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.


Please support the work that we do at ACAV:

Join as a member for $15

Ongoing feedback and assistance is always welcome: