FAQ's - Grampians Access
Why did the VCC/CliffCare submit proposal letters for an updated Climbing policy for Victorian parks and the creation of a Climbing Management Plan for the Grampians?
Following the impacts at both Black Ian’s and the Black Range, land managers made it clear that boundaries would be put in place to manage climbing and bouldering in the Grampians.
Submitting proposals in advance was a proactive step so that VCC/Cliffcare would be included in future discussions and decisions about issues that not only impact park values, but also impact climbing.
Submitting a proposal for an updated climbing policy was also an opportunity to collaborate and discuss the difficult and contentious issues of fixed protection and route development. For modern climbers, these are an integral part of climbing. For land managers, the current rules and regulations don’t allow for them. We need to find a workable solution to this that looks after the interests of everyone.
We understand there are impacts from climbing that need to be managed now, and as the popularity of climbing grows, for the future, but we want to make sure climbers’ interests are also being taken into account when these plans are put in place.
What updates to the climbing policy did the VCC/Cliffcare propose?
We would like a climbing policy that reflects current climbing and bouldering practices (bouldering was previously not included), and a policy that sets out a clear framework for land managers and staff with consistent guidelines to work with, as well as clear advice for climbers.
Who requested the voluntary moratorium?
The moratorium was a request to the community from the VCC and CliffCare.
Why did VCC and CliffCare request a voluntary moratorium?
A voluntary moratorium was discussed and agreed upon by the VCC committee and CliffCare following a meeting we attended with Parks Victoria in Melbourne on 5 October 2018.
This meeting was requested by Parks Victoria to discuss both the current and potential future impacts to cultural heritage in the park and messaging to the climbing community, education and how to promote better communications between land managers and the climbing community.
The more recent climbing impacts to cultural heritage within the Greater Grampians area had progressed to non-compliance reports being submitted to Aboriginal Victoria on what, most people would agree on, were serious incidents.
These matters are currently being investigated and no further information is available at present. Understandably, this is a serious situation. First and foremost, Indigenous cultural heritage is at risk of being damaged. The possibility of larger scale bans then became a reality as well as enforcement options.
VCC and CliffCare discussed the current trajectory of climbing and development within the park and the serious outcomes for its future should it continue on this path. Due to the progression of non-compliance reports to Aboriginal Victoria there was an urgency to prevent any further impacts.
What was the consultation process for the voluntary moratorium?
CliffCare was working on a survey to gather feedback from the climbing community on issues developing in the Grampians in order to ascertain the general support for a variety of management options. The survey wasn’t complete prior to the request by land managers to attend the meeting on 5 October 2018.
Email correspondence with all known Grampians developers began during mid-2018 to explain the impacts to cultural heritage, growing concerns and impending boundaries by land managers.
Some feedback was received, however, climbing and bouldering development continued in much the same way. In October, the situation with recent cultural heritage impacts progressed to non-compliance reports being lodged with Aboriginal Victoria.
Why didn’t VCC/Cliffcare request a more targeted moratorium?
VCC/Cliffcare do not have information on all the locations of areas of sensitivity in the Grampians.
While we are aware of areas such as the Victoria Range and the Black Range, there are many others we don’t have information on.
There are certain areas in the park where land managers and Traditional Owners would prefer climbing did not occur. These are the boundaries they want to set in place.
Some of these boundaries are due to cultural heritage or environmental reasons and we respect this, however we would like the opportunity to look at ways to address access to other areas. To make sure we achieve this, we need to be clear from the outset.
It is vital that we do not damage cultural heritage. Doing this unknowingly is no excuse.
Why can’t the VCC and Cliffcare ask where the sites are?
Cultural heritage sites: the majority of cultural heritage sites are on a private register managed by Aboriginal Victoria. This register is not public and there is a limited number of circumstances in which you can apply to check on locations. At present, user groups obtaining information in order to engage in a recreational activity is not one of them. Land managers are not allowed to publicly release sensitive information without permission from Aboriginal Victoria.
Environmentally sensitive sites: Environmentally valuable sites in the park are one of the key areas land managers are required to protect. Some of these sites are in the currently referenced Management Plan for the Grampians National Park. Others may have been discovered or added to the list over the years. Some sites are deliberately kept private because of the risk of damage to the area.
In the case of areas of environmental sensitivity, you can ask where the sites are however you may not always be provided with this information.
Water catchment areas: Rock climbing, camping and many other activities are prohibited in water catchment areas. These areas are noted on the Management Plan.
Why aren’t many cultural heritage sites publicly known?
There are a variety of reasons. Many sites that have been publicly known have been damaged in the past. Either by direct vandalism, removal of artefacts or increased visitor traffic to the site.
Most publicised sites are now behind cages for protection. The areas may well be sacred knowledge/location sites where the information is only available for specific people, be it restricted genders, or those with certain knowledge from within the Aboriginal community. This information is private and protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. Aboriginal Victoria is the regulator of this Act.
How does the moratorium affect people who want to climb in the Grampians National Park?
The voluntary Moratorium request specifies refraining from new route development only. Climbing and bouldering in the park can continue in currently established areas, taking into account and respecting any restrictions in place from land managers and the current Management Plan.
Is there a list or map of locations in the Grampians where climbing is permitted?
We have asked land managers for a list of permitted climbing areas and we will provide this as soon as we receive it. There is still some confusion around where people can climb and where they shouldn’t (following the events of 3 November 2018*). As we continue discussions with land managers, this is exactly what we hope to achieve—clarification.
We understand that climbers want to do the right thing and they need the right information to do this.
How will the VCC and CliffCare enforce this moratorium?
The VCC/CliffCare have no authority to enforce this or any other kind of activity. The VCC, and specifically CliffCare, operate as a conduit between the climbing community and land managers and other stakeholders. This moratorium was a request for a voluntary suspension of new route development in the Grampians while we negotiate to clarify the areas that are sensitive.
Can land managers enforce this?
The voluntary moratorium was not a request from land managers. Land managers presented the facts at the meeting on 5 October 2018. These included information about the impacts at Black Ian’s Rocks and the Black Range. They explained the serious consequences of these incidents, and also the consequences of further impacts and damage to sites.
They also explained the official progression of these consequences. As land managers with authority, they have the power to choose to enforce some of the current rules and regulations. Land managers, as well as Aboriginal Victoria, have the power to enforce a variety of rules.
We hope that by contacting and engaging us in discussion, that enforcement does not eventuate and we have the opportunity to collaborate on workable solutions.
What about route development in an already established area?
The request is to refrain from any further development. The boundaries land managers would like to put in place, and some of these are informed by cultural heritage, could include closures of some areas due to sensitivity of the location or site. We understand development has been occurring in established areas that are sensitive locations. While there may not have been any direct impact at these locations yet, if development continues, this could result in a complete ban for climbing in the location.
Did the proposal letters and voluntary moratorium request cause the current access issues in the Grampians and create the landscape for potential large-scale bans?
No. The access issues in the Grampians and the factors leading to the potential for large-scale bans are due to historical, current and potential future impacts to cultural heritage and environmentally sensitive sites, as well as the growing popularity of outdoor rock-climbing and bouldering.
How will the moratorium be assessed at the end of one year?
A working group of dedicated climbing representatives with skills in the areas of law, policy and legislation, education, human rights, communication and negotiation has been created. At the end of the year the working group will assess the progress of access discussions and a report will be presented to the climbing community to advise.
Climbing and bouldering route development in Victorian parks is a topic we need clarification on if we are to maintain constructive relationships with land managers and other stakeholders.
Am I able to help?
Yes! If you have any skills you feel you can contribute, please get in touch.
We would like to create a bigger technical working group. We need people to research climbing-related impacts and possible solutions to managing:
Social trails and off-track access
Climbing-related economic input
Climbing-camping preferences,specifically bush camping.
Marketing and PR
These are just a few.
Drop CliffCare a line and voice your interest.
If you can’t commit to lending some hours, do your bit by climbing responsibly, by looking after the rock, being respectful of culturally sensitive sites and the fact that the park has a sacred connection to the first people. Take care of the flora and fauna and understand that the park is precious to all people.