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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Uluru climbers declining

It's rather intimidating when you arrive at Uluru and read the signs that plead with you to respect the decision of the Aboriginal custodians not to climb their sacred rock.

But that doesn't mean you are forbidden to climb, you are just made to feel very uncomfortable if you do.

If you are intent on climbing there is another problem - the wind.  The day you arrive, the climb may be closed due to high winds.

There is a lot of opposition to the ban.  At a sitting of the Northern Territory Parliament in Darwin yesterday, NT Chief Minister Adam Giles said that if the Nguraritja and Anangu people changed their minds and allowed tourists to climb, it would foster a better understanding of Indigenous culture and lead to more jobs.

He pointed out that the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb is one of the world's most spectacular and exhilarating tourist adventures and the same could be said for climbing Uluru.

There were plenty of examples worldwide where culturally sensitive sites and tourism combine successfully, he said - the Temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu for example.

"Uluru is as spectacular as any of those, it's higher than the Eiffel Tower and a lot more beautiful" he said.

Mr Giles conceded that the first part of the 1.6 kilometre climb was arduous and aided by a chain strung between poles.

On the park website people are warned not to attempt the climb "if you have high or low blood pressure, heart problems, breathing problems, a fear of heights, or if you are unfit."

Mr Giles said "we could get a professional expert in to look at stringent safety requirements" and "rules enforcing spiritual respect......would be endorsed, supported, and even managed by the local Aboriginal community."

The park data shows that between 2005 and 2014, visitor numbers have fallen significantly and the 2010 10-year plan states the climb would be "permanently closed when the proportion of visitors climbing falls below 20 per cent."

But the bottom line is that the custodians said they "continue to emphasise their wish that people do not climb Uluru and have expressed disappointment that the activity still continues."