CLIMBING CONTENTION: Wollumbin overlooking the cane fields of the Tweed.
CLIMBING CONTENTION: Wollumbin overlooking the cane fields of the Tweed. Ryan Fowler Photography

Could Tweed follow Uluru ban?

CLIMBING Uluru will be prohibited from 2019, but it's unclear whether a similar ban will be sought for the Tweed's own iconic landmark.

The use of Wollumbin, also known as Mt Warning, by hikers has long been a point of contention between the community, visitors and Aboriginal groups.

Federal Member for Richmond Justine Elliot said while no one had yet approached her seeking restrictions of a complete ban on climbing the 1156m peak, she would listen to the Aboriginal community's concerns if they did come forward.

"First and foremost, I would listen to what the indigenous community says,” Mrs Elliot said.

Calls to crack down on those climbing the mountain were reaffirmed after American tourist Sam Beattie, 24, died after being struck by lighting while illegally camping on the mountain on December 5 last year.

After Mr Beattie's death, Tweed Shire Council's indigenous heritage officer Rob Appo said the Aboriginal community was impacted when hikers were injured.

With about a dozen rescues on the mountain each year, trips and slips are a regular occurrence.

Discussions about banning hikers from navigating the popular mountain have reignited, following the news that walking up Uluru in the Northern Territory will be banned by the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board.

Mt Warning Tours owner, Michael Simmons, said a ban was "almost bound to happen”.

Ultimately, Mr Simmons said he would be "100 per cent guided by the indigenous community” as to whether a ban to hike the mountain should be implemented.

As a commercial tourism operator, Mr Simmons said he had chosen not to climb the mountain in line with cultural considerations to the indigenous community.

He said the indigenous history behind the mountain's formation and its impacts on the area was integrated into his tour packages.

But others, such as Mt Warning Rainforest Park's Mark Bourchier, don't share his view.

"I would be very disappointed if they closed the mountain,” Mr Bourchier said.

He was concerned businesses in the Tweed Valley would be severely impacted if a similar ban to that at Uluru was implemented at Wollumbin.

Of those staying at his park, Mr Bourchier claimed about 60 per cent of tourists come to endure the five-hour round trip hike.

Arakwal Aboriginal Corporation acting general manager Sharon Sloane said the branch would support anyone that attempted to enforce a ban on climbing Wollumbin. She said Wollumbin was "a sacred men's ground within the Bundjalung Nation” for the Arakwal people.

An Office of Environment and Heritage spokesman said there were no plans to prevent people climbing Wollumbin.

"On-site signage advises visitors that Aboriginal people hold the summit to be sacred and they are asked to consider the Aboriginal people's wishes that they do not climb it,” he said.

However the National Parks and Wildlife Service website makes no mention of the mountain's main walking track, instead listing the Lyrebird track which skirts the base of Wollumbin.

The Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council and Tweed Mayor Katie Milne were approached for comment.



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