27 March 2024

Gibraltar Falls to be fenced off after fatal falls last year

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation

Warning signs are not enough to prevent visitors from venturing into risky areas. Photos: ACT Government.

A new 210-metre-long fence is to be built along the walking track at Gibraltar Falls in the south of the ACT to make the once-popular destination safe after two people fell to their deaths in one week last year.

The site has since been closed to the public and extra fencing installed, but now the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate has issued a tender for the project, seeking a contractor to design and build a permanent safety fence.

According to the tender document, the goal is to further deter the public from accessing the falls or surrounding areas and make the walking track safe by installing a fence.

Fencing is to be extended from the lookout platform to the end of the current railing along the length of the top of the falls.

READ ALSO ACT’s tallest tree has survived heavy logging and two bushfires – and that’s just in the past 100 years

The fence must be at least 1.5 metres high, and there must be no openings anywhere below the top rail that could allow the passage of a sphere 125 mm in diameter.

The fence must also not allow a toehold between 150 mm and 760 mm above deck or stair nosing level. Horizontal rails are acceptable if the design will prevent children under six from climbing over the fence.

It must also close off the existing lookout.

The proposed fenceline at Gibraltar Falls.

An EPSDD spokesperson said the works would allow the existing picnic area and the viewing platform to be reopened, but that decision is up to the Conservator of Flora and Fauna under the Nature Conservation Act 2014.

“Current plans are that the public will access Gibraltar Falls via the walking trail from Woods Reserve,” the spokesperson said.

The tender closed at the end of April, but the timing of the works and expected completion date have yet to be determined.

The spokesperson said that when the site reopened, visitors would be required to remain on clearly marked trails and viewing areas.

“The fencing and signage to be installed is designed to ensure visitors are clearly aware of where they are permitted to go and ensure they can make responsible decisions about their own safety,” the spokesperson said.

The improved signage would make visitors aware of the risks of entering the high-risk areas at the top of the falls and advise them to remain on marked trails and viewing areas.

While the Gibraltar Falls are beautiful, it’s not recommended people swim there.

In February 2023, two young men fell to their deaths.

On 12 February, 19-year-old Thomas Livingstone is believed to have slipped while scrambling across rocks in front of the waterfall.

ACT Parks and Conservation rangers and passersby were able to provide assistance and first aid until emergency services arrived, but he died at the scene.

That death prompted the ACT Conservator of Flora and Fauna, Bren Burkevics, to warn all cards were “on the table” as the Territory considered how to make Gibraltar Falls safer.

But on 18 February, Patrick Prevett, a 22-year-old Queanbeyan man, was visiting the waterfall with his sister and friends when he slipped from the rocky outcrop near the top.

He was pronounced dead at the scene after emergency services, who found him unconscious in the water, were unable to revive him.

While Gibraltar Falls has a viewing platform, the water hole became popular with locals and tourists who frequently entered areas they shouldn’t have.

READ ALSO After $9 million upgrade, two years of work, the wonder that is Wombeyan Caves resurfaces

Parks and Conservation rangers carried out a safety review of the site, including examining signage, fencing, handrails and areas that have been trampled by people who ignore warnings and head off the marked trails.

Mr Burkevics warned that if signage and fences weren’t enough to stop people from walking where they shouldn’t, other options were available, including permanently closing the area to the public.

The deaths also prompted Canberra’s tourism agency, Visit Canberra, to pull all marketing material that included the site and its picturesque rockpool.

ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development deputy director-general Geoffrey Rutledge said at the time that Gibraltar Falls was not considered a swimming hole.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Dreko Fumbleton3:59 pm 29 Mar 24

Nanny state ruining another lovely site because of a few muppets. Having nice things and freedoms comes at a cost; we can drive, but acknowledge people will die on our roads; we can drink alcohol, but acknowledge this can cause harm; the examples go on and on. If we fence of (whether literally or figuratively) everything it is to be human, then why even live. SMH

notmurdochmedia10:27 am 29 Mar 24

I’ve been surprised and bewildered at the number of people wanting to picnic and sunbake beyond the rails and fences there. Its a waterfall! It should have been fenced off properly given its popularity and risk.

Us visionless Aussies, we’re getting this stuff wrong, not always, but often. It’s not about the physical features of the site, like slippery rocks and fences. There are scores of km of potentially fatal cliffs in the ACT that are not fenced, including at least one more popular than Gibraltar, i.e. Booroomba Rocks. Thousands visit these places but there are few falls (one at Coree is the only one I can remember, not counting people rockclimbing). We can’t /wont fence it all. We need to do a fair and reasonable job of warning people (as has been done at all three places and others) and accept that there will be a small number of cases where a combination of idiocy and bad luck will take some lives, sadly.

And more nanny state mothering. Should just let stupid eradicate themselves rather than trying to preserve them.

Someone always has to ruin things for everyone else.

Sounds like appropriate action, with authorities always held responsible in cases of wilful misadventure. Others may think it’s typical Canberra local government overreach. North Qld has some fabulous waterside locations completely fenced because of their tragic history of people making bad decisions.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.