Victorian Climbing Management Guidelines – Version 4

Following a period of consultation, the Victorian Climbing Management Guidelines document has been updated to version 04.

The Victorian Climbing Management Guidelines V04

This document has been issued to interested parties at all levels. It is intended to inform and advise with a view to establishing excellent climbing management practices for the benefit of everyone.

We are indebted to Matt Brooks, who took on the lead role of pulling all this information together, managing the consultation process and closing out this major piece of work to produce a high quality document and a forward plan for rock climbing and bouldering in Victoria, Australia.

The Victorian Climbing Management Guidelines has been developed in accordance with international best practice, factoring-in comprehensive advice from climbing bodies around the world, including Access Fund USA:
A Guide to Climbing Issues and the Development of a Climbing Management Plan

This approach is a continuation of work done by Cliffcare for many years: https://www.cliffcare.org.au/

Victoria also has a new stewardship organisation, Crag Stewards Victoria, described in the Victorian Climbing Management Guidelines.

Ongoing feedback is always welcome for future updates to the Guidelines: [email protected]

You can also provide feedback on our Facebook group: ACAV Access Discussion

Time for an Audit, Parks Victoria

Blanket bans on rock climbing in Gariwerd/Grampians National Park and Tooan/Arapiles State Park have been introduced by Parks Victoria under the advice of one consultant archaeologist. When a site has been assessed by this archaeologist, the Aboriginal Heritage Act comes into play and the barriers go up. This has brought about climbing exclusions on a scale never before seen in the climbing world. To date, all sites that have been closed remain closed. No reviews, no questions, non negotiable.

Climbing groups have taken issue with many of the archaeological findings and allegations. Refer to previous news stories on this site for details. In May 2020, ACAV made a formal complaint to the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists. No substantive response has been received.

Archaeologist Complaint lodged by ACAV

The procurement process for archaeological advice is highly questionable. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that Parks Victoria claims that only this particular archaeologist can do the work; allegedly the “sole supplier in the market” and “the only qualified person to complete this task in the state”. In fact there are multiple highly qualified consultant archaeologists willing and able to carry out work of this nature. The “sole supplier” reasoning may have been inappropriately used by Parks Victoria to avoid following a competitive tendering process. It makes the paperwork easier and Parks Victoria is clearly happy with the outcomes. No peer reviews have been carried out.

An audit application has now been submitted to the Victorian Auditor General – Audit application.

Supporting paperwork includes procurement documents recently obtained from Parks Victoria under the Freedom of Information Act – FOI applications and responses.

Further revelations within these FOI documents will be of interest to climbers piecing together how bans on this scale have been able to occur in Western Victoria but nowhere else in the world.

While the procurement paper trails have been released with heavy redaction, Parks Victoria has flatly refused to release any information surrounding archaeological reports, findings and recommendations. The two FOI requests seeking reports have been rejected or have stalled. The Aboriginal Heritage Act gives some justification for this, since a degree of discretion is required over site locations. That’s why we need the Government auditor to step in to cut through the veil of secrecy. If everything is above board then Parks Victoria has nothing to worry about. If malpractice has occurred there will be serious consequences and remedial action will follow. The forthcoming Grampians Landscape Management Plan has been drafted under the assumption that the archaeological advice is sound.

We have redacted point 5 from the audit application form as this relates to a connected matter raised by ACAV and currently under Ministerial review. It takes a very hot issue for ACAV to consider keeping access news under wraps. Watch this space for updates.

This is a sensitive area. Many climbers are reluctant to challenge the behaviour of Parks Victoria for fear of giving offence to Aboriginal representatives. This quandary has so far led to a wipe-out of rock climbing in the state with all hopes being pinned on a climbers’ reconciliation group.

Let’s see what the auditors find.

ACAV work of this nature has lost support. We will be holding a Zoom AGM in October. Along with several committee members, I will be stepping down. Any member may nominate for a role. If you are interested, please get in touch: Contact page

Refer to the ACAV Constitution to review the purposes of the Association.

Report by Mike Tomkins

New Grampians Management Plan Imminent

This ACAV update covers Victorian climbing access issues in the lead up to the proposed release of the draft Grampians Landscape Management Plan 2020 by Parks Victoria, due for review by the Environment Minister in June 2020.

The 2003 management plan defined the Special Protection Areas (SPAs) that were later invoked in 2019 to ban climbing and bouldering from 100 locations across the Grampians. The draft GLMP 2020 will be issued for public consultation once the Minster has reviewed it. We may see the draft plan in July or August.

Recent climbing access events and stories in Victoria – please follow the links for more detail.

  1. Rock climbing round table 4 documents released: More cultural surveys planned by Parks Victoria. Bundaleer and other cliffs to be added to the list of banned SPA locations.
  2. Declaration Crag Protection Order, ACAV submission. Consultation occurred with selected groups only. Minister’s response inadequate.
  3. ACAV Regulation 10 query led to Parks Vic Legal Manager advice: the SPA bans are “relying on the cooperation of the Victorian public” as these bans cannot be enforced.
  4. ACAV complaint to Archaeological Association, seeking retraction of erroneous claims by Ben Gunn.
  5. ACAV Freedom of Information requests have been declined to date. Parks Vic archaeological consulting procurement practices look likely to remain a state secret.
  6. Licensed tour operator new contract arrangements: all liability passed to LTOs. Several LTOs cannot renew their licenses. Climbing businesses under threat of closure.
  7. Chalk-wash fallacy. Sandinista Scandal. Parks Vic criticised in the media after blaming climbers for natural white streaks.
  8. Unworkable Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018: Parks Vic cannot meet permit costs and cover risks. Ground works aborted. PV Admits Heritage Regulations Unsustainable.
  9. Victorian Climbing Club ongoing delays over the 2019 SPA legal challenge. Refer to VCC for details.
  10. This ACAV letter requested that the VCC return the $30,000 legal contribution made by ACAV in February.
  11. Arapiles known art site surveys in progress by Ben Gunn. Whole-of-park surveys proposed to look for more artifacts. ACAV concerns prompt national media story.

It is possible that the Grampians Landscape Management Plan 2020 will map out a fair and reasonable place for rock climbing in 2021. However, considering the ongoing lack of meaningful consultation with rock climbers and the actions of Parks Victoria thus far, we are not optimistic. You are invited to draw your own conclusions.

We would like to hear from any members with legal, financial or IT experience to assist with the running of ACAV at this critical juncture for climbing in Victoria. Please email [email protected] if you can help in any way.

Please support the work that we do at ACAV:

Join as a member for $15

Donate to the Access Fund

You are invited to provide feedback on our Facebook group: ACAV Access Discussion

Rock Climbing Round Table No.2

ACAV Meeting Report                             8th October 2019

Held at Deloitte Bourke Street office and at Parks Victoria Halls Gap office via teleconferencing link.

The following notes were issued by Deloitte Australia and they have been approved by Parks Victoria for general release.

https://vicclimb.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/rt2-approved-communications.pdf

FOI 3 – Six Month Wait for Two Pages

On March 6th 2019, before ACAV was a twinkle in anyone’s eye, I worked with a legal friend to put in three Freedom of Information Requests to Parks Victoria. We requested impact studies relating to Grampians rock climbing along with all relevant rock climbing related communications with Aboriginal Victoria and Traditional Owners.

Now, six months later we received a response to the third and final FOI request.

What is going on in our government agencies when they can get away with this flagrant contravention of the Freedom of Information Act 1982?

This response is 5 months late and only two out of 172 relevant pages are provided in full.

This is the decision letter

This is the “information”

Our legal boffins will pick the bones out of this meagre information and we may come up with a few avenues of opportunity to encourage Parks Victoria to protect the Grampians properly in the future. Putting up a handful of signs banning climbers does not protect cultural and environmental values.

We have all seen the damage that continues to be done by day-visitors and feral animals. Come on Parks Victoria – we have a raft of environmental initiatives that you have so far ignored.

Eagle eyed ACAV members are welcome to assist and comment.

We will ensure that our government agencies are held to account, one way or another. This is my new favourite word:

We have a major challenge ahead of us. Please consider making a donation to the access fund

Rock Climbing Round Table No.1

ACAV Meeting Report                             20th August 2019

Held at Parks Victoria Bourke Street and Halls Gap offices via video conferencing link.

Six months after the announcement of the world’s most extensive rock climbing bans in the Grampians National Park, our land manager Parks Victoria held a Rock Climbing Round Table meeting on Tuesday 20th August 2019.

This long overdue consultation has been prompted by mounting pressure on the land manager from a respectful yet insistent climbing community. Climbers have made strong representations across many platforms in support of climbing as a respected and beneficial activity.

ACAV members will be interested to know the key issues under discussion. We have been asked to omit direct quotations from this meeting and be mindful of any sensitive items. Hence we have not spoken for other rock climbing attendees. Parks Victoria will be issuing formal minutes within a week or two. These were the main items under discussion.

Parks Victoria Representatives
Jeff Floyd Parks Victoria, Chairman
Stuart Hughes Parks Victoria
Carol Nichols Parks Victoria
Lucy Marshall Parks Victoria
Simon Talbot Parks Victoria
Climbing Representatives
Adam Merrick Western Victorian Climbing Club
Andrew Knight Outdoors Victoria
Coralie Reich RMIT Outdoors Club
Jackson Freeman La Trobe University Mountaineering Club
Mike Tomkins Australian Climbing Association Victoria
Paula Toal Victorian Climbing Club
Philip Goebel Sport Climbing Victoria
Philipp Hammes Alpenverein
Riley Edwards ClimbingQTs
Romain Thevenot Sport Climbing Australia
Independent Chair
Mark Dingle Deloitte Australia

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ACAV Meeting Notes

  1. Jeff Floyd, Parks Victoria Chairman hosted the meeting.
  2. Parks Victoria invited rock climbing representatives on the basis of their involvement in the Founding Council.
  3. An independent facilitator, Mark Dingle (Deloitte Australia) chaired the meeting.
  4. The meeting agenda was open ended.
  5. Parks Victoria expressed surprise at the scale of the bans, the global importance of Grampians rock climbing and the depth of concern within the climbing community.
  6. Parks Victoria expressed a willingness to facilitate wider discussions on Grampians rock climbing under this forum, to bring Traditional Owners and rock climbers together. It was noted that the Traditional Owners are contemplating this possibility.
  7. Parks Victoria will provide information at the next round table meeting regarding ongoing archaeological survey work in the Grampians. This is to give the rock climbing community some insight into the relevant cultural heritage issues.
  8. Parks Victoria stated a clear motivation to support rock climbing under a Healthy Parks, Healthy People strategy.
  9. ACAV requested the proactive assistance of Parks Victoria in the major task of rehabilitating the reputation of climbers in Victoria, following the events of the last six months.
  10. ACAV welcomed this initiative to begin comprehensive consultation with the rock climbing community.
  11. ACAV proposed the major objective of creating a Victorian Climbing Management Plan as an Appendix to the 2021 Grampians Landscape Management Plan. This ACAV draft document is in progress. Community consultation phase to follow. ACAV to be a paid consultant to clarify the legal status of the VCMP within the GLMP.
  12. ACAV stated that cliff-by-cliff risk assessment works were under way, initially as a desktop exercise using climbing community expertise. This is to mitigate known environmental risks to ISO 31000:2018 Risk Management standards. To be expanded to cover cultural heritage risks subject to further knowledge.
  13. An executive summary of the ACAV Environmental Action Plan will be forwarded to Parks Victoria for review.
  14. ACAV suggested that it would be beneficial for a senior Parks Victoria representative to undertake an overseas study visit to a rock climbing location that has successfully managed rock climbing in a similar context with cultural heritage and environmental challenges.
  15. ACAV offered existing research data into climbing visitation in the Grampians and offered to assist with the promotion of climbing in a sustainable manner.
  16. ACAV reiterated a request for ACAV representation on the Stakeholder Reference Group panel for the proposed Grampians Landscape Management Plan process. The single place available has been granted to Paula Toal as the assumed representative of the Founding Council. ACAV noted that the Founding Council is at concept stage and that it holds no authority in the area of climbing access. Furthermore there has been no selection process for the leadership of the Founding Council as there is no membership to formulate a vote. ACAV has been denied a place on the Stakeholder Reference Group and will raise this issue at a later date.
  17. This meeting is likely to be the first in a series of Rock Climbing Round Table meetings. Follow up meeting to be advised, likely to be in 4 weeks’ time.

Licensed Tour Operator Meeting: Regarding SDV 16th July 2019

The following meeting report describes the convoluted negotiations that occurred in attempts by Parks Victoria to keep Licensed Tour Operators running climbing activities at Summerday Valley. It’s a rambling tale that is still being played out.

If you want a snapshot of the the meeting outcome, scroll to the end for the “bookable sites” images that Parks Victoria issued on 29th July.

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