Annual Report 2012-2013 | Australian Alps Program

Australian Alps Liaison Committee

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Foreword

The end of the three year cycle for the Alps Program has arrived and it is with a sense of satisfaction that the management of the Program is passed onto Parks Victoria. Over the last three years the Alps Program has achieved a great deal thanks to the support of the four Alps Partner Agencies, both in terms of staff commitment and financial support. With the financial constraints placed upon all park management agencies, this continuing support is testimony to the commitment to the Program. The past three years have seen a particular focus on delivering projects and providing operational support to staff across the four agencies. The extensive list of these projects from the last 12 months is set out below. The Program is constantly looking for practical ways of assisting staff at all levels throughout the agencies to provide the highest standard of management across this outstanding and unique region.

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 co-operation and this aim remains the same today, more than twenty five years later.

Steve Horsley

Former Convenor, Australian Alps Liaison Committee (2010 – 2013)

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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 2012-2015’) to guide the annual cooperative works program.

VEMRG
the Visitor Experiences and Marketing Reference Group

WCRG
the Water and Catchments Reference Group

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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.

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 NSWs National Parks and Wildlife Service (Office of Environment and Heritage) 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 2012-2013 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 (both of these departments are combined into the Department of Environment and Primary Industries), and ForestsNSW. These contributions 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 of 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 4 – Invasive Species Management’.

The total expenditure for the Alps Program in 2012/13 was approximately $270,000  (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 agencies, not the other way around). To obtain an estimate of the total input into the Alps Program, a survey has been conducted by the Alps Program Manager over the previous two reporting periods (2011/12 and 2012/13) of staff time and costs associated with the Alps Program. It is estimated that approximately $90,000 in salaries plus another $10,000 in additional costs (travel etc.) is provided ‘in-kind’ by agency staff participation in the Alps program (a little over the equivalent of a full time annual salary). Therefore, it is a reasonable estimation that the total cost of the Alps Program for 2012/13 was $370,000.

Three Year Strategic Plan

The Alps MoU (2003) states that the AALC will ensure “that a Strategic Plan is submitted to the Australian Alps national parks heads of agencies group (Alps Heads of Agencies) for approval on a three-year cycle, and is accompanied by a review of the implementation of the previous Strategic Plan” In 2011/12 a new Strategic Plan was developed for the period 2012 – 2015. The previous Plan (2008 – 2011) had undergone a significant review in its development, hence only minor changes were incorporated into the new (2012 – 2015) Plan. Refer to the 2011 – 2012 Annual Report for a list of these changes. The 2012 – 2015 Strategic Plan was adopted at the commencement of this reporting period.

Annual Reporting of Performance

The Alps MoU (2003) requires the AALC to ensure “that an annual report is submitted to the parties, through Alps Heads of Agencies at the end of each financial year”.

Similarly, the Strategic Plan 2012 – 2015 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.

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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.

Alps Program / Landscapes and Policy Hub Science Management forum

Members of the Reference Group had significant involvement throughout this forum, as Climate Change is so central to the improved future management of biodiversity in the Alps. For a more detailed explanation of the forum refer to Key Result Area 10: Program Management.

Climate Change Survey

In recognition of the challenge in finding suitable projects which address the issue of Climate Change in the Alps as well as providing tangible and applicable outcomes for managers, the Climate Change Reference Group commissioned 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 them in managing with Climate Change. 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 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 report was finalised in late 2012 and is available on the Alps website:  theaustralianalps.wordpress.com.

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Key Result Area 2: Ecological Systems and Processes

Objective

Increase the level of knowledge of staff and stakeholders into the processes both leading to populations becoming vulnerable and to restoring them. Assist in the development of landscapewide approaches to dealing with Ecological Systems and Processes.

Outcome

Awareness of processes leading to the restoration of endangered flora and fauna. Improvements in approaches to the management of Ecological Systems and Processes particularly relating to cross – landscape management. This is a new Key Result Area (KRA) introduced with the 2012 – 2015 Strategic Plan. This KRA lies under the jurisdiction of the Climate Change Reference Group, although being a new KRA no projects were implemented in the reporting period.

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Key Result Area 3: Water and Catchments

Objective

Protected mountain catchments continue to generate sustained yields of high quality water, providing flow regimes to support water-dependent ecosystems and high-value uses such as tourism, hydroelectricity, irrigation and domestic consumption both within the Alps and downstream. Contemporary threat abatement and rehabilitation practices are applied to those catchment areas subject to significant disturbance to reduce erosion, improve hydrologic processes and enhance the health of aquatic and riparian environments.

Outcome

Water and catchment management initiatives are delivered through increased collaboration between park managers, technical specialists, researchers and other stakeholders. The knowledge of agency staff relating to water and catchment functions is enhanced to improve practical management outcomes and assist in assessing catchment condition.

Rehabilitation Field Guide Notebook for the Australian Alps 

Rehabilitation of disturbed areas is a challenging task in the Australian Alps, thanks to extreme climatic conditions, erodible soil and the difficulty in establishing native plants. A Field Guidebook has been developed for use by national parks, resorts and contractor staff. The Guide is designed for use in the field (it is small, with a tough plastic cover) and has been compiled using the expertise of the Assets, Roads and Rehabilitation Unit staff from NSW National Parks and Wildlife service. The writing, designing and printing of the Guide occurred in 2012/13, but the second stage of the project in 2013/14 will see field workshops being run across the Alps to educate users on how to gain maximum benefit from the manual.

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Key Result Area 4: 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 co-operation and collaboration on identifying and managing emerging and known invasive species to reduce their impact on the natural and cultural values of the Alps.

Development of a design methodology for future Alps Feral Horse Survey 

Understanding the dynamics of feral horse populations across the Australian Alps is a key criterion in determining current and future management strategies, as well as for presenting objective data to the public. Alps-wide aerial surveys of feral horse populations have been conducted in 2001, 2003 and 2009. The more recent survey in 2009 showed that feral horse numbers were increasing at around 21% (Dawson, 2009). With these surveys to occur approximately every 5 years, it is planned to conduct another in 2014. Previous surveys have not covered the full extent of feral horse populations in the Alps, so a new survey design is needed to increase the overall area to be surveyed, yet still allow it to be compared with the previous surveys. In addition, an analysis of data from previous surveys has identified that a more carefully designed survey technique may reduce the standard error of the survey. The project to redesign the survey is being undertaken by the University of New England (Armidale, NSW). It has commenced but will not be completed until later in 2013.

Are feral deer impacting on ecological and social values in the Australian Alps? 

From mid-2012 the AALC commenced funding support for a 3-year project investigating the ecological, social and economic impacts of introduced deer across the Australian Alps. Co-ordinated by Dr Andrew Claridge of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the first year of the project has focussed on developing a desktop-based risk-assessment process for ecological assets potentially at risk from deer. Alps-wide databases on threatened fauna, flora and ecological communities from each of the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria are being merged and a register of assets most at risk from deer being developed. Associated with this, a questionnaire for field-based agency staff across the Alps has been prepared and will shortly be sent out for response. The aim of the questionnaire is to gather an Alps-wide state of knowledge about deer and their impacts, to calibrate against the earlier desktop analysis. From these two processes a shortlist of ecological assets will be identified for follow-up field investigations that will aim to gather evidence of deer impacts or otherwise. While preliminary fieldwork has already commenced, rigorous monitoring will start in spring 2013. Other aspects to the 3-year project include looking at the role of deer in spreading weeds, and a select analysis of the social and economic impacts of deer on private landholders

Alps Operational Field Days – Towards Alps-wide management of Ox-eye Daisy, plus other emerging weeds 

For the past two years the Alps Program has run ‘Operational Field Days’, which provides the opportunity for operational staff to become more involved in the Alps Program and to increase their knowledge of significant operational issues occurring across the Alps. The two topics covered in previous years include pest species management and visitor infrastructure management. In February, 2013, about 30 staff from across the Alps met at Currango homestead in Northern Kosciuszko National Park to discuss management options for Ox-eye Daisy. Ox-eye Daisy was once thought to be a relatively insignificant weed but in recent years has invaded large tracts of sub-alpine areas and has the potential to have a major impact across the entire Alps. Current and potential methods for managing this weed were discussed as well as ways of preventing infestations to new areas. In addition, other potentially new and emerging weeds were introduced to staff, with flora experts showing how to identify these weeds and which pose the greatest threats. Whilst this was an Alps managed project, funding for the workshop was provided direct from the Commonwealth Government as part of an overall package to manage Ox-eye Daisy on the NSW – ACT border region.

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 of informed decision making in regards to weed management in the Australian Alps. The process was 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 in the prioritisation of weed management across the Australian Alps to facilitate more cost-effective weed control. This framework may apply to established weeds, emerging weeds, or even to prevent the potential introduction of new weeds.

Key Alps staff met at Falls Creek in May 2012 (previous financial year) in the first of two workshops to develop the process, with the final one being held at Yarrangobilly Caves in October 2012. The workshops followed a process of establishing the fundamental objectives of weed management, followed by the development of strategic objectives. Then, a suite of weeds relevant to the Alpine and sub-Alpine areas of the Alps were identified. These weeds included 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.

Feral Horse Projects 

Following the rapid increase in feral horses in recent years (Dawson, 2009) the Alps Program identified the need to prioritize specific research into feral horse management. The Alps Program obtained 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 Environment and Primary Industries (formerly DSE and DPI) and ForestsNSW). The areas of research are:

  • Horse Impacts Study – An assessment of feral horse impacts in streams and watercourses across the Alps has been carried out using an index methodology developed by Dr David Tongway (CSIRO, Sustainable Ecosystems). This involved on-ground surveying of approximately 200 sites across Kosciuszko National Park, Bago and Maragle State forests in NSW, Namadgi National Park (ACT) and Alpine National Park (Victoria). These randomised sites included areas of known horse populations and areas known to be free of horses. Fieldwork and data analysis has been completed. It was planned to complete the final report in 2012/13, but it has been delayed and will be finalised in 2013/14.
  • Develop accurate methods for estimating feral horse density – A PhD project commenced in early 2012 in a collaborative arrangement between Charles Sturt University (Albury) and the Alps Program. The aim of the project is to develop an operational tool for managers to be able to estimate horse density using on-ground (i.e. not-aerial) methods at a management scale, for example within a valley or other defined area. In addition to the development of a management tool, a relationship between feral horse density and impacts may also be achievable.

Unfortunately, in late 2012 the PhD candidate withdrew from the project. The timing of the withdrawal meant that a replacement student could not be engaged until mid 2013 at the earliest. In the interim, alternative methods for the delivery of the project are being considered.

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Key Result Area 5: 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 co-operation in fire ecology research and planning and its application to fire management.

Completion of Alps Fire Plot Analysis 

A report detailing the analysis of the long-term Alps Fire Plots has been completed. Valuable information from these plots has been gathered during the 16 years since they commenced, and a final report on the plots has now been compiled. The report was presented at the Ecological Society of Australia conference, held in Melbourne in December 2012, and copies have been circulated to the Park Management agencies.

The project was driven by the Fire Science sub-Group (a sub- Group of the Natural Resource Management Reference Group), although with this project now completed it was agreed that fire issues would be best handled by the Reference Group, hence the Fire Science sub-Group has not continued. With the project now completed, a new project will be considered which will investigate future research questions that the plots may assist in answering, and a methodology for efficiently obtaining these answers.

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Key Result Area 6: Visitor Experiences and Marketing

Objective

To offer an enhanced visitor experience and promote sustainable visitor management across the alps, and improve marketability through supporting and implementing Australia’s National Landscapes program.

Outcome

The Alps are promoted as, and provide, a national and international destination for world class nature and culture based tourism. Managers are aware of contemporary approaches to sustainable visitor experience in protected areas.

Development of Alps Digital Media 

One of the most successful initiatives of the year for the Alps Program was the development of the Alps e-publication (interactive .PDF). Apart from the Alps website, this was a major transition for the Alps Program into digital media. The popular ‘Australian Alps national parks Touring Map’ was becoming outdated, so despite its usefulness as a tourist resource and the important information and messages it carries, its’ paper format made it no longer a saleable item. In the production of the digital media the maps were updated, along with the visitor information and ‘Minimal Impact’ messaging. As an addition, the “10 best” car touring routes and walks from across the Alps were added. The format was released as an interactive .PDF (rather than an ‘app’) due to lower cost of production, one platform being suitable for all types of smartphones and tablets, as well as lower ongoing maintenance costs. The e-publication is available free to download, as long as the user has a suitable .PDF reader. Downloads can be made via a simple QR code, which can be accessed from the Alps website: theaustralianalps.wordpress.com

An additional development was the establishment of three ‘pilot’ iPad displays in visitor centres in the ACT, Victoria and NSW. These iPad displays will provide people with information within the visitor centre as well as demonstrate the usefulness of the product. This will hopefully encourage people to download it. Depending on the success of these iPad displays, there is the potential to roll more of these out in the future.

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Key Result Area 7: Stakeholder Engagement and Communication

Objective

Stakeholders from all relevant groups and interests, including private sector and local government, 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 co-operative management program, and are appropriately involved in achieving the objectives of the program.

Outcome

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

Education Resource Upgrade

Australian Alps Walking Track Stakeholder meeting – The biennial meeting between the Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT) management group and community stakeholder group met at Walhalla in November 2012. This is an opportunity for staff to obtain valuable feedback on the Track as well as for the groups to discuss current issues and update the AAWT Strategic Plan. Being at the start (or end) of the track, Walhalla was the perfect place to meet. Much of the Track has suffered in recent years as a result of bushfire regrowth, however ACT Parks and Conservations Service, Parks Victoria and the Victorian DEPI (formerly DSE) have done extensive work over the past years to reopen these overgrown sections.

One of the main outcomes was the ‘in principle’ agreement for the agencies to work more with volunteer groups in the upkeep of the Track. This is particularly relevant to Victoria which has by far the greatest length of actual walking track, which also requires the most manual maintenance.

AAWT website

Another outcome from the AAWT Stakeholder meeting was to investigate ways of making the AAWT website more interactive for both users and managers. As an interim measure, more regular information on the track status will be placed on the website as well as the opportunity for Track users to provide feedback directly to the Alps Program Manager via the website. This information can be passed on to the manager of the relevant section of track or posted on the website for others to see. Options of a ‘forum’ or ‘thread’ are being considered but the Program would need to be sure there were enough active users of such a site in order for it to be viable.

Upgrading of Alps Interpretive Signage 

Over the years Alps signage has been placed at various visitor nodes across the landscape. With some of this signage becoming aged and outdated an ongoing program to replace outdated signage, or install new signage at priority locations, has been underway. Over the last 12 months signage at Mt Buffalo (Bents Lookout and the Horn carpark) have been upgraded. This follows on from last year where new signs were placed at Harrietville and Mt Hotham (start of the Razorback walk).

Frontline Forum

In a similar fashion to the AAWT meeting, the Alps Program biennially hosts a ‘Frontline Forum’. The aim of this forum is to bring ‘frontline staff’ – staff whose job it is to provide information to visitors – together to understand more about the entire Australian Alps. Staff from non-Park Management Agencies are also invited, such as the ski resorts, regional tourism organisations and local shires. There is so much logic in promoting the Australian Alps as an entire landscape, rather than as a few local destinations, hence the forum encourages staff to look beyond their own borders and see what the Alps has to offer. The forum was held at Talbingo at the Northern end of Kosciuszko National Park in March 2013, with a major focus of the forum being the development of Aboriginal-based experiences in the area.

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Key Result Area 8: 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. That Traditional Owners across the Australian Alps engage in the Alps Program as an opportunity to celebrate the Alps as a single, borderless landscape which is culturally significant.

Outcome

The Australian Alps Traditional Owners Reference Group is an effective group which meets regularly, and contributes both to the management of the Australian Alps national parks and to the respect and recognition of Traditional Owners groups across the Alps.

Australian Alps Traditional Owners Reference Group

The AATORG was only able to meet once in 2012/13. This meeting occurred in April 2013 at Falls Creek. At this meeting the ‘Cultural and Spiritual Significance of the Alps to Aboriginal People’ project was discussed. In additional to the AATORG meeting another gathering occurred which was hosted by the ‘Landscapes and Policy Hub’ research group. This group is investigating ways of improving the management of biodiversity at a landscape scale and is using the Australian Alps as one of its study areas. Clearly, an important part of this process is to consult with the Traditional Custodians of the land.

Alps Aboriginal News

One of the aims of the Alps Program is to engage and communicate with the Aboriginal Communities across the Alps. The second edition of the Alps Aboriginal News was written and circulated in May 2013. The Newsletter contains stories which Aboriginal Peoples may find relevant or interesting. It is planned to make this Newsletter more regular that it has been as it provides a great medium from communication between Alps managers, the AATORG and local Communities.

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Key Result Area 9: 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

Contribute to the cultural heritage of the Alps, so that it is better understood, valued and protected by the community.

A Statement of Significance on the ‘Cultural and Spiritual Significance of the Alps to Aboriginal People’

The Australian Alps are a place of great cultural significance for the Australian Alps First Peoples, however many people, both Indigenous and non-indigenous, do not know this. The Alps Program wants to find out from the Traditional Custodians why the Alps were so important to their ancestors but also to Aboriginal people today. To achieve this, the Alps Program has engaged an experienced company (Context Pty Ltd) who have an understanding and respect for the Cultural Heritage of the Australian Alps. Context has completed Stage One of the project, which was to complete a literature review. Stage two will commence in mid 2013, which involves consulting with the Australian Alps First Peoples why the Alps were, and still are, a special place.

The Alps Program hopes this project will be of great benefit to the Australian Alps First Peoples, in that it will increase awareness and understanding of the importance of the Alps to managers, politicians, Indigenous people living away from the Alps and the general public. While the project is quite small we hope it will build over time so it also provides knowledge to future generations. The project will produce a ‘Statement of Significance’ which can be put onto the Australian Alps website. The Statement should be mainly words, but other things, such as stories and artwork which captures the feelings, values, beliefs and significance from a cultural and spiritual perspective should also be used.

Aboriginal Ranger Pins 

At the request of the AATORG, small metal badges were made up for Aboriginal staff working in the Australian Alps. The purpose of these badges is to increase the profile of Aboriginal staff within the Alps, and hence further highlight the connection of Aboriginal People to their Country.

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Key Result Area 10: Program Management

Objective

The Australian Alps national parks co-operative 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.

Annual Reports

In the last reporting period the 2011/2012 Annual Report was produced and circulated to agency staff and placed on the Alps website. In December 2012 a mid-year update was provided to the AALC by the Program Manager, which gave a comprehensive summary on the current status of the budget and Works Plan.

Meetings

Five of the six Reference Groups (plus the Feral Horse sub- Group) met at least once over the reporting period. The AALC only formally met once in the reporting period, which was via tele-conference in February. However, several other informal discussions occurred in November at the Science Management Forum and in March, prior to the Heads of Agency meeting. A meeting of the Heads of Agencies (HoA’s) was held in Canberra in March, which followed the meeting in February 2012. The main purpose of the March 2013 meeting was to update the HoA’s on the current status of the Alps Program as well as reaffirm future support for the Program.

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Key Result Area 11: 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.

Joint Landscapes and Policy Hub – Australian Alps (IUCN) Science Management Forum

In 2011, the Australian Alps Liaison Committee formed a strategic partnership with the Landscapes and Policy Hub to assist in their research aim to develop tools and policy options to better integrate biodiversity into landscape scale planning. The purpose of the forum was to form small collaborative teams of Alps staff and Landscapes and Policy Hub researchers to focus on key topics related to landscape scale management of biodiversity. This proved a unique opportunity for Alps staff to collaborate with researchers on topics of direct relevance to management. For hub researchers, it was an opportunity to refine research questions and make progress toward collaborative research that can be completed within 18 months as part of the Landscapes and Policy Hub’s research program.

22 hub researchers and 25 Alps managers from NSW, Victoria, ACT and the Australian Government agencies worked in small focus groups to develop or refine research questions, goals, methodology, data needs and deliverables. A particular focus on evidence-based modelling to provide decision makers with information which is useful over different planning time scales (1, 5 and 10 year planning) about the consequences and associated risks of options for managing threats to biodiversity assets under a changing climate. Given the current focus on feral horses and the need to address this issue at a number of different levels – social, political, environmental, cultural – it was agreed that this would make an ideal case study for the development of a decision support system.

‘News from the Alps’

The ‘News from the Alps’ magazine was produced in August 2012 (issue # 43) and in June 2013 (issue # 44). This is a valuable resource in keeping staff and close stakeholders up-to- date on what is happening across the Alps.

Publication Reprints

Despite the move to digital media the Alps Program sees a place for brochures promoting the Alps to be placed in visitor centres and park management offices. Last year the number of Alps brochures was rationalised from four to two, however these two remain an important medium for providing the public with messages on how to care for the Alps as well as providing useful visitor information. These two brochures were reprinted at the beginning of the reporting period and circulated to more than fifty visitor centres and park management offices across the Alps

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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.

Rehabilitation Field Guide 

The booklet will provide staff and contractors with an easy-to-use guide to best practice in the management of disturbed or degraded sites. See KRA 3: Water and Catchments for more.

Alps Field Days

A gathering of operational staff from across the Alps was held to focus on the day-to-day operational issue of managing emerging weed species, with a particular focus on Ox-eye Daisy. This workshop will assist staff in managing this and other emerging weeds in their own ‘patch’. See KRA 4: Invasive Species Management 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 5: 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 11: Program Promotion and Information for more.

Feral Horse Projects, including feral horse density project, feral horse impacts report and preparation for Alps-wide aerial population survey 

When complete, these three projects will greatly increase managers understanding of the feral horse issue, develop a valuable management tool for staff, and provide objective data for the development of future strategies. See KRA 4: Invasive Species Management for more.

Development of Alps Interactive .PDF 

With the completion of this project, agencies can tap into the maps and information provided by the Alps Program for their visitors. The information is being provided for personal use, through smartphones, or via iPads displays which have been set up at some visitor centres. See: KRA 6: Visitor Experiences for more.

Improved Decision Making for Weed Management in the Australian Alps

This workshop has provided key operational managers an insight into how to prioritise weed management in an objective, outcome focussed way, and then to convert this into a functional works plan. See KRA 4: Invasive Species Management for more.

Frontline Forum

The Frontline Forum gives agency staff a unique opportunity to see what the broader Alps landscape has to offer beyond the staff member’s immediate area of expertise. See KRA 7: Stakeholder Engagement and Communication for more.

AAWT Stakeholder Forum

Like the Frontline Forum, the AAWT Stakeholder Forum provides agency staff with an opportunity to meet, but in this case it allows staff to improve their management responses to the AAWT through the implementation of the Strategic Plan and interaction with key stakeholders. See KRA 7: Stakeholder Engagement and Communication for more.

Study into the Social and Ecological Impacts of Deer 

Whilst this project is in its early stages, upon completion it will provide the agencies with data and information which they need to more fully understand the issue and to develop future management strategies. See KRA 4: Invasive Species Management 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 Excellence, in conjunction with the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, ran the ‘Improved Decision Making for Weed Management in the Australian Alps’ workshops 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.

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.

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 November 2012.

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, plus the recent AAWT Stakeholder forum.

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 several study areas, with the Australian Alps being one of these.

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

Through the AATORG the Alps Program has strong connections with these Groups as all parties work towards a common goal of increasing the recognition and Aboriginal Peoples and their special connections to the Alps.

Parks Australia (the former Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is now the Department of Environment)

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 Environment and Primary Industries (formerly Department of Sustainability and Environment, and Department of Primary Industries – Victoria)

The Alps Program has benefited from the strong links between Department of Environment and Primary Industries 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.

University of New England 

UNE are working with the Alps Program to redefine and review the methodology for the proposed Alps-wide feral horse population survey.

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 co-operative management of the Australian Alps Walking Track from a number of bushwalking clubs. These clubs were involved in the recent AAWT Stakeholder Forum.

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Attachment 1 – Program structure as at 30 June 2013

Program structure as at 30 June 2013
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
Shane Rattenbury, MLA Minister for Territory and Municipal Services The Hon. Ryan Smith, MP Minister for Environment and Climate Change

 

Australian Alps Head of Agencies Peter Cochrane
Director of National Parks, Parks Australia Division, Department of Sustainability Environment Water Population and Communities
Ann King
Head, National Parks and Wildlife Service, 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
Chief Executive Officer, Parks Victoria
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
Stephen Hughes
Manager, Partnerships, Planning and Biosecurity, 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
Duane Shawcross  
Dylan Kendall
Chris Condon 
Charlie Pascoe (Convenor)
Jenny Lawrence (Edwards)
Visitor Experiences and Marketing Reference Group Christopher Hicks  Penny McLennan
Megan Bennett
Stephen Alegria Kevin Cosgriff (Convenor)
Matt Holland
Cultural Heritage Reference Group Alice Williams
Megan Bowden
Louisa Roberts Adrian Brown (Convenor) Chris Smith (Coordinator)
Climate Change Reference Group Karen Watson (Convenor) Ken Green Matt Beitzel
Water and Catchments Reference Group Emma Warren
Ian Krebs
Graeme Enders
(Convenor)
Genevieve Wright
Christian Ward Tamara Boyd
Elaine Thomas

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Attachment 2 – Membership of the Australian Alps Traditional Owners’ Reference Group 2012-2013

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

* It is with respect that the Australian Alps Heads of Agencies and the Australian Alps Liaison Committee note the passing of Uncle Vince Bulger in late 2013. Not only the AATORG but many Alps agency staff benefited from his energy and well considered advice.

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Attachment 3 – Financial Report Year Ending 30 June 2013

Revenue
Opening Balance 1 July 2012 $286,643 *
Agency Contributions 2012/13 $35,000**
Advance Agency Contributions made in 2012/13 (for 2013/14) $160,000***
Agency Contributions for Feral Horse Management Projects $11,250
Misc revenue/additional project contributions $3,244
Total $496,137
Expenditure
Expenditure in 2012/13
(refer to table below)
$270,734
Carryover (to 2013/14)
Carryover made up of:
$225,403
advance agency contributions $160,000
funding committed to Feral Horse Project $50,000
Unspent funds $15,403
Total (exc GST) $496,137

* This amount includes advance agency contributions of $245,000 (NSW $120,000, Victoria $85,000, and ACT $40,000), funding committed to Feral Horse research projects ($25,025) and uncommitted funds($16,618).

** This amount is made up of the remaining agency contributions (Victoria $35,000), however the Commonwealth ($35,000) were erroneously not invoiced during this period. A payment of $35,000 was made by the Commonwealth for the financial year 2012/13 in the current financial year of 2013/14.

*** This amount is made up of agency pre-payments (NSW $120,000 and ACT $40,000) for the 2013/14 Financial Year.

Projects under Key Result Areas
Project Under Key Result Areas Actual Expenditure to 30 June 2013
Program Manager, Vehicle, Project Support, Travel & Project Administration $148,577
AALC and Reference Group meetings $1,902
Program Management $150,479
Annual Report $1,850
Alps Publication reprints $2,938
AAnp / IUCN (WCPA) Science Management Forum (in cooperation with the Landscapes and Policy Hub) $9,358
Alps ‘News from the Alps’ Newsletter $12,617
Completion of Mountain Pygmy Possum / Corroborree Frog CD’s for Visitor Centres $390
Program Promotion and Information $27,153
Continue with the rollout of the Alps Interpretation / Signage panel replacement project $4,150
Frontline Workshop (Talbingo) $8,395
Final payment of Banner Upgrade project $700
Final payment of Brochure Upgrade project $1,400
Stakeholder Engagement and Communication $14,645
Develop an Interactive .PDF which replaces the ‘Alps Touring Map’. Make this available for use on personal smartphone / tablet devices as well as at Visitor Centres $17,142
AAWT Stakeholder meeting $2,849
Visitor Experience and Marketing $19,991
AATORG Meeting Costs $6,110
Aboriginal Ranger Pins $765
Indigenous Peoples Engagement $6,875
Completion of workshops titled: Improved decision making for prioritising weed control in the Australia Alps National Parks $2,491
Development of a design methodology for future Alps Feral Horse Population Survey $1,505
Research project titled: Are feral deer impacting on ecological and social values in the Australian Alps? $19,470
Invasive Species Management $23,466
Report into the Indigenous Cultural Values of the Alps $14,414
Cultural Heritage $14,414

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