May­ors keep watch on climb­ing bans

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY COLIN MACGILLIVR­AY

Wim­mera coun­cils are keep­ing close watch as the is­sues of rock-climb­ing bans in Grampians Na­tional Park and a pro­posed cul­tural her­itage sur­vey at Mount Arapiles con­tinue to un­fold.

Parks Vic­to­ria has closed large ar­eas of the Grampians – known as Gari­w­erd to tra­di­tional own­ers – to rock climbers be­cause of con­cerns about dam­age to rock art and other cul­tural her­itage in the area.

Parks Vic­to­ria of­fered a three-month con­tin­u­a­tion of li­censed tour op­er­a­tors’ per­mits in ar­eas of the park un­der strict con­di­tions.

While some see the per­mit ex­ten­sions as a sign of good faith from Parks Vic­to­ria, oth­ers have been critical of the move, say­ing it ef­fec­tively barred ca­sual climbers from ac­cess­ing

the park and placed too many re­stric­tions on tour op­er­a­tors.

North­ern Grampians Shire Coun­cil mayor Kevin Er­win called for more con­sul­ta­tion by Parks Vic­to­ria on the is­sue.

He said the three-month ex­ten­sion left the shire’s busi­ness com­mu­nity – which re­lies on in­come gen­er­ated by the at­trac­tion of about 20,000 rock climbers to the re­gion each year – with no long-term se­cu­rity.

He said the coun­cil was con­cerned the bans would slow tourism growth, which led to 2.6-mil­lion peo­ple visit­ing the re­gion in the past 12 months.

“We have the ut­most re­spect for the indige­nous her­itage and en­vi­ron­ment within our shire,” he said.

“We just think com­mu­ni­ca­tion could be vastly im­proved be­tween Parks Vic­to­ria and the climb­ing fra­ter­nity, tourism bod­ies and lo­cal busi­nesses.

“The im­pacts these re­stric­tions will have on tourism and the lo­cal econ­omy would be huge, so there needs to be some long-term se­cu­rity around the fu­ture of rock climb­ing in our re­gion.

“There’s no doubt it will im­pact the pro­fes­sional climbers who have re­lo­cated to our re­gion for ac­cess to this en­vi­ron­ment.”

On radar

Hor­sham Ru­ral City Coun­cil mayor Mark Rad­ford said the coun­cil was mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion in the Grampians and had been in contact with the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Grampians Tourism and mem­bers of Parks Vic­to­ria.

“The coun­cil is prob­a­bly a sec­ondary player be­cause most of it is in the North­ern Grampians Shire Coun­cil’s patch,” he said.

“But hav­ing said that, we ob­vi­ously do have an interest in it.

“Climb­ing is a great at­trac­tor for peo­ple to come to the Wim­mera.

“Peo­ple come from all around the world to climb in the Grampians and at Arapiles.

“A lot of peo­ple are em­ployed in the in­dus­try in the re­gion, and there are com­pa­nies and schools that come up from Mel­bourne.

“We have an interest there and it is im­por­tant that it does con­tinue.”

Cr Rad­ford said the coun­cil was also fol­low­ing news of a cul­tural her­itage sur­vey to be car­ried out at Mount Arapiles.

While many in the Na­timuk rock-climb­ing com­mu­nity are wor­ried any Abo­rig­i­nal cul­tural her­itage dis­cov­ered by the sur­vey could lead to bans sim­i­lar to those in the Grampians, Mr Rad­ford echoed a call from vet­eran Na­timuk climber Keith Lock­wood for peo­ple to re­main calm.

“With Arapiles, I think that’s a dif­fer­ent story to the Grampians,” Cr Rad­ford said.

“I read Keith Lock­wood in The Weekly Advertiser say­ing let’s take a breath and not get too ex­cited. I think that’s good ad­vice.

“From what I un­der­stand, the lo­cal indige­nous com­mu­nity is keen to have a look at the whole site from a his­tor­i­cal point of view.

“I don’t think there are any plans to stop peo­ple do­ing things there.”

Mr Rad­ford said the coun­cil would keep a close eye on de­vel­op­ments at Arapiles.

“Coun­cil has an Abo­rig­i­nal Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee and that is­sue is yet to come across our desk, but every time we catch up – which is about every se­cond month – it will be some­thing we’ll talk about,” he said.

“Any man­age­ment of the parks is a bal­anc­ing act, but as far as re­stric­tions, it’s prob­a­bly some­thing that is a lit­tle bit early to talk about for Arapiles.”

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