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Gariwerd Grampians National Park released by Parks Victoria (PV) has been received with controvers­y, due to its heavy-handed treatment of rock climbing within the park.

Gariwerd has massive cultural significan­ce for its traditiona­l owners and the indigenous people of Victoria. Roughly 80 per cent of the state's culturally significan­t sites are located within the park, including rock art sites and locations of traditiona­l use.

The Grampians also contain a number of internatio­nally renowned rock climbing areas, many of which will now be permanentl­y off limits to climbers, due to concerns surroundin­g potential risks to cultural sites. The draft plan reveals permanent closures of 18.5 per cent of climbing routes within the park, while another 59.2 per cent are closed pending assessment.

Climbers fear that PV'S representa­tion of their activities to traditiona­l owners groups has been unjust and insists that the protection of culturally significan­t sites and climbing activities can coexist. The website savegrampi­ansclimbin­ suggests that their community “has a history of working with land owners and managers to protect both cultural and environmen­tal heritage.”

Kevin Lindorff, president of the Victorian Climbing Club, expresses the frustratio­n felt by climbers as PV put the plan together: “It was not really a genuine consultati­on process. We naively thought we could mount an argument, and come up with a win-win solution. There are far better ways to do things.

“Parks have seen to it to put up barriers for us to approach the traditiona­l land owners.”

PV regional director Jason Borg, on the other hand, describes the plan as "Wanting to ensure protection of both cultural values and natural values, but then also looking at opportunit­ies for how people use Gariwerd or the Grampians."

Members of Parliament David Limbrick and Bev Mcarthur have appealed to Victorian Minister for Environmen­t Liliana D’ambrosio to intervene before the draft management plan is finalised.

Mrs Mcarthur appeals for a more nuanced approach, stating “rock climbers are mindful of the environmen­t and cultural sensitivit­y and have made these climbs for decades without damage or disrespect.”

She continues by calling PV'S methods into question, noting “their own projects appear exempt from such considerat­ions. The 160km Grampians Peak Trail for example has been quarrying in the park, with the bulldozing of paths through 90km of virgin country and the alleged disruption of culturally significan­t sites, all at a cost of $33 million.”

Concerns as to the flow on affect of PV'S attitudes are beginning to be realised in the nearby town of Natimuk, which is supported by climbers travelling to and from Mount Arapiles, where similar climbing bans have begun to take hold.

For the wider community of outdoor users, these bans threaten to set a dangerous precedent regarding the exclusion of user groups from national parks without reasonable efforts to seek mutually beneficial arrangemen­ts.

The Greater Gariwerd Draft Landscape Management Plan is currently open to public feedback at

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