You Asked, PV Answers

In October Parks Victoria (PV) held six “Community Workshops” in the Grampians area and in Melbourne as the first stage of public consultation for a new Grampians Landscape Management Plan. These sessions were open to all users of the Grampians, but it was clear that climbers made up the majority of people attending.

At the workshops a number of people submitted questions to Parks Victoria through question cards and these have now been answered (in writing). Download and read the whole thing here:

This document is revealing, as for the first time, PV have put in writing a few things we have only heard second hand from private meetings such as the Licensed Tour Operator workshops and the Rock Climbing Roundtable. The following are several of the more interesting Q&As – and our snide comments on each.

Will the SPAs be rezoned in the new plan? 

The way in which management zones, including Special Protection Areas, are applied across the Grampians landscape will be assessed as part of this process. No decisions have yet been made. 

This was the 2nd most asked question from the general public. It is a pity that they still have no answer 9 months after the SPA bans were announced. We actually have yet to see any proper documentation of the original SPA zones from the 2003 Management Plan. It appears discussion about rezoning have not been had at the Rock Climbing Roundtable or the Stakeholder Reference Group meetings either. If you are involved in these groups – please don’t leave it until it’s too late! Bring up this topic.

What capacity is there within Parks Victoria to make changes to climbing bans before the drafting and implementation of the new management plan? 

Climbing and other activities have been restricted in Special Protection Areas of the national park as a response to increased incidences of damage to both natural and cultural values. Climbing has not been a permitted activity within the park’s SPAs since 2003. 

It would be nice if they actually answered the question. We think they mean “zero chance”. That is a depressing thought, and one that many climbers (and people involved in access negotiations) have thought was a possibility. Are we really waiting years for the new Management Plan to come out before any changes will happen? What about Summer Day Valley? They sorted that out at the bequest of commercial operators way back in June. Apparently they put off doing anything until the very last minute. It was a shitty deal that disenfranchised recreational climbers – but a solution was achieved without waiting for the new management plan to be finished. Why can’t they manage a deal to allow climbing in some of the once popular crags that are located in SPAs?

Will Parks Victoria be assessing every crag within the SPAs to assess the precise impacts on cultural sites of the environment, and explore mitigation options? 

Parks Victoria is undertaking assessments with Traditional Owners to further identify areas of cultural and environmental significance, and understand the potential impact of activities in those areas. 

Answer the question! Jeez Louise. We are particularly interested to know if PV have any intentions of doing mitigation work to allow climbing at areas where things like erosion is a current issue. PV will happily build larger carparks, campsites and walking tracks for bushwalkers – at great expense and environmental cost – but climbers? Hello? Hello? Oh they hung up.

Will there be a climbing management plan within the Grampians Landscape Management Plan? 

No. The Grampians Landscape Management Plan will provide the framework for managing the access and impacts from the range of recreation activities undertaken, but will not have specific management plans for each activity within the park. Parks Victoria is communicating with climbing representative groups about a range of issues including the group’s proposal for a Victorian Climbing Management Plan. 

Well that is a surprisingly definitive answer considering everything else is so vague. A climbing management plan is something that ACAV and VCC have been championing for months now. We believe much work has been done on it already but it has yet to published for public review. Considering how large and apparently problematic a user group rock climbers are in the eyes of PV it is surprising to read that they have no wish to actually manage this officially. Other prominent National Parks around the world have specific regulations regarding climbing. Take a look at Yosemite’s for example. We have been told by PV that back in 2003, when the last Grampians Management Plan was created, rock climbing wasn’t making a major impact. And now it does. So surely it is a no brainer to have a proper rock climbing section in the new Grampians Landscape Management Plan? One that is co authored with the user group themselves. The last Management plan lasted for 17 years. What will rock climbing look like in the Grampians 17 years into the future? PV better have some plan.

There is concern within the bushwalking community that a number of popular walking trails will be closed. Have Parks Victoria already decided which walking trails will be closed?

There are no current plans to close existing legal and popular walking trails.

Are climber access tracks classed as “popular walking trails” and are they “legal”? They are certainly popular but the definition of what is a legal track has never been clear. PV have threatened fines for damaging vegetation which they could theoretically use against climbers who are creating new tracks. But using an already established track to a climbing areas is surely legal isn’t it? Especially considering many were created by loggers, bushwalkers or animals in the first place.

Who are the Grampians Traditional Owner groups? 

Parks Victoria has been working to develop the new management plan in partnership with Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation. 

Good to see PV finally actually listing the three Aboriginal groups that they are developing the new Management Plan with. In all previous correspondence they have only been referred to as “the TOs” which has been mighty confusing.

How many people belong to the three Traditional Owner Groups? 

The number of people within the Traditional Owner groups is managed by each group. Parks Victoria does not have information about this. 

PV enjoys ignorance it seems. Have they chosen to be wilfully ignorant of their partners in the plan? These are also the groups who could potentially have Joint Ownership with PV of the Grampians in the future. At Arapiles we have been told that Joint Ownership is apparently an inevitable process with Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation. Which leads to the next question…

What does joint management with Traditional Owners look like for the other users of the park? 

Joint management is a term used to describe a formal partnership arrangement between Traditional Owners and the State of Victoria where both share their knowledge to manage specific national parks and other protected areas. Under joint management, Traditional Owner aspirations set the overall management directions of the parks, however, community input and government policy are also paramount to the management of the park. You can read more about joint management here – https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/managing-country-together 

Because PV is working with three separate Aboriginal groups it is less likely Joint Ownership will occur in the near future for the entire Grampians National Park. If it does, a whole new Grampians Landscape Management Plan will have to be written to reflect this major shift in ownership and management. Do we have to go through this all again if that happens?

Why are Traditional Owners partners in the process with more decision-making power than other user groups?

Parks Victoria is developing the Grampians Landscape Management Plan in partnership with Traditional Owner groups. This means they sit on our project decision-making group, and are involved in the deliberation of the final management plan. 

Again PV totally dodges the actual question. Why? Legally it is Aboriginal Victoria who is supposed to be making these decisions as there is no Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) for the Grampians. We can only presume the current arrangement is somewhat informal. For democratic transparency it would be much better if this arrangement was more out in the open as we are dealing with management of public land and 1.3 million visitors.

How does Parks Victoria ensure visitors respect the park (for example, fire safety and rubbish removal)? 

Parks Victoria provides information about visiting the national park through websites, media, social media, visitor information centres, compliance operations, public signage, park rangers and field service officers. Where prohibited park activity occurs, Parks Victoria can apply fines and other actions according to National Park Regulations and other legislation. 

Parks Victoria have done a terrible job on providing information about the climbing issues that have arisen in the last 9 months. If you look at their website there is no information available on the front page. Google “grampians national park rock climbing” and you will get a list of news items about the bans, climbing guiding companies and this website – but nothing from Parks Victoria on the first page of the search results. You will find a link to their rock climbing and absieling info on the second page of the google search. Sadly it contains a broken link. They have been hopeless at supplying lists of banned crags or decent quality maps showing the location of crags and the SPAs. At the cliffs themselves you will only find faded laminated paper signs at 8 key sites – whilst the majority of SPAs are totally unsignposted. Key visitor information signs at places such as Stapylton and Flat Rock have no mention of climbing bans. Rangers are rarely seen, and when they are they tell climbers the wrong information. PVs only solution seems to be threats of fines and rangers sent out on public holidays with tactical vests and handcuffs to frighten climbers into “compliance”. Education seems to be low on their agenda when it comes to climbing.

What is being done to protect cultural heritage in the park outside of restricting rock climbing? (x3) 

Special Protection Areas have been identified in the Grampians National Park since 2003. Activities in these areas are restricted to bushwalking and picnicking. In addition, Parks Victoria and Aboriginal Victoria continually seek to increase awareness of how visitors can avoid damage to environmental and cultural heritage value. 

Prohibiting everything but bushwalking and picnicking in SPAs seems to be their solution to protect cultural heritage. But as we just read above, unless you are following the daily news cycle about the Grampians and rock climbing, you would be clueless to the existence of SPAs and their restrictions. 99% of the crags in these SPA areas are not signposted and are not being patrolled by rangers. We think the SPA ban is an easy way for PV to tick a box saying they have “done something” when in fact they haven’t. Even if you read the current 2003 Management Plan you would be presented with a document that says SPAs are only 1% of the park.

What does the process of rediscovering cultural heritage look like? How does it work? 

Parks Victoria and Traditional Owners are conducting a notified survey for Aboriginal cultural heritage in known climbing areas by walking on country together, sharing stories and registering rediscovered Aboriginal sites on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register. This survey is supported by Aboriginal heritage experts from Parks Victoria’s Managing Country Together team. 

Participants at the recent Stakeholder reference Group were given an impressive looking document named the Conservation Action Plan (CAP) for Gariwerd.  It is a document meant to define and prioritise conservation strategies for the Park for the next 5 years. Though there was the occasional reference in it to managing in ways that are “culturally sensitive” the focus was fairly and squarely on ecosystem management. PV people at the meeting were all very proud of the fact that it was strongly data driven with strategies chosen/developed on evidence based world’s best practice.  A participant at the meeting asked whether they had plans to develop such an evidence based, world’s best practice approach to cultural heritage management (and publish an equivalent document for CH). There was much uneasy shuffling in seats. Seemed no-one had thought of that idea before. Apparently each TO group have their own priorities around cultural heritage so best practice in Gariwerd would be whatever the TOs deemed it to be. That last line is quote from PV.

What are the key messages Parks Victoria are getting from the Traditional Owners in relation to climbing in the Grampians?  

Traditional Owner groups have stated that they support restrictions on recreation activities in the park’s Special Protection Areas, and in other locations where activities risk causing harm to cultural or natural values. Parks Victoria has committed to working in partnership with Gariwerd Traditional Owners, through their respective organisations, to develop the new Grampians Landscape Management Plan.

Focusing on the negatives is a depressing way of answering this open ended question. PV acting as a middleman in this arrangement is deeply flawed when they have a strong anti-climber agenda as shown in press statements.

Can you update and be clearer on what specific rock climbing areas you can and cannot climb at? 

Parks Victoria’s website and maps show rock climbing is not permitted in the park’s Special Protection Areas (SPAs). In these areas, only bushwalking and picnicking are permitted. Rock climbing is permitted outside of these SPAs. 

9 months. Still no list of crags from PV. Even their own rangers are confused about where the SPAs are. Moving right along…

How were the Special Protection Areas determined? 

Special Protection Areas were established in places of high conservation value that are particularly special or at significant risk, such as protected Aboriginal sites, or where there is a threatened species of plant or animal that is vulnerable to human activity. These geographical areas protect specific natural or cultural sites where special management focus is required. 

Anyone else think it is odd that these SPA areas, first announced in 2003, are supposed to be where “special management focus is required” – yet they somehow failed to notice rock climbing until late last year? And the line about protecting “specific natural or cultural sites” seems to conflict with the scale of the SPA zones in the Victoria Range. That one SPA, containing most of the Victoria Range climbing, is an area stretching 10 kilometres north to south so would hardly be called a “specific site”.

Why has rock climbing been picked out as an activity to be banned, when other activities such as walking can have just as much impact?

Rock climbing is one of many recreational activities that is not permitted in the Grampians National Park’s Special Protection Areas. In these areas, only bushwalking and picnicking are permitted, and are should occur on formal and legal tracks and trails, and in established picnic areas. 

This was a popular question from the public (five individuals asked the same question). What is interesting about PV’s answer here is they are suddenly referring to “formal and legal” tracks and “established” picnic areas. Want to walk off track at Hollow Mountain area? Bzzzttt. Handcuffs and fines for you. Want to picnic on a nice rocky summit. That is an offense and they will hunt you down. We wonder what the bushwalkers, bird watchers, archaeologists, biologists and others who want to “go bush” think about this new rule? What PV is saying here is that a third of the Grampians is actually totally off limit. 500 square kilometres will be “virtually” fenced off and patrolled.

Is the current plan of Parks Victoria to reduce the climbing bans in places by assessing where they are not actually needed? 

Parks Victoria is undertaking assessments with Traditional Owners to identify and clarify areas of cultural and environmental significance, and understand the potential impact of activities in those areas. 

Is that a maybe? Who knows.

Are there any Parks Victoria employees with a significant climbing background involved in the decision-making process regarding rock climbing? 

There are several Parks Victoria staff members who have extensive experience with rock climbing, and their expertise is sought to provide information where appropriate. However, in line with the Victorian Public Service Code of Conduct, people with a significant conflict of interest are removed from decision-making processes 

Good question! Thanks who ever asked this one as it is somewhat a sticking point in the negotiations between PV and climbers. What is a significant conflict of interest? We know of several PV employees who are also climbers who has either been excluded, or even faced disciplinary action for daring to be pro-climber. Is actually being a climber a conflict of interest with PV? That would be a tell tale sign of where we stand in their eyes. It has been clear in public communication that PV lacks a basic understanding on climbing concepts and practices. At one point it appeared their research consisted of watching the movie Cliffhanger – they seemed to think all climbers carried drills and placed bolts whilst they speed climbed. The terminology PV use (drop matts instead of bouldering pads for example) is laughable to the climbing community. And that is just what we see on the surface.

PV seeks to regulate an activity they know little about. We believe that dedicated “climbing rangers”, as seen in other parts of the world, could be a key part of building a co-operative relationship between PV and climbers. Climbing experience shouldn’t be seen as a conflict of interest – but a valuable addition to the team. Instead we have the current antagonistic relationship of “enforcement rangers”.

And lastly, a conflict of interest goes both ways. Does PV have people working on rock climbing related issues that are known to be anti-climber? We have certainly been told this by insiders. We hope they are also removed from the decision-making process.

Rock climbing has been occurring in the Grampians since before it became a National Park, is ‘traditional use’ counted in decisions? 

As with the many other activities undertaken in the Grampians parks and reserves, rock climbing will be managed according to its potential impact on this protected environment. 

Cheeky question. Lame answer.

What legal procedures must rangers follow when managing activities in the SPAs? 

Rangers are Authorised Officers (AOs), and are appointed under the Conservation Forests and Lands Act 1987 as well as other legislation including the National Parks Act 1975. The legislation confers various powers on AOs including the power to request name and address, give a direction, (such as leave a park) where a person is offending. A person MUST provide their name and address or follow a lawful direction or risk arrest and other action such as being charged with an offence. When an AO interviews a person suspected of committing an offence he/she must caution the person. The caution is: 
“I must inform you that you do not have to say or do anything but anything you say or do may be given in evidence. Do you understand that?” 

It is wise to video any interactions with rangers in this current climate. It is not clear if an Authorised Officer is the one who can do the arresting. Can anyone clarify this?

When will Parks Victoria issue a public apology for the lies, slander and misinformation they spread about rock climbers?

On Thursday 4 April 2019, Parks Victoria published photos onto its website to help communicate the impact and risks to natural and cultural values associated with climbing. One image was not related to climbing impacts and when Parks Victoria was made aware of the mistake, the image was removed. This was a human error. Parks Victoria subsequently sent a letter of explanation and apology to the Victorian Climbing Club and media outlets. Admission of this error was published in multiple media outlets, including The Australian, The Age, ABC and the Herald Sun. Parks Victoria has not wilfully communicated any other inaccurate information. 

OK – this is the big one – the most asked question from any member of the public and a worthy one for us to explore in detail. Most climbers will be familiar with the infamous “bolt in art” false claim by PV on their website. We covered it at the time on this blog – a page that has had almost 10,000 views. It was this blog that went viral and garnered media attention to the false claim. Now we see PV try and claim that it was them that contacted the media with a letter of explanation and apology. Is this true? We saw no mention of this apology in any media article at the time. We asked one of the prominent newspapers listed if they had received this admission of error from PV. They could not find any reference to it.

The so called apology letter they sent to the Victorian Climbing Club leadership committee was also bizarrely kept from the public. One of those acts that didn’t do the VCC any favors with the wider climbing community who had been pushing for more transparency in their negotiations with PV. For the first time we publish the letter here:

This so-called public apology

Who was the human that made the error? Did they suffer any consequences for this so called mistake? It’s hard to imagine how a photo of an old cage bolt, nothing to do with climbers, made it’s way onto PV’s climbing section of their website with the caption “bolt in rock art” without some form of deliberate maliciousness.

OK, we got a kind of an apology for that one instance – but there is a lot more that PV pretend never got said.

Parks Victoria has not wilfully communicated any other inaccurate information.

Simon Talbot also said this on ABC’s 7:30

“We posted about a hundred impact images, somehow that one got through, it was a 1937 bolt that we blamed on rock climbers and we said that was completely wrong and we are sorry – but there are another 99 photos there”

But guess what? There have never been a hundred photos of bolts in art published by PV anywhere online. PV have only ever published 6 photos of alleged climbing damage on their website – and only two show safety bolts – and none show safety bolts in art. When we requested these multitude of photos for our own review we received a firm reply that they wouldn’t release the other photos.  More misinformation out in the public that greatly damaged the reputation of climbers. No apology.

Back in February this year, Simon Talbot also said in an ABC radio interview that climbers had been:

“actual rock bolting into some of the paintings”

A claim never backed up by evidence despite repeated requests from climbers. The nearest bolt to art appears to be about 2m away in the Black Range (not even in the Grampians). No proof has ever been presented showing “rock bolting into some of the paintings”. No apology.

Or how about when PV published this entirely inaccurate statement where they misinterpreted statistics from thecrag.com:

The number of climbing sites has risen from approximately 2,000 sites in 2003 to an estimated 8,000 sites in 2018. Visitation has also increased from approximately 8,000 people in 2003 to 80,000 people in 2018

We proved these numbers didn’t add up in a long article back in April. These dodgy numbers appeared in an nationally broadcast TV segment on ABC’s 7:30 program. Who gave them those numbers? Parks Victoria of course. No apology.

Statistics supplied to the ABC from Parks Victoria are totally wrong.

Who can forget this train wreck of an article in The Age peppered with Talbot’s wildest claims such as “Climbers have been bashing hundreds of kilometres of paths through this virgin bush“. The figure we came up with at the extreme end was 50km, with only 15km being used in recent years. And Talbot’s comment that it was “virgin bush” is laughable. Aboriginal people were living there for thousands of years (or did you forget about those people Mr Talbot?) .

Parks Victoria has even admitted, in a round about way, that they were doing a poor job of public messaging. Back in early May they actually abandoned all public statements to the press releasing this statement:

PV plans to disengage with the mainstream media to prevent further confusion and misrepresentation

PV haven’t willfully communicated any inaccurate information hey? We think that in itself is an inaccurate statement! Next question – next questionable answer…

Will Parks Victoria help mend the relationships between Traditional Owners and rock climbers?

Parks Victoria is keen to help all park users, including rock climbers, better understand the Aboriginal cultural history of the landscape, and how they can interact with it in a respectful way. 

Clearly PV have no interest in mending the relationship. The damage they caused by publishing misinformation like we saw above is plain to see when we read comments on Aboriginal organisations social media accounts. The bolt in art myth perpetuates far and wide and unchecked. Certainly PV have made no effort to mend this impression.

What measures have been put in place to establish a system where Parks Victoria, Traditional Owners and rock climbers discuss concerns and work towards agreed solutions that relate to climbing before they escalate into bans? 

The decision for Parks Victoria to implement restrictions on rock climbing in Special Protection Areas of the Grampians National Park followed increasing incidences of bolting and chalking in cultural heritage places, and damage to vegetation near climbing sites. To inform the decision, Parks Victoria held discussions with Traditional Owner groups, Aboriginal Victoria and the Victorian Climbing Club, as a representative group for rock climbers. 

This takes the cake! PV reckon the process they went through earlier this year was fine. They held discussions with the VCC but failed to mention anything about potential bans. They failed to allow TOs and climbers to talk face to face about any concerns. They hid knowledge about potential conflicts between climbing areas and areas on the Aboriginal Heritage Register for decades. Then they announced the bans, covering one third of the park, as a done deal to a room full of gobsmacked climbers. This was a terrible way of conducting any sort of key consultation with a stakeholder group who had been climbing in these areas for 100 years. You can read all about their sneaky secret plans in our article PV’s Emails Exposed.

Surprise f**ckers!

What can the rock climbing community do to address the concerns about impacts to the satisfaction of land managers and Traditional Owners? And what can we do to contribute to the wellbeing of the park? 

As with all park users, rock climbers should follow park rules, signage and regulations for undertaking activities in national parks. Parks Victoria is keen to help all park users, including rock climbers, better understand the Aboriginal cultural history of the landscape, and how they can interact with it in a respectful way. We hope that this management planning process will help to build a clear understanding of how recreation activities, like climbing, should be managed to ensure the national park is protected. 

It will be very interesting to see the draft Management Plan when it is released next year. PV have refused to allow the climbing community to write anything for this. We hope it contains some information on how PV can help manage erosion and overuse at some crags. Real money and labor put towards the long term viability of rock climbing in the park.

How can Parks claim we are at the start of the consultation process, when bans in the SPAs have been implemented many months ago? 

Restrictions on activities in Special Protection Areas were implemented to protect special natural and cultural places. Most of these areas were identified in the existing 2003 plan. The Grampians Landscape Management Plan is now being developed in response to rock climbing matters, though the increase in climbing is an example of many for sustainable park management. 

From what we have seen in the Grampians in recent months there is certainly no increase in climbers. We have seen a marked decrease because of the uncertainty from the bans. Almost no international or interstate visitors turned up this year. Why travel long distances and spend big money when you might be met by a ranger with a vest and handcuffs giving you the third degree? If PV’s aim was to reduce climbing number – then job done! Might make an uncomfortable conversation with accommodation & other tourism providers in the area though.

Why did Parks Victoria not undertake this consultation process before banning climbing from so many cliffs? 

While climbing has been a prohibited activity in Special Protection Areas since 2003, Parks Victoria acknowledges we have not proactively enforced this and in some cases acted in conflict with the plan. When deciding to proactively enforce the Special Protection Areas in early 2019, we were focussed on our obligations to protect environmental and cultural values. We have heard and acknowledge that the information sharing and engagement on this change in enforcement should have been better, and we strive to do so in the future for any changes about user access and conditions. 

Now that’s a mea culpa! PV certainly “acted in conflict” with their own 2003 Management Plan. They funded and built climber’s access tracks to places like The Gallery and Summer Day Valley (located in SPAs and also secret registered Aboriginal quarry sites). They installed specific signage pointing to climbing areas in SPAs such as Andersens & Amnesty. They approved two bouldering festivals in recent years that were held in SPAs. They approved commercial TV film shoots for gambling companies involving rock climbing in SPAs. They published lists of “open crags” after natural disasters such bushfires that listed many crags within SPAs. But it was worse than that, the management plan itself had contradictory statements in it about SPA areas. The document contained tables showing SPA’s were under 1% of the park area, and maps showing it at 30%. And statements about Summer Day Valley being a rock climbing area of high use that required (and received) significant track work to handle the high rock climbing visitor numbers. A crag slap bang in an SPA where climbing was apparently prohibited. Tourism Victoria promoted Grampians cave climbing areas such as Millenium, Muline and the Gallery as world class climbing destinations as recently as March 2019 (yep after the bans came into effect). Information about these was supplied by PV. Almost all online references to the above have been erased by Parks Victoria. You could almost be mistaken that PV actually thought climbing was fine for 17 years in SPAs wouldn’t you?

A photo PV probably wishes didn’t exist. Their own signage pointing the way to The Gallery on a track they built.

Will Parks Victoria strive for transparency, and keep record of and publish the minutes of meetings with the stakeholder reference group and Traditional Owners? 

Meeting notes from the Stakeholder Reference Group are published online. The meeting notes from the first meeting are available on Engage Victoria’s website -https://engage.vic.gov.au/grampians-management-plan. Parks Victoria does not release meeting notes from meetings with Traditional Owner groups or other partner organisations.

It would be good to know why meeting notes with TOs are not published. Why couldn’t they be published in the same Chatham House Rules style used in the Roundtable and Stake Holder Reference Group – where peoples names are not recorded but what was said is? It would be especially pertinent to publish these TO meeting notes considering none of the TOs have seemingly attended or answered questions in the community engagement meetings or roundtable meetings. We are getting half of the background story on a plan that is supposed to last for decades. PV’s own notes say TOs are “partners in the development of this new management plan, and sit on the review project decision-making body, the Project Control Group.” But we don’t get to hear or read what they say? As we said earlier, the relationship between PV and TOs is entirely opaque to an outsider.

What changes to the management of Djurite/Mt Arapiles are expected in the future?

Parks Victoria is not currently conducting any reviews into the management of Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park. 

That seems to be a contradictory statement considering back in June this year the ABC published this news piece.

There is also current negotiations underway between BGLC and the State Government of Victoria under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act. It is likely that a settlement will include a change from co-management to joint management for Arapiles. This means the title of the land passes from State Gov ownership (i.e. the general public) to BGLC under a form of land title called Aboriginal Title. You can read lots more about this in our article Is Arapiles Next?

Grampians Peaks Trail

There were a lot of questions about the Grampians Peak Trail. This is the walking track currently being built from the northern to the southern tip of the Grampians – about 150km long. It is what PV have been focusing on for the last few years – to the detriment of other areas and users of the Grampians.

How can Parks Victoria justify clearing areas for the GPT, but stop bouldering based on a small amount of vegetation around a few boulders? 

The alignment of the Grampians Peaks Trail has been mapped out in partnership with Traditional Owners and conservation scientists, and complies with all necessary environmental and cultural heritage assessments. 

We think that could be loosely translated as – we presented a business case that it will make money for some people and thus we got permission to bulldoze away. There will probably be a bit of paperwork. They answer it themselves in the next question…

What is your response to the claim that the only reason the GPT is being supported is because of the financial benefit? 

The Grampians Peaks Trail will become a significant nature-based tourism opportunity and will enhance Victoria’s reputation as a leading nature-based tourism destination in Australia. It will also strengthen the regional Victorian economy through the expansion of the tourism and service industries, with the potential to generate significant economic benefits. 

In the recent Stakeholder Reference Group Meeting it came to light that there has been a change on how vegetation offsets work for the Grampians Peaks trail. These offsets are traditionally a requirement to replant vegetation to replace the vegetation they have destroyed in creating the trail. Originally they were required to replace like for like plant species and preferably in the same geographic area (within 50km). Not any more. Now they talk about a “counterbalance strategy” – exemptions under the Planning and Heritage Act now allow for offsets to be balanced across the state (rather than having to be achieved separately within each individual park). That is a significant change meaning the Grampians Peaks Trail will probably not be offset in the local area.

Parks Victoria has published a further update on the progress of the Peaks Trail. Read the gory details here.

Smashing rocks to create tracks – but hey its all ok because it “complies with all necessary environmental and cultural heritage assessments”

We noticed this little update right down the bottom.

Notice how they slipped in the ambiguous “small number of huts” into the document? There is no information on how large these huts are, their exact location or the actual number of huts that will be built. We do know it is apparently in the Northern Grampians – home to Taipan and Hollow Mountain. These huts cannot be used by the general public unless they are on a “hosted hiking experience”. This is a clear example of the commercialization of the Grampians being slipped through without scrutiny.

Apparently all 12 Peaks Trail camps will be ready for use in December 2020, when all 160kms of trail will be open. The update also shows PV is continuing the push for profits and people over planet:

By 2025, 80,000 overnight visitors are expected, with 34,000 walkers set to experience the wonders of Gariwerd, generating $6.39m of economic benefit and tourism development opportunities locally and to the region.

That is 219 people camping each and every night on the Peaks Trail. Rain, snow, hail, floods, fires or summer sun. Optimism runs high at PV’s marketing office.

According to Parks Victoria, the community consultation summary report for the Landscape Management Plan is currently being prepared and will be available in the new year.  A draft of the Plan will be developed by mid-2020.  By all accounts next year will be a big news time for Grampians rock climbing access.

Searchable SGC Articles

Due to popular demand we have added a page to this website that lists all our articles in chronological order. This is also searchable. There is a treasure trove of background information in 40+ articles.

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