Mike Misso Park Manager Uluru-KataTjuta National Park Manager explains the closure of the Uluru climb to Tim Webster Talking Lifestyle radio Nov 6, 2017 Transcript.
Link to MP3 file
Why the ‘no climb’ decision will make visiting Uluru better
Tim Webster: Now last week the news that Uluru will officially be closed to climbers from October 2019 did make international news, but it's certainly not a new story. Many tourists, climbing the rock, the last thing on their list, is more being at the rock and seeing it, walking around it than climbing it, and taking in the very spiritual nature of it. Now for those who have been, you'll agree there is something very deeply moving about Uluru and to seeing it, you don’t need to climb it. Ah, and I went there with my big kids, a long time. And, if you see it, ahh… in a downpour, you know which we did, it’s absolutely breathtaking. Well Mike Misso is the UKTNP Park Manager, responsible for implementing that decision, to close it to climbing, and very happy to say that Mike joins us on the line. G'day Mate.
Mike Misso: G'day Tim, how are ya?
TW: I'm good mate, I must admit I'm surprised people still climb it. There's been a sign for years hasn’t there, requesting they don’t do it.
MM: Yeah, look what’s happened is our Park Management Plan specifies criteria that must be met in order for the climb to be closed, and last week our board had um, sort of acknowledged that criteria had been met, so up until that point in time it’s sort of been a person’s individual choice whether they climbed or not, and we encouraged people not to climb and in fact ahh, we think that message was working pretty strongly because visitor surveys showed in 2016 only 2% of people climbed, and around 9% had the intention to climb, or actually did climb. So we think over time those messages have actually worked to, um, encourage people not to climb.
(ed: these numbers don't seem to add up!)
TW: Is it more the international tourists mate, that do it, or the locals?
MM: Oh, it’s from what we understand, ah, it’s sort, err maybe a bit of an even split, but, um over time what has been encouraging is the total numbers have actually declined pretty strongly.
TW: Yeah, look I must say, we did. But it was a very long time ago, mate, back in the mid ‘80s with my two big boys, who are now in their 40s; ah and it’s a pretty steep thing, and you have to be pretty fit to do it; and I think there’s been a few, ah, heart attacks and maybe I think a few people have passed away, haven’t they, doing it. So you’d need to be deterred from doing it, I would have thought anyway.
MM: Yeah, look over 30 people have known to have died from climbing, and what I mean by that, people could, um, you know, potentially climb it, go to the resort and then you know, could have a heart attack later.
(ed. there have been just 2 deaths this century, risks of visiting Ayers Rock and the Olgas are much less than visiting the Grand Canyon... seriously!)
TW: That’s right.
MM: So, um, look, and the cultural significance of the closure um, from an Anangu perspective, so that’s the traditional owners of the park
MM: …um, very, um, um, you know, it’s one of those things, that was very tricky for Anangu to decide with the board to close it, but, um very strong support now for that closure and as I said, because of the cultural reasons associated with people climbing Uluru.
(ed Paddy Uluru: the physical act of climbing was of no cultural interest)
TW: Yeah, Mike just explain that to the listeners. Why it’s so important to the Traditional Owners for people not to climb Uluru.
MM: Well one of the, the things relates to safety. So, um, I’m not sure if, um, your listeners would be aware, but the Parks’ actually Aboriginal land. So Legally under Australian Law it’s Aboriginal land, and under traditional aboriginal law has always been aboriginal land, of course. And, so if, um, you’re inviting people to say your home, or, or you know, you’ve got a farm or something, and someone gets hurt on your property then you have a sense of responsibility. So that’s one really important aspect. And then there’s the cultural aspect. So the Park is a world heritage area. So because of, um, one of the key reasons is, because of the on-going traditions and associations , er, Traditional Owners have with their country including Uluru. So it’s, sort of, um, I liken it to other world heritage sites where, you know, you wouldn’t have people climbing over Machu Picchu or the pyramids, things like that.
(ed, The safety reason does not add up, there have only been two deaths attributed to climbing this century. Cultural reasons does not stack up as the climb is of no cultural interest. As for Macchu Picchu and the pyramids, both are man made, and you can climb Macchu Picchu along the famous Inca Trail. Ayers Rock is a natural feature this comparison and the reasoning simply does not stack up)
TW: No, exactly
MM: So, um, yeah, I think we are sort of just moving in a really good direction. And, and, I think it actually opens up a lot of opportunities for new tourism products So, I think it is a really good opportunity for the tourism industry, which by the way has actually given really strong support for the closure.
TW:Yeah, indeed. And it’s not like you’re not giving people plenty of time. It’s October 2019; so it’s a long way a way. (ed concept of time is not strong with these two!)
MM: Yeah, look and what that does that, um, it gives an opportunity for the tourism industry including the park and other operators to, to look at new tourism products, and or, sort of, um keep conducting the ones they do. So, I just thought I might, um, just outline some of the other experiences people can have in the park.
(ed so what can possibly replaced the awe and wonder of the climb?? Drum roll...)
TW: Please yeah.
MM: So um, look one of the things you know is a must do is, is really walking around Uluru, or at least parts of it. And we, we have a, a free ranger guided walk every day; called the Mala walk which actually explains some of the traditions and, um, the knowledge that’s still retained by traditional owners in the park. And, we also have the cultural centre where people can learn more about indigenous cultural, purchase indigenous art; so authentic art from the region, and also, um, there’s a whole range of others things. You can go on a, a BBQ tour 2km from Uluru at night, have a BBQ there and um, of course the, you know, the classic Uluru sunset. So there’s ah, a whole range of experiences and, and also beyond Uluru, sort of in the whole, ah region. So I encourage people who do come to Uluru which, which, we do, we want people to come here experience that Aboriginal culture; but, also maybe to spend some other, you know some extra days, sort of around Alice Springs and Western MacDonnell region as well.
(ed, so they replaced the climb, an iconic world class experience with... wait for it... a BBQ. Most visitors do this at the camp ground, the other things mentioned have been available for decades).
TW: You bet mate; and, ah, as I say, my boys and I were very lucky, ah, when we were there. It rained and, er Uluru in the rain is an extraordinary site.
MM: Yeah mate, yeah, very much so. So, actually last year we were ah, ah, blessed with er quite a few rain events and um, yeah just, just spectacular, as you say.
TW: Well; that’s terrific mate. It’s, you know, people I’m sure are respectful of this now. And, you’re giving plenty of time it’s October 2019, and from that time, er, officially you won’t be able to, er climb the rock. And you shouldn’t. I means there’s so many other things to do, as you say and, er be respectful of it, er, in perpetuity mate; and I thank you very much for your time.
MM: Ok, thanks for that Tim
TW: That’s Mike Misso.
(Ed. So much better now with the climb to be closed! So many other things to do! Well people, enjoy your over cooked steak, burnt snag and fly ridden salad, as you stare longingly at the climbing chain, you might just be able to make it out from 2km away! )