Uluru climbing ban: Tourists flock to rock in order to beat ban

Tourists flocking to climb Uluru before the practice is banned in October are breaking laws and leaving rubbish and sewage, with locals fearing they could be saddled with long-term damage.

Australians on self-driving trips had descended onto the landmark ahead of its closure to climbers on October 26, said Stephen Schwer, chief executive of Tourism Central Australia.

With camping venues at capacity, tourists were veering off-track, with potentially long-lasting damage.

"We are seeing increases in rubbish and illegal roadside camping and generally the kind of behaviour which degrades the environment," Mr Schwer said.

Visitors who had not booked in advance were driving up and realising there were no available camping sites. They were then pulling up on the side of the road or going off-road to camp, not realising they were trespassing on private property.

Mr Schwer said part of the confusion was that a lot of private land in the Northern Territory, often spanning a million acres or more, was not marked by fences.

"What people aren't realising is they're not just wide open spaces. Sometimes they're cattle property or camel farms ... it might be Aboriginal land that's being managed, it might be protected land being managed by a conservation group or national park," he said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

And up they go on # uluru

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He asked visitors to plan in advance before making the journey to ensure they had proper campgrounds to stay at.

He also respectfully asked visitors not to climb Uluru, for a host of reasons.

"We have seen a reduction in the number of plants and animal species at the base of the rock," he said.

"I'm not going to spell it out but there are no toilets on top of the rock, there are no toilets on the climb."

It was also dangerous, he said, with people having died on the climb and injuries occurring "almost every day".

"Thirdly it's to respect the wishes of the Aboriginal owners of the land. The Anangu people own the land and their wish is for people not to climb the rock," he said.

The climb has long been discouraged by the Anangu people, who consider the area sacred.

Parks Australia, which manages the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, has also asked visitors to respect the wishes of the Anangu people.

A spokesperson for Parks Australia confirmed there were "certainly" visitors travelling with the intention to climb Uluru before the closure. However, they added that other factors also contributed to the increase such as the school holidays and new direct flights to Ayers Rock Airport.

They urged visitors not to camp illegally or dump rubbish and encouraged people to book accommodation and campsites in advance.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Made it #tufferthanithought #uluru #cooberpedy

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Lyndee Severin, manager of the Curtin Springs inn and campground about 100 kilometres from Uluru, said the behaviour of some tourists could have a lasting impact on locals.

The increase in Australian families on self-driving trips had been "on steroids" since the start of the winter school holidays, she said, believing it was due to parents rushing to give their children the experience of climbing the landmark.

She said travellers were leaving their rubbish outside proper campgrounds where it could be days before rubbish collectors came through.

"There are certainly some [tourists] who aren't being careful of their rubbish because we've got it laying all over the place," she said.

Campers with portable chemical toilets were simply emptying them along the road instead of going to the specialised dump sites available as they are required to do.

"What we're finding is there are a lot of campers who don't want to stand in line to dump their toilets and so just dump it along the road somewhere," she said.

If this waste was being unknowingly dumped on land belonging to organic cattle farms, it could threaten the farm's organic accreditation.

And she said she had caught people making uncontrolled campfires - a risk in an area that rarely sees rain. Grass lost to fire could take years to recover, she said.

The key message from Mr Schwer, Ms Severin and the national park's management was to plan in advance.

"Coming to remote areas you need to have booked your accommodation and your hire care before you come here," Ms Severin said.

"If you're driving here you need to plan your trip so you do know where you're going to stay, so you can stay legally and be respectful of the people's land who you're driving through."

See also: Twenty things that will shock first-time visitors to Uluru

See also: A new era dawns for our greatest rock star

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