There has been conflicting information about climbing in Esperance for some years now. Though we thought we had an arrangement in place with an agreement that no new bolts would be placed without permission, climbers would notify the ranger of their intention to climb and no climbing to occur at Frenchman’s Peak, some Department of Parks and Wildlife staff at the coalface have been telling climbers a different story. This has understandably created a great deal of confusion and frustration for everybody. It seems that there was ongoing and significant sensitivity about a few issues, including the previous placement of bolts in highly visible areas without permission being sought and suggestions that DPaW signage be disregarded. However, one of the things we sometimes also see in dealing with any access issues is an overly protective approach when it isn’t necessarily warranted, both in relation to the area and the activity. This can occur for many reasons, including lack of understanding about a particular activity and personal biases. Liability is always a concern for DPaW in relation to the activities that take place on the land they manage and regardless of what climbers think about that, unless individual ‘right to risk’ legislation is introduced in Australia, it will continue to feature in our conversations. Often it just requires education about the activity to put things in perspective but because of various non-climbing incidents that have occurred across the state in more recent years, general sensitivity to any possible risk has increased. I don’t think anyone enjoys giving evidence in court. So like any other activity, it simply needs to be managed, not stopped.
I’m very happy to announce that further discussion and negotiation with DPaW has resulted in a formal agreement regarding ongoing climbing access, with conditions that the CAWA committee considers to be reasonable. The existing conditions noted above still apply, with the additional requests that no new trails are to be constructed to climbing areas, climbing be avoided during wet soil conditions to avoid spreading dieback and information published (e.g. in climbing guides) is in accordance with current park use conditions. This access information also appears on the ‘restricted areas’ website page (under ‘climb’) here.
CAWA also made a detailed submission to the Esperance and Recherche Parks Draft Management Plan in early 2013 but this plan is yet to be finalised. There is no mention of rock climbing in the draft plan. However, on page 70, under Management Actions, point 3, it says, ‘Ensure all recreation and tourism developments as well as visitor activities are consistent with the department’s Policy Statement No. 18’, in which rock climbing is recognised. Part of the purpose of CAWA’s submission was to have rock climbing formally recognised as an adventure activity in the new plan and to provide important information about the activity. Park management plans are publicly available documents.
As always, please feel free to get in touch with any queries.