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Mayors keep watch on climbing bans

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.

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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.”

The entire July 17, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!