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.
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.
Parks Victoria – COO
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.
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WHAT CAN YOU DO?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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.