Royal National Park climbing? Help make it happen!

Submissions from the general public about the proposed new Plan of Management for the Royal National Park, Heathcote National Park, Garawarra State Conservation Area are due by August 2nd. The 2021 proposed draft plan bans rock climbing entirely – we believe this needs to be changed and this can only be done with overwhelming community feedback.

ACANSW is asking climbers to help ensure that rock-climbing is allowed in these National Parks by sending your personal submission to National Parks – either via their online survey or in preference an email – npws.parkplanning@environment.nsw.gov.au. These plans are only updated once every couple of decades (the last one to Royal NP was created in 2000). If the current draft plan is approved rock climbing may remain prohibited in these parks until 2040 – or even later.

It is essential that as many climbers as possible put in a submission. The number of submissions has a real impact, and has been successful to date with climbing being allowed in Tomaree and Bouddi National Parks. 

Below are key points that you can use in your submission:

At present the draft plan forbids climbing for the following reason: 

p14 draft PoM: “Abseiling and Rock climbing: Not permitted due to the lack of suitable safe locations and risks to conservation values”

The only other mention of climbing is in the associated draft Planning consideration document p58 “Abseiling and rock climbing are not permitted in the parks. There is a very high safety risk from these activities on the erodible sandstone. Rock climbing and abseiling can also damage vegetation and rock features”. 

This scant attention to climbing contrasts with the individualised management plan prepared for mountain biking. Climbers have kept a very low profile in these National parks, and the areas listed on thecrag represent only a small proportion of suitable rock in these parks. (Bluebell crag is just outside Heathcote NP boundary, but is an example of the rock quality that can be found).

These Parks’ exist in Dharawhal country. It would be appropriate to mention in any submission that climbers wish to work with Aboriginal groups to prevent inadvertent impact on Aboriginal cultural heritage from climbing. 

Other Key Points to consider: 

  1. This draft PoM fails to consider recreational opportunities for rock climbing, when high quality and suitable areas for recreational rock climbing exist in these Parks.
  2. Rock climbing has historically been considered a permitted form of recreation in the Parks and has been on going over the past 40 years.
  3. The availability of recreational opportunities close to Sydney was an original driver for the establishment of the “National Park” in 1879. The importance of access to such outdoor recreational opportunities within Australia’s largest city have been reinforced during the current COVID pandemic.
  4. The grounds for disallowing rock climbing in the draft PoM stem from concerns about safety, rock quality, and damage to vegetation. Each of these reasons can be refuted or readily managed. 
  5. Hawkesbury sandstone is climbed on extensively throughout the Greater Sydney basin and provides a strong and durable climbing medium. Narrabeen group sandstones are climbed on extensively throughout the Blue Mountains.
  6. Rock climbing should be afforded the same consideration that other valid recreational activities have received.
  7. Rock climbers have a history of working with land managers to ensure responsible and sustainable recreation. Rock climbing can be effectively managed to meet the requirements of s30E NPW Act 1974.
  8. Land managers are provided protection for liability under the Civil Liability Act NSW 2002 and are not responsible for the safety of climbers whilst climbing, nor should they be responsible for fixed protection.
  9. Rock climbing has grown in popularity over the last decade and this popularity is likely to increase. Hence there is a need to acknowledge rock climbing as a pursuit with proven health benefits, which should be sustainably managed within National Parks. Failure to include rock climbing in management plans denies future generations the opportunity to partake in this activity in an appropriate outdoor setting.

Please send your submission before August 2nd (that’s Monday!).

Imagine climbing here? Make it happen!

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