Following recent media pressure, Parks Victoria has declared a media shutdown and appears to be working to resolve some of the fallout from the February 2019 Special Protection Area advice. Parks Victoria has invited all Licensed Tour Operators (LTOs) to a meeting in Halls Gap at 11am on Tuesday 4th June, and includes representatives from ACAV, the VCC and other stakeholder groups.
We understand that this meeting has been set up to address LTO concerns over loss of access to group climbing locations in the Grampians. The process to reissue or modify LTO licenses for the new financial year must be finalised before the end of June and certainly the recent doubt over Summerday Valley is critical for LTO’s. Parks Victoria is under pressure, and we suspect that there may be a full or partial lifting of the climbing bans at Summerday Valley.
Whilst the lifting or modifying of the bans in Summerday Valley would be a positive step in negotiations, this is not an acceptable resolution for most climbers and it doesn’t provide any safeguards to the threats to access which are playing out across Victoria currently. Questions still remain as to the legality of bans in the remaining Special Protection Areas, and of course, the difference between climbing activities as opposed to bush walking and other activities which are still sanctioned in the SPAs.
Summerday Valley is within one of the Grampians Special Protection Areas (SPAs). The legal status of climbing in SPAs is under review at present. Parks Victoria has declared climbing to be prohibited within SPAs (prohibited since 2003). However Parks Victoria has informed the climbing community that any climbers found climbing within SPAs will be ‘educated’ and will not be fined. No signage is in place across the SPAs and we understand that pro-climbing signage is still present at Summerday Valley.
Summerday Valley is a key location for group instruction in the Grampians and loss of climbing access here would be devastating to several local businesses. An unfortunate knock-on effect of a ban here would be subsequent environmental wear and tear on nearby locations by the displaced groups. A great deal of work has been carried out by Cliffcare / The VCC over the years at Summerday Valley to protect and harden the area to make it suitable for group and recreational users alike, minimising erosion and keeping areas adjacent to the climbing site largely unspoilt.
Note there is also some extra background info on Summerday Valley on a post at Save Grampians Climbing.
It would appear that there are only two likely pathways for Parks Victoria to take on 4th June to resolve this particularly thorny problem at Summerday Valley:
- Clarify that Summerday Valley remains open to all climbers and LTOs with minor agreed restrictions to protect areas of cultural significance.
- Re-open Summerday Valley to LTO access only.
Only option 1 is acceptable to ACAV and to the wider climbing community. ACAV representatives will be attending the meeting on 4th June to ensure that this position is strongly communicated.
Furthermore ACAV is seeking an immediate review of climbing access at nearby climbing locations within this particular SPA: Bowler Boulder, Flying Blind Buttress, BARC Cliff, Echidna Wall, Andersens, Gun Buttress, Sandinista Cliff, Moral Vandal Block, Amnesty Wall, Crank Start Amphitheatre, Orange Blossom Wall, Guernica Block, Clicke Wall, Red Wall, Echo Block, Hollow Mountain Cave, Loopeys, Bad Cliché, Kindergarten, Bellerophon.
Several of these climbing and bouldering locations have worldwide significance to the climbing community and this proposed blanket ban is being strenuously challenged by ACAV.
We want to take this opportunity to thank our LTO members and donors for their engagement and support in addressing the bans both financial and in assisting with our strategy.
ACAV interim committee