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Joint Media release
8 January 2010
Environment Minister Peter Garrett today approved the new management plan for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, including a requirement that clear preconditions be met before any plans to replace the climb with new visitor experiences could proceed.
Mr Garrett said the plan was prepared by the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of Management who had responded to public feedback on its draft plan, released last July, by developing the preconditions.
In accordance with the Board's plan, the climb will not be closed until at least one of the following conditions is met:
"I support the Board's decision to work towards closing the climb only after specific preconditions are met - 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," Mr Garrett said.
"Like the Board, I am also very conscious of the need to support tourism and to better integrate local culture with the economy. With these conditions I believe the plan strikes the right balance.
"I have asked the Director of National Parks to work closely with the tourism industry to develop for the Board a set of clear criteria on how these preconditions will be measured.
"This will be a clear and transparent process, establishing robust benchmarks and independent surveys to measure climber numbers and assess the achievement of the other preconditions.
"Realistically, I would expect the climb to remain open for at least a number of years. 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."
Mr Garrett said that if the preconditions were met the eventual closure of the climb would end the daily uncertainty about its availability, both for visitors and the tourism industry.
"We know from public feedback on the draft plan that many in the tourism industry find it difficult to organise their tours when the climb may need to be closed in strong winds, high temperatures or rain.
"The existing safety requirements meant that the climb was only open for 36 whole days in 2008. In 2009 there were only 55 days when the park didn't have to close it for at least part of the day."
In approving the plan, Mr Garrett considered 172 submissions received through the two-month public consultation process. One hundred and fifty-three submissions related to the climb - with 78 supporting and 75 opposing closure.
"I know that there are differing views on whether or not the climb should be closed," Mr Garrett said.
"However I believe the future for this internationally significant icon lies in visitor experiences that reflect its World Heritage values. It is one of the few places in the world renowned for its stunning natural environment, alongside living Aboriginal culture and these are great tourism drawcards we need to develop.
"We need to reach out to the next generation of visitors the tourism industry tells us want outstanding new experiences when they travel, and more opportunities to experience Indigenous culture.
"I agree with the Board and the tourism industry on the urgent need to develop these new experiences, so that a reinvigorated Uluru maintains its place in the global marketplace.
"I am pleased to announce that two tourism heavy-weights - John Morse and Rick Murray - have been commissioned to work with local Indigenous communities and the industry to help get new businesses up and running."
Mr Garrett said he expected the measurement criteria for the preconditions to be finalised by the middle of 2010.
For more information and a copy of the plan see www.environment.gov.au/parks/uluru