Our moun­tains are for ev­ery­one

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

Spec­u­la­tion sur­round­ing the fu­ture of rock climb­ing in our na­tional and state parks has pro­vided a timely re­minder of the im­por­tance of en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sets many of us take for granted.

We re­main un­sure where de­bate draw­ing recre­ational climb­ing ac­tiv­i­ties into log­ger­heads with cul­tur­al­her­itage val­ues through a per­ceived threat is lead­ing.

What we do know and are see­ing clearly, is that peo­ple from di­verse back­grounds, in­ter­ests and mo­ti­va­tions place a high de­gree of im­por­tance on our Wim­mera moun­tain parks.

It is an imperative that au­thor­i­ties de­velop, if they haven’t al­ready, a clear un­der­stand­ing of all the is­sues in­volved when bro­ker­ing a suitable com­pro­mise.

There is much at stake and we need to clear the air as soon as pos­si­ble.

As well as en­vi­ron­men­tal and cul­tural val­ues, our parks have ob­vi­ous and pro­found so­cio-eco­nomic im­por­tance.

Park­lands are liv­ing, breathing ex­am­ples of nat­u­ral life, which in­volve what’s hap­pen­ing to­day as much as yes­ter­day.

As such, lev­els of pro­tec­tion must be broadly rep­re­sen­ta­tive and re­quire care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion.

Few would ar­gue about a need to pro­tect and pre­serve nat­u­ral as­sets for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and the ar­gu­ment is just as strong that we need to en­sure peo­ple can ac­cess and use, as well as ap­pre­ci­ate, these as­sets into the fu­ture.

It’s all about finding the right bal­ance.

A ban on rock climb­ing in ar­eas of Grampians Na­tional Park in re­sponse to cul­tural sen­si­tiv­ity, rightly or wrongly depend­ing on a point of view, is more than an un­for­tu­nate devel­op­ment.

It af­fects many peo­ple and threat­ens to draw a line through an im­por­tant tourism at­trac­tion.

It has also fu­elled spec­u­la­tion that a sim­i­lar cir­cum­stance might un­fold at Mount Arapiles-tooan State Park.

If this is an is­sue that needs to be ex­plored at Mount Arapiles as well as the Grampians, then fair enough.

But Vic­to­ria, the Wim­mera and when it in­volves Mount Arapiles, par­tic­u­larly the town of Na­timuk, can’t af­ford any de­ter­mi­na­tion that leans too heav­ily one way.

The Grampians, or Gari­w­erd, is home to sig­nif­i­cant ex­am­ples of early hu­man so­ci­ety in Aus­tralia.

Mount Arapiles is such an im­pos­ing fea­ture of the land­scape that based on what we know about hu­man habi­ta­tion dat­ing back thou­sands of years, it would have cer­tainly had cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance.

Arapiles is renowned as a premier rock-climb­ing des­ti­na­tion and as a mag­net for in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors has pro­vided the bedrock for a unique, di­verse and evolv­ing Na­timuk dis­trict com­mu­nity.

Apart from the odd ‘cow­boy’, the re­al­ity is that a high per­cent­age of peo­ple with rock-climb­ing back­grounds in the Wim­mera would be more of a friend than foe to cul­tural as­sets in the re­gion.

Many are de­vout en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and a pow­er­ful in­flu­ence on the in­flux of climbers who visit the re­gion.

We hope the de­bate, which is some­where be­tween be­ing spec­u­la­tive white noise and pro­foundly se­ri­ous, ends up be­ing a win for ev­ery­one in­volved.

As a mag­nan­i­mous and so­phis­ti­cated so­ci­ety we can’t af­ford to dis­re­spect his­toric sites, es­pe­cially where there is proven cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance.

But we can also ill-af­ford to dis­man­tle a pri­mary so­cio-eco­nomic driver that is prov­ing a ma­jor win­ner for re­gional health and vi­brancy.

We can all be win­ners with the right ap­proach.

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