The Demise of National Parks in Victoria

Last week in the Victorian Legislative Council (Upper House), Bev McArthur MP raised alarming concerns over National Park access during a Constituency Question.

“My constituency question is for the Minister for Environment. Parks Victoria has recently closed some of the best and most historic walking tracks in the Grampians, including Briggs Bluff, Dellys Dell, Mount Difficult and Mount Rosea. Wild camping and scrambling across rocks has also been banned. These walks are in terrific condition, but their closure and the camping ban forced tourists to the $33 million Grampians Peaks Trail at a cost of nearly $50 a night. Can the minister confirm that the closure and banning of these traditional walking paths and activities has got more to do with reducing the management needs of the park and directing people to government money-making options and say whether these changes represent the blueprint for the demise of other national parks in Victoria.”

Bev McArthur MP – 21 Feb 2023

Hansard record

Video of the question in the house

Bev McArthur expanded further in a subsequent media statement:

Media Statement: Be Alert – And Alarmed

“The Victorian Government’s increasingly draconian controls over the Grampians National Park continue to be revealed. In recent weeks, Member for Western Victoria, Bev McArthur, has questioned the Andrews Government’s ‘set-aside’ regulations for the park which effectively reverse public access rights provisioned in the National Parks Act 1975.”

Bev McArthur MP – 24 Feb 2023

While climbing groups try to improve behavior and attempt liaison with Land Councils, Parks Victoria is systematically shutting down more and more locations to all user groups. Dispersed camping is due to be banned in 2024. The only approved multi-day walks will be on the (paid) Grampians Peaks Trail.

We note that approval to build the GPT required environmental offsets. Did Parks Victoria sacrifice existing walking tracks to allow a single large track to be newly constructed through virgin bushland? We suspect that GPT deals may have brought about the closure of many of these historic walking tracks. We contend that such management practices would contravene the National Parks Act 1975.


Rock climbing is successfully managed internationally, using collaborative management methods, as described within the Victorian Climbing Management Guidelines.

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What’s the go with Grampians Rangers?

Back in the day (not far back, only 2018) climbers and park rangers drank cups of tea around the camp fire while telling stories and sharing knowledge: “we cleared away that fallen tree on the Waterworks Track”, “nice one, thank you”.

Everything changed in November 2018. Something shifted within Parks Victoria and climbers have been seen in a negative light since then. Save Grampians Climbing and this ACAV website have all the background on the Grampians access crisis.

The Labor Day 2019 Incident

See article by Save Grampians Climbing:


The Taipan Wall, December 2022 Incident

This incident at Taipan Wall on ‘opening day’ is described in an ACAV article:

Ranger Interaction at Taipan Wall

The “aggressive rangers” story was subsequently reported in the press and questions were asked in Parliament.

A formal complaint has recently been submitted to Parks Victoria by the complainant, over the behaviour of the two rangers at Taipan Wall.

Climber complaint To Parks Victoria 21-Feb-2023

“After this meeting I had trouble sleeping. I have met with a social worker to discuss the situation and the effect it had on me. Both me and my partner are still feeling distressed about the events that happened. We feel anxious about going to the Gariwerd National Park now, which hurts because it is important for both my physical and mental health. I am extremely concerned that I will be approached by Parks Victoria Officials in a National Park with further accusations.”

Quote from the Climber’s complaint letter

This shocking story has also been published on Save Grampians Climbing:

HARASS AND INTIMIDATE: Parks Victoria Goes Cops on Climbers



In light of these confronting events, we would advise ACAV members to learn more about the limited authority of park rangers in their work as public servants under the law. If a park ranger approaches and asserts any official authority, we make the following recommendations:

  • Remain polite, respectful and calm. Do not answer questions or volunteer information.
  • The ranger must first produce formal identification before proceeding. Take a photograph of both sides of the ranger’s ID card. The card must show that the ranger is an authorised officer under the National Parks Act 1975. We understand that most rangers are suitably authorised.
  • Record the whole interaction on video. Give prior notice of this. Ask the ranger to start again for the camera. Establish your authority in this situation.
  • For any formal interaction to continue, the ranger must assert an appropriate offence under the National Parks Regulations 2013, e.g. climbing offence, camping offence, bushwalking offence, damaging vegetation etc. Further information on the limitations of potential offences can be found in this ACAV article:

Can I Be Fined For Climbing Rocks?


If these two conditions are not met, you may wish the ranger a “good afternoon” and continue with your day.


If an offence is formally alleged, the ranger is likely to proceed as follows:

  • You may be ‘read your rights’. Rangers have recently described this procedure as a ‘caution’. The Parks Victoria script includes: “you do not have to say or do anything, but anything you say or do may be given in evidence, do you understand that?” Do not acknowledge understanding. Do not accept the terms of any ‘caution’. Do not say or do anything. Take the legal advice from the script and do not risk providing evidence against yourself while you are taken aback and under pressure. Remain completely silent at this point. You are protected under the law. This is not an interview. You are not required to answer questions.
  • The ranger may ask your name and address. You are required to verbally state your name and address. You are not required to carry formal ID. You are not required to provide proof of identity in a park.
  • The ranger may direct you to leave an area or a park. You are required to leave the area or the park as directed.
  • The ranger may issue you with an infringement notice, stating your name and address and alleging an appropriate offence under the National Parks Regulations 2013.

If you receive a climbing-related infringement notice, please contact ACAV for further advice. It may be beneficial to challenge the alleged offence in the Magistrates Court, with assistance from ACAV. Members will be supported to the extent of funds available over this critical issue of public park access.

We understand that Parks Victoria has never issued an infringement notice for any offence associated with rock climbing.

National Parks Regulations 2013 (at 15 Dec 2020)

National Parks Act 1975 (at 01 Sept 2022)


Rock climbing is successfully managed internationally, using collaborative management methods, as described within the Victorian Climbing Management Guidelines.

Please support the work that we do at ACAV

Join as a member for $15

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Can I Be Fined For Climbing Rocks?

After four years of escalating climbing restrictions across the Grampians National Park, the time has come to ask this question. Recent restrictions at Australia’s premier climbing location Taipan Wall, have prompted ACAV to query Parks Victoria, over the consequences of being approached by a ranger and potentially fined for entering the Taipan Wall right side zone and for climbing the rocks. No fines have been issued in Victoria, for climbing rocks or for entering restricted areas.

Taipan Wall, Grampians National Park

We have not been made aware of any rock art discoveries at Taipan Wall

These photographs show the ‘quarrying’ rock scars below the route, Invisible Fist, believed to be the reason for the exclusion zone at Taipan Wall right side. The sharp edge of the rock shelf has been broken off in multiple locations to create small cutting tools, leaving a wavy, scalloped appearance to the edge of the rock. The resultant scars appear to be 5cm to 10cm in length. These markings have weathered over a long period of time to take up the same orange varnished colour as the surrounding rock.

What offence may be alleged on any climbing infringement notice?

Infringement Notice Sample, showing an alleged offence (not climbing related)

To issue a ticket, the authorised officer (park ranger) must allege an “offence” under a specific clause of the relevant legal instrument, The National Parks Regulations 2013. These regulations are utilised to enforce The National Parks Act 1975.

We recently asked Parks Victoria this question in relation to the restricted sections of Taipan Wall:

Is there a feasible offence code that can be alleged by Parks Victoria or is damage to ancient rock chips the only option for prosecution? Since these highly durable rocks are largely impervious to harm, would you attempt an allegation of harm to intangible cultural values

ACAV 20 Jan 2023

Regardless of the inherent durability of quarried rock remnants, we fully support all initiatives to protect and revere archaeological findings by maintaining a safe and careful distance and fostering a culture of education and respect.

In their reply, Parks Victoria suggested three potential offences, only the first of which would appear feasible as an allegation against a rock climber:

  1. Fail to comply with the conditions of any relevant SET ASIDE INSTRUMENT put in place to protect environmental and cultural values in Parks.
  2. Interfere with rocks or similar natural objects, archaeological or historical remains and vegetation. (UNLIKELY – Climbing over rocks does not “interfere” with rocks any more than walking over rocks interferes with rocks. Walking over rocks and even over ancient quarry sites, occurs throughout the park.)
  3. Harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage set out in the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (NOT APPLICABLE – Parks Victoria is not the regulator under this Act and hence cannot allege this offence. Other departments may seek to prosecute if harm was to be be established.)

We have not been made aware of any material harm to Grampians cultural heritage artifacts during more that 100 years of rock climbing activity.

It would appear that the only “offence” that could be alleged by Parks Victoria would be disobeying park rules, as defined within the management plan (a plan, not an Act). Such an allegation would be open to challenge in the Magistrates Court in the same way a person would challenge an inappropriate traffic infringement notice. Do the park rules have a legal and valid purpose if interference or harm does not occur and cannot be plausibly alleged?

Inappropriate use of the Set Aside legal instrument

ACAV has previously registered objection to the all-of-park set aside as being a park management blunt instrument that is non compliant with The National Parks Act 1975. The set aside legal instrument prompting offence allegation No.1 is clearly intended to protect defined locations within a park. Set aside administrative determinations must include a detailed map of the discrete area being set aside e.g. rock wallaby habitat, rare orchid zone or rock art site. It is disproportionate to set aside the whole park to exclude the public from everywhere by default.

Parks Victoria has appropriate authority to set aside and close an entire park under emergency circumstances e.g. bushfire. The misuse of this authority as an everyday basis for control is disproportionate, divisive and unmanageable.

We contend that a regulation made under The National Parks Act 1975 should not enable the land manager to deny public access as its default position. To do so is in clear contravention of the will of Parliament in passing the Act into law. The objects of the Act under s4(c) make this abundantly clear. It is the view of our legal advisors that all-of-the-park prohibitions or restrictions fail to satisfy the requirements of this overarching legislation.

4 Objects of Act
The objects of this Act
(c) to make provision
in accordance with
the foregoing for the
use of parks by the
public for the
purposes of
enjoyment, recreation
or education and for
the encouragement
and control of that

Note that the legality of any future climbing permit system would come under similar scrutiny as the Objects of the Act are being violated.

To further our query on this matter we have written to the Victorian Minster for The Environment as follows.

ACAV request for Ministerial review

We respectfully request a review by your department of this bullish and unworkable all-of-park approach for restricting public access to the entirety of a National Park.

ACAV 03 Feb 2023

Furthermore, the Minister has been made aware that “Rock climbing is successfully managed internationally, using collaborative management methods, as described within the Victorian Climbing Management Guidelines“.

We await the response of the Minister and we remain prepared to advise on any suitable challenge in the Magistrates Court over any inappropriate infringement notice that may be received by an ACAV member.

This all-of-park restriction methodology sets a worrying precedent for all public access to all Parks.

Opposition politicians and media representatives have been copied-in to the ACAV correspondence.


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