Big News Day – Climbers in the Public Eye

It has been a huge 24 hours for Grampians climbing ban news with several mainstream media sources publishing stories in print, online, radio and even national TV. It certainly wasn’t all positive puff pieces for rock-climbing – but we did get a chance to air some of our views and attempt to refute some of the wilder claims made by Parks Victoria – including their continued insistence on the 10x growth figures that we have proved false on this blog previously. We have seen zero evidence of their claims of 80,000 climbers a year in the Grampians (a crazy 220 people a day!) and their entirely false claim of a 3x expansion of new routes in the Grampians since 2003 (that figure is more like 20%, not 300%).

Onscreen stats about growth of climbing from 730 Report have been proven to be false.

Simon Talbot did apologize on air for the misleading bolt in art photo debacle, (admitting it was placed in the 1930s!) – but then went on to imply they have 99 other photos that were legit. Problem is – they have only published 6 photos on their website – and only two show safety bolts – and none show safety bolts in art. On the ABC’s 7:30 Report they had to add red arrows to the photos to show the location of the safety bolts as they were not easily visible!

A disappointing aspect of the piece is that it clearly associated the “unauthorised walking track”, graffiti and fire-rings at Millennium with climbers. It didn’t convey that the area was popular with walkers and campers well before climbing came along and that these problems are typical of areas accessed by the public and not attributable to only one of the user groups. Yes, problems related to bolts and chalk are for climbers to own, but the others are symptomatic of wider management issues with the site.

7:30 Report story showed tourist graffiti and attributed it to climbers – that is false.

Unfortunately what we did see in these articles were close-up photos of chalk at The Gallery and Millennium and photos of controversial permadraws – which are a lot more visible than safety bolts that only stick out of the rock by 2cm. This should be a wake up call to climbers. Quickdraws should never be left behind on routes when you go home at the end of the day, and permadraws should be removed entirely at any crag in the Grampians. Convenience needs to be superseded by cleanliness. Official chalk clean up days at non-SPA crags needs to happen ASAP – but read this article from CliffCare first before going in with the bucket of water!

One big announcement from Parks Victoria was a date set for a new Grampians National Park Management Plan. This has been set for a July 2019 start, and will take 12 months to complete. The last plan was completed in 2003 and gave us the Special Protection Area bans we are currently facing. We hope that climbers finally get an official input into the process of a new plan, working alongside the Aboriginal community and other stakeholders.

Climbers (like most of modern society) tend to live inside their own social media bubble where we just hear messages from like-minded individuals. If you want your views to be challenged (and we suggest you do) go to Facebook and type Gariwerd Ban Climbing into the search bar. There are many posts from aboriginal groups about these bans that will be illuminating and sobering. Please take the time to read them. Be very aware that these people are reading this blog, and any comments left on news articles. Respect their views and their history.

The following are mainstream news reports from the last 24 hours:

7:30 Report – ABC Television

7 minute TV story featuring local climbers Mark Gould, Jackie Bernardi and Mike Tomkins.

ABC Online Article

A spin-off article from the 7:30 Report about the bans.

Ballarat Courier Newspaper Article

An extended article adapted from The Age article published on Friday with extra comments from Simon Carter.

Don’t Ban Climbing article in The Age

Opinion piece from Neil Monteith in reply to Friday’s The Age article.

Simon Carter Blog

An extended article explaining the history and theories behind Parks Victoria’s bans from a climbers perspective.

ABC Radio Ballarat interview with Mike Tomkins