Uluru climb will be officially closed in 2019

By AG Staff 2 November 2017
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The long debate on whether or not people should be able to climb Uluru was settled yesterday by the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board, which confirmed the climbs closure.

CLIMBING ULURU will be officially banned from the 26 October 2019 following a decision by the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (UKTNP) board yesterday.

The decision was made after the number of people who visited the National Park to climb the rock dwindled to just 16.2 per cent, suggesting that the closure wouldn’t impact the Park as a valuable tourist destination.

The UKTNP board made clear their intention to close the climb back in 2010 if at least one of three preconditions was met: that the number of people who climb Uluru drops from 38 per cent to fewer than 20 per cent; that the attraction of the climb is no longer the primary reason people travel to the park; or that a range of new experiences is in place for visitors.

Back then, Richard Baker a prominient advocate for Indigenous reoconciliation at the Australian National University suggested that in order to reduce the number of climbers, basic factors such as infrastructure in the park, needed to be adjusted. 

He explained that the position of seats near the base of the rock directs people to look up at the climb route. Toilets and the start point of the daily ranger walk are also positioned near the climb’s base. To add to this, other activities, such as the loop walk around Uluru, were less well signposted and had limited facilities. 

Since then a number of improvements have beens made including an upgrade of the base walk and its facilities, emphasising an alternative to climbing Uluru.

A range of new experiences have also been added from bush tucker and cultural performances to guided cycling tours and overnight, low-impact small group camping, which have all helped steer people away from the rock climb.

An important anniversary

The date set for the climbs closure, October 26 2019 will also mark the anniversary of the transfer of custodianship of Uluru and neighbouring Kata Tjuta to its Anangu traditional owners

The handover was emblematic of a growing awareness of the system of Aboriginal traditional law and land ownership that was ultimately recognised in the 1993 Native Title Act, passed by Federal Parliament. 

According to Sammy Wilson, a traditional owner of the land and the chairman of the UKTNP board, the closure of the climb will have a similar effect.

“Some people in tourism and government for example might have been saying we need to keep it open but it’s not their law that lies in this land,” he said.

“It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland.

“The Government needs to respect what we are saying about our culture in the same way it expects us to abide by its laws…After much discussion, we’ve decided it’s time.”