Rock climbers face an up­hill cliff fight

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

WA rock-climb­ing en­thu­si­asts have lodged a pe­ti­tion to con­tinue their long­stand­ing use of the Wall­cliffe cliffs, de­spite their sport be­com­ing il­le­gal at the site in 2013.

The prospects of the Climbers As­so­ci­a­tion of WA hav­ing a win looks un­likely, with their dep­u­ta­tion shut down by Shire pres­i­dent Pam Town­shend at last week’s coun­cil meet­ing be­cause of Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage con­cerns.

The mat­ter arose after the Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River ad­ver­tised new changes to man­ag­ing the river­side cliff site and caves seen as sa­cred to the lo­cal Wadandi.

CAWA pres­i­dent Dirk Klicker said Shire ad­ver­tis­ing didn’t reach the ma­jor­ity of climb­ing en­thu­si­asts, who live in Perth.

“Wall­cliffe is a key lo­ca­tion for climb­ing in WA,” he told coun­cil­lors last week.

Mr Klicker said most of the con­cerns about van­dal­ism and tres­pass­ing which spurred the lat­est changes were not caused by climbers.

The CAWA boss also told coun­cil­lors the Shire’s 2013 lo­cal law which made climb­ing il­le­gal at the cliffs was it­self po­ten­tially un­law­ful.

The pe­ti­tion, signed by 14 peo­ple, asked for a chance to re­view the man­age­ment plan, seek fur­ther as­sess­ment, halt progress on last week’s de­ci­sion, and per­mit rock climb­ing to con­tinue.

Cr Town­shend ac­cepted the pe­ti­tion, but told the climbers their hope to help pro­tected Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage at the cliffs was best served by de­sist­ing from all climb­ing.

“The lo­cal law that came in in 2013 pre­vented climb­ing on the cliffs,” she said.

“(The new man­age­ment plan) is about putting that into ac­tion, that we do re­spect the wishes of our el­ders, the Abo­rig­i­nal el­ders.

“The cliffs are a reg­is­tered site un­der the Abo­rig­i­nal Her­itage Act.”

Cr Town­shend said the Wadandi “strongly op­pose” use of the cliffs and there were “mul­ti­ple her­itage fea­tures that are all clearly highly re­lated”.

Metal bolts long-em­bed­ded in the cliffs would be partly re­moved by an­gle grinders un­der the new plan which would for­bid pub­lic ac­cess to non-per­mit hold­ers.

The mat­ter first came to at­ten­tion after ex­ist­ing river users al­legedly re­moved pa­per­bark trees to ac­cess the Wall­cliffe caves, which Cr Town­shend said were sa­cred to the Wadandi for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons.

Mr Klicker said Wall­cliffe and the Wilyabrup cliffs were two of the top rock-climb­ing des­ti­na­tions in WA and the sites could be man­aged to ad­dress Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage con­cerns.

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