Parks Victoria Rock Climbing Update Grampians FAQs

Parks Victoria have issued a FAQ page which more clearly states the current status of climbing sites in the Grampians National Park.

 

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Grampians Petition

CliffCare, the Grampians Access Working Group (GAWG) with help from Kelly Boladeras have created a petition on Change.org

Please take a moment to sign

We believe that as a community, armed with the right knowledge and empowered by strong, constructive working relationships, we can all share the Grampians/Gariwerd National Park in a positive and harmonious way.

CliffCare and GAWG acknowledge and respect the connection Traditional Owners have to Gariwerd and that important cultural and environmental issues need to be addressed within the park, however, we believe that these issues can be managed with co-operation, understanding and education.

https://www.change.org/p/stop-climbing-from-being-banned-in-the-grampians?recruiter=346887748&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

 

Grampians Update 18 March 2019

We have been communicating regularly with PV over the past week and a half to obtain clarification regarding the closures. Further information provided by PV to some climbers have led many to believe that climbing could occur in the wider SPAs outside of the 8 key focus sites, if certain rules were followed but ranger actions on the ground and conflicting information from other PV offices showed this to be otherwise.

We can now provide the most recent email statement provided by Simon Talbot, COO of Parks Victoria. From our understanding, conditions are still as noted in previous statements but we have highlighted one clarification in Simon Talbot’s statement around infringements for climbing in SPAs.

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The Grampians National Park Management Plan outlines the Special Protected Areas that have been in place since 2003 where rock climbing is prohibited and hiking and picnicking is permitted. The recent maps released also include an additional 29 protected areas making up 1.2 per cent of the National Park. Protected Areas are assigned due to their cultural significance or flora and fauna values.

The increase in activity and changes in climbing techniques have impacted irreplaceable cultural and environmental assets to a level where enforcement is necessary to preserve these special areas. Parks Victoria is currently undertaking enforcement activities to prevent rock climbing at eight key locations where signage is installed.  Parks Victoria has a legislative obligation to protect these special values. At all times, we ask for your support in leaving no trace, using clean climbing techniques and encouraging your peers to do the same.

In broader Special Protected Areas, outside those eight key locations, Parks Victoria is sharing the information materials on rock climbing and undertaking enforcement activity relating to other activities not permitted in any National Park including cutting or damaging vegetation (for instance to make or enhance tracks), lighting fires outside of designated fireplaces, depositing litter, interfering with Aboriginal cultural heritage such as rock art or any damage to rock faces such as drilling holes. We are not enforcing no rock climbing activity in broader Special Protected Areas at this stage and will communicate if anything changes.

We acknowledge the physical, social and economic benefits that climbing brings to our communities and understand the rock climbing community cares passionately about the Grampians National Park.

Over the coming months, Parks Victoria will be reviewing the Grampians National Park Management Plan. A Stakeholder Reference Group will be established where Parks Victoria will meet with affected partners, Licenced Tourism Operators, stakeholder groups and local businesses – including the rock climbing community. Special Protection Area boundaries may change.

Simon Talbot
Parks Victoria – COO

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Our understanding at this stage is that:

  • Rangers will issue fines if you climb  at the eight key focus sites where signage has been put up
  • Rangers can inform you that you should not climb in the SPAs outside of the eight focus sites (blue squares on the first map issued by PV) as part of an education process, but will not fine you. You will be fined if you litter, cut, remove or damage vegetation, light fires outside of designated fireplaces, interfere with any cultural heritage or rock art in these areas,deface or drive off track. These rules and penalties are applied across the GNP, not just the SPAs.
  • Further assessments of other sites within the SPAs will be undertaken. If areas are deemed too sensitive and are to be closed, before this happens there will be ‘education’ and information provided to the community before signage and enforcement occurs.

We are investigating further the reports that signage has occurred in a non key focus site and will keep you up to date.
Some previous messaging also noted that damage to vegetation through the use of drop mats would be an offence. We would suggest that the use of bouldering mats is confined to rocky and non vegetated areas.

The messaging coming from PV has not aligned with information varying between Head Office and local staff members on the ground in the Grampians, and this has made it increasingly difficult to address the issues that we have been informed has led to the bans (i.e., cultural heritage and environmental protection). There have been some positive discussions about moving forward with the Stakeholder Reference Group that PV are initiating, and what the working group would like to achieve from this. The working groups hope is that the Stakeholder reference group is being established so that other sites within the wider SPA   areas can be investigated further in collaboration with us. The working group will continue to engage with PV, bringing with it the concerns of the wider climbing community and continue to ensure our involvement in these discussions and the feedback we have provided, is taken on board.

For us, the protection of cultural and environmental values within the park is still key and we don’t want to lose sight of some of the issues that have brought us to this place of change. We have much in the pipeline with regards to education for the climbing community that we will be sharing in the months to come. We hope this will  contribute to ensuring sustainable climbing and bouldering in the park. We also continue to work on building relationships with Traditional Owners. We continue to work on understanding the legislative framework that determines the rights and responsibilities of user groups to access the park,  both now and into the future.We will continue to do as we are doing now: working towards greater transparency in decision-making processes from land managers, ensuring that decisions are fair and right, reasons for closures are justified,  and that the cultural and natural values of that park are respected throughout this process.

Please be assured that we will update you on our progress, and will continue to work toward greater certainty regarding access for climbers in the Grampians. We make a commitment to providing the climbing community with accurate updates, sharing  information that we feel is reliable and can be confidently shared with the community. CliffCare and the VCC remain committed to collaboration with all parties and to ensuring that the climbing community’s concerns are represented as we navigate through the challenges resulting from these closures.

STAY IN THE LOOP

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WHAT CAN YOU DO?

PETITION
The Grampians Access Working Group has created a petition.

PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE TO YOUR NETWORKS.

  • Most important: respect all bans that have been put in place by Parks Victoria. If you hear of anyone who is planning to climb in any of these areas, please inform them of the bans.
  • If you have skills that you think might be useful to the VCC, become a volunteer and assist our efforts. Contact cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au
  • You can become a member of the VCC here. The VCC is the organisation that administers CliffCare.
  • Donate directly to CliffCare and support our efforts in advocacy, environmental projects and education.
  • Share you concerns with your local MP via a letter, email or phone call. Consider sending a letter to the Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio and Emma Kealy, local MP for Lowan (includes the GNP). In this letter you should highlight: your involvement in climbing, how the ban affects you and your community, and any concerns you might have regarding the lack of consultation by PV with the climbing community prior to introducing the bans. We think it is helpful for climbers to acknowledge the value and significance of environmental and cultural concerns, and that through proper consultation, we would like to work towards a win-win solution for all stakeholders.

If you have other questions that you feel are not answered here, please feel free to email us.

Is it just about climbing?

This is not the usual kind of post that ends up on the CliffCare site. But at this time, when understandably the noise is very loud out there with regards to Grampians access issues – this speaks volumes. There is a quietness about this that we need. Take a moment to read, linger on a thought, feel the sadness and also get a sense of what the Grampians/Gariwerd means on many levels. Thank you Earl for sharing your thoughts about your loss and what the love of the park and climbing has given you.

Is it just about climbing?…
My perspective after 20 years as a climbing guide in the Grampians.


I write this in loving memory of my brother Ben Earl 15/08/73- 04/03/19, for my family and friends, the Traditional owners of Gariwerd (the Grampians), the climbing community and importantly to all the climbing guides and climbers in the world that may or may not know how important you are.

I do not consider myself as an articulate individual with words, nor a great story teller, though I hope you are able to read this and find something here that resonates for you.
Moving to the Grampians from the hustle of Melbourne in August 1999 to work as an outdoor adventure guide, I cemented a new love and passion for the Grampians and rock climbing. I had no idea of where this would take me, the people I’d meet, the life I’d live and the impact I’d have on people’s lives through my work.
This year is my 20th year as a guide here. My work has meant so much to me. Not just to support my life here, mainly to give my life the sustenance it requires. I like helping people in need. Always did.

I had worked with “at risk” youth and young adults many times and was able to easily connect and facilitate knowledge or learnings that would empower them and hopefully assist them in their life ahead.
But nothing had prepared me for the day when my brother called me from Beaufort, fuelling up his motorbike, just an hour down the road and said, “what are you doing?” It was summer around 2001.
I said, “nothing much, what about you?” Ben replied “I’m on my way to Adelaide, I’ve a date with a truck! Thought I might stop by if your around?”
“What do you mean, a date with a truck”.
He replied, “ I’ll tell you when I see you.”
“Awesome I’ll catch you soon then.” And he soon rode towards my abode in the bush, known to locals as “The Shack”.
Waiting out on the road, I wave him into the the bush track that accesses the Shack. He didn’t know what to expect as he arrived to see my tent and the wooden shack that had no bathroom, no kitchen, windows but no glass, no power, no plumbing, no flat ground for his bike – after all it was just a shack. I place a piece of stringy bark under his bike-stand so it wouldn’t move in the sand and cause his bike to fall over. It was definitely an eye opener for him, from the hustle of Smelbourne (no harm intended) and suburban life to see me, set up at the Shack. Though once you arrive at such a place you start to connect back. Back to those primal roots embedded deep in us all, become calm, smell the bush and see through different eyes.
“What did you mean when you said, a date with a truck” I asked?
Ben then told me that he was going to ride his bike towards Adelaide into an on-coming truck and end his life!
That he just decided for some reason to call me and perhaps to see me.
This definitely took me by surprise to hear this. What could I do? How could I help him?
I had helped many people, but none that I thought were suicidal. This was a big deal and he was my brother after all and us brothers connect, no matter what the situation is.
Only one thing to do. To take him climbing. I wanted to show him that there’s more to life.

To most non-climbers, I accept that you may think that taking someone climbing may not stop someone from being suicidal, or empower them through their depression or some other mental illness. But it was the only card I had to play. Climbing had changed my life; perhaps it’ll help with my brother’s.

So I took him to the local crag called the Watchtower and we walked steeply up to the base of the crag. His tobacco filled lungs had not felt this alive for some time. Just reaching the base and seeing what loomed above him was invigorating enough. I sensed him now though, with some excitement and amazement pumping through his heart as he did not know what to expect. I also saw that he was proud of me to have taken up such a passion.

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The climb at the Watchtower

I sort out the gear, we tie in and I start the ascent up the cliff to a position 25 meters above. I anchor myself and set-up so that Ben may safely ascend on the other end of the rope.
For the 10-15 minutes as he climbed up towards me, he was out of my sight. He was just by himself, nothing else could matter – no history, no future, just him and his decisions, connected to the rock face, a relationship to the earth he had not felt before.
And to then present himself at the top, to see the view around him and to see the world now through different eyes, this was more than clear to both of us. All that was needed from my brother was a nod, the recognition of a reset, a re-connection to the earth and himself.
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This is what I call, “the real world” and I am fortunate to see this living and climbing in the Grampians/Gariwerd. I tell many people that to see the world through these eyes, looking out upon the real world – can change the way your see your life. That life you live with all the stresses, pain and complications can seem so far away.  Perhaps unnecessary or without such challenge when seen from this perspective. Suddenly you may see differently.
Earl 1

Fulfilled with life, recharged and empowered, he rode back to Melbourne, sought the help he needed and carried on. Made a family with three amazing kids and continued to be a great Dad and friend to so many people around him.

Now 18 years later, I wish I had that opportunity before he made that final decision. To re-connect him to the real world and recharge his heart, empower his mind, take him on another climb to reunite him with the real world he had not seen for so many years.
This recent event in my life with him passing on, my role as a climbing guide and the current situation in the Grampians National Park regarding the profile of climbing and climbers, has inspired me to speak out about how important the role of a climbing guide or climbers can be. As we have helped so many people over so many decades reconnect themselves, rediscover the real world, become aware, empowered once again, see through different eyes to make their world and the world a better place and all this, through a simple climb! And for me, all this, in this amazing place, Gariwerd.
I do not intend to speak for all climbers, offend or disrespect anyone or peoples. Just in hope to share my knowledge or experiences, that a greater awareness may provide a positive light in the dark time I have experienced.

Gariwerd is such a special place. There’s no wonder so many people’s ashes have been cast here. I sincerely thank the Traditional Owners for their part in sharing Gariwerd with the greater community. I hope their culture will be kept intact and that all visitors will have only more awareness when visiting the Park. We need to respect the Traditional Owners. I’m sure they will love to know that all kinds of people have been touched deeply by climbing in Gariwerd. That the majority of climbers and the people they introduce to Gariwerd through climbing, would naturally give recognition to this land. Find an enhanced respect to the history here through climbing and have a heightened connection to the earth that is found atop of a cliff while looking out upon this aged landscape, where the modern world is not seen and the real world prevails.

To the Traditional Owners of Gariwerd, Parks Victoria, all climbing guides and climbers alike, I hope we can still benefit, save lives, reconnect people to mother earth and themselves through the spirit of Gariwerd and climbing for the years to come.

Earl. Business owner of Hangin’ Out, lover of Gariwerd, helping people and rock climbing.

Please help broaden peoples understanding of climbing and share with your friends

GRAMPIANS/GARIWERD UPDATE

Following a number of recent reports of rangers asking climbers to leave climbing areas in the Grampians/Gariwerd, more confusion has occurred around where people can and can’t climb.

The maps and information supplied by Parks Victoria (PV) note the old and new SPAs. It also contains eight focus sites contained within one particular SPA which is marked in blue where, as noted by PV, signs will be erected and enforcement activity will occur.

PV has said that in the coming months it will be working with stakeholders and the climbing community to review these areas. However, for many in the climbing community this messaging is ambiguous and many have taken it to mean that for now climbing is only banned in those eight areas, and the other areas will be up for review following a collaborative consultation process.

Climbers have respected the initial bans but with the recent ranger activity in other areas, this has further confused the situation.

Official clarification on the situation has not yet been provided, so at this point of time we can only reiterate what we have noted previously:

 

  • Please respect all bans that have been put in place by PV. If you hear of anyone who is planning to climb in any of these areas, please inform them of the ban.
  • The working group is committed to collaborating with land managers and other stakeholders to ensure a fair and transparent process.
  • We have submitted a formal request to PV seeking clarification on closures and process.

 

Interactions with Rangers

Rangers have reportedly been telling climbers to vacate crags across the Grampians/Gariwerd that are inside SPAs. If you do meet rangers either at the crags, campgrounds or car parks, please be courteous but inquisitive about the climbing bans. Ask them what they personally think of the bans and what actions they have been told by management to perform. Be a good spokesperson for climbers and let them know how much you enjoy the Grampians/Gariwerd.

An authorised officer of PV can only ask for your name or ask you to leave if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that you’re doing something wrong.

What you can do

Given that penalties could be imposed, it’s important to be calm and polite when speaking to an authorised officer.

Ask them:

  • Who they are by politely asking them to produce identification.
  • To see a map of the banned areas.
  • About the legal position.
  • About alternative climbing locations that you can go to.
  • If you’re asked for your name and address or asked to leave, ask what their grounds are for doing so.

 

We have limited information about exactly why these areas have been banned so any information is important. IMPORTANT – Please send any info about interactions with rangers to VCC Cliffcare cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au.

Grampians National Park rock climbing update February 2019

GRAMPIANS ACCESS WORKING GROUP

Grampians Access Working Group – New Map Statement

Grampians Access Working Group (GAWG)
New Map Statement

Parks Victoria (PV) has now released a set of maps that show the extent of new Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in the Grampians National Park/Gariwerd. Alongside the already identified SPAs in the Western end (Victoria Range), these newly outlined areas cover a substantial amount of the climbing sites in the park.

There is still some confusion and a lack of clarity around some of the information presented to the climbing community and there are answers we don’t yet have to give you. We are, however, committed to continuing to work hard and thoughtfully to bring you further information.

The information we currently have:

  • PV will be implementing the Special Protection Areas at eight key focus sites. These sites are as follows: Gondwanaland, the Gallery, Millennium Caves, Billimina Area, Billywing Buttress, Cave of Man Hands, Little Hands Cave and Manja Area. PV has informed us that these sites have been closed as rock climbing activity has resulted in impacts to environmental and cultural values and evidence of damage has been assessed and documented. Signage will be placed at these locations by mid-March that explain the reasons why and the law that pertains to it. Penalties will occur at these sites if closures are ignored.
  • PV has noted that, while immediate action is required to address current impacts, a review of the Grampians National Park Management Plan including SPAs is needed. They have noted their intention to work with the climbing community via a Stakeholder Reference group. Members of the the Grampians Access Working Group (GAWG) will be part of this. This group will provide insight and evidence, of the importance of a diverse range of climbing opportunities in the park and will seek to identify if there are any issues of environmental or cultural significance where climbing could impact. The work of the reference group will then help to guide how PV manages climbing access across the park including that in the current SPAs.

GAWG are committed and hopeful that this  map release is the beginning of a collaborative process with land managers and the Traditional Owners of Gariwerd and that a nuanced approach will create an effective access framework that works for all.

As explained above, GAWG are working on many of the concerns that climbers have noted. We are very mindful of the sensitivities involved and wish to be as respectful as possible to all parties. We would also ask the climbing community to be patient while our team of dedicated volunteers work on immediate issues as well as long term sustainable climbing options. It deserves a well considered and thoughtful approach and we intend to continue on this path. We are committed to sharing information that is helpful to the community rather than unsubstantiated comment.

Climbers care deeply about Cultural Heritage and acknowledge the strong connection Traditional Owners have to Country. They are sensitive to environmental values in the park and we believe that with the right information provided to us, we can be a great ally. We would welcome the opportunity to work together through a consultative and collaborative approach to climbing access in the Grampians National Park/Gariwerd.

What can you do to help?

  • Most important: respect all bans that have been put in place by Parks Victoria. If you hear of anyone who is planning to climb in any of these areas, please inform them of the ban.
  • If you have skills that you think might be useful to the VCC, become a volunteer and assist our efforts. Contact cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au
  • You can become a member of the VCC here: https://vicclimb.org.au/join/. The VCC is the organisation that supports CliffCare, or you can donate to CliffCare directly here: https://cliffcare.org.au/about/donate/

If you have other questions that you feel are not answered here, please feel free to email: cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au


Thank you
GRAMPIANS ACCESS WORKING GROUP

 

Grampians National Park rock climbing update February 2019-1

 

Grampians National Park rock climbing update February 2019-2

Grampians National Park rock climbing update February 2019-3

Grampians National Park rock climbing update February 2019-4

 

 

Grampians National Park rock climbing update February 2019

GRAMPIANS ACCESS: WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Grampians access: What is happening?

Some climbers have expressed concern or confusion about who the people or organisations are that are representing climbers’ interests. As a user-group, we’ve flown under the radar for a long time, which has meant we’ve had a lot of freedom, equally it means that we’re not very well prepared for an event such as the banning of climbing in some areas in the Grampians. However, that situation is changing, and there are a lot of people very busily working to organise a response to Parks Victoria’s recent actions.

As part of that response, we realise it’s important for climbers to understand who is representing them and what is being done on their behalf.

WHO IS REPRESENTING CLIMBERS?
Victorian Climbing Club (VCC)
Tracey Skinner, the VCC’s Access Officer in charge of running CliffCare, the body that works to manage access state-wide
Paula Toal, VCC President
Steve Monks, long-time member
Nina Scott-Bohanna, communications

Western Victorian Climbing Club (WVCC)
Adam Merrick, committee member and editor of The Bolder

Local Climbing Representatives
Adam Demmert, roped climbing representative
Simon Weill, bouldering representative

Legal Team
VCC is seeking legal assistance to better understand the regulatory landscape.

Vertical Life magazine
Simon Madden, Editor; Ross Taylor, Editor

WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES THAT WE THINK ARE IMPORTANT TO CLIMBERS?
In negotiations with Parks Victoria and other groups, we think that the following principles are important to recognise:

  • Cultural heritage sites are of the highest importance to all Australians, including climbers, and we’d ask that all climber respect the bans where they apply.
  • We love these natural environments and landscapes and the experiences they offer, and we care very much about the integrity of these amazing places.
  • It is important to continue to have a close working relationship with Parks Victoria, the local Indigenous community and Aboriginal Victoria to understand and protect sensitive areas. Just as it is important for them to listen to our concerns it’s important that we listen to theirs.
  • We believe that, as a community and armed with the right knowledge and positive working relationships, we can all share these spaces in a positive and harmonious manner,
  • We hope that where suitable, closed areas can be reopened to climbers.

We are working hard to ensure we put in place – and effectively communicate – further guidelines and processes to ensure that we protect and care for these sensitive sites and our beloved climbing areas. As part of that, we believe the following steps need to be taken to peacefully resolve this situation:

  • We need to take the time to understand the concerns of Parks Victoria, Aboriginal Victoria and local Indigenous groups.
  • We need to assess whether there are ways in which we can resolve these concerns so that climbers can again access these areas, or accept that climbing is incompatible for some highly sensitive sites.
  • We need to educate climbers about the places we climb, and we also need to ensure that best practice is used when we visit these areas.
  • We need to further understand our legal position as a community, understand what our rights and responsibilities are, and investigate the possibilities of ensuring our access to the climbing areas in the future.
  • We need to think about how to manage areas with increasing numbers of climbers visiting popular areas.

As part of a respectful process, we do not believe that these bans can be overturned quickly, climbers will need to be patient as we work through this process. But, if we want long-term access to these areas and to ensure we can maintain access to other areas, it is worth taking our time to understand the problems so that we can come to solutions that work for all parties.

WHAT IS BEING DONE TO REPRESENT CLIMBERS?

  • We’ve sent a response to Parks Victoria from climbers. In that response we touched on some of the following points: we are disappointed that climbers were not consulted prior to the decision to implement a ban; some of the areas closed are of international significance to climbers; the vast majority of climbers are very respectful of Indigenous cultural heritage and their environmental impact, and we have a long track record of working with PV in the past; we’ve come up with solutions to past problems by working with Traditional Owners and we believe we can work with Parks Victoria, Aboriginal Victoria and Traditional Owners to try and come up with workable solutions to regain access to some of these crags.
  • We have initiated correspondence with local Traditional Owner groups with a view to establishing positive and collaborative relationships.
  • We’re seeking more detail from Parks Victoria about why each particular area has been included in the ban.
  • We’re seeking legal advice to understand the regulatory and legislative framework in which decisions about access are being made.
  • We’re forming several working groups, one to directly negotiate with Parks Victoria, and the other to provide advice and assistance to the negotiating team.
  • We’re putting together a plan to represent climber’s viewpoints to the general public.

HOW CAN YOU FIND OUT WHAT IS HAPPENING?

  • You can follow CliffCare, the VCC’s access arm on Facebook or check the website regularly updates: https://cliffcare.org.au/
  • More information can also be found by following Vertical Life on Facebook or again checking the website http://www.verticallifemag.com.au
  • We will be hosting an event where we can come together to discuss these issues, and where you can meet your representatives in person and ask questions.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?

  • Most important: respect all bans that have been put in place by Parks Victoria. If you hear of anyone who is planning to climb in any of these areas, please inform them of the ban.
  • If you have skills that you think might be useful to the VCC, become a volunteer and assist our efforts. Contact cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au
  • You can become a member of the VCC here: https://vicclimb.org.au/join/. The VCC is the organisation that supports CliffCare, or you can donate to CliffCare directly here: https://cliffcare.org.au/about/donate/
  • If you have other questions that you feel are not answered here, please feel free to email: cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au