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.

ACAV Meeting Report – Licensed Tour Operator Meeting Parks Victoria Office, Halls Gap                                                    16 July 2019


Parks Victoria – Sally Lewis, Emma Watts, Caroline Stanners, Dave Lucas, Gavan Mathieson

Aboriginal Victoria – Matt Field, Todd Marshal, Mark Ecclestone

LTOs – Paul Horton OEG, Joe Mitchel OEG, Dick Lodge (ACAV), Tori Dunn GAC, Matt Brooks Adventure Plus (ACAV), Adrian Manikas Absolute Outdoors.

Issues discussed in chronological order:

  • Sally Lewis PV paused meeting 2:36 to get advice on filming (there was a prior written request to film the meeting)
  •  8:28 stop meeting as no permission to continue
  • Offer one on one discussion in smaller groups to discuss issues
  • 11:59 meeting reconvened in smaller group with Halls Outdoor Ed, Emma Watts, Caroline Stanners
  • 12:15 Emma Watts comment in regards collaboration an PV staff have suffered abuse on social media
  • 13:05 Caroline talks of protecting staff – sends out releases for consent.
  • 14:15 Matt talks regard filming and Tori filming
  • 15:22 Emma talks regarding Toris email requesting to film
  • 16:08 PV has analysed the data from the previous meeting and worked through the data and formulated
  • 16:45 PV has Conducted further Aboriginal heritage studies and environmental analysis, not as comprehensive as the whole LMP
  • Discussed options for extending licences in SDV, conditions, induction, still works in progress
  • Confident these will be in place by the end of the 3 month period
  • Extended LTO permits for the 3 months.
  • 17:33 Emma Watts – 3 sites in SDV, Barc Cliff, Wall of Fools, Back Wall, updated maps by the end of the week? Talk of more groups/per site. Asks for info to be shared.
  • Talks of drone footage and where climbing can be.
  • No conflict on bookings yet, quiet period, may open more sites on those walls. Already taking bookings, booking to Info@Park, Emma Watts,
  • Talks of booking areas morning/afternoon etc
  • Reason for manual booking as they don’t know the capacity – ie they have no idea of the numbers using the area.
  • Worried someone may book the lot – no booking charge
  • Licence 16 persons per group/site
  • Very loose visitation numbers, need numbers to plan for the future to inform Parks use.
  • Booking taken till the end of August, the next quarter
  • If there is Breach of conditions it’s up to TOs to decide if next period will be available
  • No breach yet
  • 21:25 Gavan Mathieson – No LTOs put at risk by any independent climber going into SDV. Responsibility not on LTOs
  • 22:00 Emma Watts – Talk of ID students
  • 22:51 Emma – PV went to SDV with their rock art specialist, they were looking at Wall of Fools. Sites were identified and we can’t use that area. Asks for feedback.
  • 23:50 Adrian Manikas talking of climbers know the area just tell us the names of the routes and save yourself lots of work.
  • 24:29 Gavan – Talks of using The Crag website
  • 25:00 Matt talks of the inaccuracy of The Crag – ask the people who know.
  • 25:29 Gavan and Emma ask for info on areas
  • 25:58 Adrian/Gavan talk of issues surrounding routes on The Crag
  • 26:00 Emma Watts – discussion regarding proposed new maps of SDV
  • 26:40 Gavan – what we are thinking in regards booking sites/numbers of climbs
  • 26:52 Gavan – significant cultural values on the Nth end Wall of Fools, this will restrict the use of that wall.
  • 28:00 Emma/Adrian/Gavan/Matt – talk of bolts in the middle of WOF and where the abseil goes. LTOs do not use these as such.
  • 29:50 Gavan/Emma – Emma taking bookings
  • 29:55 Adrian – where do Tafes & Schools take groups?
  • 30:00 Emma – they will need to get LTO, LTO have paid arrangement with PV requiring cultural induction. Anyone who wants to climb at SDV must come with an LTO.
  • 30:30 Sally – outside SPA same rules apply for LTOs – climbing as normal, multiyear licence auto renewal, SDV managed as variation to licence
  • 31:25 Only bushwalking and picnicking in SPAs, jokes about licencing for picnicking
  • No date for continuation of SDV variation yet (beyond September)
  • 32:50 Sally – we understand the impact it’s having on business, so this is why we are having these conversations.
  • Asks for information on impacts over 6 month period month period.
  • 34:00 Adrian Manika talking over impact of less than 6 month booking period
  • 35:00 Emma Watts – its what PV were able to negotiate at that time, only other option was no access. Nothing else on the table. Will keep LTOs in the loop.
  • 36:24 Gavan Mathieson – if everything is complied with that would be seen favourably, support the LTO in compliance, SDV is in a SPA
  • 37:00 Sally Lewis – we started at a low point with no access SDV in SPA, been able to get the current deal. We have been able to get this deal.
  • 37:40 Matt brooks asks regards who made the decision regarding SDV
  • 37:50 Emma Watts – we had to get agreement from the 4 Traditional Owner groups, this needs to happen each time at each 3 month period. All groups to agree.
  • 38:40 Sally Lewis – next step to get the induction process agreed upon.
  • 39:00 MB – looking forward to induction period.
  • 39:37 CS – Talking about negative connotations of commercial interests in the Park, fee for licence. Nil profit in licence. Focus is not enough on education and client needs.
  • Request information on the different kind of client needs for booking.
  • Requesting Information on mix of clients
  • Work on development of materials
  • Collecting information on Park usage, type of behaviour
  • 43:00 Matt Brooks – talking of ACAV numbers of climbers recreational numbers 10 – 20K climbers day visits
  • How the recreational side effects the LTO/Commercial side
  • Discussion regarding how the Vic Range bans have adversely affected the local economy
  • 45:00 EW – speaking of getting the message out that the Park is not closed
  • 46:00 MB – the damage has already been done, people are not coming
  • 45:00 EW – PV job to balance visitor experience with protecting cultural heritage, hard calls.
  • 46:40 GM – Parks don’t know much of the climber story/picture and need it to come up with a management solution. Their usage data is not fit for purpose/bulk numbers of LTOs in the Park
  • 47:00 SL – getting the right message out we need to focus on, media saying still complete ban.
  • 47:44 EW – trying to get the message to Grampians Tourism and Visit Vic that the Grampians is still open, outside of SPA you can do as have always done with NP guidelines, but to climb in SDV need to go via LTOs
  •  48:05 SL Consumer confidence needs to come from all of us including LTOs. PV have limited reach
  • 48:05 MB – Data now will be different to any data beforehand, statistics now won’t tell actual past usage picture
  • 49:34 AM – talking about education of PV, AV and TOs of actual climbing types and differences, could be part of the induction
  • 50:25 MB- perception with the TOs of climbers in general
  • PV have no idea about climbing styles
  • 51:30 SL – PV make decisions
  • 52:16 GM – talk of education during the management plan of the different types of climbing
  • 52:45 SL Cultural induction will be onsite at the locations with the TOs
  • 52:55 GM – Delayed because TOs (Eastern Maar) over in Azerbaijan accepting UNESCO award for Budja Bim site
  • 53:30 How will this flow through to all staff
  • 54:24 AM – will there be education on the actual heritage – yes
  • 54:32 EW – pointed out that PV did not know of the quarry sites on the Wall of Fools prior to the assessments
  • 54:44 EW – maps to go out to LTOs
  • 58:30 Marc Ecclestone AV – Aboriginal Place – an Aboriginal place can be recognised whether it is officially recorded on the AH register or not. Various artefacts within landscape. Slight change in status.
  • Can even be a mural in Pentridge Prison.
  • Areas of Cultural Heritage sensitivity – issue, defined in AH, mechanism for triggering  Cultural Heritage Management plans, based on previous research where Aboriginal Places  are more likely to be than not. Slightly blunt tool. Doesn’t mean these areas have been assessed or that nothing can be done in these areas but that there is a trigger under the Aboriginal Heritage Act for assessments to be made. All Parks are areas of sensitivity.
  • Parks cover 37% of Vic, Map of Vic with areas. Development triggers a mandatory assessment. Agnostic of land tenure. Apart from all parks are areas of CH sensitivity. Likelihood of preserved CH is higher and we know Aboriginal people used some types of land more regularly and hence more AH likely is present.
  • 103:44 TD – Asked about Permit to harm
  • ME – Cultural heritage management plan  is an overriding assessment and plan for a sensitive area.
  • CH permits – CH Harm – apply for permit to harm when you cant avoid harm. Allowing harm to occur, usually to developers.
  • ME – not aware of Permit to harm for SDV
  • 105:01 MF – not aware, Act is to give rights and responsibilities of decision making for heritage to TOs and RAPs. INTENT – RAP across the whole of Vic. No RAP decision goes to AV – AV go to the TOs to get their views and take them seriously. No timeline on APPT of RAP in the Grampians. No active RAP application in for the Grampians. AV asks all relevant Aboriginal bodies.
  • All activities set up to avoid harm and then the permit becomes a moot point. Permit $$ is fixed. Process to get the information is not. May be short may be long. AV is the decision maker. Assessed against the activity and whether that activity can take place without any harm and if it can’t then they put in place conditions. High Impact – activity – other trigger – not climbing – development. Listed activities – not climbing – if in other documents is not relevant. Where is AH heritage found, almost everywhere, all across the state.
  • If activity can take place in a way that there is no harm it can go ahead.
  • Another map on where has been assessed over the last 50 years, but not 100% surveyed. Most of the CH in Vic is stone tools and the rest is a mix. LDAD = Low density artefact distribution, stone artefacts. Majority of AP place in Vic.  CH sensitive area doesn’t mean you will find CH. Just because there on no recorded aboriginal places doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist either.
  • Grampians Landscape Management Plan – will take into account more than just the Grampians National Park.
  • Draft timeline for next year, commitment, engagement and follow up will occur within that timeframe. Engage Victoria – govt engagement platform 700 persons registered interest on the site
  • Announced in May, to understand current environment opportunities, initial discussion, July – Oct, then develop plan, draft, then further consultation. Activities – online engagement, mapping how people use the park, some data but not accurate.
  • Stake Holder Community Workshops in the local area before finalising the plan. Open to anyone who would like to come along only restriction will be to RSVP for capacity venue.
  • Community listening post, speaking to people in shops.
  • Won’t draft behind closed doors and then show.
  • Share stories of Gariwerd/history/education/types climbing
  • TO engagement
  • Stakeholder Reference Group – not decision makers, but sounding body, user groups and tourism etc.  Job to review the Stakeholder Community Reference
  • No LTO representation within the SRG yet
  • Rock Climbing Representation group – still be decided, working with Sport and Rec Victoria to decided who will represent.
  • Timeline is online, only register interest so far
  • Info will go out ahead of the community Engagement
  • What’s next – listen to feedback from the workshop, take notes, continue to monitor SDV for compliance, LTO notified of future 3 month extensions, encourage active participation on SDV issue
  • TD – Emma, exclusion of recreational climbers from SDV, clients often visit with an LTO and then stay to climb independently. Closed out rec people. How does this rationalise excluding recreational climbers when we allow bushwalkers in.
  • CS – we came to talk about Licencing and the LTOs, conditions are also on PV, to prove that managed activities will prevent any further damage. Other forums for that. No forums in place. SPAs are in place, no decisions have been made at this stage. PV do not want to be in this position in 2021.
  • TD – the damage has been done, no international bookings, what about school, defence, private groups tafe etc
  • PV we are trying to find a solution..
  • 135:40 PV – continually promoting this is the solution we have managed to negotiate.
  • 135:45 PV – Report non-compliance as it may affect everyone
  • 135:48 TD – that is a threat of collective punishment. Is this legal.
  • 136:05 MB – Why should our licence suffer because of another operator – this is not legitimate or legal.
  • 137:07 EW – Recognition of groups, uniform, tag, etc
  • 138 PV – no new LTO licences for SDV, 30 that do Grampians rock climbing, new licences for outside of SPA but no variation for SDV for new licensees.
  • 139:20 TD – flexibility of booking required to cater for clients, share sites with other groups.
  • 140:08 CS – can be flexible on the day, just require a booking to be there on that day, number on the day. Visibility of who is there, so you can contact other LTO to liaise, not sharing bookings.
  • 142:35 Keep feeding information through
  • 143:08 TD – What do we tell people in Oct?
  • 143:20 CS – We cannot predicted the conversations, this is the process we have agreed to.  After OCT – PV trying to find solutions.
  • 145:01 PH – OEG could we look at new location outside the SPA?
  • 145:30 EW – outside the SPA, within Park rules, new sites can be used.
  • 147:08 CS – feasibility for Induction process of Induction to train persons within an LTO
  • LTO want to be involved in the education and to help. Multi Year licence has variation attached. Annual Licences were extended and variation for SDV extended for 3 months, exp Sep. Variation to licences just covers SDV not other areas in SPAs. Talk regards waiving of fee whilst in current licence period as unable to use due to booking conditions
  • 153:26 EW – Are taking bookings, sent drones out to capture images of areas. Drones for visual areas – Why not just use climbing guide and images. About providing clarity. To Emma Watts email or 13 Parks number. Can book separate areas in a day. Max 16 persons. Number on each tour reported.  Bookings taken till Sep 30.
  • 156:00 Spilt groups to reduce numbers.
  • 156:50 EW – Can book multiple areas at the same time, they have no figures. It seems PV are Trying to make their own guide
  • 158:00 Dave Lucas – Induction process is critical, key requirement to the TOs and the activity continuing – TOs will be delivering that, highest priority at the moment for PV is designing that and being conducted on Country. Eastern Marr are currently recruiting for 3 positions. TOs want to be part on continuing monitoring of the site and compliance. Inductions will an intro the area, what to look out for, what is significant, cultural stories, what to do/not do. Highest priority
  • 200:13 EW – Note if booked before the cultural induction that is no issue. Ind hopefully before 3 months. On site.
  • 201:15 CS – time slot during the Induction for some education for the TOs and PV staff on the types of climbing, the differences to provide an understanding of the lack of impact.
  • 201:51 TD – We have reached out to BGLC to take their members climbing to see the value and the benefits. Youth groups, issues. Climbing is not a bad thing and its not climbing over culture. Positive works. Look at the results and trip advisor comments.
  • 203:00 CS – room to formalise this at the induction.
  • 204:00 CS – Any information can be sent through to Parks contacts for addition to the pool.


A diagrammatic update showing “bookable sites” was issued on 29th July 2019:

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