15 February 2023

Future of Gibraltar Falls in the balance but closure flagged as 'last resort'

| Claire Fenwicke
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warning sign at Gibraltar Falls

A safety review of Gibraltar Falls is underway following the death of a 19-year-old man at the weekend. Photo: ACT Government.

The ACT’s Conservator of Flora and Fauna has admitted “all cards are on the table” as the Territory considers how to make Gibraltar Falls safer.

Parks and Conservation rangers were on site this morning (15 February) examining the area where a teenager died after falling off a cliff at the site on Sunday.

Conservator Bren Burkevics said today’s assessment was part of a safety review into the site, which included examining signage, fencing, handrails and areas that have been trampled by people ignoring warnings and heading off the marked trails.

“The challenge with Gibraltar is it’s such a wonder of nature and it’s been promoted on social media as a swimming hole,” he said.

“We never recommend that because of the dangers of the cliffs and waterfall, and also because of changes that can occur due to flooding.”

READ ALSO Death of teenage ANU student not discovered for days, inquest finds

While Gibraltar Falls has a viewing platform, the water hole has become popular with locals and tourists alike.

“We do not recommend people venture off the track as it can put yourself at risk, as we’ve sadly seen from this incident,” Mr Burkevics said.

“Unfortunately, it does appear over the weekend people accessed a high-risk area that we don’t recommend people go to.”

warning sign on a tree

Warning signs are erected throughout Namadgi National Park. Photo: ACT Government.

Mr Burkevics and his team will use the information gathered to identify any new areas people have decided to explore away from marked trails, as well as ways to deter them.

The ACT’s rescue agencies are routinely trained in retrieving people who get into trouble in our national parks, and Mr Burkevics said it wasn’t uncommon for people to get into difficulties or have an accident.

However, that risk was heightened if people chose to ignore warnings set up for their own safety.

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Our wet spring and start to summer have also changed the landscape.

“Today, we did notice some areas of the falls that have been degraded because of people heading off the track, including the cliffs and waterfall where the incident occurred,” Mr Burkevics said.

If it appears signage and fences aren’t enough to stop people from walking where they shouldn’t, other powers are available to the Conservator of Flora and Fauna.

“I have powers under the Nature Conservation Act 2014 to apply closures,” Mr Burkevics said.

“It’s a last resort option because it’s such a wonderful location … [but] people need to stop swimming there.”

If the site was permanently closed under this law, entering the area would be a punishable offence.

While the Gibraltar Falls is beautiful, it’s not recommended people swim there. Photo: ACT Government.

While the safety review is expected to be completed in the coming weeks, the site could remain closed for months if it’s decided extra safety measures need to be installed.

In the meantime, Mr Burkevics said there were plenty of other parks and reserves around the ACT that people could enjoy.

He had this advice to anyone exploring the Territory’s natural wonders: “Follow the signage, stay on the appointed tracks and trails, prepare accordingly, follow the advice of rangers and you’ll have a good day.”

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HiddenDragon7:30 pm 16 Feb 23

Such an interesting approach to risk and danger on the part of ACT officialdom – serious contemplation of closing off access to a public place which people can choose to visit (or not) and choose to enjoy in a risky way (or not) but dogged, obstinate refusal to allow people to eliminate unnecessary danger at home thus giving them no choice but to live with that risk –


ChrisinTurner4:26 pm 16 Feb 23

The most likely place to be killed in the ACT is on our poorly maintained roads. The way to stop this threat is to close all roads that have potholes or similar dangers. Crazy or not?

Michael Pless3:57 pm 16 Feb 23

It would be so very sad if the Falls were shut-off from public access because they are beautiful and provide many opportunities for photographers. Sometimes, people overestimate their abilities or their environment with tragic consequences. For any governing body to take the stance, “no more access for anyone!” is quite an extreme and myopic response. Surely a more appropriate attitude is “people want to enjoy this natural wonder – how can we make it safer for them to do so?” Aren’t we supposed to be encouraging people to be active? Personally, I’d love to get access to the base of the falls for some truly great photos.

Hopefully they will not close it off. People are idiots, frequently posing for selfies by sitting on handrails with a potentially fatal fall behind them or swimming in waters that specifically say don’t swim here. My brother-in-law is a Cairns firey who does rapid water rescues and is no longer surprised when he has to attempt to fish out bodies from the Devil’s Pool at Babinda Boulders despite all the warning signs and railing at certain parts. The vast majority heed the warnings, let the others take care of themselves.

What about a sign that says “don’t be stupid!”?

Capital Retro10:34 am 16 Feb 23

Similar concepts have been tried with drug addicts. Now they are legalising drugs.

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