[UPDATE 15 March 2019 – Concerns raised in this article have been subsequently addressed in an email from Parks Victoria]
As the Labour Day long weekend wraps up there has been reports of several climbers being approached by Parks Victoria rangers, and what appeared to be the more serious Enforcement Officers (wearing military style vests). As has happened previously, these conversations with ground level Parks Vic staff added further confusion to what head office has written recently. Despite a letter being sent from Parks Victoria to several climbers on Friday night stating that Parks Victoria will:
“only be undertaking enforcement activities to prevent rock climbing at eight key locations”
this did not appear to be the case. On Sunday, several climbers camping near Mt Stapylton were told by Enforcement Officers that all SPA areas are off-limits to rock-climbing, that they will be prosecuted if they climb there and were also handed maps showing the locations of banned areas (the extensive SPA regions).
Luke Wojtech was one of the campers on Polhners Road approached by Parks Victoria staff on Sunday and had this to say on Facebook:
“…had 4 rangers show up in the morning. (Sunday) The whole situation felt very confrontational. One ranger stood in front of sitting campers, the other on the opposite side and the other two standing off to the side. We were told absolutely no climbing in any SPA and had ‘the map’ handed out to us. (the latest one with the most red circles and dots). We specifically asked about climbing at Hollow Mountain and were told we cannot climb there. They told us we would be prosecuted if we were caught climbing in the SPA. All the while one ranger was writing something on a clipboard. I can only assume that from where she was looking she was taking down registration plates.
I asked them for their names before they left but they refused to give them to me. One said ‘I have a name, I was given a name at birth but I don’t need to give it to you.’ I asked them who they were authorised by but they refused to tell me simply saying “I am a park ranger.”
It is generally understood that government employees like rangers have to show ID when requested. In another bizarre twist it appears that no one was enforcing these alleged bans at the SPA crags themselves. Several groups climbed freely at Summerday Valley, Andersons and other SPA region crags all weekend without any incident (despite a Parks Victoria vehicle being seen in the carpark). Other climbers reported more positive experiences with the usual uniformed rangers visiting bush campsites on the Saturday. They were friendly, respectful and just wanted to remind campers of the
campfire restrictions. Despite it being obvious they were climbers the rangers did not mention the bans and “wished us a pleasant weekend and left”.
Can these weekend incidents be rangers going off script like we were told happened late last year? Or has Parks Victoria been briefing their staff one way, and messaging the climbing community another way. We don’t know.
What can we do right now to help? For starters remain on your very best behavior. If you are bush camping remember to stay 1 km from established campgrounds and 50 m from a sealed road. Do not light fires under any circumstance. Clean up any rubbish – yours and others.
If you do get approached by a ranger or another authorised officer at a campground, crag or carpark it’s important to be calm and polite.
- Who they are by politely asking them to produce identification.
- To see a map of the banned areas.
- About the legal position.
- About alternative climbing locations that you can go to.
- If you’re asked for your name and address or asked to leave, ask what their grounds are for doing so.
So where does that put us now? Who really knows is the answer that most accurately describes our predicament. It will be back to business for Parks Victoria senior staff tomorrow so I suggest anyone who has had a concerning experience over the weekend and wants clarification continues to email and phone.
Do you know more? Please leave a comment below and send VCC Cliffcare anything that could be useful firstname.lastname@example.org.