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Byron Shire
August 2, 2021

Geologist says Mt Warning is safe to climb

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An engineering geologist with over twenty years specialising in landslide risk assessment says he has a strong belief that our national parks and the natural wonders they hold should be available to all Australians.

Geologist Marc Hendrickx believes everyone should be allowed to climb Wollumbin. Photo supplied.

Mark Hendrickx says he finds it sad that access to the natural world in Australia has been turned into a political football by bureaucrats and Aboriginal groups more interested in exercising power than respecting traditional views, and the cultural beliefs of others who enjoy bushwalking and climbing mountains.

In an open letter to the Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean MP, Hendrickx says that documents obtained through FOI/GIPA reveal NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have misled the minister and the public about safety issues at Mt Warning.

‘A NPWS visitor safety assessment report classified risks of landslide, rock fall and slope stability as “medium”. A report by geotechnical professionals found the risk of slope stability to be low. In its information to the public however NPWS have classified this risk as “extreme” and “catastrophic”.

FOI documents

‘NPWS have repeated the mistake for other hazards. Based on the FOI documents it is clear that NPWS have confused exposure for risk.

‘Based on the visitor safety assessment report and other risk assessments the risk of the summit track is similar to other Grade 4-5 walks in the state. There is no reason it should be closed.’

Mr Hendrickx, who is based at Berowra near Sydney, says that for years the NSW NPWS have been actively seeking to reduce visitors to the Mt Warning National Park. ‘The bureaucratic term for this is “demarketing”. NSW NPWS have exaggerated safety claims and environmental issues and misinformed the public about Aboriginal claims on the mountain.

Marlene Boyd

‘It preferences the negative views of the Bundjalung Nation over the inspirational message of Ngaraakwal Elder Marlene Boyd RIP who said in 2007: “How can the public experience the spiritual significance of this land if they do not climb the summit and witness creation!”

‘NPWS also ignores other Aboriginal opinions that would see the summit remain open for visitors,’ he said.

‘NSW NPWS no longer promotes the summit experience and it has also passively discouraged visitation by lack of action on access, parking, security and commercial operations. While the public have little chance of overturning the looming irrational ban on access, it may be possible for local businesses to at least get recompense for losses that will arise as a result of the ban.

‘There may be a case against NSW NPWS for the impact its policies have had on business income and the value of local businesses. While I’m not a lawyer, it seems NSW NPWS have an obligation to fairly compensate the people it has impacted with its actions on just terms.’

NPWS not consulted Aboriginal stakeholders

Mr Hendrickx also says in his letter to the minister that he should note that NPWS have not properly consulted with Aboriginal stakeholders and have excluded groups that encourage the climb from discussions. ‘This is a breach of National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 No 80 section 30K (2a): the conservation of natural values, buildings, places, objects, features and landscapes of cultural value to Aboriginal people in accordance with the cultural values of the Aboriginal people to whose heritage the buildings, places, objects, features or landscapes belong.

‘Based on information released, the Minister must strip NPWS of management authority of the Mt Warning/Wollumbin National Park. NPWS are not acting in good faith in accordance with the Act and have breached the public’s trust.

‘It is clear they have misled the minister and public about safety and Aboriginal cultural attitudes and they have deliberately “demarketed” the park for decades.

‘They should hang their heads in shame at what they have done to this outstanding natural attraction that is owned by all Australians. The government needs to appoint a park board made up of local stakeholders to return some common sense, truth and balance to park management.’

Mr Hendrickx has outlined what he suggests is a plan to see the Mt Warning National Park permanently closed by November 2022.

Documents obtained through FOI/GIPA

He said documents obtained through FOI/GIPA from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) reveal:

• A ‘Final Wollumbin Closure Event’ is planned for 25 November 2022.

• A ‘deconstruction plan’ points to removal of summit lookouts to be completed by 30 June 2022.

• NPWS have NO intention of re-opening the park to the public.

• The closure affects the entire park – the public will be banned from the Summit trail and the much shorter Lyrebird Walk.

Mr Henrickx said public information released about the claimed safety risks has a critical error. ‘Or is it a deliberate attempt to mislead?’ he wonders. ‘NPWS has confused risk for exposure! The claimed “extreme” and “catastrophic” risks are in error and these hazards are assigned a “medium” risk in NPWS’ own safety assessment. For the hazards listed the risk is the same as other Grade 4-5 walks in the state.  NPWS have mislead the Minister and public.’ he said.

He added that ‘a slope stability assessment completed by geotechnical professionals found risks to visitors from landslide and rockfall in the park were lower than traveling by train in Australia. (Their assessment conforms with my own that shows risk to individuals from rock falls and landslides is on the order of one in a billion – this is a very low risk).’

In conclusion, Mark Hendrickx said consultations with Aboriginal groups have not included all groups or considered and paid respect to the diverse range of views, some of which encourage climbing Mt Warning.

See https://righttoclimb.blogspot.com/2021/02/foi-bombshell-permanent-ban-on-mt.html for links to the documents..


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24 COMMENTS

  1. Have you met any NSW NPWS “rangers”? Most of them could not manage their way out of a wet paper bag. Left wing extremists most of them as well so this comes as no surprise.

  2. While it is reassuring to have a geological expert confirming what we all know, that the National Parks, through determined under-funding over decades, have chosen to relinquish control of our parks to those least qualified to conserve our national treasures.
    Though it may appeal to the political correctness that has been fostered throughout the country , the fact remains that conservation is a serious and vital pursuit and can’t be outsourced to an unqualified, poorly educated pressure group.
    The agenda of exclusion of the general public from any area that one particular racial group decides is for their exclusive use, has been gaining momentum and while this might suit the reduced capabilities of the dept. it does represent an increasing, incremental theft of public assets. The same is exemplified by the sudden interest shown in the site set aside for increasing our water security with the construction of the new dam at Dunoon.
    Cheers G”)

  3. In 2005 I made enquires about a parka permit to take small groups of people to the summit several times a week as a commercial operation. I was told the current permits would expire and half the people who decided such things were aboriginal and getting them around a table to assess and agree to approval was near impossible, then I could be waiting and in limbo with any applicant ion for an indefinite period of time.. I also believe that the only way to connect humans better with the land is to get them to places like the Mt Warning summit. We are losing our connection to MotherEarth and increasingly damaging what should be sacred (Nature) and valuing what is man made over the natural world, our original home.

    • interesting (or exhausting?)- double/cross/split? – view you’ve got there: expecting entitlement to a commercial (manmade) venture, stomping up wollumbin with hordes of people several times the week, & with the other eye simpering in good moral fashion that the values of our natural environment should be held superior to all else. which is the real you, please?

  4. Mark Hendrickx (an engineering geologist who specialises in landslide risk assessment) says he has a strong belief that Wollumbim (amongst other areas) should be available to all Australians. He is entitled to his opinion as an individual but I can’t see what his qualifications have to do with it. I might be a retired garbologist, but my opinion is no less important than his.

    By the way “Echo”, can you please refer to Mt Warning as Wollumbin in future, or at least have both names together, so Australians get used to its proper name, much the same way as we were educated re Uluru/Ayers Rock. Thank you.

  5. Mt Warning must remain open to everyone.
    From the National Parks Association of NSW: “Although their primary purpose is the protection of biodiversity, National Parks also deliver other invaluable economic, social, cultural and health benefits to Australians. Future generations deserve the right to see these natural values intact and protected as we do today.”
    Unfortunately, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service have forgotten their role with regard to Mt Warning, and have sided with political activists that simply want to assert their will through misinformation and outright lies.

  6. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean we have to climb all over it. Give it a rest, there’s no shortage of photos, drone and aerial footage.

    The rescue statistics were rapidly increasing, over 2 a week, placing strain on rescue services that are precious resources. Volunteers should not be having to hike up the mountain all week and carry people down.

    Humanity are like parasites, multiplying in unsustainable numbers and inflicting ourselves in everything.

    • You sound like a very miserable person. Maybe you should go out more and enjoy a walk once a while. There’s always going to be people getting rescued all over Australia but that does not mean we should not go outside.

  7. I would hope we as a nation could say SORRY in as many ways possible for the massacres and horrific treatment of Australia’s original inhabitants. Show respect wherever possible.
    If this means not trampling over a site considered sacred by them…and we need to hear from Aboriginal elders and their communities on this… so be it. Its not enough to hear some white fella present his case to keep Wollumbin open for climbing; no matter how many letters he has after his name. Find some other mountain to climb. Surely there’s more around?

    • Here are the words of Ngaraakwal Elder and Mt Warning custodian Marlene Boyd RIP: “I do not oppose the public climbing of Mt Warning – How can the public experience the spiritual significance of this land if they do not climb the summit and witness creation!”

      Climbers of Mt Warning honour her by walking to the summit.

  8. It is up to the Bundjalung elders whether the walk remains open or not. It’s that simple. The place is sacred and belongs to them.

    It is not up to the NPWS, the NSW Gov, or the pro-climbing website Right To Climb.

    • I’ll be listening to Ngaraakwal Elder and Mt Warning custodian Marlene Boyd RIP: “I do not oppose the public climbing of Mt Warning – How can the public experience the spiritual significance of this land if they do not climb the summit and witness creation!”

  9. Marc own up to your views about the right to climb everything. Your webpage is about your cultural right to climb anything including feigned indignation at not been about to climb Uluru. Stop beating it up as a npws conspiracy. If you have an issue take it with the gross underfunding of national parks.

    • Rod, they are not underfnded they are mismanaged. We all have a right to use long established walking tracks to access remarkable natural places in our National Parks irrespective of the ideological beliefs of others. If Aboriginal groups wish to deny themselves and their families the joy of witnessing outstanding views of the world that’s their business but their beliefs should never be enforced on others. I’m not forcing anyone to climb and they should not be preventing anyone from climbing especially while bushwalking and climbing have such a low impact on the environment.

  10. To all the left wing fools in the Tweed shire council region: You wanted this, you got it. Land rights all the way baby! You have now lost one of your favourite and beloved walking tracks. SUCK IT! Don’t you hate it when your over educated and opinionated view points backfire and take something away from you? bah hahahaha
    You jokers whinge about the white man polluting the planet, but you still want your SUV’s and iPhone’s. Then you whinge about land rights, then you whinge when as a result of land rights, your are now banned from a particular national park. Maybe you should go back to Uni and do another helpful arts degree. It seems to be working wonders for you all so far.

  11. Mt Warning belongs to All Australian, and with Respect, All Australians can and do recognize the importance of Mt Warning to the Aboriginal Culture and Community. Closing Mt Warning to visits from fellow Australians could contribute to misunderstandings by fellow Australians of the Aboriginal Culture as oppose to a mutual respect and is in disregard of the facts that Hikers are Nature Lovers and would respect the land and Mt Warning as much as any other group of people, to suggest otherwise is insulting to say the least.
    Many people would like to do the less stringent walks in the area and to at least be able to go to the trail head of the summit walk and be in the awesome energies of this wondrous mountain.
    No one group of people should have such power as to deny others the experiences which will give a greater understanding of the Aboriginal Culture. The Uluru Climb closure is different, as people can still connect with the amazing energies of Uluru without climbing it, but with Mt Warning – Wollumbin, the situation is different.

  12. If they ban it I will personally hike up to the summit within a few weeks of the rule coming into effect. I love legal battles, this would be a beauty!

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