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:
- No camping in this section of the gorge. DPaW will not accept registrations for overnight stays in this area.
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.