ACAV was launched one year ago today. How are we going and where to from here?
- The Grampians Special Protection Area climbing ban is still in place, AKA: World’s Largest Climbing Ban
- Parks Victoria is forging ahead with a new Grampians Landscape Management Plan, due for completion by the end of 2020
- Parks Victoria continues to carry out extensive environmental and cultural surveys across the Grampians, focused primarily on rock climbing impacts
- Consultation with the climbing community has been somewhat limited to date
- The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is seeking an Interim Protection Declaration to strengthen protection measures for cultural heritage at Taylors Rock, Arapiles
- The Victorian Climbing Club has “taken steps to be ready to file legal proceedings at a moment’s notice” on behalf of the climbing community, supported by ACAV and VCC funds.
It has become clear that climbers have been drawn into a complex political situation. It is no exaggeration to say that access to all public land across Australia is under serious question and climbers in Victoria are at the forefront of this new paradigm.
At ACAV we have become increasingly concerned about the overreach displayed by Parks Victoria in seeking to “prove” that climbers are the problem rather than taking active steps to genuinely protect cultural heritage as a land manager should. The blanket bans, the expensive surveys and now the prospect of huge fines at Arapiles all point to a bureaucracy that is working against the people rather than for the people.
Some ACAV members may feel reluctance to consider legal action against the land manager Parks Victoria, seeking a more collaborative approach. Others fear that a legal challenge against Parks Victoria will be viewed unfavourably by the Registered Aboriginal Parties. It is the view of the ACAV committee that it is entirely appropriate to hold a Government agency (PV) to account under the law. Indeed, without such action, all user groups are likely to lose a significant degree of access in the present climate, particularly where there is no monetary benefit in allowing people to access the land.
Holding Parks Victoria to account is also highly beneficial in the cause to protect cultural heritage and the environment. PV chose a “quick and dirty” approach to get rid of climbers and claim: job done, heritage protected. Strong resistance from the climbing community can force PV to do this job properly, focusing on all user groups and working site-by-site on genuine protection initiatives.
The ACAV is collaborating with the Victorian Climbing Club to pursue legal avenues against Parks Victoria to work towards respectfully managed climbing access in Gariwerd/The Grampians.
ACAV members’ funds raised in 2019 were utilised as follows:
- During 2019, ACAV appointed lawyers, developed a legal case and paid legal fees to the law firm, along with associated costs for Junior and Senior Queen’s Counsel advice.
- ACAV made a significant donation to a VCC legal fund in February 2020 on the understanding that the VCC would utilise this money to initiate appropriate legal action against Parks Victoria over the 2019 Grampians bans.
Note that the donation to the VCC legal fund followed advice that, as a new entity, the ACAV may not have legal standing (could not be plaintiff) in this case, whereas the VCC would have standing. It is expected that in due course the ACAV will have standing to run legal action independently.
It is the ardent desire of the ACAV committee that our members’ funds be used without delay and we encourage the VCC to take appropriate legal action on behalf of the climbing community at the earliest opportunity.
In addition to the proposed legal action over the 2019 bans, there are several additional legal and political avenues the ACAV is keen to explore, to further the cause of respectful climbing access in 2020. As such, the need for funding has never been greater.
DONATE: You can donate to the ACAV access fund here https://acav.climb.org.au/donate/
JOIN: If you are not yet a member, please join for $15 here: https://acav.climb.org.au/join/
RENEW: If you are an existing member, please renew your membership and continue to support climbing access in Victoria. Please remember to tick the box to receive email updates. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you require assistance.