Fire fears on Grampians
Out-of-control grass and weeds on the Grampians have triggered concern from locals about the fire risk.
Until a year ago, the Grampians was being leased for grazing to a local farmer but since he removed his sheep and cattle, the grass has reached a metre high.
Birdlife on Grampians coordinator Bryce Buckland said if a fire broke out, it would ‘‘do serious damage to the regrowth we’ve had there over the last 10 years.
‘‘It has caught on fire before and there’s no doubt in my mind that it will happen again.
‘‘The animals must keep a lot of weeds down as there’s every weed except seaweed on the Grampians. The sheep and cows did a very good job of trying to keep that under control.’’
The hills behind Nelson are popular walking areas , particularly with dog owners.
Buckland said the last farmer who leased the land told him he had problems with dogs worrying his stock. ’’I hear he said he won’t be going back.’’
He said while most dog owners were responsible, others ran amok. ‘‘When I was up there I’d catch dogs chasing sheep and then you’d often see wool that had been torn out of sheep ... where people just let their dogs run around up there.’’
Buckland said there was also a problem with collecting and delivering stock as there were no proper yards.
Lindsay Wood lives at the bottom of the Grampians and is in a team that collect the rat traps in the area.
He said since the grazing had stopped, the grass had got ‘‘dramatically longer’’.
It should be compulsory to have dogs on a leash in the Grampians with a tough penalty for those not complying, Wood said.
‘‘Dogs regularly have hassled sheep up there, a number of times I have intervened separating a dog from sheep.’’ He had also found dead sheep.
Dog control in the area would be difficult, Wood said, but he believed signage for owners to keep their pets restrained would be a good start.
Nelson City Council communications manager Paul Shattock said it had advertised twice for expressions of interest for grazing the land but so far, ‘‘no replacement has been found’’.
Shattock considered grazing was an effective means of weed control, especially in areas of steep terrain.
‘‘Some level of weed control is required to ensure the tracks remain usable and also to reduce the fire risk during dry, summer months.’’
Shattock said the Grampians were considered ‘‘a difficult area to graze and manage stock due to the nature of the terrain and the accessibility to load stock in and out’’.
He said Nelmac had a weed control programme in place.
The council is still keen to discuss options for grazing on 546 0200.
Birdlife on Grampians co-ordinator Bryce Buckland says another fire could easily break out in the area.