Tourists get green card to keep climbing Uluru

Tourists get green card to keep climbing Uluru
About 100000, people make the ascent each year but the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board of management last year called for an end to the practice.National Parks had needed to close the climb out of respect for the indigenous owners and safety reasons, but there were also concerns about visitors using the World Heritage-listed rock as a toilet and leaving litter behind.However, under a new management plan prepared by the board and approved by federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett today, one of three preconditions must be met before the climb is shut down.These are:That the number of people climbing Uluru must drop from the current 38 per cent of visitors to fewer than 20 per cent;
That the attraction of the climb must no longer be the primary reason visitors travel to the monolith; orThat a range of new experiences be in place for visitors."The key thing here is to deepen and broaden the visitor experience to Uluru", Mr Garrett said."This is one of our great international icons. It is where the indigenous culture, the environment and the desert landscape go hand in hand."There’s plenty of advice and information from the tourism industry that visitors want a deeper and broader experience and we believe that this is the ongoing best path to take at the rock."Mr Garrett said he supported the board’s decision to work towards closing the climb only after clear preconditions are met.In an earlier statement he said: "This decision allows the board to protect visitor safety, to respect the culture and wishes of Uluru’s Aboriginal owners and to safeguard the outstanding environment at this World Heritage national park."Like the board, I am also very conscious of the need to support tourism and to better integrate local culture with the economy."National Parks director Peter Cochrane told a Senate estimates hearing last year that the plan to close the climb had been "revised" after close attention was paid to tourism industry complaints.Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also opposed the plan to close the climb.More than 20 years ago, in his former career as lead singer of rock band Midnight Oil, Mr Garrett sang about Aboriginal land rights at the base of Uluru.He has never climbed it and has said he never intends to.Mr Garrett said independent surveys would measure climber numbers and assess the achievement of the other preconditions.The criteria for the pre-conditions are to be finalised by 2010."Realistically I would expect the climb to remain open for at least a number of years", Mr Garrett said."The industry is guaranteed at least 18 months’ notice before the eventual closure so they have enough time to adjust their tour planning and marketing." In-depth: All the latest travel news Follow our Twitter blog Follow our travel reporter and travel editor’s Twitter blog

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