The debate over whether it’s appropriate to climb Wollumbin – also known as Mt Warning – could ultimately be decided by concerns over the safety of the track.
A number of traditional custodians of the sacred site have called for non-Indigenous people to refrain from undertaking the five-hour trek.
Up to 100,000 people climb the mountain each year, according to tourism data. However, some leave rubbish such as soiled toilet paper by the side of the track and at the stunning peak.
The track has been closed for much of the past year owing to COVID-19, and it now appears it may stay that way.
A safety audit and an engineering assessment conducted during the closure have identified significant safety issues with the final climb to the Wollumbin summit.
These include an ‘extreme risk of landslide, rockfall and failure of the chain section of the track’.
A spokesperson from the National Parks and Wildlife Service said the current closure had been extended, at least until May.
Tellingly, the spokesperson also said that the future of the summit track was now under consideration.
This was being done in consultation with various key stakeholders, including the traditional owners of the site.
‘We understand that locals and visitors may be disappointed by the extended closure, however our main priority must always be to ensure the safety of visitors and staff,’ the spokesperson said.
‘We will now consider the future of the Summit track, in consultation with key community and tourism stakeholders, including Aboriginal Elders and knowledge holders.’
Wollumbin, which means ‘cloud catcher’ in some Aboriginal languages, is a traditional place of cultural law, initiation and spiritual education for the people of the Bundjalung Nation.
Under Bundjalung law, only certain people can climb the summit.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service asks visitors to respect the wishes of the local Indigenous mob and ‘avoid climbing this very difficult track’.