A climbing ban of this scale / style is unprecedented in Australia, and is extremely concerning. There still a lot of confusion as to which areas are actually banned.
This page doesn’t discuss the reasons behind the ban
(see The Issues page).
Quote from Park’s Media release on 15th February 2019:
“In the coming months, Parks Victoria will be focused on ensuring eight key locations in the western part of the Grampians National Park are protected and will be asking all climbing activity to cease in these areas indefinitely.”
“In the first instance from March, signage will be installed and compliance activity will take place in eight key locations”
Blue square areas (8 areas)
Parks are enforcing climbing bans at the following 8 locations:
- Millennium Caves
- Billywing Buttress
- Billimina Area
- Cave of Little Hands
- Cave of Man Hands
- Manja Area
Special Protection Areas (SPA’s)
Next, there are the ‘Special Protection Areas‘. These are the large red/hashed areas of the maps, 33% of the total Grampians land mass, and were introduced in the 2003 Management Plan. The plan stated that Rock Climbing is prohibited in SPA’s. To read a bit about the history of these zones, please see the timeline.
Importantly, Parks Victoria were not policing these climbing prohibitions prior to March 2019, and indeed were publishing documents (PDF, since removed from the parks website) which specifically listed SPA’s re-opened to climbing after several natural disasters (bush-fires and floods) caused brief closures.
If there were any concerns regarding climbing, these were not brought to the climbing community with any degree of detail. This community has a large and proven capacity to respond in a positive manner but has been sidelined in any planning or mitigation of problems. This is dealt with further on the issues page.
Parks (March 2019) have refined their wording, but the state of affairs regarding SPA’s is actually unchanged:
“Parks Victoria is sharing the information materials on rock climbing and undertaking enforcement activity relating to other activities not permitted in any National Park including cutting or damaging vegetation (for instance to make or enhance tracks), lighting fires outside of designated fireplaces, depositing litter, interfering with Aboriginal cultural heritage such as rock art or any damage to rock faces such as drilling holes.
“We are not enforcing no rock climbing activity in broader Special Protected Areas at this stage and will communicate if anything changes.”
Unfortunately, we are in the crazy situation whereby climbing is officially not allowed in the SPA’s (33% of the Grampians), but that there will be “A phased approach to compliance / No Enforcement”, which you can interpret as either “Not officially sanctioned” or as a specific instruction to cease climbing in the SPA’s indefinitely. Confused still?
Rangers on the ground are obviously interpreting the latter, and are removing climbers from any SPA, or warning them not to climb there. Members of the public, including climbers, can however, “bushwalk up to areas”; but “no climbing”. When you consider that the vast majority of rock climbs in the SPA’s are ‘Leave No Trace’ Traditional Climbs (as in; there is no more impact than actual bushwalking), this is a patently absurd proposition.
The VCC and Cliffcare are obviously in a difficult situation of needing to respect any bans whilst negotiations are ongoing. Parks Victoria have stated it:
“will review the Grampians National Park Management Plan’s Special Protection Areas. Through this process, Parks Victoria will work with partners and key stakeholders, including licensed tour operators and the rock climbing community. The review may result in further changes”
However Parks have (so far) not shown ANY willingness to respond to climbers concerns, or engage them in any way, despite many attempts and patience on behalf of Cliffcare; although attempts are ongoing, and we are confident that progress can be made.
Please note that climbers do not wish to contest legitimate concerns about the encroachment of climbing at significant sites.