Update: More Natimuk businesses are calling on Parks Victoria to let climbers have a say on how to deal with artwork found on Mount Arapiles.
Chris Peisker, owner of the Climbing Company, said the decision to close Taylors Rock to all climbers has had long term repercussions.
"This decision has had a massive impact on the climbing scene," he said.
"Taylors Rock, or Declaration Crag as the locals call it, is one of five areas in Mount Arapiles that is most suitable for climbing.
"If you knock out 'Dec Crag' you increase the traffic at the other four spots."
Mr Peisker said his business shutdown in March due to the pandemic and he fears it may never open again.
"The new ruling is a concern to Natimuk, not just my business but all of us that survive on climbing tourism," he said.
"You have at least three businesses in Natimuk that are dedicated to rock climbing.
"Climbing is a great way to get kids out into the world - especially those from the city."
He added there is a practical solution to preserving the artwork that would allow climbers to return to Taylors Rock.
"The artwork is 20 metres from Dec Crag on a boulder; I can assure you that the boulder would be respected.
"There are 200 boulders in the park, so I'm sure people will be able to find something to climb.
"There is no evidence that climbers do damage to Aboriginal artwork.
"Honestly, I feel like climbs are being picked on.
"You can still walk though Mount Arapiles and you can still access the artwork."
Earlier: The futures of several Natimuk businesses are at risk after the Victorian Government imposed an interim protection order for sections of Mount Arapiles on Friday afternoon.
Natimuk businesses benefit from thousands of rock climbers visiting each year; however, after more than 50 paintings were discovered in December 2019, the Taylors Rock was closed to the public.
The new three-month order will directly affect tourism and hospitality operators already experiencing a downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Natimuk resident and veteran climber Keith Lockwood said the order could be dire.
"Taylor's Rock, or Declaration Crag, is one of the most popular climbing sites in Australia," he said.
Read more: Rock art rediscovered at Mount Arapiles
"Before COVID-19, there would be more than ten thousand visitors from around the world each year.
"It's one of the world's best climbing areas because it is easy to access and there are more than 3000 documented climbs.
"So this latest announcement will have a flow-on effect. What else will they (the state government) ban?
"If more climbs are shut down, Natimuk will die because a lot of businesses rely on the climbers for a portion of their income.
"More than 50 per cent of the pubs' income comes from climbers, and then you have the milk bar, caravan park, guiding businesses, and the climbing store."
The order protects a small rock shelter called 'Dyurrite 1' that at the southern end of the mountain. It gives traditional owners more time to consider long-term management strategies.
Mr Lockwood said climbers and residents were not consulted before the order was announced.
"The decision to close Taylor's Rock seems very punitive," he said.
"The baffling thing is that climbers have no history of damage to cultural sites on Mount Arapiles.
"Some climbers have even found cultural sites and notified authorities.
"There feels like an ominous shadow over climbers despite our good relationship with traditional owners.
"We can't sit down at the decision-making table."
Bill Lovell, the owner of the National Hotel in Natimuk hotel, said the order came at an already trying time in the community.
"Locals have been very supportive of the hotel during the COVID-19 restrictions," he said.
"We had a promotion where residents would buy one meal a week from the hotel, and as restrictions were lifted, we've seen a steady stream of people come in for a meal.
"If things remain the same, the pub can continue, but post-COVID-19, we are concerned.
"We hope climbers will be able to return because the current ban has a great effect on our income and the income of the town."
While the climbing area was closed to park users in December, the new declaration imposes for significant fines of almost $300,000 if the area is disturbed.
The order will be subject to review in three months and can be extended for a further three.
The Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, which represents Traditional Owners in the Wimmera, was contacted for comment on this story.
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