IT was disturbing to read claims about "fresh damage to rock art" by rock climbers at Taylor's Rock, Mt Arapiles (Mail-Times, 6/7).
If that is the case, I hope there is clear evidence to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. Damage to cultural sites, whether intentional or inadvertent, is deeply distressing.
But what also concerns me is the swift condemnation of climbers, who have immediately been accused and found guilty in the eyes of the public.
What was the precise damage at Taylor's Rock?
Was it in fact chalk?
Was the damage fresh?
Was it climbers who were allegedly at fault?
My doubts arise from the sad track record of defamatory accusations against climbers both at Mt Arapiles and in the Grampians that have been proven wrong.
For example: A bolt in artwork was blamed on climbers but it was placed by authorities; "chalk" on a cliff was bird droppings; graffiti and other damage was blamed wrongly on climbers; "adhesive glue" at Mitre Rock was in fact natural rock colouration.
None of these pejorative and ill-founded allegations is helping to build bridges towards reconciliation and a respectful solution to the care and protection of cultural heritage.
On another point, the claim that Natimuk's future is safe is based on incorrect information.
The Taylor's Rock ban is not insignificant. The rock might only have 35 climbs out of 3000 on all of Arapiles, but it is one of only three main sites to instruct beginners.
Even before the ban was imposed, guiding groups had few choices to instruct beginners safely and efficiently.
The other unacknowledged "elephant in the room" is that further cultural surveys are already underway across Arapiles, with the potential for further shut-downs.
That is why climbers and Natimuk people fear what is to come.
It is time all parties started to work together for the benefit of everyone.
Keith Lockwood, Natimuk
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