In between bemoaning Covid lockdowns and the excitement of celebrating climbing in the Olympics, there’s a few items of interest that have popped up in the last few weeks to update the access situation in Victoria.
Mike Rockell, working with Kevin Lindorff (VCC), Chris Williams and Andrew Knight (CEO of Outdoors Vic) have been proactive in meeting informally with PV, and also gathering some information feedback from the (Facebook) climbing community.
They are reposted here (in 3 sections) for your information / reference.
The original Facebook posts are on the Victorian Climbing Discussion Forum
1) Extending the Pause
Further Update on the 500 Email Campaign to the Responsible Minister on the Greater Gariwerd Landscape Management Plan. July 18th 2021
As a result of the potential 500 Email Campaign, a communication channel has been opened with Parks Victoria. As such it makes sense to extend the Pause for another couple of months depending on how things play out.
On Friday myself, Kevin Lindorff , Chris Williams, along with Andrew Knight CEO of Outdoors Victoria who sat in on the first part of the meeting, had a constructive and informative virtual meeting with several people from Parks Victoria.
WHAT WE LEARNT
- The release of the Final Plan is not imminent. The massive amount of feedback received, and the complexities associated with Gariwerd have impacted the timeline. In response we agreed that it is better for them to take a little longer and get it right as everyone will be living with the consequences for a long time.
- They will now be publishing a “Community Engagement Report”. Importantly this report will now be published ahead of the Plan being finalised. This was something that I had been pushing for as it allows us to ensure that they did correctly hear our collective voice. This in turn reduces the opportunity to ignore or misinterpret the improvements to the Plan that the climbing community is looking for. This Engagement Report is expected within the next month or two. We will be pushing for this Engagement Report to have an Issues Table that lists the key issues that have been raised by submitters and for the opportunity to give feedback on the Community Engagement Report.
- Formation of a Climbing Peak Body for Victoria. This was also discussed. It is an important development as it will give PV a legitimate organisation for them to communicate with, and a body that can legitimately represent the greater climbing community. The formation of such a body has been a slowly developing concept over the last two plus years.
- PV felt that within the last 6 months their relationship with the climbing community had become much more positive and hoped that it has moved on from the divisiveness.
- Climbing location assessments. Since the Draft Plan was published only a limited number of the “Possible” climbing sites have been assessed:
>> Several Possible bouldering locations were assessed in conjunction with a representative of the bouldering fraternity. It is really encouraging that there was inclusion of person from our side of the fence so to say. It also means that the community’s concern that bouldering could be decimated under the Plan had been heard.
>> Around 10 Possible climbing sites were assessed late last year.
>> Budgetary constraints put a major question mark on how many more sites will be surveyed in the foreseeable future.
>> We confirmed they intend applying the precautionary principle of closing “Possible” climbing locations until such time as they are surveyed. This is a point of particular concern for us. I will enlarge on this a little more below.
THE “POSSIBLE” CLIMBING LOCATIONS
There were 126 Possible climbing locations listed in the Draft Plan. Only a small number have been subsequently surveyed. Since they wish to apply a precautionary principle then it means that they will be designated closed until such time as they are surveyed. Without additional funding they could remain closed forever. This is simply not acceptable. As a community we are going to have to push back very strongly on this.
1. They need to get the funding to do these surveys on at least most of these locations and have a timetable to get them done in a finite time.
2. They should seriously consider doing a series of preliminary assessments, that could be done quickly and at low cost. If nothing of concern is noted then the status should be to allow climbing at these places until such time as more detailed surveys can be carried out.
3. They should engage with the climbing community to help fund the survey work and to work together on the surveys.
4. Kevin, Chris and I believe that they could be breaching their obligations under the 2018 Parks Victoria Act. These obligations include:-
4a. 9.1.1 “Parks Victoria must work to enhance visitor access to the parks and other areas it manages while protecting the natural and cultural values of these areas.”
4b. 9.3 “Evidence Based Decision Making”. In effect they are making a budget driven decision to close off important climbing locations without the evidence to support such closures.
5. More generally we (Kevin, Chris and I) will be pushing for the reasons as to why climbing locations are closed. Were the reasons based on good evidence? What was that evidence, especially in regard to those closed on environmental grounds?
Our next step is to provide PV a list points that need to be worked on that would aid further constructive progress.
So, for all of you that have supported the concept of the 500 Email Campaign, I just ask for patience as we endeavour to make further headway over the next 1-2 months. We will update you on matters as and when they arise.
Yours Sincerely, Mike Rockell
New Assessments of Climbing and Bouldering Locations in Gariwerd
July 25th 2021
The Greater Gariwerd Landscape Draft Management Plan contained a list of 281 climbing areas designated as Green (Permitted), Amber (Under Review), Red (Not Permitted). The expectation is that those under review will be assessed steadily over time.
Last week we wrote to Parks Victoria requesting the list of climbing and bouldering locations that they have subsequently assessed.
We received this information on Friday along with the following request:
“Please reiterate that the final decisions about whether bouldering and/or climbing are supported in these sites is still being worked through and we ask for understanding that this process takes time. Until otherwise announced, we continue to ask that climbers and boulderers not enter these areas.”
My personal view is that we should continue to exercise patience and not enter areas that are yet to be given the green light [# See Q&A below]. This shows respect towards the Traditional Owners and possible cultural values that may be present along with respect for the process that is underway and that we want to see continue.
Bouldering sites assessed; these were selected based on a review of submissions and discussions with a few members of the bouldering community.
- Andersens West,
- Between the Sheeps,
- Cave Club
- Epsilon Wall,
- Lower Taipan Wall,
- Mountain Lion,
- Project Wall (Lemonade Wall),
- The Bleachers,
- The Citadel,
- The Kindergarten,
- Trackside Boulders (Mt Stapylton),
- Venus Baths,
- Wedgetail Boulders,
Climbing areas assessed; these were selected based on queries from the climbing community and Licensed Tour Operators.
- Eureka Towers,
- Clean Cut Walls,
- Eureka Wall,
- Andersens East,
- Sandinista East,
- Pacific Ocean Wall,
- Rockwall (Roses Gap),
- Crank Start Amphitheatre
Interestingly, three of these locations were listed as Closed in the Draft Management Plan. They were Trackside Boulders, The Bleachers, and Andersens East. It is commendable that these have been reconsidered. Also heartening that attention has been given to bouldering which was looking to be obliterated.
The big standout is that Taipan/Spurt appears not to have been assessed [officially] yet, but was designated a possible climbing area in the draft plan. We need to see the assessments continue, so the question is, what should be in the next tranche?
Taipan Takes Out Gold
August 1st, 2021
The results of the polling of what should next be assessed by Parks Victoria finalised. Taipan takes out the gold medal, Muline silver and Spurt bronze. Taipan was the most popular by a considerable margin with 179 votes [which closely resembles the outcome of SGC’s own survey]
With Taipan, there has already been an assessment done back in 2020. You can read more about it at this link. Hopefully by the time the final management plan is published, the outcome for Taipan and its little brother, Spurt Wall will be known. In the meantime, I think we just need to remain patient and respectful.
Opening up the 10 most popular locations from this survey, would make a great difference to the climbing opportunities in Victoria even if they came with some special conditions or restrictions.
What next? The intention is that this information is provided to Parks Victoria to guide the prioritisation of what is assessed next.
A few FAQ’s:
Q: Why was Taipan & Spurt on the list if it had already been assessed and you don’t want anyone to kick up a fuss about it?
A: It is not completely clear whether it was an “official” assessment. And if it was then the process has not been completed because no decision has been made yet. Currently it remains a location closed to climbing and listed as a Possible in the Draft Plan.
Q: Can [climbers] climb at Orange / Red Zones?
A: Really they are using the future tense in the Draft Plan. So despite the latest request I don’t think anyone should be feel guilty if they have been climbing in ‘future’ red and orange zones. And: People can currently climb in areas that aren’t in SPAs (if we assume that in doing so they are not doing harm). PV has requested that climbers don’t climb in a number of areas that are not in SPAs but there are literally multiple hundreds of cliffs in this category and PV is aware that its requests are only that –they are not legally enforceable, at this stage.