Access & Environment Report December 2018 – Grampians

Thank you for your patience while we awaited further information following our first meeting with Parks Victoria’s Head Office (PV) on 5 October 2018 to allow us to paint a better picture of what is happening in terms of preserving and promoting climber access in the Grampians.

Communication about the moratorium and the events of 3 November* when climbers were asked to leave a number of locations in the Victoria Range, as well as Parks Victoria’s restricted ability to advise of further actions due to Victorian Government Caretaker Capacity during the leadup to the State Elections has made the process more complicated, time consuming and drawn out.

We understand the climbing community is eager for explanations, however this is a complex situation with a number of stakeholder groups involved and explanations are not always straightforward.

Below is a brief outline of progress to date and proposed actions including notes from recent meetings with land managers.
Future reports will aim to provide more specifics and we appreciate your ongoing patience and support.

Key updates:

  • VCC/CliffCare submitted proposal letters to PV’s CEO requesting collaboration to develop an updated Climbing Operational Policy for Victorian Parks and a Climbing Management Plan for the Grampians National Park in advance of the 5 October meeting.
  • The creation of a working group for Grampians access has been initiated by the VCC Access Officer. Representatives include members from within the climbing community, with skills in law, policy and legislation, education, human rights, communication and negotiation.
  • PV have initiated the creation of a reference group with representatives from PV, Traditional Owners, VCC/CliffCare and the working group mentioned above. A meeting is proposed to be held in early 2019 preferably in Halls Gap. Date is TBC.
  • CliffCare has released a survey to the climbing community aimed to establish a profile of Victorian climbers and their attitudes toward the cliff environment including conservation of the physical environment as well as indigenous cultural heritage. Link here:ttps://goo.gl/forms/KLHJNzUQARNqM2b82

FAQs page published. Link here: https://cliffcare.org.au/current-access-campaigns/faqs/
We encourage you to take part in the survey and read the FAQs.

Notes from meetings with land managers and moratorium request
5 October 2018
On 5 October, 2018, the VCC President and Access Officer, representing VCC and CliffCare, attended a meeting requested by PV’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and attended by the CEO, Acting Executive Director Marketing & Communications and Chief Operating Officer (COO) to discuss impacts to cultural heritage, rock art protection, conservation and the road ahead for sustainable climbing and bouldering in the Grampians.

The proposal letters mentioned above were sent to PV in advance of the meeting to set the scene for collaborative further engagement and consultation with Land Managers, Traditional Owners and other stakeholders.

Key discussion points:

  • Land managers emphasized their commitment to rock climbing as a legitimate recreational activity in the parks which they wish to see continue to thrive. The protection of natural and cultural heritage values, however, is of the utmost importance and takes precedent.
  • Urgent and immediate attention is required to stop any further damage to Indigenous cultural sites from rock climbing, specifically bolting.
  • Removal of bolts from offending sites needs to be urgently undertaken and PV have requested support from the VCC and CliffCare in that regard.
  • Discussion focused on difficulties ongoing and recognition of the benefits of a collaborative approach between land managers, the climbing community and Traditional Owners to address issues.
  • Acknowledgement that there has been limited information available to enable the climbing community to avoid areas of cultural significance and agreement that the majority of the community act in good faith and wish to be well informed and to respect cultural heritage and conservation priorities. Consequently, there is agreement on the urgent need to identify and communicate climbing and bouldering areas where impacts to cultural sites has already occurred or the risk of impacts at some point in the future is high. How?:
  • Digital mapping has been suggested to overlay known climbing areas with culturally sensitive areas (providing this information can be made available) to ascertain the high-risk areas. This activity would be resourced by PV and supported by the climbing community through the working group.
  • Further site visits are required to establish status in terms of Park Values – including not only cultural significance but also environmental/reference and catchment information.
  • Importance of Climbing/bouldering community to provide information on areas of importance and possible access solutions. This can be undertaken through the working group as well as open consultation facilitated by education campaigns and discussion groups.
  • The need for clear public communication of the areas where climbing and bouldering can occur and where it can’t. Avenues through which this information could be communicated and published to the community both here and abroad need to be explored.
  • Development and implementation of an education and communication campaign has been initiated by CliffCare. PV indicated support to participate in the development and rollout of this campaign as well as developing their own communications messages regarding climbing in parks. The campaign will consider the importance of park values including cultural heritage, conservation and safety. Platforms will include posters, videos, workshops, online, sessions through indoor climbing gyms to reach newer climbers and boulderers likely to be transitioning to outdoors.
  • Need for an updated climbing policy to recognize a diverse range of climbing opportunities within the parks and how this would provide clear guidance to park staff and advice to stakeholders around climbing—what, where and how. Climbing and bouldering area development and fixed protection require more discussion, consultation and workable options.

31 October 2018
On 31 October 2018 the VCC/CliffCare put out a request to the climbing community for developers to refrain from further climbing and bouldering route development in the Grampians. This was in the form of a voluntary moratorium for a year.
The reason for the moratorium was to:

  • prevent further impacts to sensitive cultural sites
  • prevent larger scale bans of climbing in the park
  • enable discussion to establish and clarify sensitive areas.

14 December 2018
In December, we attended a meeting with PV’s COO. Discussion was focused on the outcome of recent presentations made by PV to their Board regarding the their own path forward with Traditional Owners and their Land Management obligations. In particular the following steps are now being set into progress:

  • Phase 1 (December 2018 – January 2019): Initiate creation of a reference group. Meeting with Traditional Owners, PV staff and VCC/CliffCare and working groups representatives in the new year. Dates have not been locked in as yet.
  • Phase 2 (December 2018 – June 2019): Systematic and complete, evidence based impact assessment of climbing areas to be undertaken with the aim to have clarity around where climbing can continue and areas where alternative access considerations might need to be made.
  • Phase 3: Ongoing, continuous improvement.
  • Parks Victoria will be employing a Rock Art Coordinator.
  • Parks Victoria will be taking stronger steps to protect rock art and cultural heritage
  • Parks Victoria are considering the value of introducing permits and an induction process in order for people to climb in the park similar to those in place with other recreational parks user groups such as the 4WD community and Hunters & Fishers (i.e. conservation, cultural heritage, safety, do’s and don’ts.) Parks Victoria would wish to collaborate with VCC/CliffCare to implement such a process if it is deemed appropriate

We hope this provides a little more information on some of the recent events.

The FAQ page on the CliffCare https://cliffcare.org.au/current-access-campaigns/faqs/    website should provide further information and should you have any questions you feel could be beneficial to have included here, please send them through.

Tracey Skinner
VCC/CliffCare Access & Environment Officer
And
Paula Toal
VCC President

* Climbers were asked to leave a number of sites in the Victoria range by two rangers in what was not a sanctioned Parks Victoria operation. Climbers were presented with flyers and a map that was later identified as a draft internal discussion document of land managers.

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