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 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.

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

Stakeholder meeting 12 February, 2019 Outcome statement

On Tuesday 12 February, we attended a meeting with Parks Victoria and representatives from the climbing community and the Western Victoria Climbing club to talk about rock climbing access in the Grampians.

Parks Victoria advised that eight areas in the western Grampians will be closed to rock climbers. The exact locations of the areas were not provided at the meeting, however, we were told to expect this information within 48 hours.

Signage will be put up at the eight closed areas over the next two weeks and people ignoring the closures will be issued with fines.

As soon as we receive information about the exact locations of the closures, we will make this available. We anticipate the majority are located in the Victoria Range.

Parks Victoria are banning climbing in these areas because Aboriginal Victoria—the organisation responsible for cultural heritage management and protection—believes Parks Victoria have failed to protect cultural sites. Aboriginal Victoria can place large fines on Parks Victoria in these cases.

There are ongoing concerns about damage to cultural sites due to the impact of climbing and bouldering. Two cases of bolting occurring close to rock art in the Black Range have added to the problems.

As well as the exact locations of the closures, we asked for information about the size of the closed areas (where the bans will extend to) and the reasons climbing bans are being placed on these particular areas.

With more information, we hope to be able to prevent other areas being closed to climbing and find ways to work together to protect the park.

The potential for more closures is a real possibility and Parks Victoria told us they plan to look at the impacts of climbing and bouldering in other areas.

As well as damage to cultural heritage, Parks Victoria are very concerned about environmental damage occurring in the park, in particular the active removal of vegetation around boulders, impacts due to bouldering mats on vegetation, and the use of fixed anchors and track clearing.

Parks Victoria plans to create a stakeholder group to help develop a state-wide climbing policy. And also provide input to update the 2003 park management plan for the Grampians, which currently doesn’t include guidance for activities like bouldering.

It’s essential that our response is clear, coordinated and respectful.

We are a legitimate user group of the Grampians National Park and climbing, like many other activities, can exist in a way that doesn’t impact negatively on cultural or environmental values.

Please respect these bans as they will be policed and ignoring the closures could jeopardise access to other areas. We strongly encourage you to familiarise yourself with the information Cliffcare has provided to date about access issues in the Grampians. It can be found on the CliffCare website.

Further information about the locations of closed areas will be provided as soon as we receive it.

Vertical Life have also provided a statement https://www.verticallifemag.com.au/?p=9835
Thank you.

Tracey Skinner
VCC/CliffCare Access & Environment Officer

Paula Toal
VCC President

Grampians Access meeting – Feb 2019

The VCC and CliffCare, along with 6 of the members of the newly created Grampians Access working  & technical working groups, will attend a meeting with Parks Victoria on 12th February.

As noted by land managers – ‘The purpose of this meeting is to discuss upcoming changes to rock climbing in the Grampians National park and surrounds, and confirm next steps and opportunities to work together’.

Attending Climbing Representatives:

Paula Toal – VCC President
Tracey Skinner – VCC/CliffCare Access & Environment Officer
Steve Monks – Victorian Climbing Rep
Adam Demmert – Climbing and Developer Representative
Simon Weill – Bouldering and Developer Representative
Adam Merrick – Western Victorian Climbing Club (WVCC) Rep and Education advisor
Ross TaylorClimbing community Communications/Media (Vertical Life)
Nina Scott Bohanna – VCC  PR and Communication advisor

We are in no doubt that this will be a challenging process. We look forward to some clarity from land managers around the current status of climbing in the park and surrounds, and the opportunity to collaborate  to ensure that not only are park and cultural values protected, but the rights of climbers as a legitimate user group are taken into account.

I will have further information available soon on the Grampians Access working group and its members. If you would like to offer a particular set of skills or help out in any way that you feel could be beneficial to Access, we also have a technical working group. Drop me a line cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au

Tracey Skinner
VCC/CliffCare Access & Environment Officer