KARIJINI CLO­SURE?

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Ali­cia Per­era

The Depart­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity, Con­ser­va­tion and At­trac­tions is propos­ing to close part of Karijini Na­tional Park for the three hottest months of the year to avoid height­ened risks from ex­treme weather and per­son­nel short­ages.

The Pil­bara’s most pop­u­lar na­tional park could be par­tially closed for three months of each year un­der a State Gov­ern­ment pro­posal.

The Depart­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity, Con­ser­va­tion and At­trac­tions has be­gun lo­cal con­sul­ta­tion on a pro­posal to close the north-cen­tral sec­tion of Karijini Na­tional Park from De­cem­ber-Fe­bru­ary — the qui­etest time of year for tourists — in a bid to im­prove man­age­ment and avoid the height­ened risks posed by ex­treme weather events and staff and vol­un­teer short­ages typ­i­cal of that time of year.

Sites sub­ject to the clo­sure would in­clude Ban­jima West and North roads, Karijini Eco Re­treat and the Weano, Jof­fre, Knox and Kalam­ina recre­ation sites, be­cause of their higher flood risk.

A DBCA spokes­woman said dur­ing De­cem­ber-Fe­bru­ary, a com­bi­na­tion of high tem­per­a­tures, in­creased like­li­hood of bush­fires and flood­ing in roads and gorges in­creased risks to vis­i­tors in Karijini.

“The par­tial clo­sure be­ing con­sid­ered will re­duce the risks to vis­i­tors in the park dur­ing this pe­riod,” she said.

The pro­posal was re­jected by the Shire of Ash­bur­ton coun­cil last month, with Shire pres­i­dent Kerry White say­ing the park was too im­por­tant an at­trac­tion to close.

“Coun­cil . . . re­solved not to sup­port Karijini Na­tional Park be­ing closed for any pe­riod as it is an iconic tourist at­trac­tion for the Shire of Ash­bur­ton and is of cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance to the tra­di­tional own­ers,” she said.

“While vis­i­tor num­bers are lower dur­ing De­cem­ber-Fe­bru­ary, the park still at­tracts tourists, par­tic­u­larly in­ter­na­tional back­pack­ers, dur­ing this time.

“Over the sum­mer months, Karijini Na­tional Park is also well used by lo­cal res­i­dents from the neigh­bour­ing towns who en­joy swim­ming in the cool wa­ter gorges.”

Sev­eral lo­cal tourism op­er­a­tors told the Pil­bara News they ei­ther sup­ported or did not strongly op­pose the pro­posal given the low num­ber of tourists at the park in those months.

Lestok Tours owner Bob Stump, whose busi­ness runs guided tours of Karijini, said partly clos­ing the park would not af­fect his com­pany’s busi­ness but he would still pre­fer the park to be open.

“There are . . . of­ten good num­bers of Euro­pean vis­i­tors at that time of year and it would no doubt have some eco­nomic im­pact in Tom Price should the park be closed,” he said.

Tom Price SES man­ager Kathryn Honey­field said the lo­cal unit op­er­ated on “skele­ton staff” over the sum­mer months and clos­ing the more dan­ger­ous parts of the park would ben­e­fit emer­gency crews.

The DBCA spokes­woman said the pro­posal was only a “con­cept” at this point and the depart­ment was con­sult­ing stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing tra­di­tional own­ers, the Shire and lo­cal tour op­er­a­tors and trans­port com­pa­nies.

If the pro­posal were to be ap­proved, the park would be par­tially closed from De­cem­ber this year.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Fortes­cue Falls in Karijini Na­tion­alPark.

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