My Letter to the Ministers

On Wednesday 19th, there is going to be motion / debate at the Victorian Parliament, and the ACAV requested that climbers contact members of Parliament to voice their support for the ‘Lockout Motion’ and to share their personal story about what the Grampians means to them. Since I haven’t shared my story yet, here is my letter:

Dear [Minister Name],

Please support the Lockout Motion being put to Parliament on Wed!  
I hope you would consider this issue carefully.  Here’s my brief story, I hope you have a chance to read it.

Rock climbers are legitimate and low impact users of Victoria’s national parks, and it is a shame that misunderstanding and complete lack of consultation has resulted in the loss of over 70% of the very best climbing in the Grampians; which itself is one of the most spectacular and important climbing destinations in the world.

I have been rock climbing in the Grampians for almost 30 years, and it is very special to me… I even proposed to my wife there, on an overnight bushwalk above Beehive Falls.   I learnt to rockclimb in the Grampians, with the scouts, in 1993 at Summerday Valley (one of the popular locations that is now unavailable). This quickly developed into a passion, with regular weekend trips throughout the years.  I have good friends who live and work in the area, and are reliant on the park being open for their livelihoods.

The most frustrating thing about the current situation, is that it seems to have come out of no-where.   A simple management change, and some strongly help opinions from within Parks Victoria have created a toxic environment and division where previously there was none (rock climbers have been in the Grampians for several decades, and have a history of co-operation to protect cultural values and the environment). 

For me, these lockouts are very distressing, as I know that I have done my utmost to climb responsibly, mostly with traditional climbing methods (very low impact) and I love to experience cliffs that see little to no-visitation – indeed many of the closed areas are not cultural sites, and receive no more visitation now than they did 20 years ago, and where you’re never likely to see another soul, and can experience nature at it’s finest. 

At other areas, where visitation has increased, a simple management plan that includes climbers is long overdue.   Parks Victoria wish to deny people these experiences and yet replace these experiences with paved tracks and steel handrails which are a slap in the face to anyone who likes to experience the Grampians in it’s natural state.

Climbing IS a low impact activity, with climbers themselves often being vocal environmentalists, and whose values are aligned with cultural AND environmental protection.  Yet our voices are not being heard and our consultation ignored.  Climbers have ample ability to contribute in a meaningful way and to address concerns that have been raised.

Rock climbing around the world is a legitimate activity and there are numerous management plans we can draw on to enable a sustainable practice of outdoor recreation, including remote and wilderness areas, while maintaining protection of cultural and environmental values.

Kind regards,
Goshen Watts

The Author, on a traditional climb on his 40th Birthday, spent with friends in the Grampians.