ROCK CLIMBERS would not be allowed to partake in their pastime in 66 areas of the Grampians National Park permanently, under a new draft plan.
However, some access could eventually be allowed at popular areas such as Taipan Wall.
The detail is included in the draft Greater Gariwerd Landscape Management Plan, which Parks Victoria has released for public comment today.
Between them the areas proposed to be off-limits encompass more than 2200 climbing routes, according to website thecrag.com.
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The draft plan is intended to replace the most recent plan, developed in 2003, and sets out 15-year strategies to allow visitors to enjoy the park and surrounding reserves while protecting them.
In a statement, the organisation said the areas were "incompatible with climbing because Aboriginal Cultural heritage or special environmental values exist, such as priority habitats for threatened wildlife".
The draft plan seeks to resolve and clarify the management approach to recreational activities within the cultural landscape. This includes developing a permit system for rock climbing, addressing illegal track creation and improving support for camping and walking while maintaining wilderness and remote recreational opportunities.- Excerpt from the draft plan
Threatened wildlife in the national park includes rock wallabies. The report states the national park also has the "largest concentration of rock art in Victoria".
The draft plan also outlines 89 areas where climbing can continue, and 126 which require further assessment.
Parks' regional director, western region Jason Borg said "at this stage", these areas would be off-limits regardless of the feedback people provided on the draft plan.
"The 66 areas include ones that have been identified before (as having cultural or environmental values)," he said.
WHAT TRADITIONAL OWNERS HAVE TO SAY
"We are still doing some work with Traditional Owners with access at Taipan Wall, and that work is still ongoing. There are not a lot of new areas that aren't available to be climbed now that won't be.
"The 89 areas have been prioritised based on feedback around priority from a rock climbing perspective. We are expecting the 126 will be prioritised and will be assessed over the coming months.
"We want people to take the time to read the plan and also not just focus on the rock climbing aspect. There is a lot of really important information in the plan around heritage we want to understand, so they understand what the plan aims to achieve."
In a joint statement, Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Gunditj Mirring and Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporations said the draft plan reflected "the pathway which Parks Victoria and the broader community have embarked upon to better understand the relationship which Traditional Owners have with the Gariwerd landscape.
"New strategies to promote the landscape as a place of learning for Traditional Owners, regional communities and visitors include enhancing the Brambuk - The National Park and Cultural Centre experience, welcoming people to country and elevating education, cultural learning and knowledge sharing programs with new signage and interpretative devices," it said.
The draft plan also outlines where other forms of recreation and tourism can sustainably occur.
It suggests removing vehicle-based camping in non-designated camping areas and public vehicle access at hike-in campgrounds to establish 'hike-in only' experiences, prohibiting off-track walking at Reed Lookout, Designated Climbing Areas and MacKenzie Falls, and establishing new campgrounds.
Mr Borg said recognition of Traditional Owners' enduring connection to country was central to the draft plan, which is out for public comment until January 24.
He said he was "reluctant" to put a timeframe on when the plan would be adopted, beyond "as soon as is practical". "We do need to take into account all the feedback we get, but we know everyone wants that certainty."
It will hold online public information sessions on the plan across this month and December.
To leave feedback head to the Engage Victoria website.
The plan notes domestic and international visitors spent an estimated $592 million in the Grampians region in 2019-20, supporting approximately 3700 jobs in the tourism sector.
In February 2019, Parks Victoria began strictly enforcing restrictions that had existed since 2003 created to protect the park's highly sensitive areas. Climbing advocates have since criticised Parks' implementation of the closures, launching legal action against the restrictions in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
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