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2012 President’s Report

Friends of the Eastern Otways

I present the President’s Report for 2012.

Our small coastal settlements are completely surrounded by the Eastern Otways National Park and a spectacular marine environment. This is an immense privilege.  We live in a neighbourhood of beautiful places, where there is always something new to discover or some unexpected enchantment to enjoy. Most of this land is in public hands, often the result of community advocacy and support for its declaration as a national park.

Parks Victoria manages these public lands on our behalf, but it is a statewide organization with many responsibilities.

This makes the role of a local, independent Friends Group particularly important, especially in the face of robust development pressures from tourism as well as the influx of new settlers.  Our members contribute profound expert on-ground knowledge to park management. We are the local eyes and ears for the parks service,

This year the Friends Group turned 21, and I report a full round of activities reflective of our maturity as an organisation supporting the conservation of our superb Eastern Otways National Park, and its adjacent environment: Wildlife, Walks and Weeds!

Project to restore Swampy Riparian Woodland and Heathy Woodland adjacent to the Anglesea River near the Great Ocean Road
Swampy Riparian Woodland is endangered in the Otway Plain bioregion.

The area has been invaded by Weeds of National Significance:  Chrysanthemoides monilifera (Boneseed), Rubus fruticosus (Backberry) Asparagus asparagoides (Bridal Creeper)) and other environmental weeds such as Hybrid Coast/Sallow Wattle Acacia longifolia, Hedera helix (Common or English ivy), Billardiera fusiformis (WA Bluebell and formerly known as Sollya heterophylla or Billardiera heterophylla), and Pinus pinaster (Maritime Pine, literally ‘ ‘poor imitation of a pine’)

The indigenous flora and fauna biodiversity of the area is very high, but weed invasion threatens its long-term survival. CCMA funding in 2010 enabled us to make a very good start at restoring this area and the community is keen to continue working to protect this important biodiversity asset.

We were successful in securing a 2011-12 Community Action Grant.  This is an $18,750.00 project to be completed by June 30, 2013.

We worked with children from Anglesea Primary School on World Environment Day (every 5 June) and National Tree day (12 September). St Bernard’s College boys, CVA and ANGAIR have also helped with weed removal.

We were grateful to receive additional help from Parks Vic. and Alcoa. Parks Vic and DSE have made valuable contributions of their time with chainsawing larger vegetation and removing large pine trees.

We secured a $4500 Parks Vic Healthy Parks Healthy People Biodiversity Grant, and worked on three sites to remove environmental weeds:

1. Moggs Creek heathland and roadside in conjunction with Friends of Moggs Creek.   Two school groups helped remove weeds; Mooroopna Secondary College on February 29 and Brunswick Secondary College on March 16.

2. Gilbert St – old tip site, sometimes called the cemetery because this was where the debris from Ash Wednesday fire was buried.  (February 16, 1983)

3. O’Donohue Heathlands

Caledenia maritima (Angahook Pink Fingers)
Caladenia maritima count in September/October survey.

The orchid count for Caledenia maritima this year was exceptional. The colony does not appear to be extending beyond its normal boundary but the infill of orchids within the boundary was impressive. Two surveys were carried out: the first on September 18, the second on October 2.

The figures were:

West of the track   1228 orchids

East of the track   44 orchids

It is interesting that the numbers in the eastern section had not increased at all:

Our records show:

2009   Westside   320      East side   40

2010   Westside   539      East side   49

2011   Westside   374      East side   55

Walks in Park

  • Grassy Creek walk.
  • Currawong Falls Walk. This was significant as the first opportunity to do this walk since it was opened again after the burning of the peat in the Melaleuca Wetlands.
  • Ironbark Gorge Walk

Wildflower Walk
Sixteen people participated in a very pleasant wildflower ramble in the O’Donohue heathlands starting at the top of Harvey Street.  This was the second spring after the fuel reduction burn in May 2011 and results were once again spectacular.  It was a great morning to enjoy seeing so many wildflowers and orchids.  Following lunch the walk continued at the gravel pits where the Purple Beard Orchids and Flying Duck Orchids could be seen.

A full report of most of our activities may be viewed on the ANGAIR website.

Action in memory of Claire Roberts
Claire Roberts as a founder of the Friends group, with Ted Faggetter, often expressed the need for a simple shelter for people at the Distillery Creek picnic ground. We want to pursue this idea and have written to Parks Victoria.

Spot-tailed Quoll excitement
Dasyurus maculatus
, the only quoll with spots on its tail as well as its body.

Following positive sighting of a quoll in Lorne, the Friends eagerly placed cameras in the area but with no success. However, such was the increased interest in these delightful creatures that we featured the Spot-tailed Quoll in our display at the Anglesea Wildflower how this year. Many of the images were taken during the Friends visit to the Cape Otway Conservation Ecology Centre where the quolls are bred. The display attracted a good deal of interest, especially in alerting people to be more observant of nocturnal wildlife. The display was lent to Cape Otway Conservation Ecology Centre for Australia Day Weekend Display at Apollo Bay.

Your Committee made a donation of $1,000 be given to the Conservation Ecology Centre at Cape Otway towards purchase of Manna Gum Reserve on Cape Otway.

We have continued with mammal surveys during the year but with nothing spectacular to report.

Friends of Buckley Falls
Sunday 15 July, five Friends of Eastern Otways met with the Friends of Buckley Falls in Geelong.  They joined the planting group in the morning and after lunch were taken on a descriptive tour of the environmental work in the area.

Friends Activity Sign
Margaret and Kaye met with Patron Signs to order a portable roadside sign to indicate that the Friends’ Group is working in the area.  It was used for the first time at the annual End of Year BBQ that was held at Moggs Creek Picnic Ground on December 8. This occasion enables both groups to celebrate together in the joint work we are carrying out to conserve our wonderful environment. We shared morning tea and then had a walk around Moggs Creek circuit track before lunch at midday. We thank Frank Gleeson (Ranger in Charge) and Lachie Richardson who did a great job of having the BBQ lunch ready for us on our return from the walk.

Burning on public land
This has been an issue of great interest because of the imposition of an annual rolling target of burning 5% of public land, following the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. It has serious implications for the Otways because there is a lot of public land in our region which could be and has been used to fulfil the quota. Many have questioned and some have condemned this rigid prescription. We noted with interest that in his final report on the Bushfire Royal Commission Implementation Neil Comrie said the state’s burning program should focus on protecting high-risk fire areas and public safety rather than simply meeting a target.

Relations with Parks Victoria
We value our good contact with Frank Gleeson and thank him and the Parks Victoria staff for their interest and support.  Carlie Bronk was appointed as our liaison ranger.  Unfortunately due to the part-time aspect of her work (just two days a week) we have not got to know her very well, but hope that this will improve.

I want to thank all the members of the Committee for their work and support during a busy year. Lachie deserves our special gratitude for his organisation of the walks which are well supported and very enjoyable.

I thank, in particular Margaret MacDonald, whose work is untiring, whose imagination is limitless and whose knowledge is inspiring.

Rachel Faggetter