Rock climbers face an uphill cliff fight
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.