The 'closed' sign at the base of Uluru. Picture: ZACHARY HOPE
The 'closed' sign at the base of Uluru. Picture: ZACHARY HOPE

Uluru debate goes into overdrive as climbing ban looms

MOST Territorians do not support the controversial closure of the Uluru climb, according to an NT News poll.

Tourists are still welcome to experience Uluru - but they won't be able to climb the famous monolith.

Talkback radio and social media lit up with people opposed to the decision to shut the climb from October 2019, made on Wednesday by the Uluru-Kata Tjuta management board.

An NT News online poll showed 63 per cent of respondents did not support the ban.

But the tourism industry and NT Government reckon they'll get over it.

Tourism Central Australia chief executive Stephen Schwer said he wasn't surprised by the negative reaction, but was confident it wouldn't translate into greater than a "small blip" in visitor numbers.

Mr Schwer said most complaints from international visitors to the park came from the opposite perspective.

"For a number of years, they've said 'how dare you keep the climb open', while domestically, it's a different message," Mr Schwer said.

"(Australians) have an emotional connection to Uluru, and some people feel it's their right to climb. But there are so many other ways to experience the rock." He said there were plenty of other ways for visitors to experience Uluru - from treks to scenic flights, segway tours and double decker buses. More tourism initiatives would be announced in the next two years, he said.

Anangu senior traditional owner and board chairman Sammy Wilson said Australians should be proud of the decision to shut the climb.

"This decision is for both Anangu and non-Anangu together to feel proud about; to realise, of course it's the right thing to close it," he said.

"The land has law and culture. We welcome tourists here. Closing the climb is not something to feel upset about but a cause for celebration."

He told the board Uluru's custodians had been "intimidated" into keeping it open.

"Over the years Anangu have felt a sense of intimidation, as if someone is holding a gun to our heads to keep it open," he said.

The climb will shut October 26, 2019 - the 34th anniversary of when Uluru and Kata Tjuta were handed back to the Anangu.

Under the terms of the park's latest management agreement, the climb would close permanently when the proportion of climbers falls below 20 per cent.

Only 16 per cent of the Uluru visitors on the days the climb was open between 2011 and 2015 chose to make the trek.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said Uluru's value came from its sacredness.

Banning the climb would help to preserve that value, he said.

"There's always been a lot of controversy around the climb, but I think the evidence shows the number of people who want to climb the rock has declined significantly, but at the same time we've seen the numbers of actual visitors go up since the Indigenous Lands Corporation invested in Yulara," he said. .

"Our competitive advantage as a nation in the global tourism market is 60,000 years of continuous living culture. That's only valuable when you respect it. The traditional owners have made it very clear what they want to happen."

He said Tourism Department staff would work with Central Australian tourism operators to help them prepare for the transition.

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