Hollow Mtn banned on maps, heated town hall debates and a new organization emerges – it was a busy Easter! Australia’s national climbing holiday was also a great opportunity for a climb and a lot of face to face discussion about these recent access dramas.
We received reports of a few climbers continuing to climb in SPA sites, where climbing is prohibited, around the Hollow Mountain area – and even posting about it on social media. To be fair, the information and maps from Parks Vic have been poor about what crags are in SPAs, and this has led to some confusion (and optimism from climbers who just want to go climbing). This changed somewhat on the weekend when rangers (the flak jacket wearing kind!) handed out new maps to climbers at Camp Sandy that were much more detailed for the Stapylton/Hollow Mtn area. As usual, this new map had not been sent to VCC or posted on Parks Victoria website in advance.
The new map did not list the crag names but we have done the map overlays and have adjusted our Closed Areas Page accordingly (Amnesty, Sandinista, Andersens, Hollow Mtn, Loopeys etc are all clearly prohibited).
Please make sure you check this page every time you climb in the Grampians. You may not be fined, but if you climb in SPAs (and post it on Instagram and TheCrag for the world to see), Parks Victoria will then use it against the greater climbing community to say that rock-climbers cannot follow rules and heavier bans (with fines) will be appropriate. Anyway – back to the news of the day…
The biggest news was the now infamous Natimuk Town Hall Meeting/Debate, slotted in after the Goat Fest film festival. Perhaps because of the lateness of the night it turned fairly ugly fairly quickly. Little opportunity was given to the Grampians Access Working Group (GAWG) and CliffCare to actually explain things in detail after repeated interruptions from audience members. Sure, the audience were passionate and some feel helpless (as most of us do about such dramatic bans) but it would have been better if GAWG would have been given a chance to speak at length and present their point of view and forthcoming plans. You can view the entire event here – but maybe sit down and grab a beer first. It goes for well over an hour and honestly it is hard viewing at times. We need more town hall style meetings but if the speakers are attacked it is understandable that they might not want to go through it again. The GAWG is a team of experts in the field with a long history and knowledge of the issues at hand. We need their expertise to solve this.
Some questions that never really got answered on the night were:
Has GAWG and CliffCare been in direct contact with traditional owners? Rourke, the GAWG expert on cultural heritage, alluded to this not happening because of legal issues around cultural heritage plans – but his full answer was not completed before the subject veered off-topic.
What date is the first meeting between GAWG and Parks Victoria since the bans were announced? Tracey mentioned a forth coming meeting but no date was mentioned.
GAWG confirmed that Parks Victoria have not been very cooperative with supplying detailed information when requested and the bans were sprung on our climbing community without warning. They have not received any information about the exact causes of the bans on each site and have not received detailed maps etc. They also mentioned they have formally requested information about the process that led to the bans and the reasons for them. The replies were not sufficient and they have put in a second legal response requesting a proper explanation. No reply to that has been received,
They also outlined plans to create educational material to encourage climbers to be better environmental stewards at climbing areas – through gyms and a new website (yet to be launched).
GAWG announced a fundraising event on May 8th across climbing gyms and retail outlets in Victoria and South Australia called Climb for Grampians. This is a fundraiser for CliffCare where $5 is donated to the cause from entry fees collected on the day. There was mention of also creating an information opportunity about the bans at this event but there was no further information on what that would be.
The Town Hall Meeting’s sparks really flew when some audience members demanded to know why GAWG had not considered the “nuclear option” of legal action as opposed to a soft diplomatic approach with Parks Victoria. This was clearly a touchy subject and led to a surprise announcement…
After GAWG’s presentation and Q&A, Mike Tompkins presented the launch of a new player in the Australian access space, with the formation over the weekend of the Australian Climbing Association Victoria (ACAV). The aim of the organization is to create a Victorian chapter of an Australia wide climbing association focused solely on access issues and outside of the climbing clubs.
It is modeled on, and will work closely with, the successful Queensland access organization ACAQ. There has also been interest in forming a NSW, South Australian and Tasmanian branch to create a truly Australia wide association with financial and political clout. A lot of people have questioned how this new organization fits into the current landscape with GAWG and CliffCare. The ACAV is not directly associated with this website – we remain an independent source of news and information regarding the Grampians access problems – but we do recommend people take a read of their website and consider joining. It’s only $15 – and this money goes towards a legal fighting fund to challenge these climbing bans in court. They are keen on encouraging a transparent approach to negotiations and meetings – which has been part of the reason for the push-back against GAWAG who mostly works behind closed doors. How will both groups work together? It’s early days and there are some fresh scars that will need to be healed for collaboration to begin in earnest. Everyone wants the same thing – free and fair access to Grampians climbing areas. Fingers crossed everyone will get along – eventually.
In some ways unrelated to the wider Grampians bans in the SPA and Key Sites there has been another sudden ban in the Grampians – at Campground Boulders. This very popular area straddles the border between Stapylton Campground (managed by Parks Victoria) and a small parcel of private property to the east of it. The land owner has decided to no longer allow access to their property because of rubbish being left in the cave, trespass further into their property and even break-ins to their house. It’s highly unlikely that climbers were involved in the latter, but it’s another nail in the coffin of Grampians climbing. CliffCare was involved in past negotiations with the landowner and they have offered their support to resolve this issue again. Stapylton Campground is heavily used by non-climbers and it is likely that most of these problems are actually just caused by them. We have however heard stories about climbers “partying” in the caves with loud music etc. Obviously this is not a good idea! Some problems are still ok to climb – just don’t ignore the fence and the Keep Out signs.
Please share this page – these Grampians bans aren’t going away any time soon and we still need to keep up the public pressure. Misinformation is rife in the community. If the above has made you sad we highly recommend watching the following hilarious video from Simey Mentz (and his testicles)…