Covid Regulations Abused to Ban Grampians Climbing

Inspiring climbing achievements are happening in Europe. Ground-breaking ascents of athletic and adventurous climbs are reported regularly on climbing news channels.

Melissa Le Neve completing the first female ascent of Action Directe,
Frankenjura, Germany, 2021 (Photo: Fabi Buhl)

Youtube – Melissa Le Neve – The 9a That No Woman Could Do – Reel Rock

Things are much quieter in Australia. International climbers generally perceive that in Australia, everything is banned. The world has moved on, leaving Australia behind.

All of Park – The World’s Most Extensive Rock Climbing Bans

In March 2022, Parks Victoria banned more than three quarters of rock climbs in the world-famous Grampians National Park. To bring this about, they flipped on its head, the concept of National Park Access. In a highly irregular and controversial move, Parks Victoria introduced all-of-park access bans, banning everyone and everything by default, before deeming some activities to be “allowed” under tightly controlled rules, drawn up in a management plan.

ACAV challenged this legal precedent in June 2022.

ACAV Calls For Withdrawal of “All of Park” Access Bans

The all-of-park ban methodology has also been challenged on the floor of the Victorian Parliament. The impacts are now being felt by walkers and other groups.

Victorian Legislative Council – Grampians track closures 21 Feb 2023

“Prior to March last year, the whole park was deemed accessible, with only small parcels ruled off-limits, or ‘set aside’. Since then, the whole park is now deemed off limits, and access only granted to smaller parts.”

Bev McArthur MP, 24 Feb 2023

The Park Regulations Were Amended in 2020 – Under Cover of Covid

To bring about the Grampians all-of-park bans in 2022, it was first necessary for the Victorian Environment Minister to approve an amendment to the National Parks Regulations 2013.

Amendments to the Regulations are normally made for sound, long-term operational reasons. However, in this case, the December 2020 amendment was made for a temporary emergency: “in order to manage risks to public safety related to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

National Parks Amendment (Safety) Regulations 2020

Title page and summary of the National Parks (Safety) Regulations 2020

There may be short-term reasons why entire parks should be closed (e.g. bushfire) but there can be no long-term justification for an all-of-park closure.

Victoria’s Covid-19 state of emergency ended on Wednesday 12th October 2022. Associated restrictions have since been lifted, across all walks of life. The Covid-19 safety amendment to the park regulations can no longer be applied. Parks don’t need to be closed for infectious disease control. Any associated all-of-park access bans must now end.

We note that several other methods of Covid-era enforcement turned out to be legally invalid and thousands of fines have been withdrawn.

The Guardian – More than 33,000 Covid fines withdrawn in NSW after adverse court ruling

The National Parks Amendment (Safety) Regulations 2020 is Obsolete

It is unfortunate that the all-of-park set aside instrument, invoked within Parks Victoria’s 2021 Greater Gariwerd Landscape Management Plan, is no longer viable.

  • Significant restructuring of the Greater Gariwerd Landscape Management Plan will now be required to properly protect vulnerable locations. Parks Victoria must revert to small, discrete set asides in accordance with the intent of the legislation.
  • Any associated climbing permit system is untenable.
  • Any access restrictions proposed for other Victorian parks cannot utilise the all-of-park set aside instrument.

We note that the quarterly meetings occurring between Parks Victoria and the CVAC collective of climbing groups, appear to have become hamstrung. A quarterly meeting came and went on 28th February 2023. There has been no meeting report. There is no apparent progress on opening up Grampians cliffs, the introduction of climbing permits or the future of climbing at Mount Arapiles.

What is the Legal Position?

To further review this regulatory muddle, our legal advisors have prepared a paper to clarify broader inconsistencies and limitations of the safety amendment and the all-of-park bans, overlaid within the context of The National Parks Act 1975.

ACAV – How does this amendment to the National Parks Regulations serve the public good?

We have previously documented the legal fragility and management challenges involved in Parks Victoria attempting to sustain the world’s most extensive rock climbing bans.

ACAV – Can I Be Fined For Climbing Rocks?

ACAV – What’s the go with Grampians Rangers?

We believe the widespread bans are fundamentally non-compliant with the principles of The National Parks Act 1975. In addition, the scale and topography of the Grampians makes enforcement impractical, especially under these legal limitations. Public cooperation and support is essential for the effective management and protection of these precious environments.

We contend that, in the absence of Covid-19 public safety restrictions in National Parks, the all-of-park set aside legal instrument is null and void. We believe that the Grampians all-of-park access bans are illegitimate.

ACAV – March 2023

Anyone receiving a climbing-related infringement notice is advised to contact ACAV for further advice. It may be beneficial to challenge an alleged climbing offence in the Magistrates Court, with assistance from ACAV. Defending an individual infringement is inexpensive. All members will be supported to the extent of funds available over this critical issue of access for all park users.

We would like to see the appropriate application of small, discrete set-aside areas for the proper protection of the most valuable cultural sites, especially rock art sites. We also support the set-aside protection of delicate environmental zones within our parks. 


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

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