‘Ridiculous’: Hanson‘s Uluru whinge
IN almost three months, the climb up Uluru will be closed for good - but the decision to shutter the hour-long hike is not sitting well with some people.
One Nation's Pauline Hanson lashed the upcoming closure this morning and said it was "no different to coming out and saying, 'We're going to close down Bondi Beach because there are some people that have drowned'. How ridiculous is that?"
Appearing on Today, Ms Hanson said nothing needed to change because "we've been climbing the Ayers Rock, or Uluru, for many years".
"The Australian taxpayers put in millions, hundreds of millions of dollars into it and they're wanting another $27.5 million to upgrade the airport there for the resort," she said.
"Now the resort has only returned $19 million to the taxpayers only just recently. It employs over 400 people there, 38 per cent are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
"The fact is, it's money-making. It's giving jobs to indigenous communities, and you've got thousands of tourists who go there every year and want to climb the rock."
In November 2017, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board started the countdown of when the climb would be closed permanently.
The date of October 26, 2019 was put forward - a significant day for the Anangu indigenous community because it was that day in 1985 that the government returned ownership of the land to the traditional owners.
But since setting the date, the number of people climbing Uluru has skyrocketed.
Before park management announced it was closing the climb, around 140 people were climbing Uluru each day.
Since then, the number has doubled and at times tripled to 300-500 daily visitors.
Ms Hanson said she was struggling to understand the "cultural sensitivity" around Uluru.
"It is an iconic site for all Australians," she said.
"I can't see the cultural sensitivity when people have been climbing the rock for all these years, and all of a sudden they want to shut it down? I don't get it, I really don't get it, and how are they going to pay back the Australian taxpayer?"
Ms Hanson was debating the topic with radio host Steve Price, who said climbing Uluru could be managed and seen as a positive.
"We go on the outside of the Harbour Bridge, we dive the Barrier Reef," he said.
"What we should be doing is assisting the local indigenous population to make this a growing tourism concern. We've seen, apparently, a huge spike in people that want to climb it since the announcement it's going to close in October. So that shows there's a hunger for tourists to do it.
"If it's well managed Deb (Today co-host Deb Knight) I don't have an issue with it. We need to sit down with them and explain this could be a positive for them."
In the 12 months to June 2019, more than 395,000 people visited the Uluru-Kata National Park, according to Parks Australia, about 20 per cent more than the previous year.
Yet just 13 per cent of those who visited also climbed the rock, the government agency said.
Tourism operators say that Australian and Japanese tourists most commonly seek to climb Uluru.
The Aboriginal connection to the site dates back tens of thousands of years, and it has great spiritual and cultural significance to them.
"Since the hand back of Uluru and Kata Tjuta to traditional owners in 1985, visitors have been encouraged to develop an understanding and respect for Anangu and their culture," a Parks Australia spokesperson said.
"This is reflected in the 'please don't climb' message."
Last week, a photo taken at the base of Uluru went viral after it showed hordes of tourists snaking up the rock face.
The Anangu traditional landowners say tourists are leaving rubbish bins overflowing, illegally dumping human waste from caravans along the roadside and have made Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park the "busiest they've seen it".
"There's cars parked for one kilometre on either side of the road leading up to the carpark at the base," an unnamed photographer who supplied the photo to the ABC said.
At least 35 people have died while attempting to climb Uluru, and many others have been injured.
From 2011 to 2015, the climb was closed 77 per cent of the time due to dangerous weather conditions or cultural reasons.