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

ACAV Statement of Support for the Gariwerd Wimmera Reconciliation Network

The ACAV Committee supports the newly formed Gariwerd Wimmera Reconciliation Network (GWRN).

The ACAV believes in the need to work with Traditional Owners to understand and communicate an understanding of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage to the wider climbing community.

The ACAV believes the GWRN will assist the climbing community to achieve this goal.

The ACAV will support the GWRN’s efforts to build meaningful relationships with Traditional Owners in order to listen and learn from them and find a respectful pathway towards a shared future.

ACAV Meeting with Parks Victoria 4 October & Legal Proceedings

The following communication was sent to ACAV Members on Thursday 10 October 2019:

Dear ACAV Member,

As you may be aware, the ACAV sent a legal letter to Parks Victoria on 2 September 2019 outlining the following points:

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.

You can donate to the ACAV Access Fund via credit card through our website here.

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

Reference: JR-2019

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.

Regards,

ACAV Committee

ACAV Meeting with Climbing Community Representatives

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:

  • ACAV
  • Bogong Equipment
  • Melbourne University Mountaineering Club
  • Outdoors Victoria
  • Project Climbing
  • RMIT Outdoor Club
  • Sport Climbing Australia
  • Sport Climbing Victoria
  • Victorian Climbing Club

The full list of invitees can be found here.

The agenda for the meeting was as follows:

1.      Welcome

2.      Who is on the ACAV Committee

3.      What is the ACAV all about?

4.      Key Current Activities

a.  Legal situation and Parks Victoria

b.  Climbing Management Plan

5.      Working with other Victorian climbing organisations 

  • Clubs
  • Founding Body
  • 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:

  1. What is the reason for this list?
  2. 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:

  • Bouldering
  • Licensed Tour Operators
  • Guide Book Writers Guild
  • Archeological/Environment

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. 

You can view the full slide show presented by the ACAV here.

Regards,

ACAV Committee

Climbers Voice – 1st Edition

The first edition of the Australian Climbing Association (ACA) national publication, Climbers Voice, is now available for download. 

Climbers Voice is a biannual publication providing the Australian climbing community with news, views and stories related to climbing access and advocacy and to help protect our climbing areas.

In this edition:

  • Climbing Advocacy: The ACA & A Vision for the Future
  • Do the Right Thing: Climbing Etiquette
  • Kids on the Rocks: Climbing is a Family Affair
  • Grampians Climbing Bans
  • Arapiles: Trouble in Paradise?
  • Five Codes of Ethics: Bouldering
  • Tibrogargan: A Sentinel of Lost Wilderness
  • Stewards/Advocates/Affiliates

Please consider making a donation to the ACAV Access Fund and  towards the protection of rock climbing areas.

ACAV welcomes any feedback from the climbing community via the contact form on our website.

Regards,

ACAV Committee

Donate to the ACAV Access Fund, Get Cool Stuff!

ACAV are now kicking off their fundraising drive in an effort to top up the Access Fund!!

ACAV T-Shirts Now Available

To kick off the fundraising, we now have Blue ACAV T-shirts for sale. Be quick to place your order as there are only a limited number available. T-shirts are $40 each and available in Men’s and Women’s sizes.

Click here to purchase your ACAV T-shirt today.

ACAV Raffle – AWESOME Prizes!

Thanks to the generous support of local businesses and individuals we have some amazing prizes up for grabs!

Raffle Tickets are $5 each with the winners to be drawn at the Victorian State Bouldering Titles on Saturday 21 September at Northside Brunswick.

Prizes:

  • Osprety Mutant 22L back pack
  • $100 Voucher – Cilmbing Anchors
  • $100 Voucher – Rock Hardware
  • 1 Month Membership – Urban Climb Collingwood
  • Camp Jaspter CRB Verde Harness – Medium
  • Urban Climb Beanie & Chalk Bag
  • Rock Empire Screwgate Biner, Camp Orbit Wiregate Biner

Click here to purchase your raffle tickets to be in the draw!

Thank you to the following businesses and individuals who donated prizes to our raffle:

  • Climbing Anchors – Collingwood
  • Paddy Pallin’s – Lt Bourke St
  • Rock Hardware Bendigo
  • David Willing
  • Urban Climb Collingwood

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

ACAV Reaches Out To Other Victorian Climbing Organisations

The ACAV believes that all climbing clubs, groups, associations and businesses can work together as a united front to promote climbing as a healthy, environmental and culturally minded activity. 

Next week on Wednesday 18 September, the ACAV will be hosting a meeting for all Victorian climbing clubs and related organisations and business to come and learn more about who and what the ACAV are.

This initiative is to share with key stakeholders in our climbing community, the purpose of the ACAV and what the ACAV have been working on with regards to access issues. 

The agenda is as follows

  1. Welcome
  2. Who is on the ACAV Committee
  3. What is the ACAV all about?
  4. Key Current Activities:
  • Legal situation and Parks Victoria
  • Climbing Management Plan

5.      Working with other Victorian climbing organisations:

  • Clubs
  • Founding Body
  • Parks Victoria Climbing Round table Meetings

The invitation has been sent to all committee members of the following clubs, organisations and businesses. If your club is not represented in this list or you are a committee member of one of those below but have not received an email invitation, feel welcome to email the ACAV secretary via [email protected]

Adventure Guides Australia
Alpenverein Melbourne
Alpine SAR
Bayside Rock
BlocHaus
Bogong Equipment
Cliffhanger Climbing Gym
Climbing QTs
Gravity Worx
Hanging Out
Hardrock Climbing Gym
La Roca Boulders
La Trobe University Mountaineering Club
Melbourne University Mountaineering Club
Monash University Outdoor Club
Mount Bogong Club
Mountain Sports Collective
New Zealand Alpine Club
North Walls Climbing Gym
Northside Boulders
Outdoors Victoria
RMIT Outdoor Club
Sport and Recreation Victoria
Sport Climbing Australia
Sport Climbing Victoria
Swinburne Explorers Club
The Crag
Urban Climb
Vertical Life
Victorian Climbing Club
Western Victorian Climbing Club
The Wilderness Shop

Grampians Set-Aside Determination Concerning Rock Climbing

The ACAV Committee believes that Parks Victoria displayed major bureaucratic overreach in February 2019 by instituting Grampians rock climbing prohibitions. This episode has far-reaching consequences for the public good in terms of access to public lands for everyone. There is far more to this story than contained within the legal domain and we are at a critical point for future generations. Many user groups are facing similar lockouts from public lands. 

The exclusion of respectful park users is a great detriment to park management and an opportunity has so far been missed to blend the knowledge of the Traditional Owners into genuine and collaborative park management. Respectful and knowledgeable park users are the natural allies of the Traditional Owners in seeking to bring future generations together to celebrate culture and the environment in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding.

On 25th July 2019, ACAV received this letter from the Manager, Legal Services of Parks Victoria in response to our requests for the reasons behind the Grampians climbing prohibitions.

In response, the ACAV has funded formal legal advice regarding the legality of the set aside determination used by Parks Victoria to prohibit rock climbing at various locations within the Grampians. We would like to thank ACAV members and supporters whose membership fees and donations have contributed to obtaining this advice.

Following advice from Senior Counsel, a letter from our lawyers was issued to Parks Victoria on Monday 2nd September 2019, asserting that the set aside determination is invalid and proposing that the set aside determination should be revoked. You can read the full letter here.

In simple terms the letter conveys that:

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”.

The letter gives Parks Victoria seven days to provide a substantive response, without which we have instructed our lawyers to commence proceedings for a judicial review.

The ACAV will continue to provide updates on a regular basis as information comes to hand and when we have a better idea of the position Parks Victoria wants to take towards the ACAV and Grampians climbing access.

Please show your support by becoming an ACAV member join via this link

With the potential for the requirement of additional legal counsel and fees, we need your help to top up the ACAV Access Fund. To assist with the incursion of future costs, please consider giving an extra donation via this link.

The ACAV Committee would like to thank the climbing community for its continued support and commitment to resolving access issues in the Grampians.

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

————————————————————————————————————

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.