Well, the final Greater Gariwerd Landscape Management Plan (GGLMP) has been released to little fanfare on Wednesday 21st Dec. Perhaps they figured Christmas eve (a Friday) would be just too comic.
The info was posted immediately to the socials, and a flurry of responses quickly faded to… silence.
However, given the blood, toil and tears put into all the letters, campaigns and submissions, we ought to at least provide a summary and attempt to cover some angles.
We can’t really tell you what it all means however… that analysis is ongoing, and likely to change as we find out more about the management plan, and how it’s going to be managed.
Download the documents from this page: https://engage.vic.gov.au/gariwerd-management-plan
Note: Climbing Starts: P98 (118 of the PDF).
Major Points – General Info
- PV commit to ongoing dialogue with climbers after the release of the GGLMP. PV preference is to liaise with a single representative peak body.
- Bush camping will no longer be available from 2024. P92.
- Maps Series 3 – show “Provisional” camping areas, which will either be closed or made into formal camping areas.
- Campfires: “Investigate only permitting solid fuel fires from 1 March to 30 November” (High Priority).
- Interesting to note that “Camp Sandy” is designated as a Carpark (Map 3A).
- Hiking (Class 1-3) vs Climbing (Class 4-5) is defined on P99. What may not be known, is that Australia already has a walking track grading system (used by PV), but this has been conveniently replaced by the American system in order to control climbers / scramblers – and has resulted in the closure of popular ascents like the Fortress and Chimney Pots.
- Off track walking is still permitted except in Special Protection Areas – but a permit / permission required. This could result in closure of popular ‘alternative’ walking routes like the Hollow Mt to Stapleton Traverse, described as “one of the most spectacular day walks in Victoria”, which could now be regarded as ‘rock climbing’ due to the classification system above.
- Waterworks Track has been listed as CLOSED (Management vehicles and walkers only), severely limiting the access to the remaining ‘permitted’ climbing in the Vic Range. P158.
- No Dingos.
Climbing and Climbing Areas
- Only areas that are permitted to climb in are listed in the Management Plan. The areas previously banned (red crags) are now nowhere to be found. Permitted areas are listed in Appendix 2 – P147.
- 275 Crags are now listed as “Climbing Areas for review”. P149-151. A little more on this later.
- Taipan is listed to re-open – pending completion of ‘site works’. Some route closures are likely.
- Clicke Wall appears to be now banned – despite previously being a permitted area in the draft plan (this could be a mistake due to how theCrag map data was interpreted).
- Crankstart Ampitheatre and Pacific Ocean Wall are now Permitted Areas after specific written “Reg 67 requests” were put forward by climbers.
- The Rockwall near Roses Gap is also now a permitted crag.
- A change in language around bolting: “Within designated climbing areas, fixed and temporary fixed protection are an important feature for climbing.” Also gone is the threat to close areas if more routes are developed. P102.
To the delight / relief of many boulderers, the GGLMP has gone from a total annihilation of bouldering to something resembling a mere catastrophe.
13 Permitted bouldering areas have been identified, including some that were listed as ‘not permitted’ in the Draft document. Including: Between the Sheeps, The Bleachers, Cave Club, The Citadel, Legoland, Trackside Boulders, Venus Baths, Wildsides, and Andersens West.
“Each bouldering area will have defined site controls to regulate and mitigate the impacts. Bouldering will be able to take place at each site once the works necessary (if required) to implement these controls are completed”.
It is as yet unclear what these site controls are. Bouldering won’t be permitted at other designated climbing areas. Also noted was the potential to promote Venus Baths as an “all-abilities” bouldering area (and identify a new location outside of SDV for roped all-abilities access). (P85)
The Maps supplied by PV are comprehensive and ‘well researched’ on one hand (claps) and next to useless on the other. We’ll assume everyone has downloaded the PDF maps onto their phone, and also overlaid maps from theCrag or guidebooks so they can tell one crag from another, or where a permitted area ends and a banned section starts. No?
To make it just slightly less tedious; here’s the overview map, and the corresponding download links (direct from SGC).
Permits & Compliance
A Permit system to be developed “within 12 months”. Permits will be free, and involve an online cultural induction, but will also come with a range of conditions about permitted crags, track use, chalk use, etc which are yet to be specified.
“Climbing permits will take awhile to establish, until they are established rock climbing can occur in designated areas without a permit”*Note: A previous version of this statement said that “chalk colours” will also take a while to establish, but this has been removed.
A climbers survey in 2021, showed that most climbers were actually supportive of a permit system. Many liked the idea of a cultural induction or education about how to look after the environment, but there were some caveats.
We think many climbers were ok with the permit when they didn’t really understand what it would entail. There was an assumption by some that the permit would grant access back to some closed areas. But it’s actually the reverse – the permits will specifically deny access to all but the 105 permitted crags, and include a range of other conditions climbers will need to sign.
The permits are of course, designed to fully control a particular user group, and that climbers cannot be trusted, unlike other recreational user groups. We think this is discrimination.
Compliance is mentioned on P101. To “Monitor rock climbing and bouldering areas and compliance and consider further management as required”. It should be noted that PV have been known to use remote operated cameras in other parts of the state, but it remains to be seen what strategies and resources PV are willing to throw at the ‘climbing problem’.
Climbing Areas for review
The 275 Crags still to be surveyed represent another major loss of climbing areas – as with the release of the GGLMP they are now effectively banned – even popular, low-impact crags like Centurion and Cave & Wave, and even a stack of crags along the creek in the township of Halls Gap. However the list also includes many crags previously banned as being in SPA’s – including Weir’s Creek, Red Rocks, Barbican Walls and even Gondwanaland, which was one of the ‘original eight’ (to name just a few).
What’s particularly galling is the cavalier way PV have described the possibility and time-frame of further assessments “within the life of the management plan”. Gee, thanks.
No doubt it’s a daunting task, but Minister Lily D’ambrosio is on record saying that lack of funding for such assessments is not an issue. So despite PV’s reluctance, climbers can and should keep pushing for ongoing assessments (not just the handful that might ensure an easy life for a lazy bureaucracy).
In the next article, we’ll dive into the reasoning that has caused these 275 areas to be effectively banned until proven otherwise – the “precautionary-approach”.
So, where can you climb?
If there’s one upshot of the extensive and unprecedented bans in Gariwerd, it’s that a whole host of rarely visited crags are receiving a bit more attention. The downside of course (apart from the loss of actual crags) is that the remaining popular cliffs like the Ravine, Trackside, Tribute etc are going to receive even more traffic – and only adding to environmental pressures. PV will need to be on the front foot with climbing reps and access org to ensure the sustainable use of these areas.
When it comes to prohibiting climbing at any place that is not on the “Permitted List”, PV have absolved themselves of responsibility. That is, the risk is on you. Stay well away from and report any findings of Cultural Heritage, do not damage flora / fauna, and generally adhere to leave-no-trace and low impact climbing principles.
We’ll also update the ‘Closed Areas‘ page with more information shortly.
Continue the Advocacy
The GGLMP is not the end of the road for climbing access. There is (unfortunately) much advocacy still to do. PV also have a short corporate memory – many of the rangers who championed the bans are no longer with PV, and even the former head of PV – Simon Talbot has moved onto another role. In 5 years, the rocks will still be there. In 5,000 years, the rocks will still be there.
Join / Support the VCC, The ACAV is still there somewhere, and Crag Stewards Victoria is getting going with potential to be a major force of positivity when it comes to looking after our crags.
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