Climbing Uluru: the debate has changed

For decades Australia’s most iconic landmark Uluru was plagued by conflict between Northern Territory tourism and the Anangu people about climbing their culturally significant rock, but that is changing with new talks about introducing culturally-sensitive conditions and regulations on Australian Tourism Industry.

Tour guides encourage their crew not to climb, signs around the park urge visitors not to, and many visitors choose to listen. Instead they enjoy the stories and history of the rock, walk around the base to view the ancient paintings, take photographs of the eerie formations that correlate with the Dreamtime tales, and sign then their names in a guest book located in the Cultural Centre in support of the Anangu people’s wishes not to climb.

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(Original photograph by Nikolina Gagic. Take note of the shadow of a face in the middle of the photograph.)

G Adventures’ CEO Guide Brett Grant has worked as a guide in Uluru for two years, and before that lived and worked in the area for three. He explains that there has been a miscommunication between parties: “The Anangu people’s opposition is  not always represented accurately at times.

“One; the Anangu people do not consider themselves the owners of Uluru, but the protectors of the rock, the land surrounding, and the creatures that inhibit it, which includes the people who visit and climb, and two; the rock carries spiritual importance to them and the climb, which has seen over 35 people plummet to their death, is too dangerous and they can’t stand aside and say nothing  because their responsibility is to protect.”

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(Original photograph by Nikolina Gagic.)

“At the moment all that the climb entails is metal posts jammed into the rock and a chain for people to hold onto. It takes three hours to get to the top and the only way to get down is the same way you got up.

“Weather conditions can make Uluru 40 degrees (celsius) hot, heavy winds, and heavy rainfall makes the climb slippery the climb is closed in summer and whenever the weather is forecast to be dangerous.

“Climbers let a lot of their rubbish, like water bottles and food wrappers drop to the bottom, and they relieve their bladders onto the rock and travels down into the water holes, which is in a lot of people’s opinion a rude thing to do for something spiritually significant,” Grant says.

It is no secret that for years the climb was met with plenty of controversy and offence over its spiritual importance to the Anangu people being brushed off and their concerns ignored by officials. The previous concern for the tourism industry were that the destination would dwindle as a tourist destination because that’s what attracted the most visitors.

However, the dropping numbers of climbers since the early 2000’s has not seen a decrease in the 400,000 annual visitors to Uluru. Katie Nolan, worker at the Cultural Centre, says the guest book averages around 2000 signatures a week during the months of June to August, the safest time to climb.

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In fact, there is expectations of increasing visitor numbers with the opening of Jetstar direct flights from Sydney to Ayers Rock Airport, and the millions of dollars in the refurbishment and rejuvenation of Ayers Rock Resort. With increasing number of visitors, more people will be asked to make the decision of whether to climb or not.

Now the Northern Territory Tourism are aiming to close the gap between visitors and the Indigenous through a Reconciliation Plan for the next two years, which might see a new Uluru in the future.

The Reconciliation Plan for 2014-16 outlines that “Australia’s national identity is enhanced by Indigenous history, culture and heritage. We believe tourism is a powerful force in building and supporting new creative, cultural, economic and social opportunities for Indigenous communities across the country.

“We are committed to assisting  First Nations people to share their stories and experiences with the world and believe that we have a unique responsibility to promote Indigenous culture globally through our promotion and marketing of Australia as a destination.”

reconciliation plan for northern territory tourism

(Sreenshot from Reconciliation Plan document linked above.)

The plan aims to encourage the Indengnous to have a voice in the matter of Tourism Australia, and to support them to spread their message and concerns.

In an article by traveller.com,  another guide at Uluru explains there’s an alternative to closing the climb “some Anangu would like to develop the climbing route, increase the safety standards to something similar to the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, and reopen it to those willing to pay for the experience” says John Sweeny.

This would mean safety concerns eliminated, environmental concerns of the impact footprint has on the rock reduced, and visitors enabled to get the views and the photographs.

What do you think is the best solution for both the Anangu people and Tourism Australia? Comment below.

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Ghost tourism: travelling for spooks

What is it about haunted houses and tours that is so popular when travelling?

Is it the adrenaline rush, the thrill? Or is it a novelty experience you do for a laugh?

Ghost tourism- a booming industry 

Whichever the case the ghost tourism industry is booming.

A wonderful article to read on this is by ThunderTix here.

CBD Ghost Tours

As part of the research I booked in a ghost tour within Brisbane City called Ghost Tours CBD Walk. While in my final moments eating before making my way to King George Square  I was pleasantly surprised to find a group of 14 strangers waiting for the tour.

As we started on our walk I spoke to a woman from Toowoomba, Margaret Alger, 46 who said this was her 3rd ghost tour in her holiday to Brisbane. When asked what was so appealing about a ghost tour she simply said “the heritage aspect about it”.

While two attendees left within the first 30 minutes the rest of us just kind of giggled at the stories and her eerie makeup and verbal expressions of the words “blood”, “scratches”, “curling shrieks”.

There was one moment, however, that everyone got tested. We were made to walk alone, one by one, through a corridor at night where it was rumoured to be inhibited by the ghost of a woman.

Audio is below.

Did you hear the voices toward the end? Probably just the others waiting below but if you’re an audio expert please analyse it in the comments below.

It wasn’t until the end of the tour that the guide explained it was meant to be for fun that I realised the advertising was not correct. And that if you do want a real ghost tour you must do your research before forking out $30 because they all will blatantly promise fear.

So I’ve compiled a list of tours/places that have left people numb and terrified by the end. They are all located within the Brisbane area.

Authentic ghost tours

First thing you must take note of is that there’s a difference between ghost tours and ghost hunting. Ghost tours offer the novelty experience of stories and visits to unrestricted areas, and ghost hunting is the practice of walking into restricted areas with a torch, a camera and ghost finding equipment.

Here is a short list of authentic ghost tours and hunts in and around Brisbane:

1.  Abandoned Wacol Asylum

2. Boggo Road Jail

3. Toowong Cemetery

That’s it! You’re more than guaranteed a chill going through these places at night. There’s not many ghost tours that offer “real” ghosts. But the industry is booming for a reason- not everybody cares for authenticity.

Novelty, heritage, and thrill are all popular reasons why people participate in the ghost tourism.

Be sure to do your research first!

Much nerd,

Ninka xx

Save Our Spit vs a Cruise Ship Terminal

I will be live blogging the Save Our Spit Community Event at Albert Waterways Hall in Broadbeach  tonight where the keynote speaker will be Professor Ross Klein, as well as a few notable others including the Save Our Spit Alliance (SOSA) President Dr Steve Gration and Vice President Luke Sorenson.

UPDATE:

19:02:

Dr Steve Gration welcomes the crowd who cheer him on admiringly. He  thanks and shifts the applause to the communities and support groups new and old and is met with any even bigger cheer.

The topic is on the Gold Coast Cruise Ship Terminal: the Reality vs the Spin and Dr Steve Gration continues on to talk about the analysis of major reports in the government that have had input data that has been ” faulty, underscored, and not taken into account normal conditions of the day-to-day Broadbeach waters”.

The common errors in the data are summarised as:

  •   Wind tests for north, south, east, and west
  •   Sand capacity on and offshore
  •   Water levels throughout the day

These reports can be found on the Save Our Spit website under Documents here.

In the last month the Save Our Spit community group was able to push the government into giving up their plans to rip apart the Spit, but instead have focused all their energy onto Wave Break Island, Broadbeach to build a casino and cruise ship terminal.

The problems here remain; the seaways, channels, and broad waters are not viable for such a development.

19:16:

Lois Levy the Campaign Co-ordinator for Gecko: Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council rises in front of the audience next.

She shares the timeline in which the partnership of Gecko and Save Our Spit Alliance have worked together in when it all started in 2003.

2003-2006: The first campaigns involved a whole lot of protests and opposition. One piece of the victory was achieved- The Australian Society for Limnology (ASL) found that the broad waters were not viable for a cruise terminal.

2006-2012: Second round of campaigns involved trying to get the government to preserve the Spit and Wave Break Island permanently but they declined.

2012-present: Last week they won the fight for The Spit, and they are continuing to fight the “massively inappropriate development” on Wave Break Island, where there are plans for a casino and nightlife repeating Surfer’s Paradise’s profits.

She highlights the opportunities this area has for the community and the city of Gold Coast:

  • Swimming, surfing, diving, whale watching, jet skiing, recreational fishing, picnics, and family time.
  • Habitat of migratory birds (who migrate from Syberia and Alaska to the Spit); turtles, whales, and the return of dugongs.

“All this beauty is right in the heart of a city of half a million people…this can be a money-making venture, since politicians only think of money, it’s a tourist mega just as it is.

“This Broadwater is worth 4.16 billion dollars already”.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Coast,_Queensland)

The Reality of what happens next if ASF Consortium’s plans to get given the land go ahead:

  •  10-15 years of construction sites including trucks, noise, dust, and other pollutants;
  • Labrador will lose its sea views;
  • Traffic generated will cause congestion (with the minimum 15,000 spaces planned for the development of the cruise ship terminal and casino, etc);
  • waters will be dredged and muddy;
  • all habitat will be gone- no whales, birds, turtles, or dugongs;
  • the land will be given away and not paid for like other businesses, and so the tax payers will be funding the infrastructure instead of ASF.

Lois Levy speaks of the plans to try and pass legislation to have the Broad waters as a permanent recreational spot: ideas of BBQ areas, picnic tables, accessible toilet blocks, and the planting of more trees start to float around the room.

19:32:

Dr Alex Douglas, State Member for Gaven in Nerang gives an insight into the policies and the vision of the “preposterous development plans”.

He speaks of the stability issues raised in this plan and explains that a stable Broadbeach would be one where public access is enabled safely and for community purposes not restricted public access.

He also shares a conversation he had with a Federal member of Parliament, where it was revealed there were no plans for any terminal, just a get rich quick scheme of building a casino with 3000 poker machines just to persuade the government give away the land to reap economical benefits. It seems the cruise ship terminal in itself is a spin to the real motive that lies underneath.

19:42:

Penny Toland, an ALP Candidate for Gaven in Nerang, reads out the motions for the Gold Coast terminal, in which it is stated many times by numerous LNP members that the decision to rip apart the Broadwaters were in favour of the community’s opinon.

The atmosphere in the room is engaged and touchy at hearing this with many members of the crowd shouting “rubbish”.

She highlights how the decision for the current Mayor to sneak in the idea of the cruise ship terminal 2 days before the election was a way for them to justify their decision with the community to be able to spin: ‘Voters were well aware of what they were voting for’.

Quotations she read out aloud are available at the Hansard documents.

Penny urges the audience to get behind community support groups so that the voices are clear and undeniable for when the opposition want to put words in the mouths of the community.

Save Our Spit

19:51:

Dr Steve Gration compares the idea of Mt. Cootha in Brisbane being spinned as a ‘man-made structure anyway’ (as argued by oppositional politicians), and so ASF asking for the trees to be cut off to make room for a helipad to take in wealthy tourists and shutting off the rest of the community. The comparison has the audience in stitches as they find it the same level of absurdity to what is happening in Broadbeach waters.

19:53:

Professor Ross A. Klein is an international authority on the cruise ship industry. He has published four books, six monographs/reports for non-governmental organisations, and approximately three dozen articles and book chapters. He has also served as an expert witness in cases involving the cruise industry, and has been invited four times to testify before the U.S. Congress.

Tonight he focused his attention on the Gold Coast and the problems that are present in planning a cruise terminal before one is even built.

City’s think that all cruise ships are the same size, social class, and financial benefits.

If you build it, they will come?

Where are the ships going to come from? Most cruise ships coming from Sydney stop off at Newcastle and because it is the first stop not many people spend their money on shore. Having a cruise ship come from Brisbane is just ridiculous. So with domestic markets failing, international markets are the one to focus on. However, many cruise ships devoted to Asia are 160,000 tonnes and would be unable to fit into the terminal and the channels and many overseas travellers pick New Zealand, and the South Pacific as the destination to cruise to (53% of Australians are part of that too).

The Gold Coast’s priority is to answer the unanswered questions on:

  1. Taxation
  2. Sewage treatment
  3. Itineraries
  4. Employment opportunities for Australians

20:35:

A documentary is presented to the audience which can be found on the Save Out Spit Alliance website. For more information on events and what Save Our Spit Alliance do for the environment please visit their website.

Thank you for tuning in on this blog and I hope this has opened your eyes on how tourism and government can be manipulated and also an insight into the cruising industry.

Much nerd,

Ninka

The future of air travel: mobile passports

Will you be using the new Mobile Passport Control app?

If you are a U.S. or Canadian citizen you have the chance to be among the first in the world to go through customs using your ‘selfie’ and your smartphone.

The app lets you skip the line at US airports as you go through a special lane after you’ve completed the four relatively quick and simple steps.  Once in the lane you show your paper passport and they will scan a digital, secure bar-coded receipt from your smartphone. The app is free and said to be highly secure as its sponsored by the Airports Council International-North America and authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The app was designed and developed by Airside Mobile, Inc. – a proven innovator in mobile technology for airport processes. They have been pioneers of mobile solutions to reduce wait times in the industry including mobile boarding passes, food delivery to the gate, expedited airport security programs, and more.

Their apps can be downloaded from the Apple Store under the names B4 You Board and Mobile Passport-Officially authorised by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

 B4 You Boardmobile passport officially
The idea is still fresh and in its trial phase and a good article to read about the specifications are by Future Travel here.

The app is a sample of an innovative look into the future of travel. So what does everyone think?

Comment your opinions below!

 

Much nerd,

Ninka