Could we fol­low Uluru ban?

Gi­ant loved by hik­ers but it’s a sa­cred in­dige­nous site

Tweed Daily News - - NEWS - Liana Turner and Clau­dia Jam­bor

CLIMB­ING Uluru will be pro­hib­ited from 2019, but it’s un­clear whether a sim­i­lar ban will be sought for the Tweed’s own iconic land­mark.

The use of Wol­lumbin, also known as Mt Warn­ing, by hik­ers has long been a point of con­tention be­tween the com­mu­nity, vis­i­tors and Abo­rig­i­nal groups.

Fed­eral Mem­ber for Rich­mond Jus­tine El­liot said while no one had yet ap­proached her seek­ing re­stric­tions of a com­plete ban on climb­ing the 1156m peak, she would listen to the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity’s con­cerns if they did come for­ward.

“First and fore­most, I would listen to what the in­dige­nous com­mu­nity says,” Mrs El­liot said.

Calls to crack down on those climb­ing the moun­tain were reaf­firmed af­ter Amer­i­can tourist Sam Beat­tie, 24, died af­ter be­ing struck by light­ing while il­le­gally camp­ing on the moun­tain on De­cem­ber 5 last year.

Af­ter Mr Beat­tie’s death, Tweed Shire Coun­cil’s in­dige­nous her­itage of­fi­cer Rob Appo said the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity was im­pacted when hik­ers were in­jured.

With about a dozen res­cues on the moun­tain each year, trips and slips are a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence.

Dis­cus­sions about ban­ning hik­ers from nav­i­gat­ing the pop­u­lar moun­tain have reignited, fol­low­ing the news that walk­ing up Uluru in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory will be banned by the Uluru-kata Tjuta Na­tional Park board.

Mt Warn­ing Tours owner, Michael Sim­mons, said a ban was “al­most bound to hap­pen”.

Ul­ti­mately, Mr Sim­mons said he would be “100 per cent guided by the in­dige­nous com­mu­nity” as to whether a ban to hike the moun­tain should be im­ple­mented.

As a com­mer­cial tourism op­er­a­tor, Mr Sim­mons said he had cho­sen not to climb the moun­tain in line with cul­tural con­sid­er­a­tions to the in­dige­nous com­mu­nity.

He said the in­dige­nous his­tory be­hind the moun­tain’s for­ma­tion and its im­pacts on the area was in­te­grated into his tour pack­ages.

But oth­ers, such as Mt Warn­ing Rain­for­est Park’s Mark Bourchier, don’t share his view.

“I would be very dis­ap­pointed if they closed the moun­tain,” Mr Bourchier said.

He was con­cerned busi­nesses in the Tweed Val­ley would be se­verely im­pacted if a sim­i­lar ban to that at Uluru was im­ple­mented at Wol­lumbin.

Of those stay­ing at his park, Mr Bourchier claimed about 60 per cent of tourists come to en­dure the five-hour round trip hike.

Arak­wal Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion act­ing gen­eral man­ager Sharon Sloane said the branch would sup­port any­one that at­tempted to en­force a ban on climb­ing Wol­lumbin. She said Wol­lumbin was “a sa­cred men’s ground within the Bund­jalung Na­tion” for the Arak­wal peo­ple.

An Of­fice of En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage spokesman said there were no plans to pre­vent peo­ple climb­ing Wol­lumbin.

“On-site sig­nage ad­vises vis­i­tors that Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple hold the sum­mit to be sa­cred and they are asked to con­sider the Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple’s wishes that they do not climb it,” he said.

How­ever the Na­tional Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice web­site makes no men­tion of the moun­tain’s main walk­ing track, in­stead listing the Lyre­bird track which skirts the base of Wol­lumbin.

The Tweed By­ron Lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nal Land Coun­cil and Tweed Mayor Katie Milne were ap­proached for com­ment.

PHOTO: RYAN FOWLER

CLIMB­ING CON­TENTION: Wol­lumbin over­look­ing the cane fields of the Tweed.

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