I have pleasure in presenting the President’s Report for 2013 for the Friends of Eastern Otways, part of the Great Otway National Park.    These are the traditional lands of the Wathaurung, Gulidjan, Gadubanud and Kirrae Whurrong peoples and I acknowledge their continuing connection today.

The purpose of Friends of the Eastern Otways is to support the National Park in a number of practical ways, as well as sharing our enjoyment of this special natural environment and helping to raise community awareness of its value.

The creation of our national park system (65 years ago) expressed a vision for the future which was long term and enduring. Those individuals and groups who worked so passionately to persuade the community and the government to establish and support a national parks system knew it was vital to protect our unique environment and wildlife into the future, and for the public good. They also saw how quickly this precious heritage could disappear and how grave were the threats from inappropriate development. That is why land had to be ‘reserved, preserved and protected permanently for the benefit of the public.’ National Parks Act 1975.

In recent times it seems that this long-term vision has come under threat from rather different political priorities. We are concerned that vested interests looking for short-term returns such as commercial development in parks, firewood collection and mineral prospecting are not in the spirit of the long-term conservation vision as expressed in the National Parks Act. Can this trend be challenged and reversed?  What is the role of friends groups such as ours?  National parks need friends and their knowledgeable, local support, such as the activities of our 2013 programme centred on Walks, Wildlife and Weeds. But parks also need strong and enduring political advocacy, and this is where our responsibility, both as individuals and as a group, is critical.

During 2013 we have conducted regular weeding sessions, especially concentrating on the heathlands on  O’Donohue’s Road.  The hybrid wattle Coast/Sallow has been our main target. We also continued to work on our site on the corner of Coalmine/Camp Road for which we had received a Caring for our Country Community Environment Grant which was expended in June 2013.  Boneseed and Coast/Sallow Wattle were the weed targets.

The Walks programme has included a circumnavigation of Lake Elizabeth, part of the Surf Coast Walk, Kalimna Falls, Kelsall’s Rock and a memorable expedition to Cumberland River, Our special thanks go to Lachie Richardson and Joe Bolza for organising this important part of our activities. The walks are not only very enjoyable social events, but are also opportunities to learn more and share knowledge while getting good exercise.

Mammal surveys were continued throughout the year and although we did not record any rare or threatened mammals we are nevertheless building up a bigger picture of the fauna in the Great Otway National Park and the Anglesea Heath. We have purchased a new white light remote camera that will be used alongside our other cameras. The new camera gives us colour images of a nighttime that makes identification of the animals much easier.

Sightings also included a colony of Rattus rattus (Black rats) and a fox, reminding us of the ever-present problem of feral threats to our native wildlife.

The Annual Koala Count at Grey River resulted in 86 adult koalas, one independent juvenile and one much younger one on its mother’s back.  The group of volunteers witnessed a territorial dispute where a much larger male aggressively disputed territory with a much younger animal.

For the 2013 ANGAIR Show we prepared a display about the local birds that frequent the woodland area on the Coalmine/Camp Road site and the adjoining wetlands, using Margaret Lacey’s wonderful photographs. It attracted a good deal of interest. A visual digital presentation of the birds was presented at the ANGAIR Show and also used at the Anglesea Primary School in an endeavor to arouse the interest of the children from Year 3 to 6. Margaret Lacey coordinated this event and was helped by several of our Friends’ Committee.

We are very grateful to ANGAIR for their continuing and very willing assistance to the Friends. Reports of our activities are posted on the ANGAIR website, www.angair.org.au. Follow the links to ‘Other Conservation Groups. We are also appreciative of the use of the ANGAIR photocopier for the production of our Newsletters and other general photocopying needs.

This year we were greatly saddened to lose two of our long-time and very valuable friends – Mike Traynor and Ian Leslie.  Mike was a former President of the Friends and a naturalist of rare insight, knowledge and skill. Ian was a champion walker and an enthusiastic and practical supporter of all our activities, especially weeding. He was Treasurer of the group for many years.

During the first part of the year we finalized the project under the Caring for Our Country Community Environment Grant. This included some replanting of trees on the Camp Road site that had died over the summer period.  Unfortunately the weather over the past few months has again seen almost drought conditions and these young trees are struggling to survive. We have been successful with a smaller grant of $8500 as a further Community Environment Grant to enable us to carry out further work in this area and also to extend our community interaction with other environmental groups.

We have also been successful with a Parks Vic Healthy Parks Healthy People Grant of $2468 which is enabling us to carry out biodiversity works in the National Park and also in the Anglesea Heath.  We have worked with Peter Hay, Parks Victoria, to identify project sites that are suitable for our involvement.

The annual End of Year BBQ, a combined activity with ANGAIR Inc., was held at Moggs Creek Picnic Ground on Saturday 14 December and was enjoyed by 32 members from the two groups and also eight Parks Victoria staff members. We thank Frank Gleeson (Ranger in Charge) for again presiding at the barbecue alongside Lachie Richardson. They did a great job of having the BBQ lunch ready for us on our return from the walk. We were thrilled to be introduced to Etta Pearl, the one week old daughter of Katrina and Aaron.

The Friends group is very proud of our relationship with Parks Victoria. We feel confident that our concerns are listened to and acted upon when appropriate. We are appreciative of the interest and support of all the Parks Victoria staff in our area. In particular we thank Frank Gleeson Ranger in Charge of the Eastern Otways and Carlie Bronk who is our liaison Ranger.

Life Memberships of the Friends Group are presented to those members who we feel have made an outstanding contribution over many years to the Friends, and in February this honour was received by Margaret MacDonald and Claire Hanley.

In thanking all members of the Committee for their work this year, I would like to express special thanks to:

  • Di Trewenack for her work on the Committee which she joined in 2008, especially for her expert knowledge and help with the cameras and all matters digital.
  • Joe Bolza, who has been a great help with the walks, weeding and camera work.
  • Lachie Richardson for stepping into the big shoes of Ian Leslie as Treasurer. He has been moonlighting from his real job is to plan and lead so many of our successful walks.
  • Our Secretary Margaret MacDonald. Again we express our gratitude to Margaret for her excellent and imaginative leadership. She is the very definition of ‘indefatigable’. We depend so much on her superb network of contacts, as well as her extraordinary breadth of knowledge, in addition to her special subject of orchids.

Rachel Faggetter, Aireys Inlet, 9th February 2014.

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