Following up on the Labour Day Long Weekend, we have received an email from Parks Victoria answering several questions that many climbers have been asking. We hope this email puts to rest many of the wilder conspiracy theories thrown about in the last week. It is important reading.
To paraphrase into simple bullet points.
- Authorised Officers (i.e. rangers) on the long weekend were acting under a Compliance Plan instruction from head office to enforce and educate climbers about area bans and illegal activities during the long weekend.
- Authorised Officers are only required to show ID when when interviewing people for an offense.
- Advanced Authorised Officers wear protective vests for their safety during enforcement assignments.
- Authorised Officers detected 16 offenses including a weapon in the park, illegal campfires, dogs, off-track driving, damage to vegetation and illegal camping [we are not sure if all these offenses were from climbers]
- Three climbers were found in the Victoria Range Special Protected Area (SPA) within 350m of one of the eight key locations. They were warned but did not receive a fine. [they were at Clean Cuts wall, which is within 500m of Gondwanaland, one of the 8 officially banned crags]
- The same climbers were fined for offenses including driving off-track, illegal camp fire and damage to vegetation. [the fines relate to bush-camping in an SPA area ]
- Special Protection Area boundaries may change when the new Grampians National Park Management Plan is created.
It is still not entirely clear if low impact climbing is tolerated in the SPA areas. The climbers at Clean Cuts were not fined for being in the SPA area, but the added hassle of being watched and then warned by rangers is a sobering message to anyone considering climbing in these areas. You can read two meanings into this part of Parks Vic’s email:
“Officers were tasked to educate park users and share the information materials on rock climbing and advise climbers if they were in a Special Protected Area where climbing is prohibited.”
Does that mean climbing is prohibited in all Special Protected Areas, or that climbing is only prohibited in some Special Protected Areas? Any lawyers want to decode that one? We would suggest all climbers avoid SPA areas as we have now seen signs, maps and rangers all saying that these areas are closed to climbing.
It is not well known among climbers that free bush camping (what Parks Vic calls Dispersed Camping) in SPA areas is also technically illegal as described in the 2003 Management Plan. The climbers “booked” were camped off Matthews Track (North of Eureka area) in the SPA zone. Be sure to be familiar with these SPA area maps if you want to camp in the Grampians.
For many decades climbers have used areas on the western side of Red Rock Rd to free camp (Shallow Graves site is the most popular one). These are cleared grassy areas with easy dirt road access and space for plenty of campers. They are well used and popular. They are also outside of the Grampians National Park area – possibly State Forest controlled. As always, illegal camp-fires are one of Parks Victorias biggest problem areas – and they will police vigorously. Anyone who has experienced the previous Grampians crag closures caused by bushfire damage will understand why campfires are a no-no.
Below is the original email from Parks Victoria received by Matthew Brooks (a local climbing guide).
As always, please share and leave a comment on this if you have further information. For the most up to date info on exactly what crags are banned make sure to check our Closed Area Info page. And please continue your financial support of VCC Cliffcare who are working behind the scenes to try and come to an agreement with Parks Vic and traditional owners to Save Grampians Climbing.