Because of a push by government towards regional tourism, the Grampians now receive a million tourists a year, which vastly overwhelms the impact of small gatherings of climbers going bush. Any lookout or car park is a minefield of human waste and rubbish – and it’s not climbers who dumped it. I presume they will ban tourists then?
The reality is our impacts as climbers are negligible compared with what society considers acceptable in the broad sense of growth and development.
Parks Victoria is currently ploughing a new 144-kilometre walking trail and huts from north to south across the entire Grampians National Park at a cost of $30 million – and then actively encouraging as many new visitors as they can to walk it for a minimum $50 a day. It’s called the Grampians Peaks Trail, a “walking experience with an estimated visitation of 23,000 people per year by 2020”.
Why doesn’t Parks Victoria allocate even 1 per cent of its Peaks Trail budget to manage climbers in a proactive way? Instead of banning climbing, they could build proper trails, revegetate erosion, install signs, and hire a dedicated climber-focused ranger who works only with the climbing community to pre-emptively fix problems.
The climbing community are feeling sidelined by these bans — there was no warning, no public consultation and zero transparency on the process that got us here. We have not had any formal meetings with Parks Victoria since the bans were enacted nine weeks ago.
Climbers are well aware we need to begin a process of self-reflection and re-education to reduce our impact as climbing grows. With 23,000 people signing a petition to reopen the Grampians to climbing, this is a big thing.
Some inside Parks Victoria have mismanaged this in the past and they appear to be continuing to do so now. I hope for future generations of my family, and the other climbers out there who love the Grampians, that we can continue to climb harmoniously in these areas again — with the support of traditional owners and the wider community.
Neil Monteith is the author of the Grampians Climbing guidebooks and has climbed in the Grampians for 25 years.