Annual Report 2013-2014 | Australian Alps Program

Australian Alps Liaison Committee

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Foreword

The 2013-2014 reporting year saw the Australian Alps Liaison Program change to the management of Parks Victoria following the handover from New South Wales. In addition to the valuable input of the Liaison Committee and Heads of Agency group, the enthusiasm and contribution of the Reference Groups has been a key driver for the program. The Reference Groups offer the opportunity for direct participation in the Alps Program by staff from the four partner agencies and as in past years drew the support of people from on-ground operations, policy officers, researcher scientists and managers.

Climate change issues are increasingly influential on the program’s array of projects, while invasive species management, alpine bogs management, fire impacts, water regimes and rehabilitation have all been areas that have seen program actions in the field and active engagement amongst research partners.

More than most, the year has seen the partner agencies face the challenge of organisational restructures and staff departure programs.

I offer my congratulations to all the Alps staff who have maintained their contribution to the  program despite the associated disruptions. I also say thank you to those contributors who have moved on to new roles and who will no longer be directly involved in the Australian Alps Program.

Will McCutcheon

Convenor, Australian Alps Liaison Committee 2013 – 2014)

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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 co-operatively. Through this spirit of co-operation, 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:

  • pursue the growth and enhancement of inter governmental co-operative management to protect the important natural and cultural values of the Australian Alps national parks.
  • co-operate 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.

N.B. The current MoU has had 3 reviews since 2003. It requires resigning by the current State and Commonwealth Ministers responsible.

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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 Forum

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

Australian Alps National Parks Heads of Agencies Group

The Heads (or their representatives) of participating agencies meet at least annually 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 Co-operative 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 Victoria

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 Co-operative Management Program. These groups usually have up to two staff from each of the co-operating agencies as members.

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

  • Natural Resource Management Reference Group;
  • Cultural Heritage Reference Group;
  • Visitor Experiences 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 operational matters.

Refer to Program structure at Attachment 1.

Alps Operational Group 

The Alps Operational Group is composed of Rangersin-Charge; Area, District and Operational Program Managers, and other key operational staff. In most years 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. The AOG did not meet in 2013-14. Annual Program advice was provided to the AALC by a gathering of the Reference Group conveners.

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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, Parks Victoria the Victorian governments’ park management agency provided the financial management 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 co-operative works program, which is developed through the submission of project proposals addressing the Key Result Areas of the Strategic Plan. The 2013–2014 annual works program and financial report is 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 park agencies, plus the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, the Victorian Department of Primary industries (for the reporting period both of these departments were combined into the Department of Environment and Primary Industries), and Forests NSW. 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 2013/14 was $289,383 (Attachment 3). However, it is recognised from prior annual reviews of staff participation in meetings, workshops and project involvement that this effort has equated to approximately $100,000 of further contributions.

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. In this reporting period the 2012 – 2015 Strategic Plan was in its second year of implementation.

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 and park management.

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.

Reference group

The Climate Change group had only a small representative number of agency staff as at June 2013. The group membership was repopulated during the reporting period and came together a number of times to plan for future projects. KRA’s 1 and 2 remain a focus for the group’s activities.

Measures of Success: 

Alps Program / Landscapes and Policy Hub Climate Science actions

Members of the Reference Group connected with the research being undertaken by the Landscape and Policy Hub. Good climate change science is central to the improved future management of biodiversity in the Alps. The Alps Program’s partnership with the National Environmental Research Programs Landscape and Policy Hub has seen research work conducted across a wide array of areas that are contending with current and predicted climate change impacts. This work has been in not only pure science programs but climate change as it relates to economic futures (e.g. snowfall and effects on ski resort tourism), and social and institutional futures (e.g. best possible governance for best biodiversity outcomes). Work continues by the climate futures team in building a final report, available early in 2015, on weather and fire outcomes for the Australian Alps over the next 50years.

For a more detailed explanation of the forum and the Landscape and Policy Hub partnership with AAnp Program refer to KRA 11 and External Liaison sections of the Annual Report.

Staff attending: 52 | Agencies: PV, NPWS, DoE, P&CS, OoEH, DEPI. Other: IUCN, Forests NSW, ACT Environment. Universities: Wollongong, Tasmania, Charles Darwin.

Projects presented: 9 | e.g. Reshaping alpine landscapes, remote detection, bog modelling, grazing & fire, alpine tourism & climate change, improving governance for biodiversity.

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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 landscape-wide 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.

Reference group

Climate Change

Measures of Success: 

Seed persistence in soil-seed banks of (sub-) Alpine Bogs and Fens

This 3 year project commenced in 2013-14. AAnp Program is contributing to this joint Australian National Botanic Gardens and CSIRO project. This project is providing a contemporary approach to planning, responding and adapting to climate change. An increase in knowledge of seed persistence, and germination ecology in Alpine Sphagnum bogs and associated fens (ASBAF) will assist mitigation of climate change impacts through appropriate ex situ conservation, better informed restoration, and adaptive management.

The research will assist with the development of landscape-wide approaches to manage endangered ASBAF ecological systems and processes.

Alps site seed collections: 115 | Inc. 17 Tasmanian Highlands

Workshops / presentations to peers & community: 3

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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.

Reference group

Water and Catchments. Two new co-convenors from Parks Victoria commenced this year.

Measures of Success: 

Rehabilitation Field Guide Notebook for the Australian Alps (Yr 2)

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. As part of a 2 year project a Field Guidebook was published in late 2013. The guide is designed for use in the field (it is small, with a tough plastic cover) by national parks, resorts and contractor staff. The writing, designing and printing of the Guide occurred in 2012/13. A print run of 500 copies was made. In early 2014 the guidebook was rolled out via seven workshops across Victoria, NSW and ACT Alps locations. The team from NPWS Assets, Roads and Rehabilitations unit at Tumut lead by Elizabeth McPhee did a marvellous job and inspired participants to pursue excellence in their rehabilitation planning and project delivery.

Aligning protocols for assessing alpine bog type and status across the Australian Alps

To date there was no Alps wide consistency in the management of bogs data. The project reviewed the agencies classification of bogs according to type and ecological status. It also identified inconsistencies amongst existing monitoring protocols. This year saw stage 1 and 2 delivered: 1) Data capture to review, collate and then validate the numerous sets of peatland data. 2) Consultation with stakeholders on the critical components of peatland functionality including associated threats. The Commonwealth had an important nexus to this project with the development of the Department of the Environment’s (2014) Draft Alpine Sphagnum Bogs and Associated Fens Recovery Plan. Year 2 of the project will see finalisation of the data and report back to AAnp stakeholders.

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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.

Reference group

Natural Resources Management. The focus for 2013-14 was on invasive fauna rather than flora. Subgroup to the NRM RG is the Feral Horse Working Group. Four of the NRM group also sit on the eight person Feral Horse group. A number of agency scientists and FH management specialists compliment the other four positions.

Measures of Success:

Feral Horse Projects

Following the rapid increase in feral horses in recent years (Dawson, 2009) the Alps Program identified the need to prioritise 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 Forests NSW). 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 2013/14, but it has been delayed and will be finalised by the conclusion of 2014.

Location Horse Occupied Sites Horse-free sites Total
Kosciuszko National Park 56 27 83
Victoria (Alpine National Park & State Forest) 64 28 92
Bago & Maragle State Forest, NSW 7 0 4
ACT 2 2 4
Total 129 57 186
No.of study sites across Australian Alps Horse populated areas

Develop accurate methods for estimating feral horse density – A PhD project that commenced in early 2012 as a collaborative arrangement between Charles Sturt University (Albury) and the Alps Program was not able to be completed by CSU. The project was transitioned this year to University of Tasmania and will recommence in the summer of 2014-15. 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.

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 provided analysis of a feral horse numbers increase at around 21% (Dawson, 2009). Previous surveys have not covered the full extent of feral horse populations in the Alps, so a new survey design was 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 was undertaken by Dr Stuart Cairns of the University of New England (Armidale, NSW).

Feral Horse Aerial Survey – This project occurs on a five year rotation. The last survey occurred in 2009. The Natural Resource Management reference group’s Feral Hose sub-group had a strong focus on this project during 2013-14. Due to the need to continue to gain improved data a more comprehensive survey was planned and delivered. A more rigorous survey methodology was developed (see above) and a wider geographical area was covered (+120%), meaning many more transects and a greater distance flown (total 2817km). Mountainous terrain and low level flight required stringent safety requirements for the helicopters. A comprehensive air operations plan was developed by the Parks Victoria Air Operations team, and a team of highly skilled professionals from NPWS and PV consisting of air base manager, logistics officer, air technical specialists, navigators, scientists, and communications officers all contributed. The survey occurred over 14 days in April/May.

The survey results have provided numbers less than forecast but validated that populations are increasing. Importantly the coefficient of variation (the margin for error) has reduced from 22% to 11.5%. Population densities for individual areas have been accurately calculated per numbers found in those areas, meaning densities in some areas have increased. The final report is currently at time of printing being scientifically reviewed prior to release.

The cost of the aerial survey consumed approximately 50% of the 2013-14 year’s budget (all projects). Much of this cost was for aircraft operations. Consideration needs to be given on whether this is sustainable as an AALC project. The next survey, due in 2019, may require a special allocation by the Alps partner agencies.

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. Coordinated by Dr Andrew Claridge of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the first year of the project focussed on developing a desktop-based risk-assessment process for ecological assets potentially at threat from deer. This year Alps-wide databases on threatened fauna, flora and ecological communities from each of the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria have been collated and a register of assets most at risk from deer developed. Associated with this, a questionnaire for field-based agency staff across the Alps was prepared and sent out for their response. The questionnaire gathered 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 has been identified. Follow-up field investigations have now commenced, these will aim to gather evidence of deer impacts or otherwise. Other aspects to the 3-year project include looking at the role of deer in spreading weeds; a select analysis of the social and economic impacts of deer on private landholders; and the opportunity to share knowledge and data with Alps agency staff and researchers at a number of other deer management workshops.

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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.

Reference group

The Natural Values Reference Group has responsibility for this KRA. Due to competing priorities no projects were directly funded. The partnership with the NERP Landscape and Policy Hub had two projects focused on the Alps. Alps staff had communications with NERP researchers during these projects.

Measures of Success:

From the NERP Hub happenings ‘Annual highlights 2013’ :

Reshaping landscapes project 

Fire is restructuring the landscapes of the Australian Alps. The fires during the last decade are likely to be seen as ‘game changing’ disturbance events, as forests dominated by alpine ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis), an obligate seeder, are burnt two and three times in a decade. The result is likely to be a shift in forest type to mixed eucalypts and acacias, as well as selection pressure within alpine ash populations to produce viable seed in much less than the normal 20 years. The repeated disturbance may also result in a major biome shift from snow gum woodlands to shrublands or a high altitude form of mallee vegetation.

Lead Researcher: David Bowman

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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.

Reference group

Visitor Experiences & Marketing

Measures of Success:

Alps Digital Media

The Australian Alps Smartphone Map and Guide an interactive e-publication .pdf remains popular and monthly figures are looking healthy. On average 246 downloads a month were being accessed. The Smart Phone guide continues as a very successful product of the Visitor Service and Marketing Reference Group.

The iPad displays first introduced in 2012 have been bolstered by another 2 units, one at NPWS Tumut Visitor centre and the second at Bairnsdale Visitor Centre, Victoria. These iPad displays provide people with information within the visitor centre as well as demonstrating the usefulness of the smart phone product. This will hopefully encourage people to download it.

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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.

Reference group

Stakeholder Engagement and Communication

Measures of Success:

New Australian Alps website

The Program now has a new look website. The website remains popular with easy access and a good number of regular users. Whilst access initially dropped in the first few months further work on site accessibility improved user uptake. This project was completed by Parks Australia webmaster Jon Harris. Management of the site moved to the public domain (WordPress) in late 2013 meaning Parks Australia no longer has hosting responsibility for the site. Two reps from each agency have been trained in basic editing of the website, hence responsibility for relevant agency updates now lies with each agency.

New Australian Alps website – Site access hits per month Nov 2013 – Oct 2014

2013 – total 1,648
Nov – 114
Dec – 1,534

2014 – total 117,277
Jan – 416
Feb – 1,482
Mar – 16,422
Apr – 13,519
May – 13,452
Jun – 13,391
Jul – 15,103
Aug – 15,832
Sep – 13,791
Oct – 13,869

Australian Alps National Parks Textbook

AALC part funded the reproduction of this important volume (out of print since 2010). Work continued by author Deidre Slattery through the year. The books absence has been felt by several courses of study which train and/or educate key current and future users of the mountains: tour guides, rangers, teachers, students, and outdoor educators. An electronic version will also be made available. The Alps Programs contribution will assist in a print run of 1200 copies. The printing is planned to occur via CSIRO Publishing and should be available in the next financial year.

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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.

Reference group

Cultural Heritage. The CH RG has eight members of which three are indigenous employees, one from each of the three state/territory agencies

Measures of Success: 

Australian Alps Traditional Owners Reference Group

The AATORG met once in 2013/14. This meeting occurred in May 2014 at Jindabyne. The meeting occurred in tandem with a gathering of Northern and Southern Kosciusko Aboriginal Working Group members and their families, facilitated by NPWS Southern Ranges Region. Unfortunately attendance was low, however discussion remained vibrant with input from interested Kosciuszko groups’ traditional owners.

At this meeting the ‘Cultural and Spiritual Significance of the Alps to Aboriginal People’ project was again discussed. A summation of the final report was provided with opportunity for discussion. Two other presentations – outcomes form the Landscape and Policy Hubs Scenario Planning: Future of Biodiversity in the Alps, and an opportunity to be briefed on the drafting of the Alpine Sphagnum Bogs and Associated Fens Recovery Plan were conducted.

Meetings of Traditional Owner groups also occurred around the Alps close to home countries, hosted by Alps agency regions. Support to AATORG and within AATORG this year has however been challenged by a variety of factors. Agency restructures, position vacancies, AATORG representatives availability, and sub-group viability e.g. Victorian Alpine & East Gippsland Traditional Owner Reference Group (VAEGTORG) has meant that communications on some issues was not achieved.

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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.

Reference group

Cultural Heritage

Measures of Success: 

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 wished to find out from the traditional custodians why the Alps were so important to their ancestors but also to Aboriginal people today. The Alps Program contracted an experienced company (Context Pty Ltd) in 2012 to commence work on firstly a literature review followed in 2013/14 by a consultation process. Context has a well established reputation for an understanding and respect for the cultural heritage of the Australian Alps. Context has completed both stages of the project, and a final report was tabled in June 2014. The report was presented and discussed at AATORG in May prior to its finalisation.

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 a quite small we hope it will build over time so it also provides knowledge to future generations. The project has produced a ‘Statement of Significance’ which now sits in the Australian Alps website. A long term goal is to have these values recognised formally within the Australian Alps National Heritage listing.

Cultural Heritage Workshop

At London Bridge homestead, Googong Foreshores ACT, an enthusiastic group of 27 agency staff and volunteers gathered in April. The torrential rain on the Saturday did not dampen spirits as staff dived into the program. A biennial workshop is run to maintain agency staff and volunteer skills in the maintenance of traditional bush buildings. The comprehensive program provided an understanding of the key principles of cultural heritage conservation and an understanding of the skills required for repair and maintenance of historic places in the Australian Alps. An appreciation of the key factors to be considered in managing cultural heritage places and landscapes was assisted by a presentation on heritage planning and The Burra Charter. Folk from the Kosciuszko, and Victorian High Country Huts Associations and staff left the workshop being able to make a preliminary assessment of the significance of a cultural place and landscape.

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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.

Measures of Success: 

Annual Reports

In the last reporting period the 2012/2013 Annual Report was produced and circulated to agency staff and placed on the Alps website. In February 2014 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

All of the six Reference Groups (plus the Feral Horse sub-Group) met face-to-face at least once over the reporting period, plus each group had one or more teleconferences.

The AALC met five times in the reporting period, 3 teleconferences – July, August, and February, and face-to-face in September and June. The September meeting was a special gathering, in particular to farewell three departing stalwarts of the Alps program – Peter Jacobs Parks Victoria, and Dave Darlington and Steve Horsley NPWS. The retirement of these three gentlemen meant a big loss of skills, knowledge and passion for the Australian Alps. This was shared in the meeting with a reflection on ‘Sharing the Wisdom’ with new members to the AALC and other Alps colleagues.

Several other informal discussions occurred at particular Reference Group meetings and prior to the Heads of Agency meeting.

A meeting of the Heads of Agencies (HoA’s) was held in Canberra in March. The main purpose of the March 2014 meeting was to update the HoA’s on the current status of the Alps Program as well as reaffirm future support for the Program. Plans were made for the resigning of the MoU.

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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.

Measures of Success: 

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

In 2011, the Australian Alps Liaison Committee formed a strategic partnership with the NERP Landscapes and Policy Hub to assist in their research aim to develop tools and policy options to better integrate biodiversity into landscape scale planning. As in other years since, Alps managers, field staff representatives, keen stakeholders and fellow researchers came together in April for the annual science management forum. The venue this year was Bright, Victoria. The purpose of the forum was to share with the 52 field program managers and fellow researchers present the status of a variety of projects that were underway or drawing to a conclusion. For hub researchers, it was an opportunity to refine research questions and make progress toward collaborative research that can be completed within the concluding 12 months of the Landscapes and Policy Hub’s research program. A whole day (part II) focus was also facilitated by the Social and Institutional Futures team looking at future options for improved Biodiversity Governance Arrangements.18 agency staff, 6 researchers and 12 other staff from traditional owner groups, local government, ski resorts, and NGO’s worked in small focus groups to provide a consensus of the better options for future governance and the best way forward.

‘News from the Alps’

The ‘News from the Alps’ magazine edition #45 was published in March 2014. Work also progressed on the final hardcopy edition of the magazine, planned for October ’14. The AALC recognised that the magazine is a valuable resource in keeping staff and relevant stakeholders up-to-date on what is happening across the Alps. However hard-copy publishing costs were above what the program could currently afford. The move to an on-line publication, and also a revamp to be a more regular short newsletter plus an annual bumper magazine was approved by the AALC at their June meeting.

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. The two Alps brochures, ‘Inspire and challenge your spirit’ and ‘Care for the Alps – leave no trace’ remain an important medium for providing the public with messages on how to care for the Alps as well as providing useful visitor information. Both 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

The gathering of operational staff from across the Alps to focus on the day-to-day operational issues of managing visitors, endangered species, catchments and water health, historic huts are examples of some of the workshops provided for staff. These workshops are a vital tool in bringing field staff and other stakeholders together to share knowledge and expertise in alpine protected area management. See KRA 11: Program Promotion and Information for more.

Research relationships

The partnership with the Landscape and Policy Hub, and a number of universities nationwide assist in the melding of good science with good management. A strong nexus exists for many projects with predicted climate change outcomes. See KRA 1: Climate Change and Adaptation 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 management

A number of projects have brought together Alps managers to deal with this difficult management issue. This year the aerial survey presented many complex challenges. The smooth operation of the survey, excellent staff cooperation and improved science highlights the strength of the Alps Cooperative Management Program. 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.

Traditional Owner relationships

An opportunity for Traditional Owner groups to gather with each other and with park agency staff has been a highlight of the program. The program facilitates the coming together of traditional owner representatives for consultation across a range of issues. See KRA 8: Indigenous Peoples Engagement.

National Landscapes

The Australian Alps is one of 16 National Landscapes identified by Tourism Australia for promotion as a key international and national tourist destination. The Alps Program participates as a key stakeholder in the forums and business activities of the national landscape program.

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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.

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

Assisted in and provided consultation services to a number of AAnp projects.

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 at Googong Foreshores 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 April 2014.

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 is an integral partner 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 (Department of Environment)

Parks Australia is one of the four Alps partner agencies, and provides essential input into the Alps Program. The Department also played a valuable role in maintaining and upgrading the Alps website making the site more accessible to those who have a keen interest in the Australian Alps – staff, stakeholders, visitors, students and communities.

Parks Victoria

Parks Victoria is one of the four Alps Partner Agencies, and provides essential input into the Alps Program. Parks Victoria took over the Program Management responsibilities in June 2013 from NPWS. 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 and scientific research. 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.

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 2014

Australian Government New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Victoria
Responsible Minister  Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham The Hon. Rob Stokes, MP Shane Rattenbury, MLA The Hon. Ryan Smith, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment Minister for the Environment, and Minister for Heritage Minister for Territory and Municipal Services Minister for Environment and Climate Change
Australian Alps Head of Agencies Sally Barnes
Director of National Parks, Parks Australia, Department of the Environment
Ann King
Head, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Office of Environment and Heritage, Department of Premier and Cabinet
Fay Steward
Executive Director, Parks and City Services Division, Territory and Municipal Services, ACT
Bill Jackson
Chief Executive Officer, Parks Victoria
Australian Alps Liaison Committee AALC Ben Phillips
Director, Executive Coordination, Parks Australia Department of the Environment
Mick Pettitt
Regional Manager Southern Ranges Region, Office of Environment and Heritage
Stephen Hughes
Manager, Partnerships, Planning and Biosecurity, ACT Parks and Conservation Service, Territory and Municipal Services, ACT
William McCutcheon
(AALC Convenor)District Manager East Gippsland, Parks Victoria
Program Manager Andrew Nixon (Parks Victoria)
Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Group Leanne Wilks
Sabrina Sonntag
Dieuwer Reynders
Jane Saxton
Scott Seymour
Lois Padgham
Jasmine Foxlee
Scott Cunningham
Andy Gillham  (Convenor)
Natural Resource Management Reference Group Pam O’Brien
Geoff Robertson
Duane Shawcross
Oliver Orgill
Dylan Kendall
Charlie Pascoe (Convenor)
Jenny Lawrence
Ty Caling
Visitor Experiences and Marketing Reference Group Maggie Sutcliffe
Tim Greville
Jennifer Griffiths
Gail Neuss
Kevin Cosgriff (Convenor)
Matt Holland
Cultural Heritage Reference Group Oly Clark Megan Bowden
Paul House
Louisa Roberts
Adrian Brown
Chris Smith (Coordinator)
Climate Change Reference Group Karen Watson (Convenor) Ken Green Julian Seddon Mark Mickelburough
Water and Catchments Reference Group Ian Krebs Graeme Enders (Convenor) Lisa Evans
Shelley Swain
Tamara Boyd
Elaine Thomas

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Attachment 2 – Membership of the Australian Alps Traditional Owners’ Reference Group 2013-2014

  • Garry Murray
  • Vicki Nicholson-Brown
  • Jida Gulpilil (substitute)
  • Margaret Berg
  • Ramsay Freeman
  • Sue Bulger (substitute)
  • Paul McLeod
  • Iris White
  • Glenda Hyde
  • Adrian Brown
  • Brad Bell (substitute)

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Attachment 3 – Financial Report Year Ending 30 June 2014

Revenue (all figures EXCLUDE GST)
Opening Balance 1 July 2013 $260,4031
Agency Contributions 2012/13 $35,0002
Agency Contributions for Feral Horse Management Projects $20,0003
Sub-TOTAL 1 (Operating Total 2013-2014) $315,403
Agency Contributions for for 2014/15 $160,0004
Sub-TOTAL 2 (Total cash revenue) $475,403
Misc revenue/additional project contributions $142,0005
Total $617,403
Expenditure (all figures EXCLUDE GST)
Expenditure in 2013/14
(refer to table below)
$289,383
Carryover (to 2014/15)
Carryover made up of:
$186,020
advance agency contributions $160,000
Unspent funds $26,020
Total (exc GST) $475,403

This amount includes advance agency contributions of $195,000 (NSW $120,000, ACT $40,000, and Commonwealth $35,000), funding committed to Feral Horse research projects ($50,000) and uncommitted funds ($15,403).

This amount is made up of an agency contribution from the Commonwealth $35,000 for year 2012-13. This contribution was erroneously not invoiced for the 2012-13 period.

This amount is made up of agency payments Victoria DEPI $15,000 and Parks Victoria $10,000; and NSW Forests $5,000.

Both NSW NPWS and ACT Parks and Conservation Service made their 2014/15 contribution in May 2014 (NSW $120,000 ACT $40,000)

Parks Victoria commitment is to the cash value of $120,000. Parks Victoria however chose to provide their contribution as a direct provision of the Program Managers costs (inc. salary, oncosts, office costs = $142,000)

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