Natimuk residents form committee

As reported by the Mail Times on Feb 12th 2020:

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.

Kevin from the VCC addressing the meeting (source: MailTimes)

Original Text Continued:

It followed Parks Victoria and Barengi Gadjin Land Council discussing their joint plans for future Aboriginal Cultural Heritage surveys in Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park on January 29.

Parks Victoria has urged residents not to enter a section of the park – known as Taylors Rock or Declaration Crag – since culturally significant items to Traditional Owners were rediscovered late in 2019.

Mr Lovel said many residents left that meeting dissatisfied. He hoped the group could find an amicable agreement between “all parties” to keep Mount Arapiles open to all users long-term.

“I don’t think a lot came out of that other meeting other than a bit of anger, and this is why we called the meeting on Wednesday,” he said.

“We don’t think the local people have been heard or listened to.”

Though there are already groups representing climber interests in the climbing debate, Mr Lovel said a Natimuk-specific group was needed to represent the various people affected by any changes to access.

“Whether it be farmers, businesses, the golf club or climbers,” he said. “If climbing was closed down, then there are 47 climbers who own houses in Natimuk who will go, because they are here for one thing – climbing. Then the prices of houses go down and numerous children might leave the area, so it’s just a flow-on effect.

“It’s more than just the climbing: We feel our side of things hasn’t been heard, and this (group) is a way we can be.”

Among the attendees at the meeting was Wotjobaluk man and Natimuk resident Laurie Norman. He said Traditional Owners did not want to take away the rights of other users of the mountain.

“We’re only here to understand our sacred sites,” he said.

“Our laws and customs have been around for thousands of years, and they are to protect that. There are certain places I cannot go without permission from my elders. We want to negotiate with you – this generation wants to compromise and come up with an agreement.

“We’re here for you to understand us, and in the same way we want to understand you.”

Attendees suggested residents open up a dialogue with Traditional Owners independent of Parks Victoria.

Wednesday’s gathering also followed a Freedom of Information request submitted by James McIntosh, Secretary of the Victorian Climbing Club being made public.

RELATED: How climbing shaped and sustains Natimuk

The report by Parks Victoria’s chief executive officer Matthew Jackson to Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change purports to show the damage done by rock climbers to sites within the Grampians National Park.

Responding to questions from the Mail-Times, Mr Jackson said he appreciated the rockclimbing restrictions implemented in several areas in the Grampians in 2019 “came quickly”.

“However legislation requires Parks Victoria to protect the Grampians’ unique and irreplaceable values – once they are gone, they’re gone,” he said in a statement.

RELATED: Climbers form Indigenous reconciliation group

In response to the Freedom of Information request, Mr Jackson said Parks Victoria had “repeatedly stated” recreational impacts in the Grampians were not solely the fault of rock climbers.

“It is not in dispute, however, that rock climbing is causing impacts – and we have specific legal responsibilities to protect the park’s environmental and cultural values,” he said.

“These matters are being systematically addressed through park assessments and the development of a new Grampians Landscape Management Plan, a draft of which will be released for public comment in the second half of the year.”

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