THE indigenous owners of Uluru will ban visitors from climbing the sacred rock from October 2019, saying it’s not a theme park like Disneyland.
Around 300,000 visitors make the trip to the red centre to see Uluru each year, but only 16 percent of visitors made the climb between 2011 and 2015.
In a historic decision, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board of management today unanimously decided to permanently close the park on October 26, 2019.
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The decision was made in line with the 2010-2020 Management Plan, which required one of three preconditions to be met, including the proportion of visitors climbing falling below 20 percent.
The impending closure date is also significant, marking the 34th anniversary of Uluru being handed back to Anangu, the traditional owners of the sacred site.
Uluru traditional owner and board chairman Sammy Wilson said simply that it was time.
“We’ve talked about it for so long and now we’re able to close the climb. It’s about protection through combining two systems, the government and Anangu,” Mr Wilson said.
“We welcome tourists here. We are not stopping tourism, just this activity.
“This decision is for both Anangu and non-Anangu together to feel proud about; to realise, of course, it’s the right thing to close it.
“The land has law and culture. We welcome tourists here. Closing the climb is not something to feel upset about but a cause for celebration. Let’s come together; let’s close it together.”
“If I travel to another country and there is a sacred site, an area of restricted access, I don’t enter or climb it, I respect it. It is the same here for Anangu.”
Mr Wilson said that the climb may close, but Anangu believed it would open up more opportunities for partnerships with traditional owners, based on true cultural experiences for visitors.
Director of National Parks Sally Barnes, also a member of the Board, said the date October 26 was hugely significant to Uluru’s traditional owners.
“We’ve chosen the date of 26 October 2019 to close the climb permanently as it is a date of huge significance to Anangu,” Ms Barnes said.
“On 26 October 1985 Uluru and Kata Tjuta were handed back to Anangu after many years of hard work by elders.
“We’ve always committed to giving the tourism industry at least 18 months’ notice.
While there has been a significant reduction in the numbers of people wanting to climb, to less than 20 percent, today we’ve got many alternative activities on place on the ground that people can enjoy instead of climbing.
“This includes experiencing Uluru’s culture – for which we’re World-Heritage listed.
“To come and learn from Anangu about their culture is one of the most memorable experiences for many of our visitors.
“On a personal note, to be part of this moment of Australian history, is an enormous honour.
“We’re looking forward to a future where we can all work together to protect culture and country as we should do, while continuing to provide visitors with fulfilling experiences based on the parks unique cultural and natural attractions.
“This is a significant moment for all Australians and marks a new chapter in our history. It clearly says we put country and culture first when managing this place for all Australians and our visitors from around the world.”