20. 09. 2019
The Grampians National Park: Victoria’s favourite hiking spot flourishes

The Grampians National Park: Victoria’s favourite hiking spot flourishes

The Pinnacle - The Grampians. Photo: Daryl WiselyJust like a rugged, ageing prize fighter on the comeback trail, Victoria's Grampians National Park is enjoying a renaissance after a period of being against the ropes. Ravaged by bushfires in 2006, then again in 2014, and hit by floods and landslides in 2011, the Grampians (named Gariwerd by the Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali people) have once again risen from the ashes. But with millions of years of experience weathering storms, fires and floods, was there ever a doubt the Grampians would flourish once again?
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I'm learning about the Grampians National Park's ability to bounce back while walking the first section of the new Grampians Peaks Trail over four days with Park Trek. By 2019, the Grampians Peaks Trail will take about 13 days to complete in its entirety, but for now Park Trek are giving walkers a taste of the trail that the people from Parks Victoria are nurturing into a world-class, multi-day walk.

Arriving in the mountain-fringed tourist town of Halls Gap in the afternoon, we start with an easy walk to Boronia Peak. Offering sweeping views of the Wonderland Range, the walk is a popular one, not only for the views offered at the top, but also for the flora and fauna sightings along the way.

Thanks to a variety of microclimates and varying topography, there's a wealth of biodiversity in the Grampians, with the area being home to more than 900 native plant species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. While the highly photogenic wildflowers draw in tourists during spring, there's also fern gullies, heath woodland, mountain forest and sub-alpine terrain, all supporting a variety of mammal, reptile, amphibian and insect species.

Canola at the Grampians. Photo: Jo Stewart

While on the trail, a hiker from Amsterdam reminds our group of how strange Australian wildlife sounds. Kookaburras cackle, flocks of cockatoos screech, and frogs cluster around waterfalls, talking to each other in an alien language straight from outer space. There is so much life present in the Grampians that it's hard to believe that large tracts of the park were ravaged by fires and floods not long ago.

Yet, while these events may have initially been devastating, they have also reshaped the area, creating optimal conditions for plants to flourish and small mammal populations to explode, with only blackened tree stumps serving as a reminder of the fiery tempests that raged in recent years.

By night, we return to our cabins in Halls Gap where we descend upon the fireplace to collectively crack open our spoils bought from the local bottle shop on the way back from our hike. Finishing a day of hiking by feasting on red wine, olives, cheese, steak, potatoes and pavlova might not pass muster with the clean living brigade, but makes for a bunch of happy walkers who surrender to sleep easily, knowing an early morning awaits.

The next day's hike to The Pinnacle via the Grand Canyon and then onto Sundial Peak brings us to our knees. There are thrills, spills, slides and tumbles as we scramble over deceptively dewy boulders and negotiate crossing small streams via mossy rocks.

A stellar job has been done on making this trail as sustainable and natural as possible, with handrails, bridges and boardwalks only put down in essential places, in favour of using nature to create a path that appears to have been made with minimal human intervention.

At the peak: The trek through the Grampians gives walkers a high. Photo: Parks Victoria, Grampians Tou

While this approach makes for a lesser impact on the environment, it also allows for a more immersive experience as woe betide any hiker who isn't careful where they place their feet. While I'd love to say that we were walking mindfully for meditative reasons, staying engaged with our surroundings and where our feet were landing was more about self-preservation than creating a feeling of Zen.

The views from the top of The Pinnacle are – as expected – well worth the climb. With many paths of varying difficulty leading to The Pinnacle, the lookout is populated by tourists from far and wide even on an overcast day. Some scramble to the edges to take extreme selfies, others hold onto the railing with a strong death grip.

Millions of years old, the wise, rock formations of the Grampians have seen it all and don't discriminate, calmly welcoming everyone from super fit rock climbers to interstate day trippers.

Each day, our cheerful guides from Park Trek run a smooth operation, patiently keeping us safe, informed and engaged. They feed us at night and lay out a spread of snacks for the day each morning after breakfast. Fresh fruit, muesli bars, nuts and lollies ensure we have enough energy to sustain us until lunch, while Thermoses are available for anyone unwilling to hit the trail without the promise of a mid-morning coffee (I'm guilty as charged).

Having all the logistics taken care of gives us the freedom to focus purely on the journey. With our minds and souls free to roam in nature, we have time to reflect while we walk.

While it's easy to muse on the quietly profound beauty of nature, it's more challenging to accept the uncomfortable moments that come with stepping into the natural world. Yes, nature is beautiful, but it can also brutal.

A cluster of newborn chicks fall from their nest, blindly squawking for their mother, flapping and flailing in the cold soil below. A bright yellow worm lies exposed on the path just waiting to be picked off by a passing bird, and a skinny, ageing wallaby looks like he's nearing the end.

The Instagram version of nature will have us believe that the natural world is full of nothing more than impossibly perfect sunsets and mountains flawlessly reflected into calm, blue lakes. Yet unlike driving or being bussed up to a lookout, walking in nature slowly reveals the raw, circle-of-life truth of the Australian bush.

By the third day, stiff hips and burning calves are the norm as the group starts the ascent to Mt Rosea. Climbing over rocks and squeezing through boulders is made easier by the presence of cairns and yellow trail markers. Offering 360-degree views, the summit of Mt Rosea is devoid of human life, except our own, so we are free to admire the weathered cliffs in silence.

By the end of the day we've covered 13 kilometres with ease. We've grown accustomed to the rhythm of walking, yet we haven't quite gotten used to how immensely beautiful the Grampians are – some of us quietly ashamed at ourselves for having neglected spending quality time here in western Victoria in favour of experiencing overseas walking trails.

If the first four days are anything to go by, the Grampians Peaks Trail is shaping up to be a blockbuster of a walk once the entire trail of 144 kilometres is completed.

On the final day, we swap hopping over streams and boulders for pushing up the steep incline of the bitumen road leading to the summit of Mt Duwil (Mt William), the tallest peak in the Grampians. While not a technically challenging walk, it's a strenuous one that offers many rewards.

We're not alone in enjoying the views of yellow fields of canola in the distance – a blue-eyed raven perches nearby in the sunshine, intently watching a group of people with a selfie stick trying to capture themselves amid the majesty of the Grampians.

Park Trek run guided walks in some of Australia's most beautiful places. The four-day Grampians Peaks Trail walk costs from $1450 and includes accommodation, experienced guides, most meals and transfers from Melbourne's CBD.



The Grampians National Park is a three-hour drive from Melbourne. Park Trek provides private minibus transfers from Melbourne's CBD as a part of the Grampians Peaks Trail trip. Seeparkweb.vic.gov419论坛


The writer's visit was part of a four-day Park Trek "Grampians Peaks Trail" walking trip, which has departures each year in April, September and October. The trip costs from $1,450 per person (land only) and includes return transfers from Melbourne to the Grampians National Park, twin-share accommodation in a comfortable cabin or lodge in the Halls Gap area, expert guides, most meals and non-alcoholic drinks.

Jo Stewart travelled as a guest of Park Trek.

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20. 09. 2019
Victoria needs direction over future of taxi services

Victoria needs direction over future of taxi services

Uber’s ridesharing service has offered simple, fast and affordable transport to Geelong residents for two years and has operated in Melbourne since 2012.
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However, there is nothing in place to protect users and no conditions around competitive use in the ridesharing industry.

Despite being legal in about 80 jurisdictions worldwide, Transport Minister Jacinta Allan and Premier Daniel Andrews have madeno progress to provide any direction for the evolving market.

It seems likely that Uber’s service will arrive in regional areas, given that the company has advertised for drivers in Bendigo and Ballarat, but the wait for a regulatory response has postponed this expansion.

Uber may be well-supported in capital cities, we have different needs in the country.

It’s important to protect the taxi services that provide a range of important services over and above those traditionally used in Melbourne, particularly disability and insurance issues in more remote areas.

Regional community demographics differ vastly and there are cases, such as my small town of Colac, where residents are very dependent on one sole small business providing a taxi service.

It is unlikely Uber would provide this level of community support, but we need to be mindful of the potential impact even in larger provincial cities.

While other states and territories have quickly taken a position on Uber, Victoria stands alone in its inactivity. New South Wales has imposed a $1 per trip levy on taxi and ridesharing passengers for five years to pay for a $250 million compensation scheme.

It is now up to the state government to determine whether the conditions will allow Uber to successfully expand into regional markets without crushing the established taxi services.

Simon Ramsay, MPfor Western Victoria

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20. 09. 2019
Bumper budget’s good for western Sydney

Bumper budget’s good for western Sydney

June’s 2016 NSW Budget was a bumper edition for western Sydney.
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WSROC president Councillor Tony Hadchiti

There were few surprises, however Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC)was pleased to see a renewed commitment to western Sydney infrastructure projects such as the Sydney Metro, Parramatta Light Rail and a suite of road upgrades.

Councils have also welcomed a continuation of the NSW Infrastructure Acceleration Fund, which will ensure critical infrastructure is in place for our new western Sydney communities as they are built.

The Budget also proposed a number of initiatives to target skills shortages across the state.

WSROC has previously called for a more direct approach to tackling the west’s skills shortages and the Budget’s Smart, Skilled and Hired program has offered a response to these calls.

The program promises to assist unemployed youth find training and employment in industries experiencing worker shortages such as construction and disability care.

Additional funding has also been set aside for VET enrolments and TAFE scholarships in technology-based growth industries, encouraging our young people to train for the jobs of the future.

While the Budget did not include any new funding for western Sydney arts, WSROC welcomes the much greater focus on local artists and grass roots organisations: essential for ensuring a diverse range of voices are contributing to our state’s cultural dialogue.

We are also pleased to hear $2.8 million in grants will be available for community projects, activities and partnerships that celebrate cultural diversity – one of western Sydney’s most important assets.

This funding will encourage cultural sharing and promote a sense of belonging for new Australians.

Finally, western Sydney has received a substantive, and critically needed boost to health infrastructure.

However, this is just the beginning of what is needed – particularly in the west’s outer ring.

Overall, western Sydney will do well from the 2016 Budget.

However, every cent is greatly needed, and WSROC will continue to call for further investment in the region over the coming year.

Councillor Tony Hadchiti is the president of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils

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20. 09. 2019
Festival focus on villain attraction

Festival focus on villain attraction

CRIME FEATURE: Orange City Library staff Sean Brady, Jasmine Vidler and Ros Dorsman will host the second Orange Readers and Writers Festival this weekend.VILLAINS andcrime writing will be the focus at the second annual Readers and Writers Festival in Orange this weekend.
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Crime authors Caroline Overington, Trevor Shearston, Mark Morri and Liz Porter will discuss real life criminals, fictional anti-heroes, outlaws and crime solving at the festival on Saturday.

There will also be a writing workshop at the West Room of Orange City Library on Sunday wherelocal author and editor Kim Kelly will take participants through her processes of creating memorable and engaging characters.

Run by Orange city Library with support from the Orange Regional Arts Foundation, the festival will take place at the Hotel Canobolas on Saturday from 10am to 5pm and the writing workshop on Sunday will run from 10am to 1pm.

Orange City Library reading and writing coordinator Jasmine Vidler said last year’s inauguralfestival was a great success so they decided to do it again this timefollowing a villains and crime theme.

“Villains and crime, we did that because crime writing is one of the most popular genres in books that get borrowed from the library,” Ms Vidler said.

“We’ve definitely got a lot of interest and people coming along, lots of people are interested, especially in our key note speaker Caroline Overington.

“Caroline will be talking about why our interest in the villain never wains, she has written a lot of crime fiction and non fiction.”

Caroline Overington has written eleven books, including true crime book Last Woman Hangedas well asnovels.

Trevor Shearstonis the author ofa novel about the last days of bushranger Ben Hall.

With a background in newspaper crime reportingMark Morri haswritten about the case of Anita Cobbyand more recently has been reporting on the Roger Rogerson trial.

True crime authorLiz Porter will discuss the realities behind fictional forensic crime dramassuch as CSI and how real life detectives use forensic science to solve crimes.

Ms Vidler said although the guest authors come from out of the region, there will be a local component with a readers panel made up of magistrate Jan Stevenson, Dr Martyn Patfield and crime reader Christine Wright.

For more information visithttp://tinyurl南京夜网/ReadersWritersFestival. Tickets are available at Orange City Library by phoning 6393 8132.

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20. 09. 2019
Simply no way to pay for plan

Simply no way to pay for plan

Northern Grampians Cr Wayne Rice believes the shires roads will suffer if council doesn't receive a fair share of the taxation dollar, or adequate government funding to maintain roads. NORTHERN Grampians Shire Council has identified $74-million in capital works projects desperately needed in the community, but admits it has no way to fund the plan.
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On Monday, councildiscussed its$4.3-million2016-17roads and bridges capital works program, andidentified unfunded projects worth $74-million.

Council’sroad allocation decreased by $1.5-million from the draft budget after the federal government cut backits Roads to Recovery money.

A report to council identified a significant shortfall in finances, with council indicating it currently budget $3 to $4-million a year on capital works, but wouldneed to spend close to $9-million in future to maintain current service standards.

Cr Wayne Rice said the predicted need was a massive issue of concern for councillors.

“We’re falling behind in infrastructure all the time,” he said.

Cr Rice said council and ratepayers were being hurt by thefreezing ofFinancial AssistanceGrants, indexation, rate capping and council’stoo small percentage of the taxation dollar.

“We’renot at all happy with the government. This is unfair on all of us,” he said.

“We’re generally concerned about the roads and safety.

“We look at the hierarchy of roads and look at those we can downgrade where we can, and even closed a few not so important roads.

“Wecan’t keep up.It’s unfair on ratepayers to keep doing it.”

Cr Rice said the longer infrastructure was neglected, the more it would cost.

“It’s a false economy,to just say we just cut back on spending – a dollar only goes so far,” he said

“NSWhashad ratecapping for years and look at their roads.They’reabsolutely shocking.If roads fall to that level it’ll takemany, many years to catch up –if you evercan.”

Cr Rice said the issue was dividingcouncil from the community.

“It’s the sort of thing that is used when people are making a point to say where’s the value for money from their rates,” he said.

“The dollars are getting less and needing to stretch further.”

Cr Rice said theyear had been particularly hard because it was a property valuation year.

He said residents expected rates to be steady because of the rate cap, only to findthey hadincreased along with their property’s value.

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