A decision to extend licenses to allow Grampians tour operators to continue to offer rock climbing and abseiling at Summerday Valley until March 2020 is a small step in the right direction but doesn’t go nearly far enough to give confidence to local businesses and tourism operators, according to the Member for Lowan, Emma Kealy.
The Andrews Labor Government introduced rock climbing bans in the Grampians National Park earlier this year, announcing Licenced Tour Operators (LTO) would not have permission to take tour groups into Summerday Valley beyond 30 June. The restriction also applies to recreational climbers.
Ms Kealy has been a strong opponent of the bans, tabling a petition in Parliament in March containing 557 signatures collected in one week and demanding the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change’s urgent intervention to allow rock climbing to continue.
As a result of this pressure the ban was on LTOs was initially extended to 30 September and now March 2020, but with no certainty beyond this date.
Since the bans were announced Ms Kealy has personally met with local traditional owners of the land, the rock climbing community and local LTOs and believes they all have enormous respect for the Grampians and the Indigenous history of the region.
“There is no evidence that rock climbers have damaged areas of cultural significance or the environment in the area,” Ms Kealy said.
“Without exception these people see themselves as responsible for educating and sharing that respect with those who climb and tour with them.
“If the 30 June decision had been enforced it would have crippled our local tour operators and close one of the most significant climbing sites in Victoria.
“I am proud to continue to stand with LTOs and the rock climbing community on this issue and again call on the Minister to listen to our local traditional owners of the land, the rock climbing community and locals and immediately rule out any future rock climbing bans in the Grampians or at Mt Arapiles.”