Climbers may be barred from Uluru

Author: By Rob Taylor, Reuters

A draft management plan for the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park called for a
ban on people climbing the 348-metre (1,142 ft) rock, which is sacred to
local Aborigine people and visited each year by 350,000 people, half of them
from overseas.

The plan for Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, could be implemented within
18 months, but must be approved by national Environment Minister Peter
Garrett after a two-month public consultation, a spokesman for Garrett said.

“Kevin Rudd must veto any plans by Peter Garrett to shut down Australia’s
world-famous Uluru climb,” said conservative politician and environment
spokesman Greg Hunt.

“Visitors from around Australia and the world would be stopped from completing
the majestic and exhilarating journey,” Hunt said.

The world heritage-listed rock, famed for its shifting red-ochre colours, is a
top tourist drawcard and is climbed by more than 100,000 people each year,
despite its central desert location and against the wishes of indigenous
people.

“You can’t go climb on top of the Vatican, you can’t go climb on top of the
Buddhist temples and so on and so forth,” local elder Vince Forrester from
Mutitjulu township told state radio.

Forrester said traditional owners of the rock, which is 9.4kms (5.8 mls) in
circumference, have wanted the climb closed since the park was placed in
indigenous hands in 1985. The monolith features strongly in indigenous
creation myth.

“Obviously you have to respect our religious attachment to the land too, so
we’re saying please do not climb Uluru. We’ve said it in all languages,”
Forrester said.

But outback Northern Territory Tourism Minister Chris Burns said his
government did not back the indigenous proposal.

Hunt said the national government should not contemplate the closure of the
rock at a time when Australia’s tourism industry was under threat from the
global financial crisis.

“Big Brother is coming to Uluru to slam the gate closed on an Australian
tourism icon, the climb,” he said.

But people responding to the state ABC radio website were divided, with some
saying it was a “denial of the rights”, and others calling for more respect
of sacred areas.

“About time. We would be horrified if people were allowed to climb all over
our churches or sacred sites,” wrote Lilly.

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