There has been much confusion about whether it is OK to climb in the Special Protected Areas (SPAs) of the Grampians National Park whilst negotiations and lobbying are happening to overturn the prohibitions. A lot of that confusion has been generated by Parks Victoria who has been drip-feeding information to climbers.
Reasons to stay away from SPAs
- Petitions and letters are being presented to Parliament and politicians on behalf of climbers. These specifically ask for legal access to climb in SPA zones. We need to demonstrate restraint in not breaking these regulations whilst we ask for changes to the laws.
- According to Parks Victoria and the current Management Plan (2003), rock-climbing is prohibited in SPA areas, and all recent correspondence and publicly released information from Parks Victoria confirms this.
- CliffCare and other volunteers are working behind the scenes to negotiate the legal access to these areas with traditional owners and the government. Your “right” to climb in these areas may be less important than work towards future proofing climbing in the Grampians for all climbers.
- The borders of these vast SPA areas are still unclear. Maps supplied by Parks Victoria are vague. We especially don’t know the size of the 8 key sites where $1,600 fines will certainly be handed out. Rangers have warned climbers for being within 350m of these sites – a distance that can easily include nearby crags and boulders.
- Parks Victoria rangers will be patrolling these areas and will be looking to fine climbers who break rules regarding damage to environmental and cultural heritage. They are targeting climbers specifically and have asked people to leave cliffs. There is no guarantee that you will be able to climb where you want to. This enforcement is a recent phenomenon.
- The mainstream media loves a controversial story and Parks Victoria is not afraid to play this media against climbers.
Reasons to climb in SPAs
- We have climbed in SPA areas for 16 years without prosecution – and over 60 years in the Grampians.
- Parks Victoria have said they will not fine climbers for climbing in SPA areas outside the key 8 sites. It is quite likely that they cannot impose these fines at this stage.
- If we roll over easily it will prove to Parks Victoria that climbers don’t think these areas are important. If we abandon these climbing sites now it makes it easier to shut them down permanently and further banned areas may follow.
- The law may be on our side in regards to free public access to Crown land via the constitution. This has been argued successfully in Queensland.
- Commercial guiding companies appear to have an exemption according to signage and correspondence with Parks Victoria. Certainly in Summer Day Valley they have been told it is business as usual. Could you hire a guide to climb in the Victoria Range SPA zones legally? This has not been tested.
In the end it is up to you, the individual, to decide to climb in these SPA areas during the delicate negotiation period. Whatever you do, remember that your behavior will reflect on the wider climbing community and the negotiations moving forward.