Kalbarri National Park Developments and Rock Wallabies

Posted on November 08, 2015 by to News

Black Flanked Rock Wallaby

Black Flanked Rock Wallaby

Wallabies at The Promenade

This little lady and her fur baby are extremely rare Black Flanked Rock Wallabies, thought to have died out in this area around twenty years ago. Seen recently in the Z-Bend gorge at Kalbarri National Park (KNP), they have made their home directly adjacent to The Promenade, on the ‘grassy’ slopes on the downstream side, which has been traditionally used by climbers for their ablutions. It is likely they have set up house there because it is one of the few spots in the gorge offering protection from the elements. At this point, no others have been found in the area and DNA testing indicates that they are quite distinct from similar wallabies seen in other parts of WA. Along with hubbie, they are likely to be the only three in existence.

Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) in this area is supportive of our activties, for which we continue to be grateful, as Kalbarri is without doubt a very special place to climb. Whilst climbers have been mindful of the wallabies, discussion with DPaW suggests that our increased presence in that area generally is impacting negatively on these wallabies and possibly inhibiting natural behaviours, like foraging for food. This in turn poses a very real threat to the survival of this subspecies. In recent times there has been a significant increase in the number of climbers visiting the area and often camping. In order to protect these little guys while further research is being undertaken about the best way to ensure their preservation, the management of climbing activities needs to change and DPaW needs our support.

The other issue that has been a concern for DPaW for some time and now confirmed in the course of the wallaby investigations, is that the large numbers of climbers camping in such a small area is having a negative impact on the environment. I conveyed DPaW’s request to minimise camping previously on the CAWA website, in newsletters and on social media forums, as well as to groups of climbers, in an attempt to encourage self-regulation. Please see here my post from May 2014: Kalbarri Camping and Access. Unfortunately, this has been unsuccessful in moderating the number of climbers camping in the gorge and in spite of my pleas to prioritise our long term climbing access over short term convenience, numbers and frequency have increased.

We will still be able to climb in the gorge but DPaW requests that climbers limit the amount of traffic to The Promenade and adjacent areas. This means number of people, frequency and time spent there. Demonstrating our willingness to work with DPaW to care for the environment is key to continued access and safeguarding our positive working relationship. DPaW has put the following conditions in place until further notice:

  1. No camping in this section of the gorge. DPaW will not accept registrations for overnight stays in this area.
  2. Please contact the local DPaW office on (08) 9937 1140 prior to climbing. Registration has always been a requirement for any climbing activities but this may not be well known and has generally not been enforced with private climbers. This will enable the rangers to update you with any important information.

Realistically, camping at The Prom was never going to be a viable long term option. One of the reasons we love to go there is because it’s unspoiled and we want to keep it that way. Even with care being taken by most groups, the sheer numbers are a problem. DPaW’s intent in allowing overnight stays in the gorge is to provide an occasional ‘wild camping’ experience for small numbers of people. So bearing this in mind, we’ve had a pretty good run and they have been exceptionally accommodating.

In our submission to the draft KNP Management Plan last year, we suggested the development of vehicle-based camping near the Z-Bend car park. DPaW recognises the lack of accommodation in the park generally and is keen to work with us to provide alternate camping options for climbers and other groups. There has been a strong push for this and it is acknowledged in the recently published 2015 management plan. Luckily we are at the end of the Kalbarri climbing season and I have been assured that by the time it rolls around next year some sort of vehicle-based camping within the park will be made available to climbers.

Planned Developments at KNP

The government’s plan to boost tourism in WA’s mid west region will see some changes to the KNP over the next couple of years. There are two skywalks scheduled to be installed at the West Loop lookout by 2017. There are no climbing routes in this area. The remainder of the Z-Bend/Loop road will be sealed. The access to Placid Pool in the Z-Bend gorge (The Adventure Wall, The Pit and The Promenade climbing areas) is currently via a scramble (or a refreshing swim). An access upgrade has been considered, which would mean a ladder where we usually place a temporary rope. The purpose being to create more of an ‘adventure’ experience for hikers. This would increase tourist traffic, which is currently limited by the awkward access. It’s worth noting that relatively few visitors to the Z-Bend even make it that far, with most walkers stopping when they get to the bottom of the tourist track into the gorge and many not going beyond the lookout on top. If a ladder is installed, the most obvious climbing related issues are more general public traffic in the area and safety concerns for both climbers and walkers. Though DPaW understands that we don’t want to see a ladder there, discussion suggests that it is manageable using tools like appropriate signage. A similar situation is managed in The Aviary, where commercial abseiling and climbing take place regularly. However, I’m happy to report that partly due to the presence of the wallabies, it’s very unlikely that this enhanced access will occur, at least in the short to medium term. To ensure our concerns are factored into any longer term decisions, a formal submission will be made to DPaW along with a request to be included in any future discussions.

The road upgrade means more road closures in 2016. DPaW will no doubt post information on their website as they have done previously and climbers can always call the rangers for more information.

As mentioned above, part of the new management plan is developing nature-based and vehicle-based accommodation options within the park. DPaW is well aware of the need to provide an alternative to gorge camping that still provides convenient access for climbing. We will continue to liaise with DPaW on this and report on progress.

It would be appreciated if everyone can help to circulate this information to fellow climbers.

If you have any queries, please email me: denar@climberswa.asn.au.

Dena Rao

CAWA President

6 Comments to Kalbarri National Park Developments and Rock Wallabies

Numbat
November 9, 2015

Hi Dena and everyone,

it’s great to hear that the BFRW’s are back! Hopefully they will breed up and soon there will be lots of them all over the place!

Just a comment about “directly adjacent to The Promenade, on the ‘grassy’ slopes on the downstream side, which has been traditionally used by climbers for their ablutions.”

While some climbers do the right thing and wander further afield, it appears that some climbers have little sense of respect for the environment or other climbers and are too lazy to even get out of view or dig a hole.

A few months ago when I was climbing ‘Coriander’, I was somewhat surprised to see the amount of unburied crap and toilet paper in the area. I was even more surprised when a female climber wandered past my belayer, dropped her pants and had piss in full view of me.

Hopefully this sort of behaviour will not continue.

Remi
November 11, 2015

I found Dena’s post is full of inaccuracies and interpretations that are not relevant to Kalbarri Gorge. There is an unnecessary dramatic tone to the message given and the “fluffy sensitization” is irritating me too:

“on the grassy slopes on the downstream side” -> Two errors here: It’s a rock pile, not a “grassy” slope. They don’t hang out on the so called “grassy” slope for very long as observed by ourselves and as reported by ranger looking at remote cameras. The wallabies spend the majority of their time under the Rasta Boulder which is perfect for them because they can hide from predators inside cracks and cavities. This sounds better than living next to the climbers’ “ablutions”, no?

“Increased presence” -> increased presence of goats yes! There are more feral goats passing by than there are climbers per week. The rock wallaby specialist told us goats can be aggressive. Climbers, I seriously doubt it!

“discussion with DPaW suggests that our increased presence in that area generally is impacting negatively on these wallabies and possibly inhibiting natural behaviours, like foraging for food.”.
-> “suggest”, “generally”, “possibly”: these are all interpretations.
-> “increased presence”: Again? Out of 17 trips this year between May and October 2015, an average of 2-5 climbers stayed at one time at the Promenade, with the exception of two weekends with about a dozen campers. There was no increase this year, see below.

“This in turn poses a very real threat to the survival of this subspecies” -> This is so exaggerated! The rock wallaby is a threatened species – full stop. Three of us bivvied at the Promenade on the weekend of the 1st November (less than a week before Dena’s post). The ranger and a wallaby specialist came down to the Promenade to attempt to trap the wallabies and get some DNA samples. If Delphine, Peter and myself had been “a very real threat” to the wallabies, don’t you think the ranger would have told us to leave? Instead we talked about the shape of the rock wallabies scats, the DNA analysis, new Kalbarri development and proposals, bolting, etc… I want to point out that the conversation took place next to our sleeping bags and tent.

“in recent times there has been a significant increase in the number of climbers visiting the area and/or camping” -> How do you quantify “significant” and “in recent times”? Yes, there has been some increase from say 2005 to 2012 but the numbers have been pretty steady since 2012. This year less climbers visited Kalbarri than the last two years, that’s for sure. I struggled to find people to go with…

“I conveyed DPaW’s request to minimise camping a number of times previously on the CAWA website” -> I have no doubt Dena did, but has she ever listen to the CAWA members or other climbers in WA who would like to continue bivvy in the gorge? Why wouldn’t CAWA support them too? Once the current research conducted by DPaW is completed, could CAWA push for the “status quo” to be restored? This is not a local crappy crag we are talking about. Kalbarri is a world class climbing destination, and every attempt/negotiation should be made to make it more accessible to climbing (without driving in and out the park, without walking in). Is CAWA prepared to do that, let it be for another year, another 2 years, another 5 years, forever? I’m begging for Dena to change your views on camping in the gorge. Remember that walls such as The Wonderwall or The Amphitheatre are quite a distance from the car parks – who is going to walk in and out for 2-3 hours every day? So not supporting the status quo (register, stay overnight and leave no trace), is basically making climbing impractical or impossible at Fourways (only shaded in the mornings). Also, the multi-pitch routes at the Amphitheatre are best tackled with an early start bivvying at the base of the walls. If you work on a project, then best conditions are often found in the early morning or late afternoon.

“Luckily we are at the end of the Kalbarri climbing season, so hopefully by the time it rolls around next year vehicle-based camping within the park will be available.” -> That would be a miracle, hence I’m insisting on pushing the “status quo” (registering and leaving no trace). If we don’t, then climbers will stop registering and go anyways which could have ramifications…

“Realistically, camping at The Prom was never going to be a viable long term option. One of the reasons we love to go there is because it’s unspoiled and we want to keep it that way. Even with care being taken by most groups, the sheer numbers are a problem.” -> This has always been Dena’s opinion and perhaps the opinion of those you only go to Kalbarri ones or twice a year. Earlier this year, before I reported sightings of the rock wallabies, we talked to the ranger about the toileting situation and he even mentioned that perhaps drop down toilets could be an interim solution for the Promenade? And why not? I swear The Promenade is tidy as, I only had to clean it ones or twice this year and didn’t find much compare to last year. Yes, you will never stop the odd person taking a poo in the wrong place but this happens as well along the river where the tourists wander (I have photo evidence if you really want to, wet wipes and everything ;-)), it’s not specific to climbers. .. How many plastic bottles are at the bottom of the lookout?

“Unfortunately, this has been unsuccessful in moderating the number of climbers camping in the gorge and in spite of my pleas to prioritise our long term climbing access over short term convenience, numbers have increased.” -> This is incorrect; it has been very successful especially on long weekends. Many people decided to go to Margs/Albany this year during both long weekends of June and September. I recall John saying that hardly anyone was at the Promenade! Again, to moderate the numbers at the Promenade this year at one time, five of us were at Fourways on both long weekends.

“In our submission to the draft KNP Management Plan last year, we suggested the development of vehicle-based camping near the Z-Bend car park. DPaW recognises the lack of accommodation in the park generally and is keen to work with us to provide alternate camping options for climbers and other groups.” -> “keen” is nothing tangible and I think we should really continue to push the current “status quo” until such time vehicle-based camping is available within the park, and perhaps even after.

Climbing is a recognised activity in Kalbarri and so the only thing that needs to be preserved is the access to camping in the gorge in the long term. Given that I reported the discovery of the rock wallaby, I would think that as a climbing community we are in a better position to preserve the current status quo (obviously post current research). One could argue that there wouldn’t be any rock wallaby today without climbers being there… The presence of climbers has not been as bad as Dena’s message seems to vehicle: I have been in contact with the senior ranger on fortnightly basis, sending videos/photos of the wallabies, their movements and potential nearby threats (snakes, perenties, goats…) to help them with their research.

Last but not least, I would have appreciated to receive a phone call or email from Dena given that:
1. I contributed to the re-discovery of the black flanked rock wallabies,
2. She knows I have been in contact with the senior ranger regularly (1st Sept chat),
3. I have offered to represent CAWA regarding the Kalbarri new development (1st Sept chat).
4. I have spent over 2 months in the gorge this season.
5. She has my phone number, my email, my Facebook contact
I found out this week that there was also no or little communication between Dena and the committee prior to posting the news on Kalbarri. I’m concerned about the unilateral decision Dena makes and continue to make for CAWA and would like it to see going in a different direction.

In a nutshell:
– CAWA to reconsider views on the current status quo in Kalbarri
– CAWA needs to improve its internal mode of communication

Brian
November 12, 2015

It’s a disappointing communication from CAWA, especially at the end of the Kalbarri season with no real signs of tangible Sure some people are happy to walk in to have a play but given it’s a 6 hour drive to reach there from Perth some people will stop projecting their climbs if they can’t camp there.negotiation on the behalf of the climbing community. Was there any discussion from CAWA to understand the views of the members or climbing community in general? Since when did CAWA become a communication arm for DPaW? Personally Kalbarri is one of the most special locations to climb at in WA and it does need to be treated with care, however a loss to the camping there is a blow to WA climbing. Sure some people are happy to walk in to have a play but given it’s a 6 hour drive to reach there from Perth some people will stop projecting their climbs if they can’t camp there.

Brian
November 12, 2015

[Previous comment did not appear to be formatted properly]
It’s a disappointing communication from CAWA, especially at the end of the Kalbarri season with no real signs of tangible negotiation on the behalf of the climbing community. Was there any discussion from CAWA to understand the views of the members or climbing community in general? Since when did CAWA become a communication arm for DPaW? Personally Kalbarri is one of the most special locations to climb at in WA and it does need to be treated with care, however a loss to the camping there is a blow to WA climbing. Sure some people are happy to walk in to have a play daily but given it’s a 6 hour drive to reach there from Perth some people will stop projecting their climbs if they can’t camp there.

Dena Rao
November 14, 2015

The committee acknowledges the feedback received and understands that further clarification around a number of points, including timeframes is needed. We are managing the situation at a committee level and will update everyone as more discussion takes place and further information comes to hand, after the next committee meeting in mid-December.

Fuller
November 16, 2015

wow, an excellent and thorough rebuttal, Remi.

Leave a comment