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10 July 2019
Speculation surrounding the future of rock climbing in our national and state parks has provided a timely reminder of the importance of environmental assets many of us take for granted.
We remain unsure where debate drawing recreational climbing activities into loggerheads with cultural-
heritage values through a perceived threat is leading.
What we do know and are seeing clearly, is that people from diverse backgrounds, interests and motivations place a high degree of importance on our Wimmera mountain parks.
It is an imperative that authorities develop, if they haven’t already, a clear understanding of all the issues involved when brokering a suitable compromise.
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There is much at stake and we need to clear the air as soon as possible.
As well as environmental and cultural values, our parks have obvious and profound socio-economic importance.
Parklands are living, breathing examples of natural life, which involve what’s happening today as much as yesterday.
As such, levels of protection must be broadly representative and require careful consideration.
Few would argue about a need to protect and preserve natural assets for future generations and the argument is just as strong that we need to ensure people can access and use, as well as appreciate, these assets into the future.
It’s all about finding the right balance.
A ban on rock climbing in areas of Grampians National Park in response to cultural sensitivity, rightly or wrongly depending on a point of view, is more than an unfortunate development.
It affects many people and threatens to draw a line through an important tourism attraction.
It has also fuelled speculation that a similar circumstance might unfold at Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park.
If this is an issue that needs to be explored at Mount Arapiles as well as the Grampians, then fair enough.
But Victoria, the Wimmera and when it involves Mount Arapiles, particularly the town of Natimuk, can’t afford any determination that leans too heavily one way.
The Grampians, or Gariwerd, is home to significant examples of early human society in Australia.
Mount Arapiles is such an imposing feature of the landscape that based on what we know about human habitation dating back thousands of years, it would have certainly had cultural significance.
Arapiles is renowned as a premier rock-climbing destination and as a magnet for international visitors has provided the bedrock for a unique, diverse and evolving Natimuk district community.
Apart from the odd ‘cowboy’, the reality is that a high percentage of people with rock-climbing backgrounds in the Wimmera would be more of a friend than foe to cultural assets in the region.
Many are devout environmentalists and a powerful influence on the influx of climbers who visit the region.
We hope the debate, which is somewhere between being speculative white noise and profoundly serious, ends up being a win for everyone involved.
As a magnanimous and sophisticated society we can’t afford to disrespect historic sites, especially where there is proven cultural significance.
But we can also ill-afford to dismantle a primary socio-economic driver that is proving a major winner for regional health and vibrancy.
We can all be winners with the right approach.
The entire July 10, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!