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CVAC News November 2023

CVAC News November 2023

This year has been a busy one for the Climbing Victoria Advisory Council (CVAC). Much of the work that it has been involved in has been behind the scenes advocacy for climbing and climbing access.

This has entailed lots of quiet diplomacy to establish respectful relationships with land managers whilst still making clear our concerns, particularly about access issues, and respectfully proffering win-win solutions to perceived problems. It has also necessitated lots of backwards and forwards communications with, and clarifications from, land managers, as well as communications to and from the boards or spokespeople for the various constituent climbing groups that make up CVAC.

It is timely to quickly summarise for the wider climbing community some of the work that has been
going on. This has included:

  • the work carried out in conjunction with Traditional Owners and Parks Victoria preceding the partial re-opening of Taipan Wall (at Gunigalg/ Mount Stapylton in Gariwerd/ the Grampians).

This work was completed almost a year ago. It included the re-routing of the starts of a small number of climbs near the left-hand end of the crag so that the re-aligned routes avoided cultural heritage and climbers could be allowed to access them. It also included removal by climbers of two fixed climbing ropes (default ‘fixed lines’), the bottoms of which were right beside cultural heritage, the removal of a small number of bolts and the repositioning of a belay anchor (a metre and a half left of its original position) so that climbers rapping off the anchor would not end up within a metre of cultural heritage.

At the time of the re-opening, CVAC was able to clearly communicate to the wider climbing community about the partial re-opening and about what restrictions remained. It continues to remind climbers of the need to adhere to restrictions at this site and not to jeopardise current access.

That the Traditional Owners were prepared to allow climbing access within a few metres of cultural heritage was a positive sign of their preparedness to work together with climbers in good faith. This nuanced approach applied to Taipan by Traditional Owners is once again gratefully acknowledged. Hopefully it might be applied on occasion elsewhere in the future, but that will depend, in part, on climbers continuing to respect the current requirements at Taipan.

  • the much-needed work to fix the access track and crag-base erosion issues at The Watchtower, a popular climbing venue near Halls Gap. Our ongoing advocacy, and regular prompting/reminding Parks Victoria that this work needed to be expedited, has resulted in the completion of substantial work to stabilise some of the ‘staging areas’ at the base of the crag, and work beginning on a new access track that starts from a different location with significantly more room for car parking.
  • Our responses, earlier this year, to the notification by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA, formerly DELWP) that it was set to enact a new set of regulations governing recreational activities in Regional Victorian parks and Reserves. This included banning a number of activities, including climbing, as a default position, only allowing them if specifically permitted. DEECA had only allowed a short window for anyone wanting to voice concerns or provide feedback. CVAC was able to have number of meetings with the Department and the regulations were deferred and modified. Unfortunately the default restrictions on climbing (or any other recreational activities) weren’t able to be removed but we did receive a guarantee that the one key climbing area that is located in one of these reserves, Camels Hump (Mount Macedon), would be set aside as an area where climbing is specifically allowed. Our advocacy will continue with a similar review of National Parks regulations coming up.

Meanwhile, while continuing to ensure that land managers don’t lose sight of these and other concerns related to climbing, we have spent considerable time and effort coming to an agreement on the most appropriate form of governance structure for a new peak body for outdoor recreational climbing in Victoria, on what that peak body’s key focuses will be (and won’t be), how it will best reflect the diverse community that is the outdoor recreational climbing community in Victoria, and how it will be accountable to that community. (See the recently distributed Governance Guidance Document).

Note that the closing date for feedback on what is being proposed (via a survey that has been widely distributed to various Victorian climbing organisations and online) is 15th December.