ACAV has made a written submission to the Minister regarding the proposed interim protection declaration for Dyurrite 1, located in the vicinity of Declaration Crag / Taylors Rock at Mount Arapiles / Djurite. This submission was made in response to a proposal from the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet:
On 23rd March the rock climbing round table participants received meeting notes and a presentation from Parks Victoria, following the fourth round table meeting held on 5th March.
These are the meeting notes prepared by Mark Dingle of Deloitte Australia and approved by Parks Victoria. We note that, unlike formal minutes of meetings, the round table participants have no input into these notes and there is no group approval process.
This is the Gariwerd Assessment Update presentation made by Maria Pizzi, Parks Victoria Director, Managing Country Together. This presentation describes four Projects that are in progress by Parks Victoria in their ongoing efforts to quantify the impact of rock climbing in the Grampians.
Project 1 – Assessment of climbing areas in the Grampians NP (125 climbing sites)
Project 2 – Aboriginal rock art site impact assessments in Grampians NP SPAs (72 rock art sites within 28 new Special Protection Areas created in 2019)
Project 3 – Conservation works at 8 focus areas in the NVR SPA (6 climbing locations and 2 caged art sites)
Project 4 – Environmental impacts assessment at rock climbing sites (8 climbing sites)
A fifth project was also outlined – a LIDAR survey of the Grampians is proposed at an estimated cost of $400,000. Parks Victoria wishes to “identify priority areas for future cultural surveys.” Light Detection and Ranging imagery is achieved through aerial photography and Parks Victoria has sought this funding to achieve survey resolution down to 2 cm.
This comprehensive report covers Round Table 4 – Part 2 including: Headlines – Information regarding Parks Victoria’s “Current Management Protection Regime” – Cultural Heritage Survey Progress – Environmental Survey Progress – Survey Scope and Cost
This is followed by a section on Legal Updates including a Legal Action Timeline reporting on significant events that have occurred since July 2019.
Parks Victoria issued this official Round Table 4 Communique on 11th March 2020. Further meeting notes are expected soon, including copies of the environmental and cultural presentations made at the meeting.
The Parks Victoria Rock Climbing Round Table 4 meeting on 5th March 2020 was once again attended by big guns: Parks Victoria Chairman, CEO, 3 Directors and a Deloitte facilitator. Plus a cohort of climbing/outdoor administrators – see Part 1 of this report for the list of attendees.
The February 2019 legal determination regarding climbing restrictions in the Grampians will remain in place, pending new conditions to be incorporated in the Grampians Landscape Management Plan (GLMP)
“The current management protection regime is unchanged”
The draft GLMP is due for issue to the Environment Minister in July
There will be an 8 week period of public consultation over the draft GLMP
The final GLMP is due to be issued in December 2020
Special Protection Area (SPA) details will be updated in the 2020 GLMP
Parks Victoria remains engaged in extensive Grampians surveys, focused on measuring rock climbing impacts
Current Management Protection Regime
8 focus sites – enforcement and fines apply for anyone found to be climbing at: The Gallery, Millennium Caves, Billywing Buttress, Billimina Area, Cave of Man Hands, Little Hands Cave, Manja Area, Gondwanaland. Signage is in place at the trail heads on the approaches to these 8 sites.
Special Protection Areas comprising 100 further climbing locations – climbing “restrictions” apply in accordance with Parks Victoria website advice. The wording on this web page is ambiguous. Fines do not apply for climbing in SPAs.
The photo above shows one of the 8 signs that Parks Victoria installed 12 months ago. The white SPA sign at the top cites National Parks Regulation 65 across Special Protection Areas. The grey sign at the bottom refers to prohibition at the 8 focus sites. These 8 signs are the only physical indicators of any work done over the last 12 months to protect cultural heritage. This sign is at the locked gate at the head of the Yanganaginj Njawi Track “camp of the emu foot track” several kilometres from the Gondwanaland focus site.
The photo above shows the grey focus site sign, showing that climbing is “prohibited” at the 8 focus sites.
This represents 40% of the climbing sites in the Grampians, comprising 4,300 routes
Further data on specific findings will be issued to the climbing community shortly
Observed impacts – not all attributed to climbing: litter, chalk, bolts, rock breakage exfoliation, vegetation clearance, illegal tracks
Tangible cultural heritage was found at 27 of the 125 sites surveyed
Assessments have not yet been carried out for intangible cultural heritage at these sites. Representatives from each of 3 Registered Aboriginal Parties have attended each cultural survey to date and will attend each review of intangible heritage.
100 further climbing sites will be surveyed in the coming months
Parks Victoria also carried out Project 2 – Impact Assessments at Rock Art Places to investigate climbing impacts at 29 new SPAs that were created in 2019. Evidence of chalking, bolting or rock breakage was present at 5 of the 29 sites. The 5 sites of concern are all in the northern Grampians. Photographs will be published as part of the presentations that were given at round table 4. Chalk marks were found within 1.8m of hand stencil art.
Parks Victoria is seeking a $400,000 federal grant to carry out a LIDAR aerial photography survey of the Grampians, showing details of ground conditions to a resolution of 2 cm.
Environmental Survey Progress, RT4
Parks Victoria has completed environmental survey work at 8 climbing locations:
Mt Zero, Andersens, The Watchtower, Venus Baths, Lookout Wall / Sundial, Bundaleer, Gilhams (shelter not the main cliffs), Mountain Lion
Parks Victoria acknowledged that the “7 hectares environmental damage” previously alleged at 8 climbing sites was incorrect. The correct assessment was given as 0.7 hectares vegetation damage at 8 sites. A media correction has been issued.
Parks Victoria then extrapolated from this, an estimate across 200 sites to allege that there is likely to be 18 hectares of vegetation damage across 200 climbing sites and an estimated 108 km of unofficial tracks created to access these 200 climbing sites.
Categories of environmental impact: vegetation removal or damage, evidence of fires, rubbish, toilet waste, track formation, weeds.
Parks Victoria stated that environmental damage found at rock climbing sites was not necessarily attributable to rock climbers.
Further environmental survey work was done in the Eastern Wall / Peking Face area, following a request made by the VCC at a previous round table meeting. There were concerns that a shiny Wild Country No. 3 Stopper was recently found in an area that was the subject of a long standing voluntary closure to protect brush tailed rock wallabies. There was some confusion over boundaries and location names in this area.
Survey Scope and Costs
The cost and scale of the Grampians surveys is enormous, considering the low-impact nature of rock climbing in comparison with other user groups, particularly day visitors on the main tourist trails. It appears that Parks Victoria is attempting to reinforce it’s 2019 position that climbers damage rock art in the Grampians as alleged in this academic paper Rock Art and Rock Climbing: An Escalating Conflict. However, despite the studies and all the surveys, Parks Victoria has been unable to produce evidence to support this notion.
There is no evidence of damage to rock art by climbers yet there is ample evidence of damage by tourists to paintings and ancient hand stencils along some of the popular tourist trails. The question of climber damage or harm to Aboriginal places is mired in terminology and inferred exclusion zones. Climbing impacts have certainly occurred in the vicinity of cultural heritage sites. Acceptable exclusion zones have not been established. The whole Park is deemed to be an area of cultural sensitivity. A Cultural Heritage Management Plan covering the entire Park would be necessary to properly protect cultural heritage under the terms of the Aboriginal Heritage Act. This would be an expensive exercise.
Every human activity has impact. The relatively minor impacts of recreational climbing are currently under a powerful microscope in the Parks Victoria boardroom. A verdict on the future of recreational climbing in the Grampians will be handed down later this year as part of the Grampians Landscape Management Plan. Climbers continue to have very little input to this process.
What’s happening with the Grampians legal action?
Note that any climbing legal dispute is against Parks Victoria. ACAV wishes to emphasise that great respect is intended towards cultural heritage sensitivities in the Grampians.
The set aside determination used by Parks Victoria to exclude climbers is invalid and a more fine-grained cliff-by-cliff, boulder-by-boulder approach is required to allow respectful recreational climbing to coexist alongside locations holding special cultural and environmental significance.
The invalid use of Regulation 65 of the National Park Regulations has caused Parks Victoria to place single signs to cover large areas and set up a blanket bans for one user group (climbers) while allowing other user groups (tourists, walkers, everyone except climbers) to continue to access cultural sites and cause harm. The use of Regulation 65 allows Parks Victoria to give the appearance of protecting cultural heritage, without any worthwhile management work taking place to properly protect the cultural sites. Day tourists remain free to visit these sites without restraint. Valuable cultural artifacts are all at ground level and are at great risk of harm that may be caused deliberately or accidentally.
A successful legal challenge against Regulation 65 would force Parks Victoria to invoke a more appropriate Regulation that would bring about a focused approach to protecting individual cultural sites while accepting respectful recreational activities in the vicinity. Parks Victoria has been applying major resources to outlaw rock climbing for the last 12 months.A more effective use of resources would be to spend money on more comprehensive educational strategies and practical physical measures to protect cultural heritage against all threats (without locking up the park).
ACAV Legal Timeline – regarding ACAV proposed legal action against Parks Victoria over restrictions on rock climbing across 550 sq km of the Grampians National Park.
July 2019 – ACAV engaged a law firm to advise on legal opportunities in regard to challenging the overreaching Grampians bans.
August 2019 – ACAV met with lawyers along with Junior and Senior Counsel to develop a legal case to challenge the set aside determination made by Parks Victoria in attempting to exclude climbers from large areas of the Grampians National Park.
September 2019 – This letter was sent from our lawyers to Parks Victoria, challenging the Grampians set aside determination and the invalid use of Regulation 65. A substantive response was not received. The legal team then prepared to file legal action against Parks Victoria on the basis that “the set aside determination is invalid”.
October 2019 – ACAV received legal advice that ACAV would not be able to show legal standing in court as the Association had not been established for a long enough time period. A typical duration of operation required to establish legal standing was indicated as approximately two years. Hence ACAV could not be the plaintiff in the proposed legal case. One or more individual climbers with a history of climbing in the region could conceivably act as plaintiff with ACAV backing but the plaintiffs would bear financial risk.
November 2019 – ACAV entered discussions with the Victorian Climbing Club (VCC) over the potential for the VCC to act as plaintiff as the club was established in 1952.
December 2019 – ACAV paid for professional legal work to gain QC advice that the VCC would be likely to achieve legal standing and hence the VCC could act as the plaintiff in a joint action with ACAV.
January 2020 – The VCC Committee voted to take legal action. The ACAV committee voted to donate the majority of ACAV funds raised to date, towards a VCC/ACAV legal challenge against Parks Victoria. This money was paid into the lawyer’s trust account along with similar funding from the VCC.
February 2020 – The law firm, along with Junior and Senior Counsel prepared the necessary legal documentation under the direction of the VCC, including affidavits to file proceedings against Parks Victoria.
March 2020 – theVCC Committee voted to suspend the legal challenge, anticipating good faith being shown by Parks Victoria towards the climbing community in the form of positive engagement over the management of rock climbing in the Grampians and at Arapiles. The ACAV funds previously donated will now be returned to ACAV to allow the implementation of alternative strategies.
Since the VCC has opted to suspend legal action, ACAV has no opportunity to bring about legal action at present. The legal action proposed above would benefit from the support of the VCC in two ways. Firstly as a plaintiff with legal standing and secondly to show broader support for a legal challenge within the climbing community.
While some track work is occurring with rangers at local level, we have not seen “good faith” consultation from Parks Victoria at executive level. One of the critical missing components is attendance by climbing representatives at site surveys to allow climbing-focused solutions to be put forward in a collaborative environment. This is standard practice at similar climbing locations around the world.
ACAV will continue to lobby for constructive consultation with Parks Victoria, including via mainstream media and at a political level. We are also working on alternative strategies with a long term aim to bring about properly managed climbing access across the State.
This report outlines the approach taken by ACAV at the fourth Parks Victoria Rock Climbing Round Table meeting held on 5th March 2020. Parks Victoria RT4 Agenda
Deloitte Australia (meeting chair)
Parks Victoria Chairman (meeting host)
Parks Victoria CEO
Parks Victoria Director, Managing Country Together
Parks Victoria Chief Scientist
Parks Victoria Senior Manager, Strategic Project, Rock Climbing
Parks Victoria Director, Government Relations
Western Victorian Climbing Club
Victorian Climbing Club
RMIT Outdoors Club
Round Table Bouldering Representative
Gariwerd Wimmera Reconciliation Network
Round Table Licensed Tour Operator Representative
Sport & Recreation Victoria
Sport Climbing Victoria
Sport Climbing Australia
An ACAV handout was circulated to the meeting attendees for discussion and to clarify our desired outcomes from the meeting. This was printed on orange paper to draw attention to the high level message and clarify the role of ACAV in this process.
Note that the Voluntary Stewardship Program is intended to be run by Cliffcare and work is already under way to get this up and running. Volunteers required, please contact Steven Wilson, or email the VCC.
The meeting Chair, Mark Dingle of Deloitte will issue an official Communique (brief summary) within 24 hours, followed by official Meeting Notes within 7 to 10 days.
Throughout the 3-hour meeting the elephant in the room was the inadequate consultation with climbing groups over the extensive Grampians climbing bans introduced 12 months ago. More than 100 Parks Victoria cliff surveys have now been completed with no attendance allowed by climbing representatives.
ACAV and VCC have persistently requested survey attendance to allow the environmental and archaeological site findings to be understood in a climbing context and impacts mitigated in accordance with world’s best practice.
Stand by for Part 2 of this report, to include further details on the progress of environmental and archaeological surveys, including a list of the sites selected. Parks Victoria has committed to issuing the presentations that were given at this meeting.
There have been some recent changes on the ACAV Committee. This is a brief update on the comings and goings. We will be providing some positive information on climbing access initiatives over the coming weeks and regular updates are planned to ensure that ACAV members are kept fully informed. The fourth Round Table meeting with Parks Victoria occurs on 5th March and we are anticipating significant updates on the Grampians access situation.
Back in December, eight members of the ACAV Committee requested a Special General Meeting of ACAV seeking a leadership spill. The vote was not successful, and I remained as President, but with minority support on the Committee through January and February.
Following the recent resignation of our Secretary, Leeanne Lindorff, it was necessary for us to seek a replacement for this vital role. The Committee was fortunately able to appoint Kuba Szczepanik as ACAV Secretary.
At a recent Committee meeting, several motions were passed to appoint replacement Committee members after some resignations following the Special General Meeting.
Three new ACAV Committee Members have been appointed as follows:
Shortly after these appointments, three members of the ACAV Committee resigned: Goshen Watts, Mark Wood and Lauren Coman.
The ACAV Committee now comprises the following ten members:
Kuba Szczepanik (Secretary)
Mike Tomkins (President)
The former Committee members have worked tirelessly for the cause of Victorian Climbing access and I would like to thank them sincerely for the many hours of voluntary work that they have committed on behalf of the climbing community. The above Committee is now focused on a raft of initiatives, working in close cooperation with the Victorian Climbing Club. Stand by for further updates in the coming days.
Natimuk residents will form a committee, following the second meeting on climbers’ access to Mount Arapiles in the town in as many weeks. Around 100 people attended a meeting called by National Hotel owner Bill Lovel at Soldier’s Hall on Wednesday night.
1. The climbing prohibitions are invalid as they currently stand.
2. The climbing prohibitions are “legally unreasonable” and “disproportionate to the supposed mischief to be addressed”.
It also stated that the ACAV would commence legal proceedings for a judicial review should Parks Victoria choose not to overturn the rock climbing prohibitions.
After receiving this response from Parks Victoria that they will not revoke the set-aside determination to remove the rock climbing prohibitions, the ACAV Committee accepted the opportunity to meet with Simon Talbot and other Parks Victoria representatives to further discuss the set-aside determination.
This meeting occurred on Friday 4 October between members of the ACAV Committee, ACAV Lawyers and Parks Victoria representatives.
Parks Victoria were represented by: Simon Talbot (COO), John Stevens (Manager Legal Services) and Stuart Hughes (Director Park Planning and Policy). The ACAV thank Parks Victoria for their attendance.
This meeting was an early stage in the legal process and was held ‘in confidence and without prejudice’ as a necessary step to ensure both parties could discuss matters honestly, fairly and without prejudicing any ongoing legal action. As such we are unable to report on the details of the meeting at this point in time. And by communicating this, the ACAV is also faithfully discharging its legal duties to its members.
The ACAV Committee will follow up with a submission based on the issues discussed at the meeting and keep pressing on with the legal strategy. We will keep members informed as, and when, we can regarding ongoing legal discussions and meetings.
In addition to the discussions with Parks Victoria, the ACAV are currently finalising all pre-trial duties in order to commence legal proceedings for a judicial review to have the matter brought before a court of law to decide whether the rock climbing bans implemented under Regulation 65 of the National Parks Regulations 2013 are in fact, legal.
The ACAV urgently needs your support to continue with this legal strategy.
Legal proceedings are highly effective, but expensive. We need your support to top up the ACAV Access Fund and help us reach our goal of raising $100k.
For larger donations over $100, you can make a direct deposit into our bank account via the details below:
Account Name: Australian Climbing Association Victoria
BSB: 313 140
Acc No: 122 095 76
Your contribution, whether great or small, will assist the ACAV in its goal of promoting and protecting access to rock climbing areas in Victoria.
The ACAV is committed to working with Traditional Owner groups and land managers to represent the interests of climbers with regards to access for recreational climbing and bouldering areas within Victoria. Our goal is to work with both groups to ensure fair access to climbers, proper management of State and National Parks and proper management of climbing as an outdoor recreational activity.
The ACAV Committee are pursuing multiple strategies to achieve these goals and will continue meeting with Parks Victoria COO, Simon Talbot, to endeavour to include and open a dialogue with Traditional Owner groups to manage any environmental risks and cultural concerns with regards to rock climbing practices.
Please continue to support our efforts to represent the climbing community in this way by making a donation today.
You can also show your support by purchasing an ACAV T-shirt here with all monies raised going towards the ACAV Access Fund.
We thank you for your continued support and for choosing to promote and protect climbing access in Victoria.
On Wednesday 18 September, the ACAV hosted a meeting with representatives from various Victorian climbing related clubs, organisations and businesses.
The objective of the meeting was to share with the representatives of the Victorian climbing community, the purpose of the ACAV and what the ACAV have been working on with regards to access issues and to request for any feedback from and collaboration with the representatives.
Representatives from the following clubs, organisations and businesses were present:
5. Working with other Victorian climbing organisations
Parks Victoria Climbing Roundtable Meetings
The meeting was well received and informative for attending representatives with many participating in meaningful discussions.
Key points of the meeting were as follows:
Access is a Three Legged Stool
There are three main supporting legs of climbing access. These are Political, Legal and Stewardship.
The ACAV was formed to tackle the legal and political components around access. The ACAV Access Fund is for funding legal activity. Not stewardship. Stewardship is the role of clubs for education and awareness, track building and maintenance and social activities.
Legal and Political Activities
ACAV is aiming to create legal and political pressure to ensure access is regained in a timely way. We have no voting power, but we can create noise. Political pressure from above can influence land managers to work with us. Shortly after a Question in Parliament was raised, the rock climbing round table was set up to engage the climbing community.
At the same time, ACAV are applying legal pressure. A legal letter was sent to Parks Victoria on 2 September which has resulted in the ACAV scheduled to meet with Parks Victoria Chief Operating Officer, Simon Talbot, Legal Services Manager John Stevens and Director Park Planning and Policy Stuart Hughes.
Climbing Management Plan (CMP) incorporated into the Grampians Landscape Management Plan (GLMP) for 2020
With the consultation workshops for the GLMP underway, having a Climbing Management Plan attached as an appendix would ensure that recreational climbing is embedded as an accepted recreational activity in the Grampians National Park.
The GLMP will be signed off by all three Traditional Owner groups with an interest in the Park, and so it would be in the interest of the climbing community to have the groups involved in the process of a CMP.
All representatives at the meeting agreed that the CMP would need to be created as a community with open consultation and feedback. Expert knowledge from the community will be required for the CMP in the areas of Climbing Knowledge (Trad/Sport/Bouldering), Environmental and Archeological. What this process would look like would need to be determined collaboratively by Victorian climbing representatives.
Bringing the Climbing Community Together
The climbing community as a whole have a common goal of resolving the access issues in the Grampians National Park. As a community, we need to have a strong united voice with consistent messaging in order to have the best chance of working alongside Traditional Owners and Land Managers.
Traditional Owner Messaging
The ACAV along with all representatives agreed that the climbing community need to find a common ground with Traditional Owners. The key message that we, as a community, want to deliver is that climbers want to protect cultural heritage, we do not want to do any harm.
Legislation and Plans
There is a misconception that climbing was banned by the 2003 Grampians Management Plan. Anything within the plan needs to be enacted by regulations and acts. As these were not properly enacted, climbing was not banned. Management plans are somewhat of a ‘wish list’ which can be implemented at any time, but must be done in accordance with the act and regulations. In order to ban an activity, you need signage to enforce a regulation/act. Without the signage, the bans cannot be considered legal. Please refer to the ACAV presentation for a more detailed overview on this topic.
Can we climb in SPAs?
Until the ACAV case set out in our legal letter is tested in a court of law, the ACAV cannot advise that climbing in these locations is not prohibited. PV’s Legal Manager recently stated that “it is only at these 8 sites, where the signage is in place, that PV is currently undertaking enforcement activities pursuant to the Regulations”. Whilst some people have already gone back into SPAs. ACAV encourages everyone to cooperate with rangers and to be respectful.
Next Round Table Meeting
The next rock climbing round table meeting is scheduled for early October. Prior to this meeting, the facilitator engaged by Parks Victoria, Mark Dingle, requested that each representative group send through a list of their top 10 climbing areas for cultural assessment.
It was felt by all representatives that this list is too significant to rush through and needs to be carefully considered. No one from the Founding Council had yet submitted their priority list and representatives in attendance agreed to discuss this further and work collaboratively. Two key questions that need to be answered by Parks Victoria regarding the request for these sites are:
What is the reason for this list?
How are you going to use it?
The potential to add additional representatives to the round table meetings was also discussed as it was agreed that the round table participants were lacking representatives in the following areas:
Licensed Tour Operators
Guide Book Writers Guild
The ACAV will draft a letter to the facilitator to make the request for additional representatives as well as request that the round table participants do not submit their top 10 climbing areas for assessment until a process for this has been discussed. The letter will also include a request for more Traditional Owner involvement at the round table meetings. The draft of this letter will be sent to all representatives for feedback before being sent to the Parks Victoria facilitator.