On Thursday afternoon, Parks Victoria updated their website about Grampians Rockclimbing. Some of the additional information consisted of several misleading photos from the Buandik area showing safety bolts with one clearly labeled “Bolt in Rock Art”.
Eagle eyed climbers quickly recognized this was NOT a climbers safety bolt at all, but instead was the remains of an old anchor bolt that was used to attach a protective cage to the Billimina Art Site at Buandik in the Victoria Range. The bolt is at knee height above the ground – totally useless for climbing. The original cage was removed and replaced around 1991 by Parks Victoria themselves. Talk about shooting themselves in the foot! The original cage probably pre-dated National Parks management of the area (1984). This art was “discovered” by non-indigenous people in the early 1960s.
Climbers have consistently questioned Parks Victoria’s numerous statements that climbers have bolted “in” art. As far as we know this has never happened. It is disingenuous at best to paint climbers as people who deliberately vandalize these art sites. Yes, there has certainly been a couple of cases of safety bolts being installed within several metres of art sites by accident, but these have been removed and heavily condemned by the climbing community. There was no damage done to the art itself.
If this is Parks Victoria’s best evidence against climbers, and the reason they have shut down almost half of the climbing in the Grampians (by a secretive process), then we really deserve better transparency. Was this the sort of evidence presented to Parks Victoria head office to justify these bans?
To add insult to injury Parks Victoria has subsequently removed these images from their website offering no explanation on why they were used. Lucky we got the screenshots before it disappeared. The internet never forgets.
In happier news the Save Grampians Climbing petition was handed to Emma Kealy MP on the steps of the Victorian Parliament building on Thursday. 572 handwritten petition signatures were submitted along with a report drawing attention to the 21,000 online signatories to the Change.org petition organised by the Grampians Access Working Group.
The Victorian Environment Minister Dr Lily D’Ambrosio is due to deliver a directive on Grampians climbing access during the first week of May (soon after Victorian Budget Day, 30th April). We have asked for interim approval to responsibly climb within the Grampians National Park pending cliff-by-cliff reviews to be held in close consultation with the rock climbing community. The environmental and cultural concerns that have been raised are fully supported by rock climbers, whose detailed knowledge of the Grampians has greatly assisted the park management process for over 40 years.