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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Grampians Access & Keeping up to date

Have you signed up to follow the CliffCare blog?

Rather than just one main site where the climbing community goes to collect information, we tend to be a bit scattered in this regards. Be it route info, access info and updates or general climbing articles, the sites we visit are many. And when it comes to social media, getting up to date info can be dependent on whether you check regularly or even if it shows up in your news feed. And that probably won’t change anytime soon.

There are some great sites to visit and many Facebook pages that can give real time feedback. Some of this can have the tendency to wander off track or continue conversations that may not be so well informed. And understandably, sometimes this happens because at that present time, there may not be many hard and fast facts.

As we start down the road of collaborating on a sustainable climbing future in the Grampians National Park, I would like to take this opportunity to ask that people sign up to follow the CliffCare website. What this means is that every time something is posted, especially important now with the Grampians, you will receive an email alerting you to it. Whilst I do share these also via social media – as noted above, seeing it can be dependent on what shows in your newsfeed or how regularly you check it.

This way you get the actual Access details and reports about any current progress. Links to any surveys or calls for help. You get the basics, the fundamentals. And then, after that there are plenty of other avenues and sites  to read others thoughts or suggestions.

We think Vertical Life gives some well thought out and balanced articles. Food for thought, ideas for the road ahead.

Their latest:

https://www.verticallifemag.com.au/2018/11/grampians-access-a-primer-for-the-confused-and-concerned/?fbclid=IwAR199yWr3lTrIfkYWtypGc7ZOuvcfdNyTvN9oN2aqIgDniF0hqTzRKsjHnM

As always, your feedback to CliffCare is much appreciated. It has all been, and will continue to be, taken onboard. I will endeavour to respond to all, but please understand that this isn’t always possible.

Tracey Skinner
VCC/CliffCare Access & Environment Officer

VCC/Cliffcare Statement: Potential Changes to Climbing Access in the Grampians

There were some unexpected events last weekend and the community understandably wants clarification and answers. Getting answers and information can take time, and while it can be frustrating, there’s a process we have to follow. We appreciate your patience and support.

We want the climbing community to be involved in any decisions about climbing in the Grampians and this has always been our intention.

Background

Over the past 12 months, we’ve put out reports, shared ideas and suggestions for how to minimise impact. We’ve encouraged discussion about climbing practices and tried to make people aware of the connection to and importance of the area for Traditional Owners. We’ve also highlighted any incidents that resulted in negative impact to the park.

This was food for thought, and the hope was that it would get the community engaged and taking about how we use the park and how these issues might be better managed. We also hoped people would begin to think critically about the issues and to prepare for the road ahead.

Conservation and cultural heritage

There are many reasons behind the current scrutiny of access for climbers and other park users in the Grampians. These reasons include greater engagement from stakeholder groups such as land managers and Traditional Owners in recent years, and changes in community attitudes and government approaches to conservation.

Any decisions about how to manage access will consider the concerns of all interest groups in the context of new and existing legislation. Which is why it is so important to make sure climbers have a seat at the table and we are seen to be a respectful park user group.

This is not unique to the Grampians, and this information was provided to the community both publicly, and privately, where necessary.

Being proactive 

The best way to make sure we get a good outcome for climbers is to engage with other stakeholders proactively and this requires the community to understand the issues we’re facing.

Being proactive means we can’t wait to have explicit instructions in writing before we start to monitor and minimise our impact. If we do, we are compromising our position when it comes time to put forward our concerns.

We’ve had a number of incidents that resulted in serious impact in the park due to climbing. This has informed and changed how we need to approach this and will continue to.

More people are climbing

So far, our involvement with land managers has been positive but this doesn’t mean the road ahead will be straightforward.

There are very real problems with how we use the park now that the number of people climbing is growing. There are very real impacts driving the possible ways to manage this.

For the most part, climbers have the best intentions at heart when it comes to climbing in this unique and beautiful place. But we can’t keep doing things the way we always have.

We also need to think about people who are new to climbing. Education will be the focus of much of what we do, and that goes both ways—helping climbers to understand, and helping other interest groups to understand the concerns of climbers.

CliffCare education campaigns 

CliffCare is working on an education campaign with input from prominent and experienced local climbers and developers. We expect to be ready to launch this soon.

We’re also planning more education campaigns for the future because this will be an ongoing effort to make sure people have the information they need to minimise impact, and to climb safely and respectfully.

We will also release surveys and every campaign will be the result of input and suggestions from the climbing community.

Protecting climbers’ interests

We’re also working to put in place measures to make sure the climbing community has a seat at the table when it comes to deciding on the future of climbing in the park.

Respecting other stakeholders and working collaboratively with land managers is extremely important. We also want climbers to be respected and to have the processes in place that give the climbing community, as an important user in the park, a solid standing.

Getting on board

We appreciate your patience and understanding while we work to gather information that makes sense and gives you a clear idea of the road ahead.

We encourage you to get on board and to support a proactive approach, either through volunteer involvement, feedback or even by considering your actions and the actions of others more thoughtfully when you are in the park.

More information and feedback

Please take the time to read the reports on the CliffCare homepage, especially the reports dating back to start of 2017. Any feedback from the climbing community will be welcomed and appreciated.

Of special importance is:
the proposal for an Updated PV climbing code of conduct/policy
the proposal for a Climbing Management Plan for the Grampians.

These documents were submitted to Parks Victoria. A series of constructive engagements will take place with Parks Victoria post the caretaker period.

Thank you.

Voluntary CLIMBING ROUTE DEVELOPMENT MORATORIUM – GRAMPIANS NATIONAL PARK

 

VCC CliffCare Climbing route development moratorium letter NSB e

VCC CliffCare Climbing route development moratorium

 

Interested in knowing more about the current park management plan?

Head here https://cliffcare.org.au/grampians/