Page 1

60

VNPA

th

Anniversary

Celebrating

10 years

of marine national parks

Marine conservation Commonwealth environmental laws Valuing our national parks Logging in red gum parks Weaker native vegetation rules? Prospecting in parks Central Victorian Biolinks

DECEMBER 2012 No 251


Features... page 14

Photo: David Fletcher

Read new VNPA President Russell Costello’s entertaining account of the 15th annual Hindmarsh Project planting weekend, in which many VNPA members and supporters took part.

page 26

PAr k watc h • decemb er 2012 No 251

Photo: Melanie Wright

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Sally White of the Friends of Point Addis (near Anglesea) sheds light on the many activities of the group.


Be part of nature PRESIDENT Russell Costello DIRECTOR Matt Ruchel

Contents

Level 3, 60 Leicester Street Carlton, VIC 3053 ABN 34 217 717 593 Telephone: (03) 9347 5188 Facsimile: (03) 9347 5199 E-mail: vnpa@vnpa.org.au Web: www.vnpa.org.au

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From the President

4

From the Editor

5

Defend the Commonwealth’s environmental laws!

6-7

Getting national parks on national balance sheets

8-9

Logging by stealth in Murray River national parks

VNPA’S VISION We share a vision of Victoria as a place with a diverse, secure and healthy natural environment cared for and appreciated by all.

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The shifting sands of environmental policy

EDITORIAL COMMITTEE Ann Strunks, Matt Ruchel, Philip Ingamells, Michael Howes.

10-11

State Government set to weaken native vegetation regulations

ADVERTISING Ann Strunks, anns@vnpa.org.au

12-13

Feral horses under the spotlight – again

13

Prospecting in Wonderland

14-15

From Little Deserts big things grow: Project Hindmarsh 2012

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A life-changing walk

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BWAG leader profile: Jessica Noske-Turner

18-19

Victoria’s marine protection story

GETTING INVOLVED IN VNPA Everyone can help in the conservation of Victoria’s wild and beautiful places. You can: • • • •

make a donation become a regular giver or member volunteer. You’ll be welcome in the office, on a campaign or in a park leave a bequest to VNPA in your will.

PUBLISHING POLICY All advertisements should be compatible with VNPA policies. Publication of an advertisement does not imply endorsement by the VNPA Inc. of the advertised product or service. The VNPA reserves the right to refuse any advertisement at any time. Park Watch may be quoted without permission provided that acknowledgement is made. The opinions of contributors are not necessarily those of the VNPA Inc. GUIDELINES FOR CONTRIBUTORS You’re always welcome to contact the editor to discuss ideas for articles. Phone the VNPA or email michaelh@vnpa.org.au. Articles may be submitted by email, on disk or as hard copy. Include your contact details and brief biographical information. Photos, maps and drawings are needed too. Digital photos should be 300dpi and around 8cm by 12cm. COPY DEADLINE for March 2013 Park Watch is 31 January 2013. DESIGN Mary Ferlin PRINTING Adams Print FRONT COVER Male Weedy Seadragon off Flinders Pier. See page 22 for details. Photo courtesy Richard Wylie. Park Watch ISSN 1324-4361

20 VNPA calls for marine planning framework 21

Happy 10th birthday, Reef Watch!

22

Wild Seas Marine Symposium

22

World’s largest network of marine reserves established

22 Our cover photo 23

Lord Howe Island: a conservationist’s paradise

24-25

‘Sealing the loop’: Zoos Victoria works to protect marine species

26-27

Friends of marine national park come in to land

28-29

Organ Pipes National Park 40 years on

30-31

Building resilience: Central Victorian Biolinks

32-33

Peaks and valleys: the VNPA in the 1970s and 1980s

34-35

Different days, different ways

36-37

Discover Cobboboonee National Park

37

Vale Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis

PAr k watc h • decemb Decemb er 2012 No 251

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Photo courtesy Russell Costello

He left us with a Council of very talented and dedicated people.

From the President It’s a privilege to be President of such a well respected organisation in this, the 60th anniversary of its foundation. Although I have met many VNPA members and supporters at the AGM and at other functions, let me introduce myself. I joined the VNPA in the late 1980s while working in the National Parks Division of the Deptartment of Conservation, Forests and Lands, and joined the Council more recently as vice-President and convenor of the Conservation and Campaigns Committee. My background is with a number of the agencies that now make up the Departments of Sustainability and Environment, and Primary Industries.

We will need all the talent we can get because the times ahead are tough. I wish I could start on a note of optimism but it is not to be. As I said at the AGM, the VNPA has been like a star player on the conservation team, playing up forward for most of our 60 years, either scoring goals or major goal assists. Now we are deep in defence. If we are to hold on to what we have gained, it will take a supreme team effort. New threats like global warming are looming, and the State political will has turned against the environment on so many fronts. The new player opponents ‘Staff Cuts’ and ‘Slash Budgets’ have all but neutralised some of our key State teammates. One of our former best and fairest players, ‘State Minister for Environment’ seems to be on the bench crippled. Two of the most effective opposing players are ‘Policy Change’ and the longstanding pro ‘Development at Any Cost’. In the most recent match, the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, disregarded the recommendations of his planning panel to approve almost all the randomly located new tourist development sites scattered along the coast between Peterborough and Cape Otway. Some are in high bushfire risk areas equivalent to Marysville.

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The State is also intent on watering down its native vegetation clearing controls (see p.10-11). For example, there will be no need for developers proposing small-scale clearing to avoid, or at least minimise, non-essential clearing. And the assessment of the value of the vegetation will use a statewide on-line map instead of on-site information. It’s a bit like using Google Earth to assess the value of a suburban garden. And on top of all that, the GFC has hurt many of our financial supporters and even impacted the grant schemes, both of which we rely on to drive our programs. But we have to meet all these challenges NOW. We have never needed your help more. Write to your local members and the ministers. Please see what you can do to support our campaign fund raising. Our new regular giving program will help to give us a more reliable income. But just as importantly remember that we, and those who went before us, have achieved a magnificent legacy of protecting nature. Let’s make sure we get out there and enjoy it. • PW Russell Costello VNPA President

From the Editor

Although my early years in the former Soil Conservation Authority are a sentimental favourite, my later stints with the Land Conservation Council, the National Parks Division, and with native vegetation policy and managing Victoria’s clearing controls, are perhaps more relevant.

Welcome to December Park Watch! Many thanks to all our contributors, and we’re thrilled to have Richard Wylie’s amazing seadragon photo on the cover. You too can be a contributor, and even win a free book in the process! See page 38. Photo: mary ferlin

I must pass on my thanks to Fred Gerardson, our immediate past President, for leaving the Council in such a healthy state. Fred worked extremely effectively to reinvigorate the Council, its committees and our business code, to better guide and support the efforts of our fantastic staff.

You’ve got to ask, what’s the point of going to the expense and bother of a planning panel, with the charade of community input, if as Minister you intended from the start to back the developers?

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, and I echo our President’s words: let’s make sure we enjoy nature (and encourage others to do so) as well as fighting to protect it. • PW Michael Howes


Defend the Commonwealth’s environmental laws! Photo: Paul Sinclair

The proposed hand-back of national environmental laws to state and territory governments (see Park Watch June 2012) is under further attack. VNPA Executive Director Matt Ruchel reports. National laws are essential to protect our national parks and native species. Tidal River, Wilsons Promontory NP.

The influential Wentworth Group of concerned scientists, which includes some of Australia’s big names in environmental policy and action, has released a statement on the proposed hand-back of environmental powers from the Commonwealth to the states, which was initiated in September by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). See www.wentworthgroup.org for details. The Group’s statement says: “There is no justification for handing Commonwealth approval powers to the states. It puts at risk decades of national environmental reform.” The Group gives some suggestions for an alternative suite of reforms, drawing on the recommendations of Dr Allan Hawke’s 2009 independent review of Australia’s national environment laws (the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act). It argues that these Hawke reforms, many rejected at the time by the Rudd/ Gillard Government, would help deliver COAG’s dual goals to ‘reduce regulatory burden and duplication for business’ and at the same time ‘deliver better environmental outcomes’ for Australia. In other news, the Senate, following a motion from Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters, has issued terms of reference for a Senate inquiry into the effectiveness of threatened species protection in Australia. The Environment and Communications

References Committee will report in 2013 and there will be opportunities for public submissions. The Commonwealth has been consulting with states and territories on how the hand-over might work, and is believed to have produced a series of standards which the states would have to follow. Many states would need to update their legislation to make it consistent with national environmental laws. This appears to have triggered at least two conservative states, Western Australia and Queensland, to consider such an update. The Barnett Government has announced that it plans to replace WA’s 60-year-old conservation act with legislation to protect endangered species and habitats in alignment with federal laws, to avoid duplication and streamline development approvals. The Baillieu Government has been a strong advocate of the hand-back, but as it has no real policies on the environment, and has thumbed its nose at federal law on issues like alpine cattle grazing, it’s difficult to understand how it could reconcile its approach. The Victorian government's review of environmental impace assessment laws include elements that appear to align with national laws. The Victorian Government’s poor performance on environmental regulation has been further

demonstrated by the Victorian AuditorGeneral. In a report on the ‘Effectiveness of Compliance Activities: Department of Primary Industries and Sustainability & Environment’, tabled in Parliament in October, the Auditor-General concluded that “DSE deficiencies are substantial and require a concerted effort to address them….These include the lack of accountability, oversight and risk-based compliance planning …” Everyone working for the environment has long known this. But instead of strengthening its environmental laws and enforcement approaches, the Victorian Government has put up a smokescreen. It’s all too hard, they argue. We just have to water the rules down so they don’t have to be enforced. • pw

Member action Now is the time to stop these backward steps! Write, email, ring or visit your local federal MPs, particularly if they are members of the Gillard Government, and let them know you oppose the hand-back of national environmental laws to the states. Examples of letters, and details of local members, are on the VNPA website.

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Getting national parks on national balance sheets

Photo: Phillip Island Nature Parks

Parks are major tourism businesses.

National parks are among Australia’s and New Zealand’s most precious assets, But in failing to account for them properly we leave them struggling. It’s time for a rethink, says Andrew Campbell.

Australia’s and New Zealand’s 23,000 parks occupy about 150 million hectares, or 18 per cent of their combined total area. Almost 10,000 terrestrial protected areas covering 103.3 million hectares (13.4 per cent of Australia) are managed primarily by State, Territory, national or Indigenous agencies; the remainder are mainly urban parks and reserves managed by local government. The parks contain our best water catchments and carbon sinks and our most precious natural heritage, and they are vitally important for our well-being. In 2008-09, the parks hosted 280 million visitors, making park agencies major tourism businesses. The parks estate is a major element of our natural capital, delivering services to our societies worth many billions to us every year. It is a keystone in our green infrastructure, and a fundamental aspect of our cultural heritage, our national identity — of who we are. The assets in the parks estate are literally irreplaceable and their replacement cost in an accounting sense is incalculable.

An undervalued asset One would expect, then, that the parks estate would deserve special mention in our national accounts, and on our longterm national balance sheets. But park budgets are being tightened, capital investment is constrained, and there are cuts to park staff and park maintenance.

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Despite, or perhaps in part because of, these pressures, there have been notable innovations in the evolution of the reserves system over recent years, including joint management arrangements with traditional owners, the creation of Indigenous Protected Areas, significant expansion of Marine Protected Areas, and rapid growth in the private nature conservation estate funded by non-government organisations like Bush Heritage. Major problems with weeds, feral animals and changing fire regimes are affecting the protected areas network. And despite the developments above, current management responses seem manifestly inadequate. In the main, park agencies are in survival mode. There are few instances where conservation managers have had the luxury of carefully examining the best available science and practical experience, working out the options, implementing them professionally and systematically with sufficient resources over a sustained period, then taking the time to analyse and learn lessons, and share the experiences widely.

From survival mode to a new vision As a thought experiment, what if an enlightened top-100 corporation, with a fine CEO working to a skilled, strategic and diverse board of directors, was charged with the long-term custodianship and management of the parks estate in the national interest? How would such a corporation manage an asset portfolio consisting of the largest

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land holdings, the biggest carbon stores, enormous fresh water yields, the biggest tourism enterprise, significant Indigenous employment and training opportunities, and the most precious natural land and seascapes in the region? My guess is that they would: • develop a long-range strategic plan for their portfolio • map all the services provided by parks and reserves, and identify customers and potential income streams for each of them • identify the key stakeholders with an interest in the long-term future of the portfolio, and develop agreement and commitment of resources to implement the long-term strategy • apply a multi-criteria optimisation framework to manage assets such that the critical values of each park are sustained or improved through time • adopt clear performance measures and targets (social, economic and environmental) across the whole portfolio, and track progress against them • manage the portfolio adaptively from a comprehensive evidence base • reach out to other sectors to develop long-term partnerships and strategic alliances • seek to develop significant revenue streams outside the traditional realms of government budgets and visitor charges • exploit the parks’ massive carbon stocks as a strategic buffer in the land sector.


crucial services to society, lacks comparable accounting methodologies to value natural assets and underpin adequate investment in repairs and maintenance.

Rather, I believe we should be recognising far more public goods from our conservation reserves, and investing more in them in the long-term public interest.

This blind spot affects funding models such that park and reserve funding is generally on an historical basis. Occasional cash injections are usually for capital improvements rather than on-going operating funds.

We could be experimenting with different management models for protected areas and parks in which governments could define public-good objectives and performance measures, and let NGOs, corporates, Indigenous ranger groups and local communities compete to deliver them.

Access to substantial capital would enable much more strategic investment in the parks estate. The park system should form the scaffolding of a new approach to biodiversity conservation at a landscape scale across all land tenures, designed to improve landscape resilience.

It seems odd that, at a time when massive revenues are being generated from the exploitation of our natural resources, our most treasured natural places are struggling for funding to clean toilets, empty rubbish bins and maintain walking tracks, let alone undertake sophisticated management programs for weeds, feral animals and fire.

This will be crucial in the face of the interacting pressures of:

Governments love announcing new reserves, but allocating the recurrent operational funding necessary to manage them properly is far less politically sexy.

Time for a new approach to investment and accounting The park system is a strategic national asset. It represents green infrastructure that is essential for our quality of life in the richest sense. With smart thinking and greater collaboration by park agencies, and development of clever policies that reward long-range investment in green infrastructure on the part of superannuation funds, philanthropists, resources companies and other resource-using corporations, it should be possible to generate substantial revenue streams into parks that are not contingent on annual municipal, state or federal budget processes. It is standard accounting practice to value, depreciate, and work out repairs and maintenance budgets for built assets. But natural capital, which provides

• climate change and amplified climate variability • more frequent and intense extreme weather events and the associated fires and floods • more damaging pest, weed and disease outbreaks • land-use pressures arising from population growth, urban expansion, and concerns about energy security, water security, and food security.

If our parks network did not exist, we would have to invent it This extraordinary network of special places is a priceless national asset that should occupy hallowed ground on our national balance sheets. But it is being squeezed inexorably between increasing demands and usage, and tightening resources.

parks agencies, and in the knowledge and monitoring systems to underpin more enlightened policy. In particular, we will need to invest in retraining existing staff (from rangers to senior executives), and also in redefining the exciting professional roles necessary to manage national conservation estates strategically for the multiple value streams that society demands of them. This is an area in which Australia should take a lead, as the worldwide demand for skills and knowledge in managing protected areas is significant and growing. With a strategic, long-term collaborative approach informed by a comprehensive long-term evidence base, we have an opportunity to recognise the great parks of Australia and NZ appropriately in our national accounts, and to put the financing of the reserves system on a much more vibrant and sustainable footing. This would be a terrific legacy for our children and their grandchildren. • pw

We must break those shackles by re-conceptualising parks for the 21st century, adopting a sensible accounting framework for natural assets, broadening and deepening the revenue base, and developing new ways for people, firms and industries to connect with protected areas and parks. This will require strategic investment in the parks network itself, in the people managing protected areas and

Photo: CSIRO

Many of these strategies are already being deployed by different agencies to differing degrees. I am not advocating wholesale privatisation or corporatisation of the protected area estate, or of urban parks networks. I’m as keen on camping freely in the bush as the next person.

Photo: Marion Manifold

Australia’s parks are threatened by intense weather events (top: high seas at Port Campbell) and fires.

Andrew Campbell is Director of the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL) at Charles Darwin University, and chairs the board of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN). RIEL staff work on research partnerships with parks agencies; TERN provides data to underpin monitoring and research. The above is a slightly edited version of Andrew’s original article which appeared in online magazine The Conversation, 13 July 2012. See www.theconversation.edu.au

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Logging by stealth The National Parks Associations of Victoria and NSW are deeply concerned at moves to commence logging in red gum forests within Barmah NP in Victoria and the Millewa Group of the Murray Valley NP in NSW. VNPA Red Gum & River Rescue Project Coordinator Nick Roberts reports.

The NSW and Victorian state governments describe this logging as a cross-border ‘adaptive management trial’ to determine if forest health can be improved by ‘ecological thinning’ of drought-stressed River Red Gum trees.

The VNPA understands that no approval has been sought from the Commonwealth under national environmental laws, and that NSW has issued tenders for contractors to be appointed for this work, with Victoria soon to follow suit. The ‘ecological thinning’ in NSW will involve the use of heavy machinery at 24 coupes in a national park. Each coupe will be 9 ha in size and more like a commercial logging operation than an ecological restoration program. The total area to be logged in NSW is 216 ha, with an area of similar size likely to be designated in Victoria. 8

Photos: Nick Roberts

These iconic red gum forests were established as national parks under Victorian and NSW law in 2010. BarmahMillewa is one of the key Ramsar wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin.

The VNPA believes that this will have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance, including the ecological character of a RAMSAR site, and on EPBC listed species such as the Superb Parrot. The VNPA and NSW NPA have written to federal Environment Minister Tony Burke asking him to take action under federal law.

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Our concerns about the trial and its impacts include: • The initial trial design was to test if thinning River Red Gum trees would help in alleviating drought stress following exceptionally dry years. But much of the Barmah and Millewa national parks have been inundated over the past 18 months. The conditions that the trial was designed to test have changed.


Left: Research says ‘ecological thinning’ is an ineffective approach to improving red gum health. Flooding is the key factor, and this has happened in recent years.

• There is no strong scientific evidence suggesting that such thinning would improve tree or ecosystem health. In fact, recent Monash University studies found such thinning to be an ineffective approach to improving tree health. • The Victorian Environment Minster has stated that the first phase of the trial will be based on ‘clearly defined, transparent and scientifically supported objectives’. We have repeatedly requested these objectives from the Minister and DSE, without success. We also understand that Parks Victoria has been sidelined in the design and planning for the proposal. • We have received concerns from a number of scientists regarding the methodology and rationale for the proposed scientific trial. • The move to permit thinning is inconsistent with public commitments made by the Victorian government. In 2011, Victorian Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said ‘ecological thinning would be restricted to existing logging areas’. All timber harvesting licences were cancelled for logging in Barmah in 2010. • The timber industry has received a $27.8 million business exit assistance package as part of the $97 million budget for the establishment of the red gum parks, which has enabled the establishment of other businesses. This money would be wasted if the timber industry were to re-establish. • We have suggested to the two governments that any trials be restricted to existing state forests, such as those in the Barmah and Gunbower areas. There are over 12,000 hectares of suitable red gum state forest in Victoria, and over 20,000 ha in NSW. We now hope that Tony Burke takes action to intervene to protect the sanctity of the Barmah and Murray Valley national parks from a deeply flawed proposal. We believe that this case also further illustrates the need for strengthened federal protection of national parks under the federal EPBC Act. • pw

The shifting sands of environmental policy Two years after the election, the Victorian Government has finally released an environmental policy of sorts. But it has many gaps and some dangerous proposals, says VNPA Executive Director Matt Ruchel. The Baillieu Government’s ‘Environmental Partnerships’ policy, released recently without any media coverage, packages up many of the routine activities of government departments and agencies under eight priority areas. For a government which claimed to reject spin, the departmental spin doctors have been working hard to massage the language and dress up some of the initiatives. Many of the priorities are vague and could be interpreted either positively or negatively. But some more dangerous commitments are hidden in the detail of the text. Some decoding is required. Under the heading ‘Increasing resilience and connectivity across the landscape’, the actions listed include support for community-driven initiatives and science, plus the alarming statement ‘Develop a roadmap to more effectively and efficiently manage threatened species, including streamlining the administration of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988’. The FFG Act has largely been ignored by successive governments and is failing to protect our threatened species. It’s hard to see what a ‘streamlined’ version would look like, and how it would do anything except take us backwards. In the policy, the Baillieu Government restates its commitment to opening up parks for private sector tourism investment. The strategy commits to developing new guidelines to support “…appropriate environmentally sensitive private sector tourism investment in national parks”. It also notes that “While we recognise that [tourism] services are often best provided on adjacent private land or in nearby towns, we will enable private investment [in parks] that is carefully considered…” Translation: we know it’s bad policy but we’re going to do it anyway. Some of the other sleepers include the commitment for an action plan for the management of Victoria’s forests, parks and other natural areas and “[ensuring

that] management addresses the most important issues ….by drawing together land planning processes”. This sounds fairly benign, but as we have highlighted previously it is about abolishing dedicated park management plans and replacing them with something called the ‘Integrated Public Land Management Framework’ which essentially ignores the special status of national parks and dumbs down park planning. The document further commits to “deliver a scaled up planned burning program”, even though a recent report from the Bushfires Royal Commission Monitor questions the effectiveness of the current 5% burning program, recommending changes to it, and the government has said that it will ‘consider the recommendation’. Yet just a few weeks later it released a policy again committing to the 5% target. Under priority 2 (“Manage our valuable parks, forests and other public land for the benefit of the community”) the policy fails to mention the proposed opening of more parks for prospecting and fossicking, currently subject to a VEAC inquiry (see page 13). Likewise the innocuous sounding “foster cross-border partnerships with NSW to deliver coordinated land management for contiguous areas of forest and park”, which we read as the policy basis for ‘scientific logging’ in the red gum national parks (see opposite page). Perhaps most telling is what is not mentioned in the policy. There are pages of ‘achievements so far’, which include mostly routine actions of government departments, repackaged. But the policy fails to mention cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park, opening up more parks for fossicking and prospecting, or the severe staff and budget cuts to DSE, Fisheries and Parks Victoria. • pw

Handy spin decoder Policy

Translation

Manage our valuable parks, forests and other public land for the benefit of the community.

Open up parks to inappropriate tourism development or political allies such as the Mountain Cattlemen or fossickers and prospectors.

Drive Best Practice Environmental Regulation and Innovative Market Approaches.

Water down regulation, streamline it to within an inch of its life. See article on reform of native vegetation rules, page 10.

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This article is a summary by Yasmin Kelsall and Matt Ruchel of the VNPA submission to the State Government’s consultation paper Review of Victoria’s native vegetation permitted clearing regulations. Victoria, the most cleared state in Australia, has a large number of rare and threatened native species and habitat types. Native vegetation not only provides habitat for our wonderful native plants and animals, but also helps control erosion and salinity and keep our air and water clean, as well as being an essential part of the look and feel of our countryside, so important to both locals and visitors. These services are worth millions of dollars to the community annually, but they have not been assessed in the context of costs versus benefits. The review has only really looked at Victoria’s native vegetation clearing regulations in terms of costs to business and the economy, not costs to the environment. Property developers and farmers have long complained that native vegetation clearing is over-regulated and costly, but without providing substantive evidence. The government appears to have reacted to this, and after 12 months of speculation and rumour the Baillieu Government has finally released a consultation paper on this complex topic. Environment Minister Ryan Smith says the review aims to reduce red tape,

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improve government transparency, give increased certainty to landholders and achieve stronger environmental outcomes.

Overall, the changes proposed will be a significant watering down of regulations that aim to protect native vegetation.

But on closer examination it appears the review is premised less on native vegetation as an integral part of an ecological system, and far more on native vegetation as a commodity and a barrier to development.

Detail lacking

Offsetting It is troubling that regulations are swinging away from policies for avoiding clearing towards policies for allowing clearing, and offsetting. (‘Offsetting’ requires anyone clearing native vegetation to ‘make up’ for the environmental damage caused by paying money to secure an equivalent site for conservation, or undertaking restoration or management works.) It is equally worrying to see that the policy is geared towards a ‘hands-off ’ approach to environmental governance; put bluntly, it appears that it is designed for a diminished public service and cost savings for business. While there is plenty of ‘streamlining’, there is no evidence to support the government’s assertion that the proposed changes will mean ‘…stronger environmental outcomes’.

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The consultation paper is high-level and lacks detail on many of the key issues. It flags four priority reforms and five supporting reforms, but there are some significant gaps. It also fails to consider some of the reforms recommended by previous reviews, such as the establishment of an independent native vegetation regulator. Currently 1200 to 2000 permits per year are issued for clearing native vegetation across Victoria. There are probably larger amounts of illegal clearing, but this is an area which is not effectively monitored. Under the current system, clearing applications are in most cases given approval (by local councils) and landholders are required to pay to provide equivalent vegetation offsets within the state as a form of habitat compensation. The key goal of the current system is to achieve a ‘net gain’ in the extent and quality of native vegetation. It is proposed to change this, for vegetation on private land, to ‘no net loss’.

Photo: Andrew Booth

State Government set to weaken native vegetation regulations


Left: Urbanisation is swallowing up large areas of native vegetation, particularly grassland. Strong regulations and procedures are vital to protect as much of it as possible.

As well, the current system also promotes a three-step approach: initially to avoid clearing, secondly to minimise any clearing that is unavoidable, and finally, if clearing cannot be avoided or minimised, to offset the impacts of the clearing as a last resort. The new system focuses largely on offsets for the bulk of applications to remove native vegetation.

Small savings The total costs of this system are estimated as $41 million per year, 60% of which is the substantive costs of providing offsets, which it is not proposed to reduce. Administrative costs are around $10 million, and there is some $5 million in apparent delay costs. In the current round of consultations there is no detail on whether the government proposes to change costs associated with offsets. Much of the focus of the new regulations is on administrative savings. Background documents for the review show that the current cost to the Victoria community of the administration of native vegetation permits system is minuscule - around $3.7 million per annum statewide, or, if averaged across the population, around 66 cents per person per year (about 1 cent per week per Victorian resident).

Under the new plan, total costs for business and landholders will be reduced by between $2.2 and $3.6 million per annum, total administration costs per annum going down from $3.7 million to under $1 million ($812,678). Such savings will be made by removing the need for on-site assessment of smaller areas of apparently lower-value native vegetation, replacing this with across-the-counter permits. This will reduce the requirement for on-site assessment (usually done by ecological consultants) for 80-90% of applications. This is a small cost saving in statewide dollar terms, and it is not worth the greater risk of allowing more and easier clearing of native vegetation, which has so many benefits and provides so many services to the community (though these are largely ignored by the government ‘bean counters’).

inform the decisions on which areas will be assessed and/or cleared, these are not suitable for use at a fine (property-level) scale. Even small sites of native vegetation can have special plants or animals and can be home to threatened species or a magical old tree. How will anyone know that these are present if nobody is required to inspect the site before an application to clear it is approved? Overall, the proposed new regulations are a watering-down of the existing regulations, and will make land clearing easier. The State Government is largely walking away from being an active regulator to acting as a tax collector. The ‘fee-for-clearing’ approach is a significant departure from the existing three-step approach of avoiding, minimising and (where necessary) offsetting clearing, and is a serious backward step for the environment. • pw

On-site assessments reduced

Take action:

On-site assessments for clearing larger areas or rarer vegetation types may still continue, but most small applications will not require assessment. Instead an offset fee will be charged with an overthe-counter permit.

Write to your local state MP and environment minister Ryan Smith asking them to retain strong native vegetation rules. Use our briefing paper and submission to make key points in your letter. These documents and further details can be found at: www.vnpa.org.au/ page/nature-conservation/biodiversity/ native-vegetation

While the government proposes to use state-of-the-art computer models to help

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Photo: Helena Lindorff

Revegetation projects like Grow West (pictured) and Hindmarsh are fantastic, but protecting existing native vegetation is just as important, or more so.


Feral horses under the spotlight – again

Help the Alps volunteer weekend 2013 23-25 February Calling all volunteers for willow removal and other rehabilitation tasks in the Alpine NP! Places are available for 40 people to spend a long weekend on the Bogong High Plains, working on ecological recovery under the guidance of Parks Victoria. Participants should arrive at Falls Creek on the evening of Friday 22 February. We work through the weekend and on the Monday morning, then make our way home on Monday afternoon. Car pooling can be arranged. Note that a moderate level of fitness is required.

Photo: James Camac

Apply now by emailing vnpa@vnpa.org.au with your name and contact information and mentioning ‘Alps Weekend’, or calling (03) 9347 5188. Your place will be confirmed, and more information sent to you, as soon as we have finalised accommodation arrangements.

Feral horses inspect a Parks Victoria ecologist repairing a damaged peaty wetland on the Bogong High Plains.  The work involves carefully re-establishing plants in wet areas damaged by cattle trampling and fire, and mulching to allow regrowth of alpine wetland plants.

VNPA Park Protection Project Officer Phil Ingamells reports on an ongoing threat to Victoria’s high country.

Horses are great animals, but they are domestic stock and belong on a farm or a paddock where they can get good shelter from bad weather. They don’t belong in Victoria’s high country, where they have to suffer through fierce winter weather only to face the possibility of dying in a summer bushfire, as a couple of thousand apparently did in 2003. A 2009 survey of horses across the Victorian and NSW alpine region estimated the population at over 7,500, an increase of 20 per cent annually from the previous post-fire survey of 2003. That yearly increase is continuing, with current estimates 12

Park staff have been able to reduce but not yet remove the small population of horses on the high plains. It will require a massive effort to make serious inroads into the far bigger, and fastgrowing, population in the areas around the Cobberas and Davies Plain in the eastern alps.

of some 6,000 feral horses in the Victorian alpine region alone. Most of those horses are in the remote Cobberas region of the Alpine National Park, near the NSW border, with a much smaller population on the Bogong High Plains. Though park managers are well aware of the range of available solutions, the horse population is still exploding, and the damage they do is growing. Importantly, the main population has to be managed across the national park/state forest boundary in Victoria, and across the NSW border into Kosciuszko National Park.

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But a combination of a lack of funding and a fear of public sensitivities has frozen effective action. Parks Victoria has now set up a community reference group, backed by a scientific advisory group, to try and come up with a management program that is workable and acceptable. This is not the first attempt to sort the problem out – far from it. But we hope it will be the one that comes up with much-needed fair dinkum action. One thing that is not acceptable is ongoing neglect of this problem. It isn’t good for the horses, and it’s very damaging for wetlands and grasslands in the Alpine National Park. • pw


Prospecting in Wonderland VEAC is being instructed to recommend allowing prospecting in more of Victoria’s parks, reports Phil Ingamells. Among the many strange people Alice met in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts was particularly troubling. Her cry of ‘sentence first – verdict afterwards’ was capricious and frighteningly absurd. But it matches, to a degree, the terms the Baillieu Government has set for the latest Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) inquiry.

It has simply asked VEAC to look at which additional parks it should be introduced to, offering nine (Yarra Ranges, Baw Baw, Croajingolong, Errinundra, Lake Eildon, Lind, Mitchell River and the Alpine National Park, and Lerderderg State Park) as the government’s chosen contenders. This group of parks, revealingly, matches the preferred options of the Mining and Prospectors Association in its newsletter earlier this year. And VEAC has been asked to come up with its final ‘recommendations’ by April next year, making it the fastest VEAC inquiry ever. This might be a difficult task, because the Council will have little ready information to go on. Park management plans, for those goldfields box-ironbark parks where prospecting already takes place, called for the monitoring of the impacts of recreational fossicking. But that monitoring hasn’t happened, so VEAC will be short of the evidence necessary for it to make well-informed recommendations.

Photo: David Tatnall

Rather than asking VEAC to look at whether prospecting and fossicking for gold and minerals has a place in national parks at all, the government has already decided that there should be more of it.

Mitchell River National Park contains many pockets of rainforest, such as this dry rainforest at Billy Goat Bend, and other sensitive areas. It would be impossible to monitor or supervise fossicking in such a park, and damage would be inevitable.

VEAC and its predecessors (the Land Conservation Council and the Environmental Assessment Council) have been internationally respected as independent assessors of public land values and management in Victoria since the 1970s.

But in setting the terms of reference for this hasty investigation, the government is taking advantage of that reputation but not respecting the expertise, integrity and independence that earned it. VEAC, the Victorian people and our parks deserve better. • pw

Key to proposed prospecting areas in parks Prospecting 1 Lerderderg State Park 2 Yarra Ranges National Park 3 Lake Eildon National Park 4 Baw Baw National Park 5 Alpine National Park 6 Mitchell River National Park 7 Errinundra National Park 8 Lind National Park 9 Croajingolong National Park Gemstone collecting 10 Kooyoora State Park 11 Great Otway National Park 12 Mornington Peninsula National Park 13 Cape Liptrap Coastal Park

10 5 3

1

11

2

7 4

6

8

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Incoming VNPA President Russell Costello went to the 15th annual Hindmarsh Community Planting weekend in far western Victoria and got right into the swing of things. This is his account.

It was a late Friday afternoon in midAugust when we left the pouring rain behind and pulled into the sunshine of the Little Desert Lodge south of Nhill. From the VNPA office, Matt Ruchel, Andrew Cox, Michael Howes and I were heading for the Project Hindmarsh community planting weekend, along with VNPA members, supporters, families and friends. This amazing project was celebrating its 15th year of linking city to country – introducing volunteers to an incredibly successful landscape reconstruction project. The VNPA is a foundation partner of Project Hindmarsh and the majority of the volunteers for the weekend are VNPA members or supporters. Two of the very large coaches bringing the volunteers from Melbourne had already arrived and the stories of past weekends had begun. Many people took advantage of the dinner put on by the Lodge and then, after a stint at the campfire, retired to their rooms or tents in the fantastic campground to rest before the first day’s work.

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Planters and rows of white treeguards march across the land.

Some also went along to the Lodge’s mini- revegetating a very clayey paddock near the farmhouse, and one planting a large zoo and saw sugar gliders, bandicoots margin around a saline wetland. and birds, including a Malleefowl. Team leaders briefed us on what to do and then we got down to planting and tree-guarding, working steadily. People at the clayey site soon added centimetres to This project began in the mid-1990s, with their height with the very friendly mud. the initial aim of linking the Little Desert to the Big Desert with corridors of native Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith dropped in vegetation though the rolling Wimmera mid-morning and toured each site. He cereal country. All the major links along the wide road reserves were completed in and his family had intended to plant with us for the weekend but things had come the first few years, with some linked-in up. However, he was clearly impressed revegetation areas on private land. with the scale and quality of the project, Now the major focus has shifted to its organisation and the enthusiasm private land. Many significant corridor of the volunteers, and talked to the links and patches have been established organisers about how the Government across private cropland to once-isolated could help. remnants. The revegetated areas and The job done by mid-afternoon, we linked-in patches offer essential resting returned to the Little Desert Lodge habitat for birds and animals using the to a roaring campfire and a fantastic corridor network. barbecue. It was a fun night. There After a cracking breakfast, we headed out were memories, nature talks, live by bus. We had a choice of three sites: entertainment and a heartfelt rendering one creating corridors on red sandy soils of Ol’ Shep by Landcare legend Rob Youl between remnant vegetation patches, one to round out the night. Meanwhile 20,000 native plants were waiting in their tubes for a new home, and 250 volunteers were keen to make it happen.

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Photo: David Fletcher

From Little Deserts big things grow


Nicola with twins Archie and Abby at Hindmarsh.

This map shows Hindmarsh planting sites since 1998, when the VNPA became involved in the project. Note the original planned biolink (light brown) between the Big and Little Deserts, and the wide spread of actual plantings.

celebrating

Pr o je c t H in d m a r s h

This map has been designed for illustrative purposes only. It is not to scale.

Original link between Big and Little Deserts

Roads

2002

Site from planting weekend

Works site, Hindmarsh Landcare Network

Towns

Map courtesy Wimmera Catchment Management Authority

Photo: David Fletcher

For more information on this map and Hindmarsh Landcare Network please visit www.hindmarshlandcare.org.au

Teamwork: Celie and dad Jon fix a treeguard.

Victoria is the most cleared state in Australia – nearly 90% of private land has been cleared of native vegetation since European settlement. Project Hindmarsh is one of Australia’s longest running vegetation restoration projects. Since it began, thousands of volunteers have contributed over 45,500 hours to plant over two million indigenous trees, shrubs and grasses. The VNPA is a proud foundation partner of Project Hindmarsh. Next year we’re extending NatureWatch, our wildlife monitoring program, into Hindmarsh’s revegetated areas.

What’s more, with heavy rain the day before, the organisers expected very high survival rates.

Macy warms up at the campfire at Little Desert Nature Lodge.

So, weary but satisfied, it was back to Little Desert Lodge to pack up and start the long journey home. But not before one last get-together round the campfire and promises that we’d be back next year. • pw

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Photos courtesy David Fletcher

Next morning, after another great breakfast by the fire, we all converged on one last site to complete another two long corridors, each nearly 1km long by 30 metres wide, with eight rows to be planted. We went at it like a well-oiled team and the job was finished by lunchtime. All 20,000 plants in the ground and watered in at four sites.


A life-changing walk

Photo: emily Pinkus

Emily Pinkus of WA tells how a long-distance walk overcame her fear and changed her life.

Emily hiking among WA wildflowers.

On 13 October 2008 my partner and I set out to walk ‘End to End’ on the Bibbulmun Track (WA). We were no athletes when we started in Kalamunda, but two months and 960 km later we arrived in Albany feeling fitter, healthier, happier and sweatier. The first week was TOUGH, physically and mentally. I spent many hours counting my steps. One count for every four steps: count to 500, then 500 more; are we there yet? Can we stop? Why are these hills so steep? And on it went, passing time in lots of 2000 steps, pushing my body on. I felt like a fraud every time we passed people going the other way. “How far are you going?” they’d say. “All the way,” we’d reply. I’d imagine them laughing at the mad prospect of this puffed, redfaced woman making it to Albany. I got a little fitter and the counting gave way to voices in my head. Every time I went up a hill, imaginary trainers or past sporting coaches yelled at me:

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“Push it out Emily!” “That’s it, lift from the chest” “Harder, faster, keep going, that’s it!!!” I had plenty of fodder, having cumulatively spent at least a few hours on the couch watching the Biggest Loser.

of play that kids are great at because their bodies and minds haven’t been restricted by rules, work and office chairs. We leapt over streams; we cartwheeled, climbed and ran. I was fit and I LOVED it!

As the weeks passed by the voices faded and I was left with just the sound of my breath. I moved more freely, I saw more around me, and I really got to know this body of mine that I had ignored for so long. I spent hours figuring out which muscles did what and I learned what people meant when they spoke of core strength.

Not everyone gets to take two months away from their daily commitments and I feel blessed that I did. I realise now though that the main thing that held me back from health and fitness wasn’t time or money or any of those things I had used as excuses. It was fear.

I began to look forward to each hill as a chance to push myself a bit more. Instead of collapsing in a pile at the end of a day’s walk, I started going for cooldown jogs and stretching. The greatest day of the trip was one that included a long hard day’s walk. After a rest and a snack we walked down to check out a beach, and when we got there we started to play. The sort

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Worrying about what other people thought had led me to restrict my activity to only those things that I knew I could do. Worrying about failure ensured I would never succeed. And that’s the lesson I’ll keep with me for a lifetime: not to let fear stop me from living an active healthy life. • pw Emily Pinkus now works with WA guided walk company Inspiration Outdoors.


BWAG leader profile:

BWAG

Jessica Noske-Turner

The VNPA Bushwalking and Activities Group’s Terese Dalman puts some questions to Under 35s walk leader Jessica Noske-Turner. What’s the most enjoyable part of leading?

How often do you participate in VNPA activities?

JN-T: I joined the VNPA two years ago, in September 2010.

When I first joined I was walking pretty regularly, but sadly in recent months my PhD is keeping me chained to my desk and away from the bush. Being a leader is actually helpful in that way, it guarantees that I get out at least sometimes!

What motivated or attracted you to join? Most of my childhood holidays were to national parks and so I was always being ‘dragged’ on walks by my parents. When I moved to Melbourne for uni I was keen to get out on overnight hikes but could never convince anyone to come with me, especially if the weather looked dicey. Plus I wasn’t 100% confident to just head out as even though I’d grown up doing day walks, I had very little experience of overnight walks. One day while trying to research yet another walk to drag friends on I came across Bushwalking Victoria’s website and it suddenly dawned on me that a club could be the answer to my problems. I was aware that bushwalking clubs have a reputation of being for ‘old people’, so I was drawn to the Under 35s group at VNPA, and was also really interested in the extra dimension of VNPA as a conservation organisation as well.

Your favourite places to walk? That’s a hard one but definitely the one that really stays with me is the MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia. It wasn’t a VNPA trip but I really just felt an incredible sense of awe at the age, scale and tenacity for survival of the landscape. In Victoria my favourite place is probably the Grampians. I really love the ruggedness of that area. Memorable occasions on a BWAG activity? There are so many! My first walk as a leader to the Grampians stands out – we’d had bad weather forecasts all week and people were dropping out like flies in the lead-up to the weekend. We scraped in with just enough walkers to enable the trip to go ahead. The whole drive from Melbourne was wet and miserable, but on Saturday morning the clouds lifted and we had picture perfect weather all weekend. We had a great group and many giggles along the way, giving plenty of fodder for in-jokes for many walks to come.

That’s hard to pin down. It’s nice to be able take my turn in organising and leading – I guess I’m really happy to play a role in boosting the activities of particularly the U35s. But the main advantage is that I get to choose where I want to go and invite a great bunch of people to join me! Where would you like to see the U35s & BWAG in the next few years? I’m really excited about the possibilities for the U35s in the next few years. When I first joined two years ago there was a sense that the U35 group was on its last legs (pun slightly intended) and a recognition that a new wave of younger members was needed to give the group a boost. So I very hesitantly agreed to go along to the Leaders Briefing, and before I knew it, I had two walks in the program. Since then I’ve noticed a new bunch of regulars (who I’m trying to convert to leading) and many keen, fresh faces. Many, like me, enjoy getting out on weekends and are also passionate about the future of our planet and our local national parks. Any thoughts about environmental issues? Environmental issues have always been really important to me. One of the great things about being in the VNPA is a building of my awareness and articulation of these issues, enabling me to talk with friends and family about them as well. • pw Jessica’s PhD study looks at journalism and news media in developing countries and their potential impacts on development, with a particular focus on talkback radio in Cambodia.

Jess at the top of Barn Bluff on the Overland Track, Tasmania. PAr k watc h • Decemb decemb er 2012 No 251

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Photo: Jessica Noske-Turner

TD: How long have you been a member of VNPA?


Beaumaris primary school children celebrate the establishment of marine national parks and sanctuaries at Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary, 2002.

Ten years ago, Victoria became the first place in the world to establish a network of marine national parks and sanctuaries. Long-time marine campaigner Chris Smyth reveals the background to this historic event. Late in 1968, some 400 people gathered on Cheviot Beach at Point Nepean to pay tribute to a prime minister who had drowned there twelve months earlier. Bolted to the seabed on that day was a plaque that reads: ‘In memory of Harold Holt, Prime Minister of Australia, who loved the sea and disappeared hereabouts on 17 December 1967’. In further tribute, Holt’s name was given to a US destroyer escort and two swimming centres, one in his electorate and the other in Vietnam. But in 1979 his name became associated with something very different. And that was marine protection.

Harold Holt Marine Reserves A short journey from Cheviot Beach across the Nepean peninsula and into Port Phillip Bay are five areas of sea grass, rocky reefs, mud and sand flats and an unfinished 19th century fort that became the Harold Holt Marine Reserves, the first such reserves in Victoria. But only Pope’s Eye, an artificial ring of bluestone rocks 200

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metres across, was given fishing-free status.

Jeff Kennett won government in 1992, it had established only seven.

It had taken 80 years from the proclamation of Victoria’s first land-based national parks at Wilsons Promontory and Mount Buffalo for the state to acknowledge the need for parks in coastal waters. And it would be another 23 years before Victoria would set up a network of marine national parks.

All but one, the Point Cook Marine Reserve created in 1982, were in South Gippsland, where the Land Conservation Council (LCC) had recommended them in response to the new government’s policy. Only two of the seven areas established under crown lands and fisheries legislation had fishing-free zones.

By the time the Harold Holt Marine Reserves were proclaimed under fisheries legislation in 1979, Victoria was nearing the end of a thirty-year period of Liberal government. Premier Rupert Hamer’s decade-long agenda of social and environmental reform, which included creation of the Environment Protection Authority and the 1975 National Parks Act, was nearing its end. In two years he was to be replaced by Lindsay Thompson, who ten months later lost to John Cain’s Labor Opposition. Labor went to the 1982 election with a policy to establish a network of marine protected areas. By the time

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But in September 1991, Premier Joan Kirner, who had replaced John Cain in 1990, required the LCC to carry out an investigation across all of Victoria’s marine, coastal and estuarine areas.

LCC marine investigation The LCC’s first report was released in June 1993, eight months after Labor lost office to Jeff Kennett. Proposed recommendations followed in April 1995, and draft final recommendations in June 1996. As the LCC was reviewing public submissions to this report, Premier Kennett abolished the Council and replaced it with the Environment Conservation Council (ECC).

Photo: Parks Victoria

Victoria’s marine protection story


Right: (from left) David Bellamy, Sylvia Earle and Chris Smyth at Triple R radio station in 2002.

Two months before the release of the ECC’s draft report, Jeff Kennett lost government. When the report appeared in December 1999, it recommended a network of marine national parks and sanctuaries covering 5% of Victoria’s coastal waters.

photo courtesy Chris smyth

The ECC released an interim report in February 1998, recommending a Port Phillip Heads marine park and seeking public comments on the selection and management of marine parks.

Setback and momentum

Like John Cain in 1982, Labor leader Steve Bracks had gone to the 1998 election promising a network of marine protected areas. The key difference was that they were to be marine national parks, free of fishing and established under the National Parks Act, not crown land or fisheries legislation.

However, the campaign suffered a major setback in June 2001, when the Bracks minority government withdrew legislation to establish the network. The Opposition and Independents refused to support the legislation without a funding package for commercial fishers affected by the parks.

VNPA campaign

Although this was a bitter disappointment, the campaign response was simple: intensify!

The Labor policy, the result of VNPA and Marine and Coastal Community Network advocacy, became pivotal to the successful community campaign to establish the network. Based in Tasma Terrace in East Melbourne, marine campaigners could simply walk across the road to Parliament House to lobby, hold rallies and use the internal parliamentary mail system to get their messages across. Marine campaigners had already laid solid campaign foundations through the 1990s by means of public meetings, listbuilding postcards, visits by international scientists and poster inserts in The Age, as well as market research showing that the concept of ‘marine national parks’ would be a winner.

When at the beginning of 2002 a Herald-Sun poll of readers found that 54% supported the government’s plan ‘to lock up large sections of Victorian waters from fishing’, it was clear that opposition to the network was in trouble. Campaigners followed this up in March by organising a three-day visit from acclaimed conservation scientists Sylvia Earle (USA) and David Bellamy (UK). Their itinerary included a visit to Phillip Island (where they met a large and appreciative audience), a sold-out VNPA meeting at the Melbourne Town Hall, and a highly successful breakfast with Melbourne’s business elite.

The campaign continued to promote Victoria’s colourful and unique marine life, about which the community was mostly ignorant. It also stressed that the parks were designed to protect and promote marine life, not to be fisheries management tools.

David Bellamy also flew to Warrnambool, where he addressed Deakin University students and the local council. Before the visit, Phillip Island, Warrnambool and other coastal places were claimed to be strongly opposed to the marine park network – but no longer.

Growing supporter bases were used effectively in letter-writing, email and telephone campaigns targeting MPs across Victoria. Tear-off postcards were delivered to every letterbox along the coast, bypassing negative regional media to highlight broad community support.

The momentum of support had been reinvigorated, and when in April 2002 a joint letter to The Age from former premiers Sir Rupert Hamer and Joan Kirner urged bipartisan support, it became unstoppable.

New legislation, with a funding package for commercial fishers and the inclusion of Cape Howe Marine National Park and Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary, finally passed both houses in June 2002.

Ten years on Ten years on, where are Victoria’s marine protection, planning and management? The past few years have been decidedly negative, amid talk of a moratorium on marine protection from both sides of politics. That’s not the bipartisanship we need when just 5% of our coastal waters have protection and there is no effective marine planning or management for the other 95%. Two years out from the next election, both parties must develop policies to establish a spatial, ecosystem-based and integrated marine planning, protection and management framework. In 2002, Victoria took a grand environmental stand that inspired the world and influenced a nation. On the same day as the tenth anniversary for Victoria’s network, the federal government proclaimed the first day of the national marine reserve network. Covering 40% of Australia’s oceans, with about one-third of that fishing-free, it is an outcome which we can all be proud of. But if it weren’t for what happened in Victoria ten years ago, it might never have come to pass. • pw Chris Smyth, who formerly worked as a teacher at Mallacoota and for the Gould League, has been a marine campaigner with both the VNPA and the ACF. He is now a freelance project consultant and works as a volunteer with the VNPA.

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Chris Rowley, Museum of Victoria

One of the key opportunities in this investigation is for VEAC to establish principles for a statewide marine planning framework that will provide for better management and protection of the state’s entire marine environment. The 2011 Victorian Auditor-General’s inquiry into the environmental management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) also identified this critical gap, and suggested that an integrated statewide policy and planning for the whole marine environment is the most effective way of managing threats.

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Importantly, the Victorian Government committed to implement all of the Auditor-General’s findings, which adds further weight to the need to develop a comprehensive marine plan. The findings of the recent Independent Scientific Audit of Marine Parks in NSW strongly backed the extensive domestic and international scientific literature and evidence about the overwhelming positive biodiversity benefits of MPAs. Some of the scientific evidence has shown that habitats and ecosystems improve after the establishment of notake MPAs, particularly the recovery of target species such as lobsters and large predatory fish. Within Victoria, although the vast majority of MPAs have only been

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Mark Norman, Museum of Victoria

Mark Norman, Museum of Victoria

The VNPA has sent a submission to the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) outlining critical areas that the Council should consider in developing its Marine Investigation Discussion Paper. The full submission is on our website.

Photo: Richard wylie

VNPA calls for marine planning framework

Much of Victoria’s diverse and beautiful marine life is unique to our region.

established for 10 years, there is also emerging scientific and anecdotal evidence about their biodiversity benefits. Some of both the larger marine national parks and smaller marine sanctuaries in Victoria are demonstrating this trend. Monitoring within Wilsons Promontory MNP shows a healthy population of key reef fish species, and seagrass meadows within Ricketts Point MS have now fully recovered since depredations before 2002. The VNPA believes that VEAC should also consider gaps in the current network of MPAs, the VNPA’s recent marine nature conservation review being a good starting point. • pw Simon Branigan


Happy 10th birthday, Reef Watch! The VNPA’s Reef Watch program was officially launched on 8 December 2002 at the (then) newly proclaimed Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Gary Barclay

Initiated by Tim Allen (based at the VNPA) and the Marine and Coastal Community Network with marine scientists from Museum Victoria, it was initially funded by a federal grant through the Australian Marine Conservation Society. The VNPA later took over the funding role. Reef Watch continues to be based at Museum Victoria.

Ten years on, more than 600 divers, marine community groups and schools have been involved. Over 1100 surveys have been completed at 160 sites along the coast. Species new to Victorian waters, both native and introduced, have been documented and photographed. The program has built community awareness of Victoria’s marine life and habitats through the Great Victorian Fish Count, an annual census of 25 selected reef fish which attracts hundreds of divers and snorkellers across the state. Community awareness of marine ecology has also been increased through ‘Sea Science’ seminars and workshops at the Melbourne Aquarium and Museum Victoria, plus special programs like ‘Feral and In Peril’ and ‘Buddy Up with a Blue Devil’.

Photo: Nicola Patron

The program began with Museum Victoria scientists selecting over 180 marine species for monitoring. Soon 50 divers had registered their interest.

photo: Gary Barclay

The aim was to harness the diving community to monitor their favourite sites along the Victorian coast and gather much-needed information about species in Victorian reef habitats.

Top: Divers in Fish Count – Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary 2009. Bottom left: Daktari Diver at Warrnambool with fish identification sheet. Bottom right: Sea Hare (Bursatella leachii) found at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron.

Reef Watch received the Victorian Coastal Council award in 2005 for Innovation, and in 2012 for Education. It’s been a wonderful journey and we’d like to thank the hundreds of divers, snorkellers, Friends and other community groups involved. Thanks also to Museum Victoria and scientists, and to the VNPA, for their ongoing support. We look forward to continuing to build community awareness, knowledge and stewardship of our unique marine environment for the next ten years and beyond! Great Victorian Fish Count 2012 Some 350 divers and snorkellers signed up for this year’s count, the eighth to be held, which ran from 24 November to 9 December.

The count was carried out all around the state, from Mallacoota to Portland, including Port Phillip and Westernport, and both within and outside our marine protected areas. Marine sanctuaries surveyed included Jawbone (Williamstown), Point Cooke, Ricketts Point, Mushroom Reef, Barwon Bluff, Beware Reef and Merri. And we were very happy this year to have Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park added to the list of monitoring sites. A detailed report on Fish Count results will be available soon. Wendy Roberts, VNPA Reef Watch coordinator

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Wild Seas Marine Symposium The VNPA collaborated with Deakin University and Zoos Victoria to hold a marine symposium at Melbourne Zoo on 16 November. It was very appropriate for such a key group of marine and coastal stakeholders to come together on the tenth anniversary of Victoria’s marine national parks and sanctuaries and discuss where we go with marine conservation in the future.

The symposium organisers plan to hold a Victorian Marine Planning Roundtable as a next step after the symposium.

Photos: Richard wylie

All the presenters, including Dr Bill Jackson, Chief Executive of Parks Victoria, gave highly informative presentations much appreciated by the audience. Above: School of fish under Rapid Bay Jetty, South Australia. Right: Another world under Rye pier, Victoria.

Simon Branigan

World’s largest network of marine reserves established On 16 November the Australian Government set in law the largest network of marine reserves on earth. It formally proclaimed 44 marine reserves in a network that now covers a third of Australia’s ocean territory.

“The government has bequeathed us a wonderful legacy. Future generations will thank us for our foresight in taking the action needed to protect the richest oceans on the planet.”

“Today we witnessed one of the most significant days in Australia’s environmental history,” said Fiona Maxwell, Australian Marine Conservation Society campaigner.

Places like the Coral Sea – the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the reserve network – will now be safeguarded from damaging activities such as oil and gas exploration.

A national network of marine reserves has been in the making since the 1990s, but the process is not quite over. The Commonwealth Government will soon be determining how these important marine areas will be managed, and AMCS will be advocating for adequate resources, best practice management and surveillance activities, and improvements to zoning in a number of critical areas. • pw

Our cover photo

Richard’s cover photo shows a Weedy Seadragon (Victoria’s marine emblem) off Flinders Pier. Another of his seadragon photos (at right) recently won the National

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Geographic world ocean photography competition. Congratulations to Richard! The seadragon shown is a male; they are responsible for rearing the young. Around spring, males and females perform an elegant dance before mating. The fertilised eggs are transferred to the male and attached to a blood-rich area beneath his tail. On hatching, the baby seadragons swim off to fend for themselves.

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Photo: Richard wylie

Marine biologist, photographer and director of the Euakafa Island Marine Research Centre in Tonga, Richard Wylie moved to Victoria from Queensland seven years ago. He was amazed to learn that 85-90% of all species in Australia’s southern seas are unique to the region, compared with only 10% on the Great Barrier Reef.

Sincere thanks to Richard for sharing his wonderful photographs with us! See more of them at www.marinecentre.info


Photo: Deirdre Slattery

Lord Howe Island: a conservationist’s paradise

Tourism operators on Lord Howe Island describe their main client groups as ‘the newly wed and the nearly dead’ but you don’t have to be in either category to join a Friends of Lord Howe Island (FLHI) Weeding Group.

Fighting weeds on Lord Howe Island.

Although it is 75% World Heritage Listed and generally offers a ‘good news story’ for conservationists, Lord Howe Island has suffered its share of the usual plant and animal invasion problems since European settlement in the earliest days of colonial Australia (there were no previous occupants).

Other weed species such as Ground Asparagus, Camphor Laurel, Madeira Vine and Formosa Lily have also been treated.

The program is that you weed in the mornings and spend the afternoons enjoying the many attractions of this remarkable island.

Amazingly for an area of land of 11 km long by about two wide, the Lord Howe Island Board, which manages the Island, employs a team of half a dozen weeders.

By the 1990s climbing Asparagus Fern (Asparagus africanus) had taken over large areas of the island’s subtropical jungle, and was prominent amongst the 300 weed varieties that have been introduced.

Imagine the rewards if weeds were a similar priority on the mainland. Mount Alexander Shire, where I live, would have about fifty weeders!

Resident Naturalist Ian Hutton, the founder of the weeding program and author of several books on the island, guides each group to some of his favourite places: coral reefs, scientific program sites, lookouts and beaches all feature. He also offers a lecture program in the evenings.

The impact was so drastic that Chris Murray, now President of FLHI, thought that the problem was beyond remedy. But since then, a highly successful conservation program has hosted 98 groups of weeders, and the impacts of their work are amazing. Many heavily infested areas are up to their third series of ‘treatment’ and the asparagus weed is in retreat.

The team concentrates on the tough terrain, of which the island has plenty, including the 875 metre Mount Gower, climbing which can be a weeder’s reward on a day off from weeding. There are four weeding weeks a year with up to 20 weeders in each. You pay your own way, which is not cheap, but the quality of the accommodation, the company and the sense of achievement, not to mention the wonderful environment, make a week’s weeding a rewarding experience.

You can also visit the amazing cloud forest of Mount Gower, enjoy unique plants and wildlife, snorkel, fish, ride a bike around the peaceful roads or just take in the stunning scenery. • pw For more information, contact: Friends of Lord Howe Island PO Box 155 Lord Howe Island NSW 2898 The writer, lecturer and former VNPA Councillor Deirdre Slattery, lives in Castlemaine.

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Left: Silva, the Bass Strait Fur Seal who is the campaign’s ambassador at the Zoo, showing her scar. Right: Silva as she came in to the Zoo as a youngster in 1988, with deep cuts from a fishing net around her neck.

on the strengths of conservation science, education and social science to determine: • the threatening processes that our visitors can alleviate • an ‘ambassador species’ in our zoos that will engage visitors with the threatening process • the change in a specific behaviour that we can effect • the most effective engaging tactics to achieve the desired behaviour change in the target audience • how the impact of the initiative will be measured.

A Zoos Victoria program encourages people to bin fishing line and other waste rather than discarding it into the sea, where it can harm or kill marine wildlife.

Seal the loop According to Clean Up Australia, plastics are the most common litter item found in Australia.

‘Sealing the loop’ Zoos Victoria works to protect marine species

Photo: Zoos Victoria

One comprehensive study estimated that almost 1,500 seals die annually from entanglement in Australia, along with countless numbers of sea birds, reptiles and other marine mammals.

As a zoo-based conservation organisation, Zoos Victoria’s primary goal is to “maximize our contribution to biodiversity conservation”.

facilitate and influence community actions through the careful design of zoo interfaces such as exhibits, visitor experiences and learning programs.

This requires us to focus and strengthen our conservation efforts to ensure the delivery of tangible conservation outcomes - by conducting programs and supporting communities to address the threatening processes of habitat loss, pollution, introduced species, climate change and disease.

Threatening processes are largely driven by human behaviour, and in order to mitigate their impact on biodiversity we need to change the underlying human behaviours driving those threatening processes.

Our twin themes of wildlife conservation and community conservation complement each other in achieving these goals. ‘Community conservation’ refers to conservation efforts driven by community action. Zoos Victoria (ZV) aims to

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To do this effectively, ZV has developed frameworks to guide the design, implementation and communication of our Community Conservation initiatives. Foremost among these is our ConnectUnderstand-Act model, which ensures that we effectively target attitudes, knowledge and behaviours sensitive to conservation needs. The model draws

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ZV provides veterinary care for many wildlife entanglement victims each year, fishing line being a consistent item impacting on rescued marine animals. To help address this, ZV launched ‘Seal the Loop’ at its Melbourne Zoo site in December 2009, coinciding with the launch of the Zoo’s Wild Sea exhibit. Zoo visitors were encouraged to discard used plastic (generated through lunches on-site, etc.) in plastic recycling bins. The plastic was then recycled and turned into collection bins installed by local councils at 20 fishing locations in a five month trial along the Victorian coast from November 2010. The idea was adapted from the Ocean Watch Tangler Bin Project. The campaign’s objectives were to: • reduce marine wildlife entanglement rates in Victoria through installing specially designed bins at ports and on piers to help keep fishing waste out of waterways • reduce the threat that plastics pose to the marine environment through encouraging recycling behaviours. • help people understand the impact they have on the health of the marine environment.


The trial was a partnership with Parks Victoria and was funded through sponsorship from Schweppes. Victorian recreational fishing groups VR Fish and Fishcare were also involved in program development. An interactive map of locations was developed to engage the community in the initiative. The bins were emptied and their contents recorded regularly by local volunteer groups and organisations. Among the key findings were: • more than 1.5km of fishing line collected across all 20 bins • an average of 75m of fishing line collected per bin • more than 300 hooks, 77 swivels and other fishing related waste collected. General waste was also collected during the trial, but it was less than expected and was not considered a problem as it was saved from otherwise littering the marine environment.

Post-trial roll-out The trial’s results demonstrated the concept’s viability and ZV subsequently secured funding through the Victorian Government’s Recreational Fishing Licensing Fees to enable the program to be continued throughout 2011 and 2012. By July 2012, 75 bins had been installed and an estimated 10km of fishing line collected. Detailed examination of bin contents at 13 locations by volunteers

Help protect our marine wildlife by keeping fishing line out of our oceans.

Top right: The daily Seal the Loop presentation at Melbourne Zoo highlights the importance of responsible waste disposal. Right: Adrian Howard from Melbourne Zoo discusses the program with a Parks Victoria ranger and an Earthcare volunteer at St Kilda pier, where there is a Little Penguin colony. Far right: Seal the Loop poster.

Photos/image: Zoos Victoria

Campaign conservation action messages were: 1. By recycling your plastic waste you can ensure that it never harms marine wildlife. 2. You can help save marine wildlife by keeping fishing line out of our waterways.

www.zoo.org.au/sealtheloop

between 1 March and 31 May 2012 revealed: • an average of 10 hooks and 9.8m of line per bin. • 63% fishing waste and 37% general waste. The community has demonstrated its support for the program, with bins being installed by 13 of the 21 local councils along the Victorian coast by Parks Victoria and a range of government, community and private groups. By the end of 2012, 100 bins will be in place. Seal the Loop reaches the community and inspires conservation action through the following: • key messages incorporated into the visitor experience and keeper presentations at the Zoo’s Wild Sea exhibit. The star ambassador is ‘Silva’, a Bass Strait Fur Seal still bearing the signs of net entanglement from when she was rescued by Zoo staff in 1988. • the Seal the Loop website at www.zoo.org.au/sealtheloop • the 100 fishing locations where the bins are an educational tool conveying messages to people using the coast, and facilitating conservation action.

This summer ZV has commissioned research through the University of South Australia to take place at three ‘Seal the Loop’ bin locations. Community surveys aim to gauge the attitudes and beliefs of Victorian coast users around waterway health and the effectiveness of the bins as education tools. We will use this research, along with continued data on bin contents, to seek further funding and allow ‘Seal the Loop’ to continue its expansion along Victoria’s coastline in coming years. • pw For more information, or to find out how to get a ‘Seal the Loop’ bin installed, contact Ben Sanders, Community Conservation Officer, Zoos Victoria, phone (03) 9340 2744 or email bsanders@zoo.org.au Zoos Victoria is a statutory authority with responsibility for managing Victoria’s three public zoos – Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee Open Range Zoo. Article authors: Chris Banks, Manager of International Conservation Partnerships, and Ben Sanders, Community Conservation Officer, Zoos Victoria.

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The Friends of Point Addis (FoPA) began in 2002 as a group clearly focused on the wonders of the newly gazetted 4600ha Point Addis Marine National Park off Victoria’s Surf Coast. But the group’s latest project is firmly landbased. FoPA member Sally White reports.

Point Addis

Today, the Friends of Point Addis are foot soldiers in the fight against Phytophthora Dieback in the Ironbark Basin, a fascinating coastal enclave near Anglesea at the eastern extremity of Great Otway National Park. The Basin is a complex, yet compact, mix of several environments: coastal heathlands, tall ironbark stands, messmate forest, moonah scrub and extensive stands of ancient and graceful Austral Grass-trees.

Dieback The deadly water mould Phytophthora cinnamomi (or Phytophthora Dieback – formerly called Cinnamon Fungus, but it’s not a fungus) has been present in isolated pockets of the Basin for many years. Its most obvious victims have been the grass-trees (Xanthorrhoea australis) and Horny Cone-bush (Isopogon ceratophyllus). The pathogen is water-borne and moves in run-off and through moist soil, although it can survive for many dry years at great depth or in bush litter. The movement of contaminated soil by human and animal activity is a significant source of its spread. It appears that infected areas in the Ironbark Basin have increased in recent years, but the evidence is purely

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anecdotal, a matter of distress not data. Enter the combined forces of VNPA, Deakin University and FoPA. In the past few months, FoPA volunteers have been trained in photo-point monitoring techniques by Deakin University’s Dr Jane Allardyce as part of the VNPA’s NatureWatch program to monitor the health of the Basin’s grass-trees. The volunteers will monitor selected plants every three months to gauge the impact of the past two years’ higher rainfall and the use of earth-moving equipment by the Department of Sustainability and the Environment to gouge an ‘asset protection zone’ (fire break) abutting neighbouring properties. The group has also embarked on a public education program to tell local property owners and visitors to the Ironbark Basin, a popular walking and cycling spot, about actions they can take to minimise the spread of the deadly disease.

Cooperation FoPA’s cooperation with other organisations is nothing new. The group’s first activities were rock platform monitoring as part of the VNPA’s Reef Watch program, and a joint Deakin/Parks Victoria Sea Search research project to assess volunteer training.

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Both activities concentrated on FoPA’s primary focus: the marine environment. But the group recognised that the sea and the land are part of one Earth, and its attention moved onshore – though it still maintains its marine interest. Within three years of the group’s foundation, its members were mulching, planting local native species and rabbitproofing the tip of Point Addis, the rocky outcrop where180º views sweep from Port Phillip Heads to Lorne. The heavy feet of sightseers and fishers over decades, and the insatiable hunger of rabbits, had created a compacted moonscape where few but the toughest plants survived. Parks Victoria’s installation of board walks at the Point and on the eroded path down to the popular Addiscot Beach gave rise to another round of planting, mulching and maintenance. And then there are the weeds. For the past two years, FoPA has worked with the Otway Community Conservation Network on the ‘Boneseed Bash’ in which Conservation Volunteers Australia weed fighters scour the Ironbark Basin for boneseed. All the known infestation sites within the Basin are now accurately plotted, thanks to GPS technology which

Photo: Melanie Wright

Friends of marine national park come in to land


Nature in the Dark Don’t miss this exciting presentation on the Big Screen at Federation Square, showing daily until 22 December! A collaboration between the VNPA and the Centre for Creative Arts, Latrobe University, it’s a video/ photographic response by ten artists to images from our NatureWatch ‘Caught on Camera’ fauna monitoring project, and features many native animal species. See www.centreforcreativearts.org.au for details.

Then back to the sea, and the small but species-rich Jarosite Reef where, once a year when the weather is relatively kind, FoPA volunteers in wetsuits take to the waves with their waterproof species charts to mark off the wonders of the deep in the VNPA’s annual Great Victorian Fish Count.

Coastal learning The group has also started a series of coastal learning events. In October it held a Rock Ramble at the foot of the Point Addis cliffs, which are rich in fossils. A crowd of 58—including about 20 eager young nature lovers— found out how to search the rock pools safely and make as little impact on the environment as possible. Learning the basics about sea stars, crabs, dog whelks, limpets, chitons, Warrener and elephant snails, the children were delighted to find they ate bull kelp every time they munched on a Vegemite sandwich, even though they thought the brown rubbery strands of kelp looked distinctly unappetising. Further Rock Rambles are planned for the summer. FoPA members have also welcomed the return of the Parks Victoria Sea Search program, and a number have signed up for monitoring workshops. FoPA’s original stated aims in 2002 were to support and foster awareness of

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), assist with projects in consultation with Parks Victoria, bring people with an interest in MPAs together, and support effective conservation in Victoria of native flora and fauna and geological and cultural heritage. So far over the decade, the group has managed to keep those aims alive by responding to emerging problems but always working to its core concern on land and sea: to protect and help maintain Victoria’s precious natural heritage. And if anyone makes the standard joke about FoPA sounding like the French ‘faux pas’ (‘false step’, or indiscreet remark), these days FoPA members have an appropriate retort. We say: “Whenever we step out into the bush, we make sure our boots and equipment are clean and free of soil contaminated by the deadly spores of Phytophthora Dieback. Are yours?” • pw Sally White, artist, author and former ‘Age’ journalist, bought a property abutting the Ironbark Basin as a holiday retreat in 1981. She now lives there permanently, enjoying the most beautiful backyard imaginable.

From top: Learning about the Point Addis coastline on a Rock Ramble; Healthy grass-tree; Grass-tree affected by Phytophthora Dieback; Disinfecting stations for bikes help stop the spread of dieback.

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Photos: FoPA

enables regular—and satisfactorily destructive—return forays to knock off straggler plants.


Photo: Euan Moore

Organ Pipes National Park 40 years on

Celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, the Friends of Organ Pipes National Park have had decades of experience in revegetating the park. Robert Irvine of the Friends reports.

We’ve seen a lot over 40 years, with weeds, erosion, rabbits, drought, floods and more. But in 2012 we are still experiencing new things. After the terrible drought, when we lost thousands of new and established plants, we saw huge natural regeneration from self-seeding. This new growth is far outstripping any losses during the ten drought years. During the drought, Jacksons Creek completely stopped flowing for some time. You could walk along the creek bed directly under Rosette Rock and the only water was in a few deep pools. The water stopped as a result of Rosslynne Reservoir, on Jacksons Creek and supplying Gisborne, sinking to 8 per cent of capacity. This meant nil water release for environmental flows – although these had always happened before, even during very dry periods. Also, the sewerage plants at Gisborne, Riddells Creek and Sunbury, which for years had released outflow water into 28

Jacksons Creek, had been upgraded to sell treated water for local parks and vineyards. Plus, drought-affected households used wastewater on their own gardens, reducing the inflow to sewerage plants. However, this drying up probably represents the true environmental situation before European settlement, with periodic severe droughts and floods. Following the drought we had sudden huge rainfalls, resulting in some major flooding in Jacksons Creek. This dramatically swept out the riparian vegetation, opened up the banks and dragged out dead branches in the creek. With the success of revegetation at the park has come a gradual rise in the wallaby and kangaroo populations, but this has now increased significantly, resulting in increased grazing of newly planted seedlings. And unlike our old enemy the rabbits, kangaroos and wallabies are not kept out by a little rabbit-proof fence. They can

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Established to protect its volcanic features, Organ Pipes NP in 1972 was a wasteland of weeds, erosion and rabbits. But thanks to 40 years of effort by Friends and park staff, it’s now an oasis for indigenous flora and fauna.

jump fences and reach over even quite big tree frames to feed on tasty young growth. One solution has been to construct giant tubular tree frames two metres high for every plant we want to protect. And another trick we’ve come up with is dead boxthorn branches across and around plantings. It certainly keeps kangaroos away. Like people, I don’t think they like sharp spikes in the nose. Needless to say, there is no plan to reduce kangaroo or wallaby numbers by culling, so this issue will remain. Sadly, they are in effect ‘culled’ on the adjoining Calder Freeway, where they are frequently hit by vehicles. There have been no fires in the park, controlled or otherwise, for 20 years. Parks Victoria doesn’t appear to have the necessary resources any more, but some burning may well be needed. We don’t know how this might come about. Still … the park is looking fantastic as it heads into the next 40 years. Come and see it for yourself! – remembering, of course, that the volcanic plains can be quite dry and hot in summer. • pw


Photo: Jenny Rolland

Photo: Kara Humphrey

Friends celebrate 40 years

Sugar Gliders in a nest box.

Some 300 people attended the 40th anniversary of the Friends of Organ Pipes NP, celebrated in the park on 11 November. Organisations including the VNPA, Friends networks, Melbourne Water, indigenous plant nurseries and more had stalls at the event, and there were wildlife presentations and guided walks. Deakin students Kara and Asha, who are monitoring Sugar Gliders in Organ Pipes NP, and Debbie Reynolds, a key player in the park’s long-running and outstanding bat nest box and monitoring project, introduced visitors to their research. Debbie had some tiny insectivorous bats to show.

Photo: Robert Irvine

One of the day’s highlights was the presentation by Environment Minister Ryan Smith of a Lifetime Achievement award to Friends founder Don Marsh. Other key founders like Barry Kemp and Carl Rayner were also acknowledged, as was first ranger the late Jack Lyale, whose wife Bet attended the celebration. Don received the very first Best Friend award of the Victorian Environment Friends Network back in 1991. This Achievement Award was a further acknowledgement of his outstanding voluntary work over so many years. The Friends welcome new members and can explain how you can be involved in the park’s bat and Sugar Glider projects as well as revegetation work.

Top: The 40th anniversary Organ Pipes festival. Bottom: The rocky bed of Jacksons Creek during the drought, when the water stopped flowing.

Organ Pipes NP audit reveals decline Bushwalker Rod Lambert has conducted audits of a number of parks in the Melbourne area in recent years. He visited Organ Pipes National Park in June last year, and drew the following conclusions (edited from his report). He stated that the park appeared to be in decline and is no longer the model for land management it once was. yy Visitor numbers are not known, but available figures (114,900 in 1995; 47,261 in 2000) suggest they are declining. yy The park has good facilities and infrastructure, but both are suffering from disuse and/or inadequate servicing and maintenance. Areas of obvious deficiency included: ƒƒ poorly serviced and maintained toilets ƒƒ the degraded park nursery ƒƒ inadequate track maintenance

ƒƒ inadequate maintenance of other park facilities and infrastructure, including some signage, the Visitor Centre, fencing, etc. yy Exotic flora and fauna need better control. Examples include ƒƒ inadequate monitoring of feral goats in the park ƒƒ failure to control new occurrences of weeds yy DSE interest in the park as a site for biodiversity conservation appears to have declined: ƒƒ the completion rate of planned FFG Act activities has been only 50-60%. ƒƒ conservation activities peaked in 2006-08, but have fallen away since, as has official interest in monitoring in the park. yy Parks Victoria does not appear to have a strong focus on the park, despite its A2 Levels of Service rating:

ƒƒ the Visitor Centre is no longer operational and is not being maintained ƒƒ staffing has been reduced from about six in 1992 to around two now ƒƒ the 1998 Management Plan has not been fully implemented. The park has historically been a model for landscape restoration, indigenous revegetation and community participation. However: yy working bees are still held once a month, but numbers attending are low. yy the relationship between the Friends and park rangers, which was very strong in the past, does not appear to be as strong today. The VNPA acknowledges that some of these issues have been addressed since the audit was carried out, but believes that lack of staff and resources is a serious problem in this park, as in many others.

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Building resilience

Karen Alexander of the Victoria Naturally Alliance, and Sophie Bickford, Central Victoria Biolinks Alliance Project Officer, report on a new alliance that will help increase the area’s ecological and social resilience.

Photo courtesy Judy Crocker

photo: F. Brunings

Central Victorian Biolinks

One of three protection areas for the threatened Bush Stone-curlew in the mid-Loddon district. Inset: The Bush Stone-curlew is well camouflaged.

Central Victoria, from the Grampians to the Alps, is a very rich and diverse region. It’s a honeypot for birds in winter, and for many other animals, with its wide range of habitats woodlands, forests, heathlands, wetlands and waterways.

The vision for the alliance is: ‘People working together to maintain and restore a healthy natural environment from the Grampians to the Alps’.

• improving the uptake of science-based best practice • integrating collaborative planning efforts.

However, the area’s bioregions have lost over 80% of their native vegetation, and there are many threats to their ecological health.

Collaboration is the central theme of the CVB initiative. It is the means of building capacity for the conservation and management actions needed at the scale where they will have real impact in increasing ecological and social resilience.

Fragmentation from clearing is one, the current fire regime another, major changes in land use a third, and of course there’s climate change. The region is already experiencing reductions in rainfall and changes in its timing, and increases in heat-waves and fire events.

The CVB will work to ensure there are strong connections between the many conservation organisations in the area. Collaboration is central to achieving the up-scaling and innovation needed to find solutions to the region’s environmental and sustainability problems.

The foundations of the network will be the knowledge-sharing needs of groups. After these have been clearly established, tools and processes for knowledge sharing will be designed. Examples could include wikis, theme-based newsletters, electronic and face-to-face discussion forums, ‘ask an expert’ access, mentoring, coaching, linking experts, and trialling knowledge management technologies.

Much work has been done in recent decades to address such threats, and now a new initiative aims to add value to these efforts.

The initial projects are to develop a ‘learning network’ for sharing lessons learnt, and a ‘knowledge base’ of information to be shared. For instance, what are the climate change scenarios for the region, and how can this information help local groups to set their own priorities?

Recently thirteen landcare networks, Conservation Management Networks (CMNs) and environment groups have formed the Central Victorian Biolinks Alliance (CVB). Since December 2011, Project Officer Sophie Bickford has met with the networks and groups to develop the vision, mission, governance and priority projects - all of which were agreed, at least in principle, at a recent workshop.

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The learning network will bring together member groups and others, from a range of organisations, to think, act and learn together with the aim of: • building the on-ground capacity of groups and networks

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Experienced community learning practitioners Siwan Lovett from the Australian River Restoration Centre, and Judy Lambert of Community Solutions, are helping guide the learning network’s development. Knowledge around re-establishing healthy and resilient ecological and social systems in Central Victoria is the second high priority topic. A strong knowledge of the species, ecosystems, threats and restoration ecology is required for this, as is knowledge of what has been already done. An analysis of existing information and resources will be an early task, and looking at how accessible and useful they are in their present form.


CVB participants Project Platypus Wedderburn CMN Upper Campaspe Landcare Network Mid-Loddon Landcare Network Northern United Forestry Group North Central Biolinks Piper Biolink

Strathbogie CMN Karra Karra CMN Ballarat Environment Network Moorabool Landcare Network Wombat Forestcare Trust for Nature Bendigo and District Environment Council

Echuca

Wedderburn Nth Nthn Wangaratta CMN Central United Biolinks Forestry Group Karra Horsham Karra Mid Bendigo Loddon BDEC Piper Strathbogie CMN CMN LCN Biolink Project Wombat Platypus Ballarat Forestcare Upper Environment Campaspe Network Ballarat LCN Moorabool LCN

Central Victorian Biolinks Area Public reserves

Relationships and partnerships with research organisations should also be developed. Building the knowledge base will be intricately linked with the development of the learning network, guided by the needs of members and existing knowledge and databases. A partnership with the Great Eastern Ranges (GER) conservation connectivity initiative is under way – a major advantage to Central Victoria, given GER’s recognition in the national Wildlife Corridors Plan. This initiative is driven by participant groups, strongly supported by Trust for Nature, TWS, VNPA and Victoria Naturally, and seeks to work with CMAs and other stakeholders. We warmly acknowledge financial support from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and from member groups. The voluntary time commitment from member groups is, however, the key to the project. • pw For more information see www.centralvicbiolinks.org.au or contact Sophie Bickford, sophie@centralvicbiolinks.org.au, phone 0422 227 471. You can also email Karen Alexander on karena@vnpa.org.au.

Support for the CVB Alliance

“Linking with other environmental groups and networks across central Victoria to adopt “The Mid Loddon Landcare Network was a wide landscape approach with coordinator instigated in 1999 and currently supports seven support, I believe the CVB Alliance will provide landcare groups and a Conservation excellent opportunities for groups to share Management Network, with a wide range of past achievements, current knowledge, and a biodiversity and sustainable agriculture projects coordinated approach to future planning.” that involve lifestyle, agricultural and public Judy Crocker, Mid Loddon Landcare land managers across 95,000 hectares of the Network Facilitator mid-Loddon sub-catchment.

National Wildlife Corridor Plan announced The national Wildlife Corridors Plan, announced by federal Environment Minister Tony Burke recently, is the Australian Government’s recognition that our biodiversity has declined and commitment has to be increased if we are to respond effectively. The Corridors Plan will lay the foundations for addressing this decline with a commitment “to retain, restore and facilitate active management of corridors and natural patterns of vegetation, waterways and other landscape features across public and private lands, through our cities and towns, and between our national parks.” (Note that ‘corridors’ is used as shorthand for concepts such as ‘connectivity’ and ‘resilience’.) An Advisory Group including representatives from TWS, ACF and Bush Heritage had considerable input to the plan. The objectives include protecting and restoring native ecosystems and their processes and functions and the carbon in them, enhancing their resilience, and increasing community participation in conservation.

The underpinning principles are for the corridors to be based on best available information from science, traditional Indigenous knowledge and practitioner experience. Adaptation to climate change is to be a key feature. The aim is to develop a network of corridors at national, regional and local scales. Six national-scale corridors already exist, including Great Eastern Ranges (GER) and Habitat 141º, and the plan aims to enhance these as well as supporting local and regional scale initiatives. What does it mean for Victoria? The CVB Alliance has decided, in principle, to affiliate with GER, giving some on-ground ‘legs’ to this grand vision along the Great Dividing Range. Being part of one of the national corridors increases the chances of funding from national government sources such as the Biodiversity Fund, as well as the all-important learning from others. The same is true for Habitat 141º. For more information see www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/ wildlife-corridors/index.html

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Photo: Dr Len Smith, Director of National Parks 1958-75

Environmental historian Associate Professor Don Garden is writing a history of the VNPA, the first two chapters of which are now available on the VNPA website. The following is a condensed version of chapter 3, written specially for Park Watch.

Peaks and valleys The VNPA in the 1970s and 1980s The number of visitors to Victoria’s national parks grew steadily through the 1970s and 80s. Tidal River, Wilsons Promontory NP, in January 1974.

Over the last sixty years the VNPA has struggled up steep climbs to elated successes, interspersed with deep plunges into frustrated disappointments as it has campaigned to protect the Victorian environment. The years between 1970 and 1990 were particularly mountainous because of the charged political atmosphere and the crucial role played by the Land Conservation Council (LCC). The LCC was established in 1970 by the Bolte government in response to the surge of environmentalism created by the Little Desert dispute of the previous two years. Before this, decisions about the use of Crown land were subject to the whims of Ministers, but now there was a responsible body whose role was to assess competing interests and make recommendations to government. The LCC consisted principally of senior public servants, notably the Forests Commission of Victoria (FCV) which fought bitterly to reserve access of forests for the timber industry.

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However, there was a small community representation that over time included two men closely associated with the VNPA – Professor John Turner and Dr Malcolm Calder.

VNPA submissions to the LCC The LCC worked methodically through nominated Study Areas, researching, taking public submissions and issuing recommendations for public response before making its final recommendations to government. This regime enabled the VNPA to be deeply involved and to influence the LCC with the detailed submissions and responses prepared by VNPA members. Tribute should be given to the many who were involved including Gwynneth Taylor, Geoff Durham, Dick Johnson, Budge Bleakley, Eric Quinlan, Joan Lindross, Eileen McKee and Stephen Johnston. The VNPA was somewhat transformed by the experience as, with the passing of its first generation of enthusiasts,

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it evolved into a more professional operation with paid staff and an office. The main issues in these two decades included advocating national parks in the Alps, Grampians, Otways and East Gippsland, and resisting the woodchipping of old-growth forests.

Alpine NP campaign The dominating campaign was for the establishment of a large Alpine National Park stretching from east of Mount Baw Baw to the NSW border, and therefore contiguous with the NSW Kosciusko National Park. The VNPA had worked for this park since its foundation, and more than any other issue it was the source of troughs of disappointment before finally there were peaks of success. The VNPA vision for the Alps competed with different visions put forward by the FCV and the timber industry, mountain cattlemen, the ski industry, off-road drivers, some rural residents, hunters and the politicians


Photo: Clive Brownsea

Photo: Dr Len Smith

Left: Royal interest – HRH Prince Philip at the Prom in March 1973 with (from left) rangers Jeff Davies and Steve Watkins, and Director Dr Smith. Right: Victorian Governor Sir Rohan Delacombe and party visit Little Desert NP in 1974. This influential VNPA book sold 23,000 copies.

from the Liberal and National parties who represented them. At times the exchanges between the competing interests became brittle and abusive. One of the VNPA’s principal contributions to the campaign and to public awareness was commissioning Dick Johnson to write The Alps at the Crossroads, an assertive assessment of the various threats to the Alps and the need for a national park. He was assisted by a team of VNPA people including Sandra Bardwell, Geoff Edwards and Ann and Lindsay Crawford. The book was published in 1974, quickly selling 10,000 and eventually 23,000 copies. It had a considerable impact on public knowledge and concern. The LCC presented its first recommendations on the Alps in mid-1978 but, to the horror of environmentalists, only small areas were recommended for protection and there would be no significant new national parks. The VNPA called a protest meeting that overflowed the lower Melbourne Town Hall.

This was one of the deepest periods of disappointment. Regathering their strength, VNPA members prepared their response and threw themselves back into the campaign. The final LCC recommendations in 1979 were a minor improvement, including four small new national parks in the east and Alps - Wonnangatta-Moroka, Bogong, Cobberas-Tingaringy and Snowy River. There was also to be an Avon ‘Wilderness’ and other lesser extensions and creations.

much of what the VNPA wanted, and when the government accepted them there was a peak of elation. Political reality then set in and there were another six years of political battle before the Alpine NP was legislated for and declared. The main reasons for the delay were the opposition of the Liberal Party, National Party and Mountain Cattlemen, and Labor’s difficulty in passing legislation through the Legislative Council.

However, grazing, mining and hunting were to continue in many areas, and others were to be logged before they were declared part of a protected area or national park. The latter concession was accepted by the VNPA in order to get sufficient political support for the parks. Premier Hamer accepted virtually all of the LCC recommendations and, in the face of intense lobbying by opponents, in 1981 the legislation establishing these parks was passed. By then, faith in the Liberals had waned among environmentalists and a resurgent Labor Party had developed a promising environmental policy that included the large contiguous Alpine NP that the VNPA craved. At the 1982 election the Labor government of John Cain was elected, and within weeks the new Minister, Evan Walker, directed the LCC to reopen a Special Investigation into the Alps.

Anticipation and success VNPA spirits rose rapidly and it quickly produced a submission and looked forward with anxious anticipation for the LCC recommendations. When they were published in 1983 they included

The government had not presented the national parks legislation prior to the 1985 state election and, although Labor narrowly won, a fresh byelection was called in the disputed Nunawading Province of the Legislative Council. The Liberals won and now had a majority in the Legislative Council, where they were committed to support the Mountain Cattlemen and reject the Alpine NP. This they did when legislation was presented 1986. Nevertheless, Minister for Conservation, Forests & Lands Joan Kirner, a keen supporter of the environment and the Alpine NP, used other means to promote the Alps. She undertook a cooperative management arrangement of the Alps with the NSW and ACT governments, and offered support for nominating the Australian Alps for World Heritage status. Finally, the Liberal Party moderated its stand. Shadow Minister Marie Tehan was able to persuade her party to accept the Alpine park legislation when it was presented by a new Minister, Kay Setches, in 1989. After a long debate, many amendments and much negotiation the Bill was passed in May and the Alpine National Park was declared on 2 December 1989. This was one of the highest peaks reached by the VNPA in its sixty year history. • pw

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one-time bank officer Clive Brownsea swapped his business suit for a ranger's uniform when he chose to follow a different course. A VNPA member for over 40 years, Clive reflects on the heyday of the national parks service. In 1974, when I gained a ranger position after 18 years as a bank officer with a secure job, it was a total transformation to a situation without job security or superannuation (which came in 1976). My wife, daughter, son and I arrived at the ranger’s house in Hattah Lakes National Park (later to become HattahKulkyne) on 6 February 1974. Ron Musker was the Park Assistant. For us it was a life-changing and wonderful place to be. The kids went to school in Ouyen by bus, a daily drive of 32 km each way. I soon got down to work. Among the regular tasks were enforcing park regulations, sign painting, track maintenance and grading, bee site control, weed hoeing, rabbit warren gassing, goat and pig control, toilet cleaning and rubbish removal. We also gave many talks and information to individual visitors and groups. I always considered patrolling the park important; it was the only way to find

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Clive patrolled parts of Little Desert NP by canoe during floods in 1981.

out about visitor activity and how the natural environment was getting on. At the same time the lakes system was filling from the Murray and flooding, which meant either taking the water regulator boards out or replacing them to retain water in the lakes.

My time was spent initially on house building work. The kids went to school in Dimboola; the bus started at Kiata. The ranger’s house was an older cottage in the Kiata township – the site became the park works centre and office. Prior to this the office was in our bedroom!

Our monthly reports posted to Melbourne were the only information that Head Office had about the park. Orders for stores and other park requirements went to the then National Parks Service Secretary, Jim McDonald. Deliveries generally came by rail.

At a later date the park office moved to Nhill, and then to Wail, where it continues today. The Kiata house and workshop area were removed, and the area is now part of the Kiata Flora Reserve.

There were two fires in the park in January 1975. Crews from Rennick and Wail attended, and meals were provided in our house. I moved to the Little Desert on 31 January 1975. The national park at this stage comprised only the eastern block – the remainder of the Desert was added in 1988. The camping ground was situated at the Sanctuary in these early days. Keith Hateley was Ranger in Charge (RIC).

PAr k watc h • decemb er 2012 No 251

We hoed weeds like stinkwort, thistles and horehound along the Wimmera River and elsewhere, and maintained tracks and walking trails by hand. We had the use of the Wyperfeld tractor for slashing areas for fire protection, but getting it meant a long drive. It was some time before we acquired our own tractor. I was in the first intake of rangers who started the Certificate Course in Conservation and Resource Management at Creswick School of Forestry, along with rangers Dennis Mulcahy, Jeff Davies, Peter Harrison and Gary Anderson. The course took me away from the park for 11 weeks each year. We graduated in 1977.

Photo: Clive Brownsea

Different days, different ways


Tractor work at Hattah Lakes NP.

Keith retired in early April 1976. I took over as RIC, and office work and monthly reports commenced. I was always busy with park enquiries and campers, planning for a new campground south of the present one, and new nature walks. In time extra park staff were appointed.

In 1977 the government introduced a Rural Employment Scheme – twelve workers were put on for a year, and that wasn’t always smooth sailing! Work started on the new campground. Len Dart, Neil Tucker and Alan Falkingham were my Park Assistants, and with Horsham fully staffed and Chief Ranger George Cornwall in place, things started to move. A router and table for sign making, timber for table construction and welding requirements were supplied, and a radio base was set up. In addition we worked on goats, weeds and rabbits. I also wrote text for brochures and attended to school groups, coach tours, walking groups, bird and plant people and work experience students. A Malleefowl survey was carried out over the Sanctuary Block, and we marked out some new tracks, walking the area on a compass bearing and following up with tractor work. The new campground was completed for the school holidays in August 1978, and we had possibly the largest number of

Photos: Clive Brownsea

Fire protection works were carried out by the Mobile Works Force based out of Melbourne – they also built the entrance road. Then a new District system was created with Roger Macaulay as District Superintendent in Horsham responsible for all parks in the north-west of the State.

Top: The Hattah Nature Drive with Lake Bulla to left, Lake Hattah to right. Bottom: Ranger Gary Anderson emerges from a swim in Lake Brambruk, Wyperfeld NP, in March 1976. Water from the Wimmera River and Lakes Hindmarsh and Albacutya filled some of Wyperfeld’s lakes after wet years in 1974-75, but they dried up during 1977. Water has never reached the park since then.

Beside the rangers already mentioned, others at Kiata in the years 1975-85 were David Newton, Richard Laurier, Rodney Newnham, Tony Fleet, Bob Fisher, Bob Semmens, Maryanne Newton and Peter Hawker. Technical Officers in Head Office provided support as required. And my wife, although behind the scenes, was On the downside we dealt with illegal brush always there to help. cutting, drug plots, lost people, bogged In the early 1980s there was departmental vehicles, bird-poaching and a number of change and amalgamation, and nothing fires. But as well we met many wonderful, was ever the same again. I continued on knowledgeable and interesting visitors. as Ranger in Charge until 1992, when I Big Desert Wilderness Park was resigned. established in 1979 and was my responsibility for a number of years. Little My time as a ranger over 18 years was Desert NP was involved in sign placement fulfilling, and I feel it was a privilege to and helped at the declaration of Grampians be involved in working in and caring for such great natural environments. • pw National Park at Borough Huts in 1984. campers ever. The old Kiata Schoolhouse became an information centre, opened as required. We put on regular slide shows in the campground. Park visitors always like to have contact with rangers – it adds to their park experience and is simply good public relations.

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Left: Cobboboonee track.

In Parks

LCC studies South Western Area District 1 was the first regional study completed by the LCC, and in accordance with its 1973 recommendations the park was expanded to 27,300 ha. in 1975.

Discover Cobboboonee National Park Geoff Durham introduces us to a new national park in SW Victoria that is very important for conservation.

Photo: Geoff Durham

The LCC considered Cobboboonee in its first 1972-73 Study and again in its 1981-83 Review.

Croajingolong, Coopracambra, Errinundra and now Cobboboonee – the Aboriginal names of four of Victoria’s 45 national parks – are names that not only recognise the parks’ Aboriginal connection but also have a melodic quality that resonates and excites the imagination.

District squatters and settlers were very successful in converting vast areas to farmland, but there were people who appreciated the importance of forests as a timber resource, and 68,500 acres were reserved as Cobboboonee State Forest and came under the management of the Forests Commission.

The name Cobboboonee is linked to the Gunditjmara cultural identity. It is said that the Cobboboonee forest was named for Cobbone Jimmy, Tribal Elder from the Omeo District, which is curious because Omeo is a long way from Portland. Daniel Bunce in Language of the Aborigines of the Colony of Victoria and other Australian Districts published in 1859 says it means ‘part, to separate’.

There were also local people who wanted to protect significant areas from development, and the region has had some outstanding naturalists such as Noel Learmonth, Cliff Beauglehole, Fred Davies, Bruce Fuhrer, and Dorothy and Collin Woolcock. The Portland Field Naturalists Club was formed in 1945.

Cobboboonee National Park, adjacent to Lower Glenelg NP, is 20 km north-west of Portland.

Reserving the forest The Hentys were the area’s first European intruders, in the 1830s. Western

36

In the 1960s there were proposals to make land available for farming, and pine plantations were being established. After a long campaign, Lower Glenelg NP was declared in 1969 with an area of 9,069 ha. This was just before the creation of the Land Conservation Council (LCC).

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It described Cobboboonee as ‘a gently dissected basalt plateau covered in places by a veneer of acid white sands supporting tall forests of stringybark, peppermint, and gums, with some heaths’, adding that it had a ‘high capability for nature conservation with a range of diverse habitats and so is floristically rich with many flora and fauna species at their western limit. Its swamps are of considerable value for waterfowl, and the chief attractions are a good display of wildflowers, especially in the heath areas in spring, and the beauty of the relatively diverse eucalypt forests’. Submissions were made for a change of reservation from State Forest to National Park. In relation to the forest, in 1972 the LCC said that ‘many of the messmate stands are at present in poor condition, as they are understocked and carry a large proportion of culls (trees unsuitable for harvesting). Intensive management of the stands could increase productivity three or fourfold’. In 1981 it said that ‘the messmate forests have a high potential, and much of the public land …is currently managed for hardwood production. The capacity of these messmate forests to produce timber has been increased by a program of removal of defective stems and the thinning of regrowth over large areas’. The LCC Final Recommendations in both 1973 and 1983 were that Cobboboonee remain State Forest, but an area of 18,500 ha of it is now a National Park. How did this come about?

National park status The Portland Field Naturalists Club had become increasingly concerned about the management of the forest and appointed Doug Phillips as Conservation Officer. The removal of defective stems with the loss of old trees and potential tree hollows, the thinning of regrowth over large areas and DSE’s fire regime were having a significant habitat impact.


Right: Surry Ridge picnic and camping area, Cobboboonee NP.

Ten days before the November 2006 State election, Premier Bracks and Minister Thwaites made a surprise visit to Portland and announced that the Government would create a Cobboboonee National Park. Following re-election, the park was declared in November 2008. There was a compromise – areas of State Forest became Forest Park with firewood removal. Most of the Forest Park, and pine plantations, are in the south and north, partly surrounding the National Park. The park is managed by Parks Victoria out of its Portland office. There is no Management Plan, but the Parks Victoria/Gunditjmara/DSE Partnership is developing a Ngootyoong Gunditj Ngootyoon Mara South West Management Plan that will cover all parks and Indigenous Protected Areas in the region. Parks Victoria rates Cobboboonee National Park ‘high’ for Levels of Protection and ‘basic’ for Levels of Service.

Flora, fauna and management Significant fauna includes the Tiger Quoll, Yellow-bellied Glider, Heath Mouse, Long-nosed Potoroo, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Swamp Antechinus, Koala, Powerful, Masked and Barking Owls, and Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. Pest plants and fauna of most concern are boneseed, blackberry and pine wildings, goats, pigs, Red Deer, rabbits, foxes, cats and feral bees. Vandalism is a problem. I had visited Lower Glenelg National Park on various occasions, but as I did not know the new park I made a quick inspection in September this year with a map downloaded from Parks Victoria’s website www.parkweb.vic.gov.au. I discovered a network of gravel roads, a legacy of the Forests Commission. The effect of management burns was obvious, with marked differences in the understorey on either side of roads.

Photo: Geoff Durham

The group lobbied hard and long for National Park reservation and were joined by the local Aboriginal community. Support also came from Environment Victoria led by Geraldine Ryan, the Wilderness Society and the VNPA. There was fierce local opposition.

In some sections wattles were in full flower. The vegetation is sclerophyll forest with areas of swampland and heathland drained by two main streams – the Surry and the Fitzroy rivers. It lacks the dramatic scenery of Lower Glenelg National Park and is essentially a conservation park with low visitation. There is no longer any timber removal or grazing, but 34 apiary sites remain. Roads are open to trail bikers and cyclists. There is free camping at three picnic and camping areas, but you need to bring water. The 60 km Great Cobboboonee Horse Trail follows roads in or on the boundary of the park, with horse yards at two camping areas. About 33 km of the Great South West Walk winds across the park. This great

Vale

250 km loop walk starts and ends in Portland but can be done in sections. It has four camp sites for walkers in the park, each with a shelter, visitor book, tank water, fireplace and toilet. The creation of this walk predates the declaration of the park. In conception, construction and on-going maintenance it is an outstanding achievement by Friends of the Great South West Walk volunteers. Together, Cobboboonee and Lower Glenelg national parks total 45,800 ha – almost as large as Wilsons Promontory NP. The key factor in the creation of both parks was the ongoing and astute local campaign. If there is a moral to this story it is this: if you have a good case, never give up. • pw

Emeritus Professor Nancy Fannie Millis AC MBE 10 April 1922 – 29 September 2012

One of Australia's most renowned microbiologists, Nancy Millis recently passed away at the age of 90. She gained a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Melbourne in 1945, returning later to lecture in microbiology. Nancy was a good friend of Parks Victoria, the VNPA and Friends groups. She was chair of PV’s scientific Advisory Committee from 1999, and particularly supported the research partners program, aiming to promote practical research that would help field staff. For many years she was one of the judges of the annual Best Friend award organised by the Victorian Environment Friends Network. Professor Millis made a substantial contribution to science and higher education, always encouraging young women who were considering science as a career. She will be sadly missed by her many colleagues and friends. • pw Right: Prof. Nancy Millis at her 90th birthday celebration earlier this year.

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Southern Light Images from Antarctica If you’re looking for a present for someone who loves nature, this could be it – a collection of magnificent photographs (including seven gatefold panoramas) of Antarctic landscapes and wildlife, detailed maps, and a text that brings the great southern continent’s story right up to date on environmental struggles and the growing impacts of climate change. It’s the result of six journeys to the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic by Melbourne-based photographer David Neilson, partner of the VNPA’s Karen Alexander and author of Coastal Wildness, the popular photographic book on Wilsons Promontory. Southern Light is available from all good bookshops, or direct from Snowgum Press at www.snowgumpress.com.au. RRP is $98.00.

Victoria’s Goldfield Walks This new full-colour 96 page book from Glenn Tempest (Open Spaces Publications) has just been released. It covers 20 day walks in the central Victorian Goldfields around Bendigo, Ballarat, Castlemaine and Daylesford.

Win a

FRE cop E y !

The walk descriptions feature elevation profiles, contour maps and approach details. Each described walk is available as a free GPS download from www.osp.com.au to be imported into your GPS device or opened in Google Earth. RRP $19.95. VNPA members can buy copies from the VNPA at the member price of $16.50, OR … you can win one of five free copies kindly supplied by Glenn Tempest. Just write a short article (300-600 words) suitable for Park Watch about a bushwalk or other activity you’ve enjoyed with VNPA in the past year and you could be a winner! Send entries to michaelh@vnpa.org.au. Closing date: 31 January 2013.

Wyperfeld 100: A traverse in time

Environmentally sensitive town houses available

The Friends of Wyperfeld NP have recently produced an excellent DVD – Wyperfeld 100: A traverse in time. This DVD won the award for Best Multimedia History at the Victorian Community History Awards in October. Contact: karenfuller@yahoo.com or phone 0438 812 618 to obtain a copy. Cost: $15 incl. postage.

Do your bushwalking boots give you a pain? Try this trick for tying them!

3

1 First loosen the 2 At the juncture 3 with the hooks, lower laces of loop laces twice your boot, so over each other your toes and and tighten firmly lower foot can (see inset below). move freely.

2 1

Then tightly lace the upper boot around the hooks, giving your ankle firm support.

This hint has been passed on from Kurt Westenbarger, naturalist guide and photographer, based in Montana USA, and leader of two trips I have enjoyed to National Parks in north western USA. VNPA member Kaye Oddie.

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PAr k watc h • decemb er 2012 No 251

Architect-designed, well-built two-storey, two-bedroom units with double glazing, hydronic heating, water tank, solar hot water, outdoor deck, excellent fittings. Four units on the block; we will live in one and wish to sell two others – preferably to people who care about the earth! Only 8km from city, bus and tram handy, 15 mins walk to train, near Moonee Ponds shopping centre and the beautiful Queen’s Park. If you’re interested in buying or just looking, please contact VNPA member Bruce Henry on 0434 612 919 or bruce.henry@rmit.edu.au


LIGHT

WET 10-24 February 2013

l a i c spe ooK

B N

oW

The Top End wet season is spectacular and, more importantly, enjoyable. This is, in many ways, my favourite time of year. This trip is a combination of some of the short wet season walks that I most enjoy doing myself. I enjoy them all so much that I’ll run the trip for as few as two people at no extra charge. I’ve designed it to allow participants plenty of time to acclimatise as we work our way from day walks up to longer overnights. If you have ever wondered what our wet season is really like, you owe it to yourself to have a look at our trip notes.

rrwillis@internode.on.net Phone 08 8985 2134

www.bushwalkingholidays.com.au

Fax 08 8985 2355

12 Carrington St Millner NT 0810

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Park Watch, December 2012 No 251  

Park Watch if the Victorian National Parks Association's 's quarterly magazine.

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