed burning over time, however most were impacted by the large fires over the last decade, particularly the 2003 fires. The analysis of these plots has been ongoing for the past few years, and over the past 12 months the Arthur Rylah institute in Victoria has completed an analysis of individual species within the vegetation plots. This has drawn out some interesting results, such as:

  • plant species richness increased slightly after fire, then decreased again after around three years
  • plant cover in wet forests increased more rapidly after fire than cover in dry forests
  • the cover of most shrubs increased post-fire and remained high in 2008, while the cover of many herbaceous species reduced again by 2008
  • post-fire cover of woody species tended to be higher in sites with high fire frequency
  • post-fire cover of herbaceous species tended to be higher in sites with low fire frequency
  • burning at 10 to 20 year intervals may lead to these forests being maintained in a shrubbier, potentially more flammable state (Tolsma, 2011).

The full analysis of the fire plots will be completed in 2012, with a science writer to be engaged. As part of the final analysis, consideration must be given to the future of the plots. While much useful information has been obtained from the plots, any future monitoring would require a rethink of the objectives of the plots as well as the most effective survey design to address these objectives.

Fire Management Sub-Group

When Fire Management was established as a Key Result Area in the 2008 – 2011 Strategic Plan it was placed under the Natural Resource Management Reference Group, along with Invasive Species Management. A Fire Science sub-Group was established, primarily to complete the analysis into the Alps Fire plots. With this project nearing completion it was decided that a stand alone sub-group on Fire Management (or Fire Ecology as it should be more correctly titled) was not necessary, particularly with the expertise that exists within the umbrella Natural Resource Management Reference Group. It was agreed that any issues or projects relating to Fire Management would be dealt with by the Reference Group.

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Key Result Area 5: Visitor Experiences and Marketing

Objective

Presentation of the superlative and unique Australian Alps visitor experiences identified through the Brand Australia National Landscapes Initiative, and implementation of contemporary approaches to sustainable visitor management in mountain protected areas.

Outcome

The National Landscapes Australian Alps Brand is implemented and supported by stakeholders and progress is made towards sustainability of use by visitors.

Alps Field Days

In 2010/11 the Alps Program hosted operational staff from across the Alps to exchange ideas and ensure best practise management was occurring for invasive pests and weed. In May 2012 a similar gathering occurred in Falls Creek (Victoria) to look at better ways of delivering visitor services through the improvement of infrastructure. The installation and maintenance of remote toilets, walking track construction and maintenance, huts and horse camps were the main focus of the two day workshop. The Alps program provides the perfect opportunity for operational staff in the different jurisdictions to compare and contrast the work they do with essentially the same operating environment, but within another state. Without the Alps Program staff would not have the same opportunity to exchange ideas and look to their ‘neighbours’ to improve their day-to-day operations.

Website Upgrade

Visitor information has been added to the Alps website over the past two years which has seen a significant increase in the number of hits. Over 116,000 hits were recorded in 2010/11. Information is included by area (or cluster, based on the National Landscapes Tourism Development Strategy) as well as by recreation type. Also included is safety information and specific information on the Australian Alps Walking Track.

In 2010/11 the Alps program commissioned two vignettes (short films) – one on the Mountain Pygmy Possum and the other on the Corroboree Frog. These 3 minute vignettes have been embedded into the Alps website, but longer (10 minute) versions will also be made available to Visitor Centres and other public places. The short films have also been aired on free-toair television (ABC within the ACT).

In addition to the 2 vignettes a third one, titled ‘The Origin of the Alps’ was also produced. This partly animated feature explains how the Alps are much younger than previously thought, being formed through continental splitting about 65 million years ago, rather than the more traditional theory of continental collision forming tall, jagged peaks followed by a prolonged period of weathering. These three vignettes can be viewed on the Alps website: australianalps.environment. gov.au.

‘Welcome to Country’ Totems

The recognition and respect of Aboriginal connection to the Alps is central to the Alps Program. Traditionally, the Alps have been a place of ceremony, meeting other family groups, trading, and spirituality. Providing acknowledgment of this to the public and to Aboriginal people is not easy, however over the past two years the Visitor Experience and Marketing Reference Group has been working with the Australian Alps Traditional Owners Reference Group (AATORG) to design a series of totems and plaques which will do just that. The totems and plaques have been produced and rangers across the Alps are in to process of installing them in prominent visitor locations. They are attractive, interpretive panels which highlight the special connection Aboriginal people had, and most importantly still have, with the Australian Alps.

Alps FLICKR site

See the Key Result Area for Stakeholder Engagement and Communication.

Alps Brochures, Banners and Signage / Interpretation

See the Key Result Area for Stakeholder Engagement and Communication.

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Key Result Area 6: Stakeholder Engagement and Communication

Objective

Stakeholders from all relevant groups and interests are aware of, and have access to, information about the unique mountain landscapes and catchments, natural and cultural values of the Australian Alps national parks, the actions and behaviour needed to protect these values, the objectives and achievements of the cooperative management program, and are appropriately involved in achieving the objectives of the program.

Outcome

Stakeholders are more actively engaged in, and are aware of, Alps programs and activities.

Education Resource Upgrade

The Australian Alps Education Resource is an important information source designed to educate school children about the unique beauty, the history and the economic importance of the Australian Alps. If people are aware of the Australian Alps then it is more likely that they will also place value on them in later life. In 2010/11 the text of Education Resource was reviewed and updated. The second stage of the upgrade occurred in 2011/12 which involved redesigning the material and uploading onto the Alps website. The vignettes referred to in the ‘Webpage upgrade’ sections are linked to the Education Resource. It is likely that the upgrade of this resource is one of the reasons why the number of hits to the website has increased (the education resource is one of the most popular pages).

25th year recognition

In 2011 the Australian Alps marked 25 years since the original Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed, back in 1986. The original intent of the MoU was for park management agencies across the Alps to work “in partnership to achieve excellence in conservation management of its natural and cultural values and sustainable use through an active program of cross border cooperation” (Alps MoU, 2003). Through 25 years and many changes in government at both state and federal level, this vision has not changed. The intent of the 25th anniversary was to provide an opportunity for local communities to come and enjoy the Alps showcase the unique landscape (both culturally and naturally (rather than focus on the Alps Program). Concurrent celebrations were held in ACT, Vic and NSW on a weekend in November 2011. The largest of these was at Kiandra, NSW where a combined Alps celebration and Kiandra Courthouse exhibition was held. Despite pouring rain over 250 people visited the historic courthouse and participated in Alps activities. Some low cost paraphernalia, such as stickers and postcards was also produced to mark the occasion.

FLICKR site

With the unsurpassed natural and cultural beauty of the Alps it is not surprising that there is a massive amount of photographic material relating to the Alps. In the past the Alps program has stored many high quality photos on CD’s, but this makes it very difficult to make available to other agencies. Many staff across the Alps have high quality photos which they are willing to share however the platform has never existed to allow this to happen. A ‘Flickr’ site (an online, publically accessible photo storage system) has been set up by the Alps program, and is linked to the Alps website (australianalps.environment. gov.au). This allows photos managed by the Alps Program, agency staff and the general public to be uploaded and made available to other users (with strict licensing conditions). In a ‘coup’ for the Alps Program, Klaus Hueneke, renowned author, photographer and publisher (recently awarded an Order of Australia for his work) has allowed many of his photos to be uploaded onto the Alps Flickr site. This is yet another cost effective method of promoting the Australian Alps to the public.

Brochures

For several years the Alps Program has annually printed 4 brochures which are distributed to Visitor Centres across the region. A review was conducted of visitor centre staff and it was found that while brochures still have value, with the increases in electronic media they are less important than they once were. Therefore, it was agreed to rationalise the number of brochures from four back to two, and in the process review the content of them. One of the two brochures remains focussed on the codes of behaviour for recreational activities across the Alps, while the other is a more generic promotion of the Alps, with a focus on the Australian Alps Walking Track.

There will be a focus over the next 12 months on developing electronic media which will allow Alps promotion and messaging to reach a wider audience though application downloads.

Alps Banners

The Alps Program, along with each Alps Partner Agency, has been provided with mobile rollout banners which are used to promote the Australian Alps at forums, workshops and public gatherings. Like the brochures, it was time to review the content of the banners so a process of rationalising the content (four banners were reduced to three) and redesigning them occurred. Due to the relatively low price of producing rollout banners nowadays, thirteen sets of new banners were produced, which will allow every major work centre across the Alps to own a set of the three banners.

Australian Alps Fixed Interpretation (signage)

Alps interpretation and messaging is common in much of the signage present across the Alps. However, over the years stand alone Alps signage has also been installed in various locations, some of which has become aged and dated. The Alps Program carried out an inventory of signage across the Alps, which due to the specific nature of the content, essentially belongs to the Alps program. At the same time, a process of identifying priority sites for updated Alps signage was carried out, although any new signage would be done in conjunction with local interpretation. With these processes complete, managers of these priority sites were contacted to discuss ways of updating the signage. Signage around the Mt Feathertop approaches were upgrade in 2011/12, and in 2012/13 signage in the ACT, Kosciuszko National Park and Mt Buffalo National Park will be upgraded.

Timber Skills Workshop

See the Key Result Area for Cultural Heritage.

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Key Result Area 7: Indigenous People’s Engagement

Objective

Identification and promotion of opportunities for the involvement of Indigenous people in the management of the Australian Alps national parks.

Outcome

The Australian Alps Indigenous Reference Group is established, meets regularly, and contributes effectively to a range of Alps projects and initiatives.

Australian Alps Traditional Owners Reference Group

The AATORG met twice in 2011/12, once in the ACT in October 2011 and once in Bright in March 2012. The Group is active in advising the AALC on many issues across the Alps, however their main focus remains on the need for acknowledgment and respect of Aboriginal people across the Alps; recognition of the significance of the Alps to Aboriginal people, both past and present; and the need for opportunities for current communities.

The Alps Program is trying to meet these aims through a number of different ways. It is increasing its communication with community groups across the Alps through newsletters and meetings, as well as producing two different types of stickers specifically linking the Alps with Aboriginal people. Also, the Program produced copies of photos and DVD’s of the 2010 First Peoples Gathering for distribution.

The Aboriginal ‘Welcome to Country’ totems (referred to in the Visitor Experiences and Marketing section) is a simple yet powerful way of highlighting the connection of Aboriginal people with the Australian Alps.

Another important project commenced which will help achieve the aims of the AATORG. There is a need for a single, defining document which highlights the cultural and spiritual significance of the Australian Alps to Aboriginal people. The Alps Program has commenced a process to document a ‘Statement of Significance’ for Aboriginal Peoples’ connection to the Alps, which will be achieved through consultation of community groups.

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Key Result Area 8: Cultural Heritage

Objective

Improved understanding of and respect for the Aboriginal and historic cultural heritage values of the Australian Alps national parks, including sites, places and landscapes, and incorporation of these values into effective conservation and management programs.

Outcome

The cultural heritage of the Alps is better understood, valued and protected by the community.

Timber Skills Workshops

Huts are one of the iconic features of the Australian Alps and are referred to in the National Heritage listing. Some of these date back to the 1800’s and have been used by graziers, hydrologists, miners, skiers, fishermen and bushwalkers. The character of these huts is as much about the nature of construction as the hut itself – slabs, shingles, fireplaces and verandas all makes huts very special places. Despite the fact that we want the huts to last forever, the materials all degrade with time, so the only way to maintain the character is to repair the huts when necessary – as the Burra charter states: do as little as possible but as much as necessary.

Keeping hut building and maintenance skills alive is paramount to maintaining the character of the huts, so every two years the Alps Program runs a hut skills workshop. In March 2012, 24 people attended the workshop in Khancoban, where experts like Uwe Petersohn, Stuart Garner, Peter Scobie, Mike Paterson and Graeme Infield showed agency staff, KHA volunteers and other interested people how to select timber (and what happens if you select the wrong piece), make slabs, cut shingles, sharpen a froe, use a cross-cut saw, make a timber joint without nails, use an adze and broad axe (without losing toes) and other historic skills. These craftsmen have dedicated much of their lives to restoring mountain huts and their skills are immensely valued, particularly given the loss of huts due to bushfires over the last decade.

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Key Result Area 9: Program Management

Objective

The Australian Alps national parks cooperative program will be well managed, maintain its effectiveness to achieve the vision and objectives of the MoU and operate within the relevant policy context of each participating agency.

Outcome

The Program is managed efficiently and effectively and the Heads of Agencies and other stakeholders are satisfied with the Program’s performance.

Values Assessment Report

A report was commissioned by the Alps Program to assess the National Heritage values of the Australian Alps and compare these with other similar areas.

Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan for the Alps program is both a necessity under the Alps MoU as well as an important document to guide the program through a three year period. The 2008 – 2011 Plan underwent extensive review and subsequent modification to the previous plan. New Key Result Areas were established, along with a change from Working Groups to Reference Groups. In 2011 a thorough review of the 2008 – 2011 Plan occurred. With only three years of operation it was agreed that no significant changes were needed. Instead the new 2012 – 2015 Plan would build on the existing plan with some adjustments. These include:

  • minor changes to the objectives and outcomes of some of the KRA’s to clarify their roles and deliverable outcomes.
  • the addition of a new Key Result Area, ‘Ecological Systems and Processes’.
  • taking steps to further operationalise the Alps Program and further encourage it to be used as a conduit for staff to benchmark, network and exchange knowledge and ideas.

Annual Reports

In the last reporting period the 2010/2011 Annual Report was produced and circulated to agency staff.

Meetings

All Reference Groups and sub-groups met at least once over the reporting period. The AALC met face-to-face in October, March and June, plus a teleconference, and the AATORG met in October and March. Importantly, the Alps Heads of Agency met in February 2012. This is the first time they have met since 2010 and provided an opportunity for the AALC to update them on the Works Plan and on current issues; endorse the 2012 – 2015 Strategic Plan; discuss the possible re-signing of the MoU; and reaffirm their support for the Alps Program.

Attendance of World Mountain Conference, Lucerne, Switzerland

In October 2011 the Alps Program Manager was invited to attend the World Mountain Conference in Lucerne, Switzerland. The forum was hosted by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and was organised for mountain organisations to prepare for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012. At previous UNCSD Conferences (or ‘Earth Summits’) mountains had received recognition in their contribution to global sustainable development. The purpose of the conference was to review the progress of mountain communities in the context of sustainable development, particularly given the increasing impacts of Climate Change.

The SDC had commissioned reports on all major mountain ranges in the world and most of the time at the conference was devoted to extracting the main messages from these reports and compiling them into a brief document (known as the ‘Lucerne Call to Action’) to ensure that sustainable mountain development remained on the agenda at the Rio conference.

The conference was only open to invited representatives and, as the Program Manager, I was the sole representative from Australia. Over 100 delegates attended the conference from approximately 35 nations. The Program Manager presented the findings of one of the day-long workshops to the congregation.

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Key Result Area 10: Program Promotion and Information

Objective

Program agency personnel and other stakeholders will increase and share their knowledge and understanding of the values of the Australian Alps national parks and cooperative program benefits, and acquire best practice skills for managing and communicating these values and improved cross agency links.

Outcome

Agency staff and other stakeholders are aware of the benefits of the Program and support its objectives.

UCN / WCPA Science Management Forum: Management Effectiveness Evaluations – putting them into practice for Australian Alps National Parks

In June the Alps Program, in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (World Commission on Protected Areas) ran the sixth annual Science Management forum on Management Effectiveness and Evaluations (MEE). These forums are used to bring together scientists (or specialists on specific topics) and Alps managers on a management issue relevant to the Alps.

The overarching aim of the workshop was to improve the application of Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) and the integration of the resulting knowledge into well-informed and effective management actions for parks in the Australian Alps. A number of world renowned experts on this topic made presentations at the forum, such as Professor Marc Hockings, Dr Fiona Leverington, Dr Graeme Worboys, as well as researchers from the National Environment Research Program. Agency staff from Victoria and NSW provided insights into how MEE is being used at an organisational level as well as at a project level.

The forum provided an introduction to the MEE framework and how MEE was being used on the international scene. It also showed the types of data used in the MEE process, as well as how science and knowledge is generated and used in the management of the Alps. An overview of how MEE is implemented in NSW and Victoria with a focus on a presentation of the 2010 State of the Parks results for NSW and Victoria was made by Parks staff. Case studies which illustrated how MEE can be used to evaluate smaller scale, specific projects were also presented by staff from NSW and Victoria. The forum concluded with a discussion on methods for improving the MEE process in the Alps.

‘News from the Alps’

The ‘News from the Alps newsletter was produced in September 2011 (issue # 42), and issue number 43 was written and printed in May / June 2012, with distribution to occur in July 2012. This is a valuable resource in keeping staff and close stakeholders up-to-date on what is happening across the Alps.

Alps Field days

See the Key Result Area for Visitor Experience and Marketing.

Recognition of 25 Year of the Australian Alps MoU

See the Key Result Area for Stakeholder Engagement and Communication.

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Agency benefits of the MOU

While responsibility for policy, strategic planning and day-to-day management of each of the Australian Alps national parks remains vested with each participating agency, it is via the Australian Alps Program that knowledge and resources are shared through cross-border relationships. As well as the many networking opportunities, following are some examples of how the MoU directly benefits the agencies.

Feral Horse Projects, including horse density project, horse impacts report and feral horse exclusion plots

When complete, these three projects will greatly increase manager’s understanding of the feral horse issue as well as providing valuable management tools. See KRA 3: Invasive Species Management for more.

Alps Field Days

A large gathering of operational staff from across the Alps was held to focus on the day-to-day operational issue of visitor management, and in particular infrastructure for visitors. It also provides networking opportunities and allows knowledge to be passed between agencies. See KRA 5: Visitor Experience and Marketing for more.

Alps Fire Plots

This long running monitoring program of Alps flora and response to fire had provided planners and ecologists with information relating to floristic fire responses. See KRA 4: Fire Management for more.

Australian Alps Program Newsletter

The Program’s newsletter, News from the Alps, keeps staff and other stakeholders in touch with the activities of the Australian Alps national parks agencies. See KRA 10: Program Promotion and Information for more.

Climate Change Survey

The climate change survey, when finalised, will provide agencies with information on what their managers see as a priority for climate change research. See KRA 1: Climate Change and Adaptation for more

Carp Report

The carp report has provided valuable information regarding the likelihood of this invasive species being found (or the potential to be found) in the protected area system area. See KRA 3: Invasive Species Management for more.

Improved Decision Making for Weed Management in the Australian Alps

This workshop has provided key operational managers with tools for assessing weed management in an objective, outcome focussed way, as well as the ability to convert this into a functional works plan. See KRA 3: Invasive Species Management for more.

Website Upgrade and FLICKR site

The Australian Alps national parks website has been further upgraded, with the inclusion of vignettes to promote and educate people about the Alps. The site carries information about reference material, reports and publications, news updates, and links to related organisations and interest groups – all designed to increase the exposure and marketability of the Alps. In addition the new FLICKR site provides agencies access to high quality images for promotional purposes. See KRA 5: Visitor Experiences and Marketing for more.

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External Liaison

Much of the work of the Australian Alps Program during the reporting period has been made possible through collaboration with a collection of groups, associations, organisations, authorities, universities, and local, state and federal government departments. The much appreciated contributions of these organisations are further evidence of the growing profile, strength and relevance of the Australian Alps Program.

University of Melbourne (ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions)

The ARC Centre for Environmental Decision, in conjunction with the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, ran the ‘Improved Decision Making for Weed Management in the Australian Alps’ workshop for managers. They showed how computer modelling could be used to assist in prioritising weed management programs in an objective manner.

The Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne)

See above

Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI)

ARI provided an analysis of species contained within the Alps Fire plots. This report was combined with another report from DSI Consulting to address the questions using various statistical analyses.

ACT Parks and Conservation Service

ACT is one of the four Alps Partner Agencies and provides essential input into the Alps Program, particularly through the Reference Groups. The current range of projects provides assistance and information back to ACT staff and stakeholders in the many different aspects of park management.

Victorian Alpine Resorts Coordinating Council

The Victorian Alpine Resorts Coordinating Council (VARCC) has given its’ support to the Alps Program and is keen to increase its’ involvement in the Program.

Regional tourism organisations and visitor centres

Regional tourism organisations and visitor centres continue to be involved in various Alps program-run workshops such as the ongoing Frontline Workshops as well as special topics such as enhancing the visitor experience.

Catchment Management Authorities

Controlling weed species of willow in the Alps has been successfully managed through the invaluable partnerships between the Alps Program agencies and a number of catchment management authorities.

Commonwealth Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency

The Caring for our Australian Alps Catchments report was written and printed with funding provided by the Department. A summary report was also produced by the Department, which can be accessed via the Alps website.

Forests New South Wales

As well as having a Forests New South Wales (FNSW) representative on the Feral Horse Sub-Group, the current range of projects associated with feral horses in the Australian Alps has been funded in part by FNSW.

‘Friends of the Cobberas’

The ‘Friends of the Cobberas’ assisted in the project management of the remeasuring of the feral horse exclusion plots at Cowombat and Native Cat flats.

Kosciuszko Huts Association and Victorian High Country Huts Association

The timber skills workshop held in Khancoban was supported by KHA members, both in terms of participants as well as expert presenters. The huts associations continue to provide ongoing support for the huts within the Australian Alps, through building, maintenance and skill sharing workshops.

International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Mountains Biome

The Alps program continues to enjoy an ongoing partnership with these organisations through the IUCN / WCPA Australian Alps Science Management Forum, which occurred in June.

National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF)

A project under the NCCARF is currently investigating plant functionality and potential changes in floristic diversity in the Alps as a result of Climate Change, titled ‘Determining high risk vegetation communities and plant species in relation to climate change in the Australian alpine region’. The Alps Program is a collaborator of this project and providing a link to management. This project is being done through Griffith University.

National Parks Associations of Victoria, NSW and ACT

The Alps Program continues to enjoy the ongoing involvement and support of a number of parks associations.

Australian Alps National Landscapes inc

The Australian Alps Program has close links with the Australian Alps National Landscapes program.

National Environment Research Program – Landscapes and Policy hub

The Commonwealth Government funded research hub was proposed to enable researchers to work with environmental managers, policy makers, community groups and industry bodies to apply a whole-of-landscape approach to biodiversity conservation in several contrasting regions . The hub is based in Tasmania, but has 2 main study areas – the Tasmanian Midlands and the Australian Alps.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (Office of Environment and Heritage)

Apart from being the State agency currently hosting the Alps program, the NSW NPWS is one of the four Alps Partner Agencies, and provides essential input into the Alps Program, particularly through the Reference groups. The current range of projects provides assistance and information back to NPWS staff and stakeholders in the many different aspects of park management.

NSW, Vic and ACT Traditional Owner Groups

Working together at the First Peoples’ Gathering, members of these groups have defined a set of goals, among them: increased profile, a Traditional Owners newsletter, and Alps-wide totems to signify traditional country.

Parks Australia (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities)

Parks Australia is one of the four Alps Partner Agencies, and provides essential input into the Alps Program. The Department also plays an increasingly valuable role in maintaining the Alps Website, building the Visitor Experience content on the website, making the site more central to those of the Alps Program’s Key Result Area’s which relate most to visitors and stakeholders.

Parks Victoria

Parks Victoria is one of the four Alps Partner Agencies, and provides essential input into the Alps Program, particularly through the Reference groups. The current range of projects provides assistance and information back to Parks Victoria staff and stakeholders in the many different aspects of park management.

Department of Primary Industries (Victoria)

The Department is supporting Australian Alps Program driven research into feral horse management.

Department of Sustainability and Environment (Victoria)

The Alps Program has benefited from the strong links between Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and Parks Victoria, particularly relating to fire management. The Department is involved in the ongoing management of the Australian Alps Walking Track, and the current range of projects associated with feral horses in the Australian Alps has also been funded in part by the Department.

Great Eastern Ranges Initiative

The Alps program continues to support this initiative – a contiguous continental scale conservation initiative running the length of the east coast of Australia.

Tourism Victoria, Tourism NSW, Australian Capital Tourism and key industry stakeholders and local government

All of the above continued to build upon the Australian Alps as a National Landscape and appropriately managed tourism destination.

Charles Sturt University

Charles Sturt University is supervising the PhD project which is investigating a methodology for estimating feral horse density using on-ground methods. This program is being partly funded by the Alps Program.

University of Western Sydney

The Alps program commissioned the University of Western Sydney to investigate the distribution of European Carp across the Alps. Information on carp distribution will inform managers and researchers on the extent of this pest and help prioritize management.

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

This agency hosted the World Mountain Forum in Lucerne last October and invited the Alps Program Manager as the Australian representative at this Forum.

Griffith University

Griffith University was commissioned by the Alps Program to carryout the Climate Change Survey. In addition, Griffith University are undertaking research on behalf of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.

VicWalk, Canberra, and NSW Bushwalking Clubs

The Alps Program enjoys the ongoing support for cross-border cooperative management of the Australian Alps Walking Track from a number of bushwalking clubs.

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Attachment 1 – Program structure as at 30 June 2012

Program structure as at 30 June 2012
Australian Government New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Victoria
Responsible Minister The Hon. Tony Burke, MP
Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
The Hon. Robyn Parker, MP
Minister for the Environment and Minister for Heritage
Katy Gallagher, MLA
Minister for Territory and Municipal Services
The Hon. Ryan
Australian Alps Head of Agencies Peter Cochrane
Director of National Parks, Parks Australia Division, Department of Sustainability Environment Water Population and Communities
Bob Conroy
Acting Deputy Chief Executive, Parks and Wildlife Group, Office of Environment and Heritage Department of Premier and Cabinet
Fay Steward
Executive Director, Land Management and Planning Division, Territory and Municipal Services, ACT
Bill Jackson
Australian Alps Liaison Committee AALC Mark Taylor
Assistant Secretary Parks and Protected Areas Parks Australia Division Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Steve Horsley
(AALC Convenor) Manager Special Projects Southern Ranges Region Parks and Wildlife Group Office of Environment and Heritage Department of Premier and Cabinet
Daniel Iglesias
Director, ACT Parks and Conservation Service, Territory and Municipal Services, ACT
Peter Jacobs
Chief Ranger Alps, Parks Victoria
Program Manager Anthony Evans
Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Group Jon Harris
Lucy Sutherland
Dieuwer Reynders
Jane Saxton
Scott Seymour
Lois Padgham Scott Cunningham
Andy Gillham
(Convenor)
Natural Resource Management Reference Group James Trezise Pam O’Brien
Geoff Robertson
Margaret Kitchin Charlie Pascoe (Convenor)
Jenny Edwards
Visitor Experiences and Marketing Reference Group Martin Darcy Penny McLennan
Megan Bennett
Stephen Alegria Kevin Cosgriff (Convenor)
Matt Holland
Cultural Heritage Reference Group Alice Williams
Megan Bowden
Jennifer Dunn (Co-convenor)
Adrian Brown
(Co-convenor)
Chris Smith
Climate Change Reference Group Karen Watson (Convenor) Ken Green Matt Beitzel Peter Lawrence
Water and Catchments Reference Group Emma Warren
Ian Krebs
Graeme Enders
Genevieve Wright
Christian Ward Tamara Boyd
Elaine Thomas

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Attachment 2 – Membership of the Australian Alps Traditional Owners’ Reference Group 2011-2012

  • Gary Murray
  • Vicki Nicholson-Brown
  • Vince Bulger
  • Margaret Berg
  • Mary Mudford (substitute)
  • Paul McLeod
  • Glenda Hyde
  • Adrian Brown
  • Brad Bell (substitute)

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Attachment 3 – Financial Report Year Ending 30 June 2012

Revenue
Opening Balance 1 July 2011 $369,589 *
Agency Contributions 2011/12 $109,545**
Advance Agency Contributions made in 2011/12 (for 2012/13) $245,000***
Agency Contributions for Feral Horse Management Projects $28,125
Misc revenue/additional project contributions $811
Total $753,070
Expenditure
Expenditure in 2011/12
(refer to table below)
$466,426
Carryover (to 2012/13)
Carryover made up of:
$286,643
advance agency contributions $245,000
funding committed to Feral Horse Project $25,025
Unspent funds $16,618
Total $753,070

* This amount includes advance agency contributions of $205,454 (NSW $120,000, Victoria $45,454, and ACT $40,000) and additional project payments (feral horse project) of $45,000

** This amount is made up of the remaining agency contributions (Commonwealth $35,000, Victoria $74,545).

*** This amount is made up of agency pre-payments (Victoria $85,000, NSW $120,000 and ACT $40,000). Note that Victoria’s pre-payment was made up of a funds transfer of $50,000 and the payment of a $35,000 invoice in June 2011 which was due to be paid by the Alps Program.

Projects under Key Result Areas
Project Under Key Result Areas Actual Expenditure to 30 June 2012
Program Manager, Vehicle, Project Support, Travel & Project Administration $164,602
AALC and Reference Group meetings $8,636
Values Assessment Report $13,500
Attendance of World Mountains Forum (Switzerland) $2,204
Program Management $188,942
Annual Report $3,912
Strategic Plan (2012 – 2015) $7,002
AAnp / IUCN (WCPA) Science Management Forum $21,200
Alps ‘News from the Alps’ Newsletter $15,399
Alps Resource Library / document scanning $5,000
Program Promotion and Information $52,513
Alps FLICKR Account for images $25
Re-evaluate, re-design and reproduce the Australian Alps visitor information brochure series $9,413
Updating the Australian Alps Education Resource $11,890
Update Alps Banners $8,185
Update Alps Signage / Interpretation $4,760
Geology Animation for website $5,000
25th year recognition $8,033
Stakeholder Engagement and Communication $47,306
Visitor Experience & Services Field Days $13,078
Indigenous Totems $22,419
Webpage upgrade $6,062
Visitor Experience and Marketing $41,559
A management oriented survey of required climate change research and monitoring. $20,201
Climate Change and Adaptation $20,201
AATORG Meeting Costs $7,566
Report into the Indigenous Cultural Values of the Alps $560
Aspirations of 2010 First People Gathering $2,030
Indigenous Peoples Engagement $10,156
Australian Alps Feral Horse Exclusion Plots Remeasurement $10,300
‘Improved decision making for prioritising weed control in the Australia Alps national parks’ workshop $14,049
Feral Horse PhD project $35,600
Feral Horse Impacts Assessment $35,000
Invasive Species Management $94,949
Timber Skills Workshop III – Return of the Axemen/women $4,200
Cultural Heritage $4,200
Carp Distribution Project $4,000
Water and Catchments $4,000
Alps Fire Plots Analysis $2,600
Fire Management $2,600
Total for 2011/2012 $466,426