In a nicely orchestrated media piece, it has been announced via The Australian newspaper that the Victorian government will propose a three year cattle grazing trial in the Wonnangatta Valley, within the Alpine national park.
The paper reports that the government is supporting a three-year trial of cattle grazing in the Wonnangatta Valley, one of the main south flowing river systems in the central Alps.
“Victorian Environment Minister Ryan Smith will refer the issue to the Abbott government on Monday, backing a scientific study during the summer months of about 60 head of hereford and angus cattle”. The Victorian government has not yet issued a statement on the trials.
While previous attempts by the Coalition have been soundly attacked by scientists for the poor basis of the research framework, apparently this new trial will be “part of a scientific investigation of bushfire prevention options across 2200 hectares.”
Mountain cattleman Charlie Lovick is reported as saying he hopes this trial will re open access for grazing to a broader area.
The report says that the “preservation of Australian bush heritage will be crucial to the application” that will go to the federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, for approval.
The Wonnangatta was settled by Europeans in the 1860’s and incorporated into the national park in 1988. It is a lowland area compared with the previous attempt by the Victorian government to re-introduce grazing. One has to assume that should this trial be a success at reducing fuel load and weeds, then there would be an attempt to introduce it at higher elevations, where the science clearly shows that ‘grazing does not reduce blazing’.
The Victorian environment minister Ryan Smith (who is a member of the far right Institute of Public Affairs, well known for its anti –environment agenda) said “it’s not an ideological position, it’s a land-management issue.”
Assuming Greg Hunt approves the ‘scientific survey’, grazing could start as early as January 2014.
A spokesman for Mr Hunt said yesterday the government would assess the referral when it was received in accordance with Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
If the prospect of grazing in the park troubles you, please contact the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, making it clear you would not support such a move.
Alpine grazing is about politics, not good policy. @GregHuntMP – please: No cows in the Alpine Park.
For background on the grazing issue, please see here.
The Sunday Tasmanian reports that
In State Parliament on Wednesday, the Labor Party supported legislation introduced by the Liberals aimed at removing the trust’s power to veto developments on the mountain.
Proposed developments will still need to go through the regular council planning approvals. But the legislation has given new hope to Mt Wellington Cableway Company executive director Adrian Bold, who said the controversial $37 million project would be funded private Canadian investors”.
Greens environment spokeswoman Cassy O’Connor said
“The bottom line is that we’ve never seen a cable car proposal come forward that is viable, that is economically sound, and that has overwhelming public support.
“I think we can do better for the mountain. Yes, I think we should have a sensible discussion about development on the summit … but a cable car is not the answer.”
Greens MP Peter Wish has previously said
I recently met with Sky Rail owner and consultant Dr Ken Chapman in Cairns and he described the business case for a cable car on Mount Wellington as very complicated and far from certain to be economically viable.
Any serious push for a Mount Wellington cable car has in the past resulted in community division. In 1984 there was a serious push for a cable car and again in 1993 and on both occasions there was no economic backing, the project was not viable and the cable car was put aside.
There is, of course, diversity of opinion, even amongst people that aren’t just of the ‘develop at all costs’ mind set. One example comes from writer Susan Moore:
“I reckon if more people can experience the beauty of Hobart from the top it would be a good thing. Aside from the tourists, I think it would be a popular option for people who want to go up the top and walk or mountain bike down or take the kids to play in the snow. Maybe, like some Swiss ski resorts, Mount Wellington could even become car-free?”
I tend to feel this is a bit hopeful, as any attempt to close the mountain would create an up roar amongst car advocacy groups and push people that want to get up the mountain without walking or riding into having to pay a private developer for the privilege of getting there.
Where is the project at?
It is still in the concept phase, described by the proponent like this:
Once the Tasmanian Planning Commission ratify the proposed WPMT 2012-2017 management plan, MWCC can initiate the next steps ahead, including a comprehensive technical analysis and environmental impact study to identify the most appropriate system, route, amenities and location for the project.
Once evaluated, MWCC can continue design work towards submitting a formal proposal, bringing the Concept Stage to a close.
Details on the WPMP (Wellington Park Management Plan) can be found here.
With both the Liberals and ALP voting to remove the Wellington Park Management Trust’s veto power over developments, the cable car proposal is getting closer.
The following article comes from the ABC, journalist Jenni Henderson.
Check here for a background on the project and details on the community consultation process that has been happening. Leaving aside the direct environmental impact of the project, there is the key issue of what impact a large number of large trucks on the narrow Princes Hwy will have on locals and tourists.
Residents of Nowa Nowa and surrounds are expressing mixed feelings about the prospect of the Iron Ore mine being established seven kilometres north of the town. Mining company Eastern Iron is now putting together a feasibility study for the mine and has held community information sessions in Nowa Nowa, Lakes Entrance and Orbost.
The company estimates about 200 people have attended the sessions so far, to learn more about the project.
The mine still requires environmental and planning approval from the State Government.
Neil Smith a Nowa Nowa resident says the community has been ignored in the decision making process so far.
“I’m not just talking about the mining company. The East Gippsland Shire are in the process of negotiating a memorandum of understanding but they don’t see that’s there’s any need to talk to community before they reach an agreement,” he says.
Mr Smith says he feels that there has been no opportunity for the community to reach a consensus on what they want out of the mining project.
“If it’s ten years of mining and ten years of jobs and then nothing except a big hole in the ground and some potential environmental damage then there’s no benefit,” he says.
Nowa Nowa needs the cash flow and employment opportunities a mine would bring, says Paul Oakes, president of the Nowa Nowa and District Business and Tourism Group.
“Nowa Nowa is a very small community; it just needs the funds in. It’s pretty quiet, of course the mills have all been cut right back and forestry is cutting back on the harvesting so it’s sort of shrinking, the area is shrinking really,” he says.
Mr Oakes says the business and tourism group is concerned that East Gippsland Shire Council is representing the Nowa Nowa community in signing a memorandum of understanding with the mining company.
“It’s pretty hard for us to get any services from the shire except the basic ones. We’d prefer the mine to deal directly with the development group that’s here,” he says.
Helen Shields, a Nowa Nowa resident, says the mine proposal has the potential to divide the community.
“Communities always have dreams about things they can do for their area which improve them. Of course people want work, of course people want a future for their children to stay here but nobody’s had those conversations in relation to the mine,” she says.
Ms Shields has concerns about any environmental and social impacts the mine could have on the town.
“If there is explosions happening here 24 hours a day for 10 years I don’t believe that it won’t impact on this catchment area,” she says.
On sunday 10 November, 2013, a young activist called Hannah Patchett launched the beginning of what is intended to be a long term tree sit to highlight the immediate threats to the Leadbeaters Possum through continued destruction of its habitat.
Now in her second week of living in treesit, she has been getting some great media and good local support.
Background on the Toolangi forest campaign available here.
Stay in touch via facebook.
Read Hannah’s article in the Guardian here.
This information comes from the Great Walks website.
The eastern edge of Victoria Alpine National Park is set to receive one of the most thorough surveys ever, involving palaeontologists, geologists and biologists beginning 18 November.
Parks Victoria, Museum Victoria and 4WD Victoria will cooperate to examine the wildlife in the area and gather information about how well certain species are inhabiting the alpine terrain of the park compared to some threatened populations in other areas of Victoria.
“We love exploring the bush and this project presented a unique opportunity for our volunteers to be used for the first time in a major fauna research survey,” Project and Events Manager of 4WD Victoria Wayne Hevey said.
“Many of the high altitude species in the highest parts of Victoria are the most vulnerable in the state,” Dr Mark Norman, Head of Sciences, Museum Victoria, said.
“Over 80 researchers will be seeking the signs, sounds and movements of these wonderful creatures. The data we collect will help establish the status of many of the area’s endangered species,” said Dr Norman.
This is the fifth Bioscan to be undertaken by Parks Victoria and Museum Victoria as part of a five-year program designed to study wildlife across Victoria’s national parks, from deserts to forests to underwater kelp reefs. The program commenced in 2011.
Results will be presented at programs with four local schools and students and local residents will be able to interact with the scientists who conducted the survey at a Friday night ‘Science at the Pub.’
Last summer’s fires devastated a lot of the country around Mt Hotham.
The North West Spur fire burnt hot up and out of the Upper East Ovens valley, over the St Bernard – Sugarloaf ridge, killing a lot of the remaining Alpine Ash forests along the upper sections of the Great Alpine Road that had survived previous fires, and snow gum forests at higher elevations.
A huge effort was made to get the road open in time for Easter and winter, with massive tree felling operations along the road, and removal of debris.
The final stage in these operations is now underway, and Vic Roads will be doing works on the Great Alpine Road from November 11th through until early December to remove fire damaged trees effected by the 2013 bushfires. One of the problems has been the large number of trees killed in previous fires being burnt again this year, and becoming very likely to collapse.
For anyone that has driven the road in recent months, you will be painfully aware of the visual impacts of these operations.
What is less clear at this point is the environmental impacts of effectively clear felling a large swathe of forest along the road. As noted by VicRoads, this clearing is substantial in some areas, between 10 and 40 metres from the roadside. There have been attempts to reduce the impacts of this work, for instance removing many of the trees being felled beyond what would be normal on the forest floor, and aerial seeding of alpine ash.
But the fact remains that safety considerations for traffic has resulted in a 20 km clearcut, mostly within a national park.
The following info is from VicRoads via Hotham management.
VicRoads advises that access to sections of the Great Alpine Road will be reduced at various times from Monday 11 November until Friday 20 December to enable the safe removal of dead and dangerous bushfire damaged trees.
These works are a continuation of the tree removal works that were undertaken prior to the 2013 snow season. It is essential for VicRoads to remove these hazardous fire damaged trees from the roadside as soon as possible as they present a potential road safety hazard.
From Monday 11 November until early December, the Great Alpine Road will be closed to traffic between Harrietville and Dargo High Plains Road between 8.00am & 1.00pm and 2.00pm & 5.00pm on weekdays to enable tree removal from within 10 metres of the roadside. However, the road will be open at all other times including weekends.
From early December until Friday 20 December, tree removal will continue in an area 10-40 metres from the roadside in the Alpine National Park. This work is being undertaken in consultation with Parks Victoria. Local traffic closures will be in place with delays expected.
In addition to the tree removal, VicRoads will also be replacing fire damaged guardrail at 11 locations.
The Alps Link bus service between Omeo and Bright will continue to run during this time.
During the road closure period, Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain will remain accessible via Omeo and Dargo at all times.
Access between Bright and Omeo will be available via Bright-Tawonga Road (C536), Kiewa Valley Highway (C531) to Mount Beauty, then along the Bogong High Plains Road (C531) and the Omeo Highway (C543) to Omeo.
VicRoads encourages motorists travelling through the area to plan ahead and allow for significant additional travel time.
Motorists are requested to observe the changed traffic conditions for their own safety and the safety of workers nearby the road, including adhering to reduced speed limits.
VicRoads thanks the community for their patience while these important works are carried out.
For enquiries or more information about the works, please contact VicRoads on 5761 1827.
According to the ABC,
The Tasmanian Parliament has “moved to open up Hobart’s Mount Wellington (indigenous name Kunanyi) to development, with one MLC happy to see shopping on the summit”.
All but one Upper House MP have backed a Liberal plan to remove the Mount Wellington Park Management Trust’s power to veto developments.
The Independent Member for Western Tiers, Greg Hall, hopes that will clear the way for developers to build a cable car to the summit. This idea has been proposed for some time and includes major developments, including a ‘choice of dining experiences’ on the summit. The proponents describe their idea in this way:
Hobart has an opportunity to show deeper respect for our beloved backdrop. At the Park’s primary destination, the pinnacle, MWCC is offering to include space for a free-to-access, public visitor space that provides deeper interpretation of our mountain’s past; it’s colonial adaptation, aboriginal heritage and geological formation.
In a slightly bizarre twist,
Independent Apsley MLC Tania Rattray, who admitted she has never been up Mount Wellington, said she would like to see shops on the summit. She said “It would be a fantastic opportunity” (for what? The great consumer experience? Because we have a shortage of shops in Tasmania?).
Government MLC Craig Farrell also backed the change, with Rob Valentine the only MP against it.
In the Lower House, the Greens also voted against the veto being removed.
Hobart is blessed to have such a beautiful mountain right above it. It is the backdrop to the city and although it has very easy access via a road to the summit, it is easy wander off into a fairly wild alpine environment. There are already large carparks and a viewing centre and associated walkways and platforms, and massive communications towers on the summit. In my opinion, proposing shops on the summit is a significant over development of a mostly wild landscape, and indicative of the mind set that is endlessly greedy and which has no sense of enoughness. Why create further impact on such a gorgeous, natural environment?
Radio National today reported on new research from Griffith University about the potential of horses to spread weeds in national parks. The Griffith University findings were published in the journal Ecological Management and Restoration.
Researchers found that weeds germinate from dung and are spread by activities like riding.
Researchers looked at the number and type of weeds that are spread through horse manure and found that 16 of the plants were listed noxious weeds in Australia.
Associate Professor Catherine Pickering says governments around Australia should take heed of her team’s findings before opening national parks to horse riding.
She said that researchers had examined 15 studies from around the world and found many weeds germinate in horse manure, enabling their spread.
They also found that horses cause disturbance by trampling the ground, further helping weeds to thrive.
In a ‘nothing to see here, move along’ response, the former president of the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria, Mark Coleman, said horses are not solely to blame, as many other native and introduced species also spread weeds. In response, Ms Pickering pointed out that native animals are not generally grazing in pasture – which is where the weeds are being introduced from.
He says riding horses in national parks can actually help control weeds (yeah, ok, would you like to elaborate on that one Mark?)
And in another strange twist in the ‘blame someone else’ strategy, Mr Coleman said ‘other native and introduced species also spread weeds’.
“With the introduction of blackberry into Australia, which is a horrific weed, you couldn’t get a better spread of blackberry than the emu, followed probably by the deer.”
“We were still the eyes and ears of these areas and once we were removed you remove man out of management” he said. Does that mean that all park rangers and other land managers are women? Or are they some strange form of alien? Or perhaps there is just no land management in our national parks …. that may come as some surprise to many of you
From my earliest days of walking in the Alps, cattle were a prominent feature of many places I visited. I would often meet cattlemen (almost invariably men), who would assure me the cattle were a benign influence on the environment.
But what I saw was trampled wetlands and stream beds. I saw cattle standing in the headwaters of crystal clear streams, crapping and stomping the stream banks. I saw them spreading weeds. And I saw them selectively eating the succulent low lying vegetation in meadows rather than the flammable shrubs on the edges of those systems. More than once I was chased by a herd, and a scarey and heart thumping run and scramble up a tree got me out of a few situations. At Mt Stirling I saw that the ‘exclusion zone’ around the alpine summit was somewhat aspirational – the fence was normally damaged and there were almost always cows wandering around up on the summit. I drank from streams that had been polluted by huge animals with damaging hard hooves. At Macalister Springs we were warned of intestinal worms that had been introduced by cattle years before.
At 16, I wanted a sticker that said ‘cattle grazing increases blazing’.
Cattle were finally removed from the Alpine National Park in 2005 by the Bracks Government after a thorough investigation by the Alpine Grazing Parliamentary Taskforce. Cattle continued to graze in state forest next to the park.
In recent years I have witnessed the recovery of alpine systems as cattle caused erosion slowly healed.
That should have been the end of the matter. But we all know that it was plain old politics that saw the newly elected Coalition government try to fulfil a promise to the mountain cattlemen for their support in ousting East Gippsland independent MP Craig Ingram at the 2010 state election. They allowed the cattlemen to return cattle to the Alpine national park in a sneaky operation under the guise of ‘scientific grazing’. Thankfully that was thwarted by the federal government.
As has been noted on this site, the election of the Coalition to federal Coalition to power has changed the dynamic, and the president of the Mountain Cattleman’s Association, Charlie Lovick, says alpine grazing is ‘back on the agenda’.
He says there is no other way to effectively control fire fuel loads above an elevation of 1,200 metres.
“How else do you reduce the fuel load because grass and scrub grows,” he said.
“We’re saying that cattle are a perfect balance to manage the higher stuff, to chew it down and keep it nice and green and you can more confidently burn the other areas.”
Mr Lovick red tape is the only thing stopping the federal and state governments from moving ahead with the plan.
If you’ve never been to the high country, it might seem sensible to argue that there will be less fire where cattle graze. But the idea doesn’t actually stack up when you look at the science.
The most significant research on alpine grazing and fire was carried out shortly after the 2003 fires swept across Victoria’s Alpine National Park, and was published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The conclusion was that grazing is not scientifically justified as a tool for fire abatement.
Many earlier studies have shown the damage cattle cause in the Alps.
Alpine grazing was not recommended by the Bushfires Royal Commission.
Victoria’s 2009 Bushfires Royal Commission was an inquiry of unparalleled thoroughness. It had no limits to the subjects it could address, was granted a $40 million budget, and sat for 155 days between May 2009 and May 2010.
The Commission made ten recommendations for research into fire related matters. The effectiveness of alpine grazing on reducing fire was not one of them.
- The Commission recommended, as a high priority, extensive research into the monitoring of the effectiveness of fuel reduction burning programs across Victoria, and monitoring of the impacts of bushfires and fuel reduction burning on biodiversity.
- The Department of Sustainability and Environment’s own Code of Fire practice says that ‘(domestic stock) grazing is appropriate only for significantly modified habitats’, such as roadsides.
- There is compelling peer-reviewed evidence showing that alpine cattle grazing has no significant effect on mitigating bushfires.
So, as Mr Abbott works his way through his top order list, like ‘stopping the boats’ and winding back the price on carbon, cutting ‘green tape’ and so on, will he eventually get to the wish list of the mountain cattlemen?
It seems to me that alpine grazing would be entirely consistent with the world view of Tony Abbott and the mountain cattlemen: if you don’t like what the science is telling you, ignore it and do what you wanted to do in the first case.
If you’re not a huge fan of this world view, you may want to send a message to the federal environment minister, Greg Hunt.
Gippsland Iron Pty Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of Limited) is planning to develop and operate the Nowa Nowa Iron Project (known as the Five Mile Deposit).
The proponent hopes to gain final approvals by late 2013.
Some salient points about this proposal:
- It will be on public land (state forest to the north of Nowa Nowa)
- It will be an open cut mine and the footprint of the actual mine will be approximately 25 hectares
- approximately 146 hectares of land will be cleared
- The mine will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and an expected operating mine life of between 8 and 10 years.
- Approximately 24 Mt (mega tonnes) of waste rock will be mined over the life of the mine and permanently disposed within a waste rock stockpile adjacent to and upstream of the open pit. The final waste rock pile will be revegetated on mine closure.
- One site of cultural heritage sensitivity has been identified within the vicinity of the mine access road.
- Eastern Iron has decided not to use a wet separation process to separate the iron ore. Instead, Dry Low Intensity Magnetic Separation (“Dry LIMS”) will be used. This means that water use will be limited to dust suppression and is estimated at approximately 164 ML per annum.
- The proponent says that there will be no down-stream impacts on creeks and catchments, including Lake Tyers
- Trucks will be used to transport the ore to an existing bulk loader on the southern side of Two Fold Bay at the Port of Eden in NSW. The scale of the operation will mean that there would be around 74 vehicle return trips per day of large trucks on a winding road used widely by local and tourist traffic.
- When the mine is finished, the open pit will be allowed to flood via groundwater and surface water inflows.
There are community consultations going on now (mid November 2013).
Please check here for further details.