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September 28, 2022

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Chris Gee, Byron Bay

Indigenous readers be advised that the following letter contains references to persons deceased.

I read with some interest and also, I am sad to admit, disappointment, the article by Marc Hendrickx (Echo, 17 February).

As a climber I understand his concerns and can empathise with his sense of potential loss and need to protect what is important to him, but am not convinced by his arguments.

I am particularly concerned with his criticism of NPWS for preferencing the views of the Bundjalung nation over those of the late Ngaraakwal Elder Marlene Boyd, who stated, ‘How can the public experience the spiritual significance of the land if they do not climb the summit and witness creation’.

While these are noble sentiments and have merit, this does not make them represent what the Aboriginal community want.

Mr Hendrickx has criticised NPWS for preferencing the views of an entire nation over those of one individual. On the contrary, it would be incompetence bordering on negligence if NPWS chose the opinions of one individual over the wishes of an entire nation who are the official custodians of the land.

While I do not have his geological experience, it is plainly obvious that the mountain with its narrow roads and gorges and privately landlocked perimeter has severe limitations in access and parking.

The mountain is subject to a high volume of diverse and sometimes inappropriate visitation uses. The only way to expand facilities and usage is to negatively impact on the natural environment. I fail to see how this would be considered good management practice. Even if Wollumbin is eventually closed to the public, as happened with Uluru, there is still a whole continent of alternative climbing, walking and exploring experiences that are available.

The loss of a few iconic sites [to wider public access] is not terminal, and if it means respecting Aboriginal wishes and contributing to reconciliation, it is a small price, and one I am personally willing to pay.


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