Tour operators in a popular rockclimbing area of the Grampians National Park have had their licence extended, on the condition that they comply with new measures to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage.
On Tuesday afternoon, Parks Victoria announced they would have access to Summer Day Valley until June 30 2021 or until a new management plan for the Grampians landscape is finalised, whichever is first.
Climbers not with tour groups remain banned from the area, along with seven others in the National Park, which they have been since February 2019.
A spokesman said: "Operators are now also required to hold a Cultural Heritage Permit which sets out the requirements for them to responsibly operate in this special area.
"For tour operators operating in Summerday Valley, other licence conditions include defined operating locations; compulsory completion of an Aboriginal cultural heritage induction program; education for operators and their tour groups; identification for tour guides and their customers; use of a booking system to manage and monitor access; and reporting of visitor data to help with planning and review.
"Known as 'Gariwerd' to Traditional Owners, the Grampians region is home to the largest number of known significant and ancient Aboriginal rock art sites in southern Australia, some dating back more than 20,000 years. There are around 200 rock art sites currently recorded in the Grampians National Park, many of which are situated under rock overhangs.
"As within most parks and reserves in Victoria, the full extent of Aboriginal cultural places in the Grampians National Park is still being understood."
Climbers have previously been critical of Cultural Heritage Permits.
The spokesman said Parks has waived the fees of licensed our operators for the rest of 2020 due to the pandemic. He said it had offered to cover the cost of Cultural Heritage Permits required by licensed tour operators to continue delivering rock climbing and abseiling in the Summerday Valley Special Protection Area, as part of a joint application.
While the Grampians remains open to climbers during the pandemic, the spokesman urged visitors to practice good hygiene, keep a distance from others and stay home if unwell.
More to come.