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Nature’s Voice

Victorian National Parks Association newsletter

Number 18 | October-November 2013

Up to 1000 people are expected at Wilsons Prom for our Shine a Light for Parks event.

Photo: flickr.com/photos/longzheng

Let’s shine a light for parks at the Prom J

oin us at the Prom on November 2, when we are inviting 1000 people to shine a light for national parks. We will be forming the letters ‘HANDS OFF PARKS’ on the beach at Tidal River, in torchlight at dusk. The VNPA, the Friends of the Prom and the Prom Campers Association are joining together to make a statement about the government’s proposals to allow private developments in national parks, as well as proposals to introduce cattle grazing, prospecting, and other

Phil Ingamells Park Protection Project

threatening activities to our great parks. We are asking people to be at the beach carpark at Tidal River, Wilsons Promontory National Park, by 6.30pm on Saturday November 2. We expect to be finished by 8.15pm.

Those cows!

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n what must be a last ditch attempt to reinstate their privileged Alpine National Park grazing licences, some mountain cattlemen have asked the Victorian Government to reintroduce the failed, and flawed, high country grazing ‘scientific trial’. They have attracted a bit of media but, at best, only lukewarm responses from government. Check our website, vnpa.org.au, for an update and links to media reports.

If you are driving down for the event, allow at least 3½ hours by car, or more if you plan (as we recommend) to have a break on the way. Or you can book a seat on a chartered bus for $45 return, but you must book your seat by October 25. Look forward to seeing you there. And don’t forget to bring a torch or three!

MORE INFO Visit shinealight.vnpa.org.au


Grazing licences phased out of parks I

n a rare piece of good news for conservation in Victoria, September 30 saw the end of a four year phaseout of cattle grazing licences in River Red Gum national parks. To mark the occasion we joined Parks Victoria, catchment management authorities, Landcare groups and traditional owners on a tour of the Warby-Ovens National Park near Wangaratta. Over the past four years Parks Victoria has been charged with doing what countless other initiatives have failed to accomplish – removing cattle grazing licences from river frontages and Crown land adjoining heritagelisted rivers, wetlands and creek-lines along significant reaches of the Murray, Goulburn and Ovens rivers. Fencing has helped protect around 90,000ha of park previously subject to grazing. Parks Victoria faced a number of hurdles in securing areas of public land within the parks system, not least the removal of hundreds of tonnes of rubbish, including asbestos. In the Warby-Ovens National Park 300 tonnes had to be cleared out,

Nature’s Voice Editor: Michael Howes Design: John Sampson Nature’s Voice is a quarterly newsletter. The deadline for our February edition is 17 January. Address: Level 3, 60 Leicester St, Carlton 3053 Tel: 03 9347 5188 Fax: 03 9347 5199 Website: www.vnpa.org.au Email: vnpa@vnpa.org.au ABN: 34 217 717 593 ISSN: 1837-6681 SAVE PAPER! To receive Nature’s Voice by email, please contact us on 9347 5188 or email vnpa@vnpa.org.au

New fencing will help keep cattle out of sensitive wetlands and river fronts.

another 300 tonnes at Gadsens Bend on the Murray, and 15 tonnes from the Lower Goulburn National Park. The cost of the clean-up came out of the public purse – highlighting significant weaknesses in licensing conditions and the lack of enforceable actions relating to rubbish dumping or grazing licence breaches. We encourage the State Government to seek further advice from Parks Victoria on this successful phase-out of grazing licences. Only just last year the government announced it would reissue more than 100 licences in the proposed River Murray Park (not under National Parks Act), despite a wealth of advice from scientists and the health department on the risks associated with cattle grazing along rivers. These risks have biodiversity, water

quality and human health implications. What was most encouraging to hear from Parks Victoria about this program was that 95% of all licence owners, even the ones who initially refused to accept land tenure changes, have either signed an agreement or are waiting for one to be prepared. The VNPA commends Parks Victoria and the Victorian Government on this outstanding program and draws decision-makers’ attention to the strong support from landholders and their cooperation. This is most timely, considering riverside licences are up for another five year renewal in 12 months time. This project, combined with the VNPA’s five-point plan to improve funding and offer incentives to landholders, should be the blueprint for Victoria’s rivers.

Rally against Hastings coal port

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lans to expand the Port of Hastings so that it has a carrying capacity double that of the Port of Melbourne have sparked a community rally, scheduled for the Hastings Foreshore on Saturday 9 November. The Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council and Quit Coal also fear the port expansion could include development of a heavily polluting brown coal export

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port and coal-drying facility. Just last month we released research showing development plans for Westernport Bay could expose the area’s globally significant marine and coastal wetlands to potentially huge damage from oil spills. The ‘No Coal Port-No Port Expansion for Hastings’ rally starts at 2pm. More info at wppcinc.org Victorian National Parks Association


Logging interests win out in western forests Nick Roberts Riverside Rescue Coordinator

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he Napthine Government has taken yet another backward step by opening up high conservation value forests in western Victoria to logging. Last month a media release announcing the opening of Mt Cole in the Pyrenees ranges to logging was quietly placed on the Victorian Government website, confirming an internal review of all forestry across western Victoria. The review was prepared without broad stakeholder consultation, other than with logging interests. The move is a complete turnaround from Victoria’s 2002 forestry reforms which, in light of massive over-logging in western Victoria’s fragmented forests, saw a 31% reduction in logging across the state, and an $80 million structural adjustment package for the timber industry. Many businesses were paid to exit the industry and allow forests to recover. Now, an internal Department of Environment and Primary Industries audit recommends opening up western Victorian forests to logging once again. Areas in the report include the Otways, Pyrenees ranges, Mt Cole, the Wombat and River Red Gum forests. The report also proposes changes to

A new report recommends opening up western Victorian forests to logging. Photo: courtesy Tibor Hegedis, Wombat Forestcare

logging prescriptions in precious BoxIronbark forests near Bendigo that will inevitably result in more habitat loss. The government is clearly not listening to the majority of Victorians who do not wish to see fragmented forests containing rare, threatened and endangered native plants and animals compromised by environmentally destructive logging. Victorian agriculture minister Peter Walsh claims the Mt Cole decision will generate $500,000 annually from wood, including firewood. But the Coalition Government

removed fees for firewood collection across Victoria last year, essentially removing a price from firewood for domestic use, and significantly undermining farm forestry growers of firewood. We have received numerous calls from concerned local groups and individuals in western Victoria over this move. We can only hope commonsense will prevail and the Napthine Government starts to listen to the community, who want to see the precious forests of western Victoria protected.

Wombat gold mine faces legal challenge T he local community could finally have a say in the decision to allow gold mining in the Wombat Forest if an application filed in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to require a planning permit is successful. “The entire process for this mine to date has proceeded without adequate community input,” says Environment Defenders Office lawyer Ariane Wilkinson. www.vnpa.org.au

“If a planning permit is required then the community will have a right to have their say and community concerns can be properly heard and considered.” Ms Wilkinson says the community holds valuable local knowledge about the area and this should be taken into account. As well as environmental concerns Wombat Forestcare holds grave concerns for the welfare of the

wombats currently living on the site. Gayle Osborne says wombat burrows are evident and the group has been using motion-sensing cameras to collect footage of common wombats using the area. “There are no conditions in the approved mining work plan for this gold mine site that require any action to mitigate damage to the wombats,” she said.

Nature’s Voice | No 18 | October-November 2013 – 3


If you go down to the woods today

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ant to know what can be found in the Wombat State Forest? We’ve just published an unusual field guide that uses photos taken as part of our NatureWatch monitoring project to show people the sort of creatures they can expect to meet in the Wombat, day or night! The guide covers all the mammals our trusty volunteers have ‘caught on camera’ using motion-sensing cameras in the Wombat State Forest. It’s a great way to learn more about the Wombat and the types of creatures you might come across when walking or camping in the area. The guide also includes interesting facts for each creature. For example, did you know that wombats can defend themselves by crushing the heads of pursuing predators into the roof of their burrow using their rump? A pretty good reason not to go sticking your head down wombat holes! You can download the free guide from our website and take it out into the field with you – reports.vnpa.org.au

Eastern Grey Kangaroos gather in mobs to feed in the early morning and at dusk.

The Red Fox, responsible for the decline and extinction of many native Australian species, has been caught on our cameras in the Wombat State Forest, as has the wombat, which, though solitary, can have overlapping home ranges.

Nature in the dark inspires short film A

n experimental film inspired by our Caught on Camera project has been shortlisted as a finalist at this year’s Australian Teachers of Media awards. Angie Black’s 2.30 minute film, disnature, uses photographic material gathered by the VNPA’s NatureWatch program to investigate emotional responses, through movement, of native animals engulfed by smoke, disoriented and confused, trapped in a dystopian landscape, surviving the carnage after the fire. It was produced by Black Eye Films in association with The Centre for Creative Arts, La Trobe University and the Victorian National Parks Association. It has been shortlisted for Best Experimental short film. Angie Black, a lecturer in Media: Screen+ Sound at La Trobe University, took part in a collaborative art project entitled ‘Nature in the Dark’ – a joint

A scene from disnature, a short film inspired by the VNPA’s Caught on Camera project.

venture between the VNPA and artists who used the same photographic material gathered in the Caught on Camera project to profile the response of mammals to fire – only to a very different ends. 


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Disnature is one of seven artistic video projects made in response to the research exploring the effects of fire on native animals using the still images captured. See the film at vimeo.com/54262158 Victorian National Parks Association


Are we failing Melbourne’s most vulnerable creatures? Matt Ruchel VNPA Executive Director

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ome of Australia’s most endangered plants and animals live on Melbourne’s doorstep, yet conservation plans finalised just before the federal election could lead to local extinctions of the Growling Grass Frog, Striped Legless Lizard and Australian Grayling. For the past four years both federal and Victorian governments have been assessing future environmental impacts of urban development in our north, west and southeast growth corridors. The work is part of a joint state and federal government assessment to develop a biodiversity strategy covering Melbourne’s growth areas. Plans for the north, west and Sunbury/Diggers Rest areas were signed-off on the day before the federal election. Australia’s new environment minister, Greg Hunt, is yet to sign-off on a strategy for the southeast growth corridors, as well as plans aimed at protecting the Southern Brown Bandicoot. The VNPA is one of a number of conservation groups that provided detailed comment on the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, advising that it does not ensure adequate protection for all species listed under federal national environmental laws. Chief among our concerns are that:

Establishing grassland reserves in Melbourne will help protect vital habitat for the vulnerable Growling Grass Frog. Photo: Ben Cullen

• There was a 42% reduction in prime (category 1) Growling Grass Frog habitat between the draft plan and final approved strategy. • Critically endangered ecological communities Natural Temperate Grassland of the Victorian Volcanic Plain, Grassy Eucalypt Woodland of the Victorian Volcanic Plain and Seasonal Herbaceous Wetlands (freshwater) of the Temperate Lowland Plains are not adequately protected. For example, conservation areas retained within the urban growth area have been reduced by an estimated 35% between the draft plan and the final Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. • The current strategy would see the majority of grasslands and

seasonal herbacious wetlands within Melbourne’s growth areas cleared and ‘offset’ through the protection of 15,000ha of grasslands to the west of Tarneit and south of Melton, called the Western Grassland Reserves. This offset comprises mainly very poor quality grassland, while other patches of high-quality grassland and key wetlands will be cleared. An estimated 48% of the proposed grassland reserves do not contain native grasslands and will need extensive restoration, if this is at all achievable.

MORE INFO You can download our submission from submissions.vnpa.org.au

Metro plan commits to Western Grasslands T he release of Plan Melbourne, a promise by the Napthine Government to drive economic prosperity while protecting our environment, offers a glimmer of hope for our remnant grasslands. Included in the plan is a firm commitment to ‘implement and refine’ the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for Melbourne’s growth corridors, making the strategy one of www.vnpa.org.au

the only detailed documents guiding conservation in the Melbourne area. Plan Melbourne shows the ‘Western Grasslands Reserves’ on various maps, although only 1000ha has been bought by the government so far. It is now critical we ensure as much as possible of the high conservation value grasslands and other habitats surrounding Melbourne are protected.

We need to make sure the government holds firm to its commitment to Western Grassland Reserves, that they are properly managed, restored, and ultimately form part of Victoria’s national parks and conservation estate. Download the strategy from planmelbourne.vic.gov.au – submissions close Friday 6 December.

Nature’s Voice | No 18 | October-November 2013 – 5


Plans for a resort and conference centre at Hanging Rock have sparked community outrage.

Photo: flickr.com/photos/fernando

It’s no picnic at Hanging Rock

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100-room conference centre and resort planned for Victoria’s iconic Hanging Rock faces strong community opposition. The unusual volcanic formation of Hanging Rock, between Woodend and Romsey, is not a ‘park’ as such but a Crown (public) land reserve managed by the Macedon Ranges Shire Council, plus an adjoining piece of freehold land owned by the council. It has long been a popular spot for picnics and walks, and a place where children can enjoy scrambling on the rocky outcrop. It already has carparks, barbecues, picnic shelters and toilets, a cafe, discovery centre, and adjacent racing, cricket and tennis facilities. The conference centre and resort

is being proposed for an area known as East Paddock, former grazing land next to the rock that was acquired by the Macedon Ranges Shire Council in 1992. Places for yoga and meditation classes on top of the rock itself are also proposed. But in the month since the council approved the development strategy for the site without going through community consultation, a petition opposing the developments has attracted 4500 signatures, and a protest meeting was held at Hanging Rock on 13 October. Members of the Hanging Rock Action Group say the council has bypassed community consultation and fear the 5.8 hectare development will destroy an important wildlife corridor.

Tootgarook Swamp guidelines

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he Save Tootgarook Swamp group has just released guidelines explaining how new approaches to the wetland’s management can have social, economic and environmental benefits for those on the Nepean Peninsula. More than 240 indigenous plant species have been recorded at Tootgarook Swamp, the largest natural freshwater marsh in the Melbourne region.

The wetlands are also home to the nationally threatened Australasian Bittern and internationally significant birds including the Eastern Great Egret, Latham’s Snipe and the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Feedback and suggestions on the new guidelines are welcome. Email contact@savetootgarookswamp.org or visit the website for a copy – savetootgarookswamp.org

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They say low-key development is part of the reason Hanging Rock is the shire’s most popular tourist attraction. From the VNPA’s perspective there are two issues that should be considered. The State Government needs to take an active role to ensure that council proposals are transparent and appropriate, and involve proper consultation, especially if the proposal is on their own land. Secondly, an iconic publicly-owned place such as Hanging Rock should have appropriate levels of legislative protection to ensure that it is properly managed for the future.

MORE INFO You can sign the petition at communityrun.org

In memoriam

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e regret the recent deaths of long-time VNPA members and regular donors Dora Lee (Edithvale) and Elisabeth Stephens (Kew), Arthur Smith (Dromana), Dorothy Wood (Camberwell), and Honorary Life Member Thelma McManis (Camberwell), an office volunteer when Doug Humann was director. We remember their support and contributions with gratitude. Victorian National Parks Association


A parting gift comes to life in Victoria’s Nardoo Hills A

n open day will be held at the Barnett Block in Victoria’s Nardoo Hills (near Wedderburn) on Saturday, 26 October from 10.30am to 2pm, and you are invited to come along to experience this beautiful property. Trust for Nature and Bush Heritage Australia recently bought this new conservation property with gifts left by John and Jenny Barnett, who died tragically in the 2009 bushfires. Jenny was a much-valued and longserving VNPA staff member, and fought

many conservation battles for our organisation. The property contains 190 hectares of grassy woodland and is dissected by a creek, lined with mature gums. The Barnett Block provides woodland habitat for the nationally endangered Swift Parrot and declining woodland birds such as the Hooded Robin, Brown Treecreeper and Painted Buttonquail. For directions on how to get to the open day see the upcoming events section at trustfornature.org.au

Packed house turns out for VNPA AGM I

t was a packed house for our Annual General Meeting on October 8, with 100 people turning up. A new council was confirmed with Russell Costello continuing as President. New council members are Euan Moore (Vice President), Gary Allan (Treasurer), Charles Street (Secretary), Libby Smith, Andrew Dodd, Russell Bowey, Deb Henry, Kyle Matheson, Ann Birrell, Heather Macauley and Michael Feller. Our Bushwalking and Activities Group also held their AGM, and confirmed the existing committee for

the coming year with Russell Bowey as Convenor. Afterwards speaker Lachie McBurney from the Australian National University talked about the plight of the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, Victoria’s faunal emblem. He explained how tree hollows in the Mountain Ash forests of the Victorian Central Highlands (around Marysville and Healesville) are critical to the survival of the possum. Hollows take many years to develop and have been severely depleted by logging and bushfires.

The VNPA, in conjunction with scientists and other environment groups, is calling for protection of large areas of these special forests to allow time for tree hollows to develop for key species such as Leadbeater’s Possum. We are working on building a ‘green edge’ for Melbourne that would ensure the Central Highland Forests, Wombat State Forest and Western Grasslands are protected under the National Parks Act. Visit greenedge.vnpa.org.au for details.

✓ Yes! I want to support the VNPA with a tax deductible gift. I would like to make a regular financial contribution to provide VNPA with secure funding for critically important conservation work. I’d like to give: $50 per month $20 per month $............. a month Regular financial contributions are managed by credit card or direct debit only, with debit made on the 28th of each month. You will receive a tax receipt at the end of each financial year, and can stop or change your donations at any time. One-off Donation - I’d like to give a one-off tax-deductible donation of $................

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Bank/Branch (BSB#) ........................... Account number ................................................................ Account holder(s) name ........................................................ Signature .......................................... over $2 are tax-deductible. www.vnpa.org.au Nature’s Voice Donations | No 18 | October-November 2013 – 7 2/13 Please post or fax with payment to VNPA, Level 3, 60 Leicester St, Carlton 3053 OR you phone us on 03 9347 5188, fax 03 9347 5199.


OUT AND ABOUT Bushwalking and Activities Bushwalking So many activities to choose from, walks, overnight hikes, bike rides, canoeing and easy-going ambles. Time to enjoy the weather and spring flowers! November 16: Walk Talk & Gawk – Sunset & Moonrise at Wurundjeri Spur Explore the Yarra and parklands around Fairfield and Kew, watch the full moon rise and the sun set from Wurundjeri Spur lookout. Public transport encouraged. Limit 15 – 8km N Melb. Grade: easy, 5km. Phone 9347 5188 to book a spot. November 29: BWAG End of Year Dinner Celebrate another great year and catch up with friends for Christmas dinner at the Flying Duck in Prahran. Join the famous Christmas VNPA Quiz. Starts 6.30pm. RSVP by emailing vnpa@vnpa.org.au or phone us on 9347 5188 by Nov 25. Limit 60. December 1: Point Addis Walk The Point Addis walk offers beautiful coastline cliffs and maybe a chance to swim! Limit 16 – 110km SW Melb.

December 14-15 (w/e): Canoeing – Murray River & Barmah Lake (EC) Canoeing the River Murray and Barmah Lake. Overnight camp. Canoe hire arranged. Limit 12 – 200km N Melb. Grade: medium, 60km. To book: vnpa@vnpa.org.au / 9347 5188. December 14: Easy-going Amble – Darebin Parklands An easy jaunt through the parklands. Starts 10am. Limit 20.

Grade: easy/medium 12km. Email us at vnpa@vnpa.org.au or phone 9347 5188 to book.

Grade: easy, 5km. To book: vnpa@vnpa.org.au / 9347 5188.

December 7-8 (w/e): Wilsons Prom Overnight Hike to Sealers Cove (EC)

Burnt Stable Spring is shown on some old maps within the Wombat State Forest. Limit 20 – 100km NW Melb.

A classic early summer overnight hike to the gorgeous beach and bush at Sealers Cove. Limit 8 – 250km SE Melb. Grade: medium, 20km. To book: email vnpa@vnpa.org.au / phone 9347 5188.

If undelivered – return to Victorian National Parks Association Level 3, 60 Leicester Street, Carlton 3053

December 19: Burnt Stable Spring (EC)

Grade: medium, 20km. To book: vnpa@vnpa.org.au / 9347 5188. December 21-22 (w/e): Bike Ride – Ballarat Skipton Rail Trail (EC)

This rail trail passes through an old gold mining area. Overnight stay in Skipton. Limit 12 – 110km W Melb. Grade: medium, 105km. To book: vnpa@vnpa.org.au / 9347 5188.

Excursions November 30: Mt Alexander Short walks and stunning views at Mt Alexander, Woodend and surrounds. Leader: Glenn King. To book: vnpa@vnpa.org.au / or phone 9347 5188.

For your diary Nov 23-Dec 8: Great Victorian Fish Count Help monitor Victoria’s marine life as part of VNPA’s annual Great Victorian Fish Count. Visit fishcount.vnpa.org. au to get involved or contact Simon Branigan at simonb@vnpa.org.au or phone 03 9347 5188.

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