• Sammy Wilson. (The Point)Source: The Point
Anangu traditional owner Sammy Wilson says NT Chief Minister Adam Giles must meet with traditional owners about his proposal to keep Uluru open for tourists to climb.
By
Laura Murphy-Oates

Source:
The Point
20 Apr 2016 - 8:13 PM  UPDATED 20 Apr 2016 - 8:14 PM

We should explore the idea of creating a climb with stringent safety requirements and rules enforcing spiritual respect – that would be endorsed, supported and even managed by the local Aboriginal community,” Mr Giles said in NT parliament on Tuesday.

The minister praised the sacred site as “more beautiful” than the Eiffel Tower and listed examples such as Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu where “culturally sensitive sites” and tourism have successfully combined.

If the climb was condoned by the traditional owners, there would be economic benefits for the local Indigenous population and the Northern Territory as a whole, he says.

But Anangu traditional owner and chairperson of the board of Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park,  Sammy Wilson told ‘The Point’ on Wednesday that Anangu traditional owners continue to oppose visitors climbing the rock.

“This is a sacred site that belongs to the Anangu, and some people say they want people to climb. Why? That is the big question.”

They want Mr Giles to meet with them to discuss his plans, he adds.

“You have to talk to the traditional owners to sit down and explain it,” he says.

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As the thermometer inched towards 40C and the sun beat down on Uluru, the traditional Anangu people of the region celebrated their triumphant win over the Australian government in reclaiming their land. Thirty years ago, on October 26, 1985, the federal government returned the lands of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to their rightful owners.

Whilst he maintains culture is "more important" than reaping economic benefits, he says a balance could be struck if tourists paid for Aboriginal-guided tours around the base of Uluru.

“We’re not making money, the people, at the moment,” he says. “If people go and climb Sydney Harbour Bridge they make money, and this place they’re climbing, Uluru, this is from our ancestors.

"Why are they looking on top? They’re looking at nothing, they’ve got to learn and walk around Uluru.”

Questions around Federal Government's plan for Uluru

Mr Giles raised concerns during his speech to parliament that "Canberra is in a hurry" to place a ban on climbing the rock, with "outside forces… gathering to interfere".

“It appears that the Federal Government is yet again considering placing a total and permanent ban on climbing Uluru,” he said.

He says this should be a decision for Territorians and not "bureaucrats in Canberra".

Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt confirmed in a statement that the department is sticking with its current management plan for Uluru, initiated under Labor.

The 2010-2020 Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Management Plan states it intends to close the climb when less than 20 per cent of Uluru visitors climb the rock.

Two other conditions are mentioned in the plan: that new tourism experiences replace it or that "the cultural and natural experiences on offer are the critical factors when visitors make their decision to visit the park."

Climb numbers have been steadily declining over the past few decades and there have been 36 climbing deaths overall since the 1950s.

Research from Parks Australia has shown that 98 per cent of visitors would still visit Uluru if the climb closed.