The recent  Victorian project  to  compile  a  classified catalogue of  the state’s  caves provided  an interesting opportunity of  testing the  Australian  cave  management classification scheme  against a substantial data set.  A number  of   minor  adjustments   in  the  classification categories are  identified.  Some useful distinctions and problems of allocating sites to management categories are also discussed.


The  Victorian   Caves  Classification  Committee  (which advises the  Minister for  Conservation, Forests & Lands) recently conducted  a  preliminary  management  study  of Victorian  caves  and  karst.    The  study  compiled  an inventory,   assessment    and   preliminary   management classification of  all caves  in  the  state.    It  also provided a  review of  the cave  and karst  resources  of Victoria, an  overview of  values and  management issues, and recommendations  on management  strategy.   I was one of the  Committee’s consultants  for the  study (Davey  & White 1986).   The  study scope, methodology, conclusions and further  strategy are  discussed by Nicholas White (a CCC member) in another paper (White 1993, this volume).

The purpose  of this  contribution  is  to  describe  the experience  of   applying   the   Australian   management classification  scheme  (Davey  &  others  1982)  to  the Victorian data,  to review  some  minor  changes  to  the categories which  were identified  as appropriate, and to comment on  some principles  in applying  the  management classifications. The  paper  is  not  concerned  with Victorian sites as such.  In a further paper (Davey 1993,nthis volume) I look at the separate but obviously related question  of   systems  for  efficient  handling  of  the considerable volume of sites data.

Adjustments to Management Catergories

The Victorian study (Davey & White 1986) adopted a number of minor  adjustments to  the Australian  cave management scheme (Davey  & others  1982).   The  structure  of  the adjusted management classification is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Summary of cave management classification  categories

Category 1:  Public access caves
1.1 Adventure caves
1.2 Show caves
Category 2: Special purpose sites 
2.1 Reference sites 
2.2 Sites of special natural and/or cultural value 
2.3 Dangerous sites
Category 3:  Wild (& unclassified) 
3.1 Caves classified as wild 
3.2 All unclassified caves

The only  category change is to give explicit recognition to cultural  values alongside  natural values in category 2.2, thereby  changing its  title.    This  rectifies  an omission from the original scheme.  Although inclusion of cultural values  was implicit  in the  earlier  category, explicit recognition is needed.  Archaeological sites are the most  obvious examples,  but Aboriginal  cave art and European  heritage   sites  are   other  examples.   The management principles  are essentially the same, so there is  little   justification  in  there  being  a  separate category for  cultural values  as distinct  from natural. The former qualification ‘outstanding’  turned out to be too inflexible.   ‘Special’  has been  substituted.  This implies an  onus of  establishing how and why the site is special (i.e. significant - see below)

Category 2.1  (Reference)  was  previously  expressed  as having the  objective of  keeping aside undisturbed sites for ‘scientific  reference’.   To clarify  the management purpose of  this category, it seems more appropriate that the objective be expressed as ‘... for monitoring’ rather than for  research as  such.  Scientific reference is not necessarily related  to management  or protection  of the site or  of the class it represents.  The study concluded that  a   benchmark  emphasis   for   management-oriented monitoring was more appropriate.  Because of the need for strict control of entry, and to start from an undisturbed baseline, it  was concluded  that the  Victorian data did not permit  selection of  any sites  in this  category at this stage.    This  category  is  potentially  the  most difficult of all to manage successfully.

A few  other minor  points of  clarification were made in the classification  adopted for  the Victorian study.  In all categories,  testing with  the  data  permitted  some broad management   prescriptions to be identified for the category.   These, together  with the various adjustments in the  classification scheme  itself, are  reproduced in Appendix 1.  More specific management prescriptions still need to  be developed,  but these  comprise a better base than we have otherwise documented to date.

Allocating Sites to Management Categories

Several interesting  misconceptions and  difficulties  of consistency were  encountered in  applying the management scheme in  the Victorian  study.   It is not claimed that they were  all  completely  resolved,  but  some  of  the general principles may be of interest.

It was  not always  immediately understood  by people who reviewed  various  draft  classification  proposals  that category  1.1   (Adventure)   differ   significantl in management function from category 3.2 (Wild), even though the recreation activities taking place within them may be similar.   The essential  point is that category 1.1 is a means of  identifying  sites  in  which  the  manager  is overtly promoting  certain recreational  use, even though often at  low levels.   The  vast bulk  of  speleological exploration and  recreational caving would be expected to take place  in sites  categorised as    3.1.    Extensive speleological use  of a  site  does  not  as  such  imply category 1.1.

 Indeed,  many category 3.1 sites would be technically  too  difficult  (and  therefore  potentially dangerous) to promote for adventure use.

It is  easy to  overlook the important difference between primary values  and the management function or purpose of classifying a site into any particular category.  This is especially the  case with  category 2.2  (Special natural and/or cultural  value).  The scheme is not an attempt to grade the intrinsic values of caves.  Rather, it provides a framework for expressing different styles and levels of management (including  protection) of  the site. Unles there is  a    management  reason to  use category 2.2, many sites of  outstanding natural  or  cultural  value  would continue to be managed as category 3.1 (Wild) sites.

In summary, a site should only be allocated to a category other than 3.1: if it is justifiable for it to serve that function; and  if protection  of the  natural or cultural values requires  management actions  of the specific kind implied by the category.

Assessing Significance

The original  classification scheme  envisaged  that  the grounds used  to make decisions about allocation into the various  categories   should  be   made  as  explicit  as possible.   To do so helps clarify the specific functions intended in  the different  categories.  In the Victorian study,  we   identified  15  specific  grounds  for  site evaluation (Table  2), as an expansion on the earlier ASF national heritage assessment study (Davey 1984).

Table 2:  Grounds for  site evaluation  as representative and/or outstanding:

1.has  contributed substantially  to development  explanations about a wider class of sites; 
2. is   the   location   of   important   research  investigations; 
3. contains    evidence   with    potential    for understandingthe past (e.g. speleothems, sediments,  palaeontological  or archeological deposits, cultural relics); 
4. has  important associations  with prehistoric  or historic human  activities, especially  if connected with important events, personalities or developments in the history of the region or of cave science; 
5. contains  especially clear  examples which are of  educational value; 
6. is the type locality for any species; 
7. is the habitat of an endemic species; 
8.  is habitat for any troglobitic species; 
9. is the breeding locality (maternity site) for any species,  or   is  important   to  any  species  for acclimatisation, overwintering, staging or roosting; 
10. is  habitat for  a species  which is endangered, rare, restricted, or near the limits of its range; 
11. is aesthetically impressive or of high visual or other sensory quality; 
12.  contains unusual recreation opportunities; 
13.  has potential for non-destructive use which will contribute to  the local  and regional  economy  and employment; 
14. is one of the few remaining or best preserved of its class; and 
15. is  part of  a related  complex of  sites  which collectively meet  one or more of the other criteria above.
      [Davey & White 1986, pp.33-34] 

The grounds are unranked as to importance.  The framework for stating  site significance was then stated as needing a written  statement (description)  for  each  site,  the essential purpose of which is to make clear:

* that the site is representative of certain identified feature, including statements of: 
* which specific types or characters it represents; 
* how the types or characters are important or relevant in the context of the Grounds for site evaluation, above; 
* why the site is representative of the class; 
* how the site relates to other examples in its class; 
* that the site is outstanding in some respect(s); including explicit identification of: 
 * what specific features are relevant to its outstanding status; 
* precisely how these features are considered outstanding.      [after Davey & White 1986, p. 34]. 

The Victorian  study then  identified a series of further assessment criteria  for  judging  the  level  of  signi-ficance.   Again, these  were not  ranked as  to relative importance.  The criteria were stated as:

1. rarity, in a total (world-wide) sense;
2. scarcity  or  abundance,  in  a  spatial  distribution sense;
3. scale and extent;
4. clarity of expression or exposure (“display”);
5. state of preservation;
6.  juxtaposition   against  or  combination  with  other features;
7.  extent   to  which   the  site   has  contributed  to understanding  of   natural  or   cultural  events   with implications elsewhere;
8. proximity  to or  separation from  other features &/or concentrations of people;
9.  image,  or  distinctive  character,  because  of  the particular natural setting and/or cultural context;
10.potential for providing further research insights;
11.universality,  whereby  the  site  provides  crucial insights into environmental phenomena; and
12.comparability with other known examples.

[Davey & White 1986, p. 35].

The written  statement of significance for any site would consist of  an appropriate  combination of  these points, with explanation for each. Elaboration of these ideas for assessing significance  is provided in the report, (Davey & White  1986). This now represents a modest expansion of the  assessment   basis  outlined  in  the  ASF  heritage assessment study  (Davey 1984), but further refinement is still called for.

The Victorian  preliminary management  classification was an interesting test of the cave management classification scheme. I  am hopeful  that this  experience will promote further refinement  with a  different set  of sites and a different set  of management  challenges and  context.  I look forward  to hearing  of other experience in applying and adapting the management classification system.


This paper  is based  on work  undertaken by  myself  and Susan White  while  we  were  consultants  to  the  Caves Classification Committee.  The co-operation and advice of the Committee,  and of  the Department  of  Conservation, Forests and  Lands through  which it  operates, are  much appreciated. It is expected that this category would apply to any cave where protection  (additional to  the  general  level  of protection for  all caves  in the  area) is  necessary to maintain the  value of  the site  for research,  heritage conservation,  education,   aesthetic   appreciation   or recreation. Management   programs   would   include monitoring,    restoration    and    protection    works. Developments would  be kept  to a minimum, and are likely to be  no more than essential markers, paths and anchors. Some maintenance may be necessary.  The nature and extent of controls would depend on individual circumstances, but it is expected that nay activity which is consistent with protection of  the special  value(s) in question would be permitted.

Management  prescriptions:

* Access  will be  controlled in  all sites  in  the category.   Use should be confined to activities and levels which  are consistent  with  the  values  and objectives of the site concerned:
* cave bat habitat sites should not receive any use other than essential  monitoring during periods (as relevant to the site  concerned) when  the site  serves an  important function for  roosting, overwintering, acclimatisation or maternity;
*sites   of  important   cavernicolous   invertebrates, especially troglobites,  should receive  as little use as possible;
* sites  of high aesthetic and/or recreation value should be made  accessible to  use by parties of controlled size on controlled  frequency, with requirements of experience and equipment for party members and leadership; and
* sites of high natural or cultural heritage value should be  made   available   for   appreciation   by   suitably experienced and  equipped interested  persons, subject to appropriate safeguards.
* *Advisory  and interpretive  signs  explaining  the natural and  cultural significance  of the site, and explaining necessary  controls, should be erected by minimal impact techniques. 
**Physical  control of  access  by  gate  should  be considered if  the values  and vulnerability  of the site warrant it, if construction of an effective and maintainable gate is feasible, and if provision of a gate  will  not  unreasonably  conflict  with  other values of the site. 

2.3 Dangerous Sites
*to protect human life at sites known to present extreme    hazards.

This sub-category  would be  used vary rarely, if at all. Life is  basically dangerous,  some aspects of it more so than others.   Danger  is a  very  subjective  thing  and managers and  landowners are  not well  equipped to  make proscriptive judgments  on the  safety  or  otherwise  of persons  knowingly   entering  caves.     All  caves  are dangerous to  some degree,  and it  is desirable to avoid using “danger”  as a  grounds for  restricting access  to caves.   However, in recognition of some of the legal and practical difficulties  involved, it is acknowledged that there may  be  a  case  for  prohibiting  entry  of  some specific caves  which are  considered to  be particularly hazardous  except  to  persons  with  special  experience and/or  equipment. This   should  only   occur  after consultation with  as wide a range of experienced persons as possible.

Management prescriptions:
* Effective control over entry into the site must be provided.   Appropriate explanatory  signs should be provided.      
* A   clear  procedure  should  be  identified  for suitable experienced  and equipped persons to obtain permission to explore the cave.

Category 3: Wild (And Unclassified)Sites
* to protect cave values; 
* to provide opportunities for research; and 
*  to  provide  opportunities  for  responsible  cave recreation and  exploration, subject  to the code of ethics of  the Australian  Speleological  Federation and/or other  codes of  practice appropriate  to the area concerned.

Apart from  any general management practices arising from the  reservation  and/or  management  objectives  of  the surrounding area, it is not expected that there  would be any  specific   management  practices   or  controls   in individual caves  in this  category.  The area management policies may relate to a general requirement for permits, or  for  certain  reporting  of  activities,  and/or  for certain equipment  to be  carried.  Developments would be restricted to essential markers, paths and anchors.  Some monitoring, restoration  and maintenance would be needed. Control of  access by  gates or similar would not be used for this  category. Caves in the two sub-categories would be subject to virtually the same management provisions.

3.1. Caves Classified as Wild
It is anticipated that a substantial number of classified caves (in  many areas,  the majority)  would normally  be managed under this category.

3.2 All Unclassified Caves
Additional objective:
* to  promote investigation of cave values such that the classification  of each  cave may  be  based  on reasonably complete information.

All caves  not yet classified or documented (or yet to be discovered) would automatically fall into this category.

General  management   prescriptions   applying   to   all categories:

* The code of ethics of the Australian Speleological Federation  should   be  a   minimum  base  for  all education,  recreation,   research  and   management activities conducted in caves.
*  Smoking, littering, deposition of human wastes and camping should  not  be  permitted  in  caves,  cave entrances or  dolines; prohibition  should as far as possible  be  backed  up  by  appropriate  statutory provisions.
* Breaking,  moving, disturbing, digging, collecting or removing,  sediments, fossils,  bones,  charcoal, prehistoric or  historic artefacts,  guano,  speleo-thems, minerals, cavernicolous plants or animals, or other cave  contents should  not be permitted except with good  reason,  with  the  applicable  statutory permits,  and  with  specific  permission  from  the landowner and/or management authority of the site(s) concerned.