I made a press announcement about the release of documents obtained through FOI/GIPA from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service about the closure of the Mt Warning/Wollumbin National Park and its famous summit walk. The documents were posted to my Right to Climb blog. The post may be accessed via this link: http://righttoclimb.blogspot.com/2021/02/foi-bombshell-permanent-ban-on-mt.html
The main findings of the release included:
• A "Final Wollumbin Closure Event" planned for 25 November 2022 and show NPWS have NO intention of re-opening the park to the public before that time. It’s clear the permanent closure has been planned for many years.
• Public information released about the safety issues on the Mountain by National Parks has a critical mistake. The Service have claimed there are "extreme" and "catastrophic" risks on the mountain from landslides and other hazards but the FOI documents show these are in error and these hazards are assigned a "medium" risk in Parks own safety assessment. For the hazards listed the risk is similar to other Grade 4-5 bushwalks in the state that are currently open.
• The medium risk conflicts with a slope stability assessment completed by geotechnical experts in 2018 that found risks to visitors from possible landslides and rockfalls in the park are very low, effectively lower than traveling anywhere by train in Australia.
• Consultations NPWS have had with Aboriginal groups have not included or considered and paid respect to the diverse range of indigenous opinions, about Mt Warning some of which actually encourage climbing. NPWS have an obligation under the National Parks Act to take the views of owners into account. The area of Mt Warning is the traditional area of the Ngarakwal/Nganduwal peoples. - not the Bundjalung who are a merger or various other northern NSW tribal groups. In an interview in 2007 before she died Ngaraakwal elder and Mount Warning custodian Marlene Boyd. Stated "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!" What a wonderful inspirational message that is! It is such a joyous affirmation of the awe and wonder we all experience when we connect with nature and the natural world, and it is outrageous that her views have been ignored by NPWS.
These points were listed in press release sent to SBS news.
On 18 FEB 2021 - 10:50AM SBS posted the following story to its website: Wollumbin could permanently close to climbers, documents reveal, by Reporter Shaman Shad
SBS's report is heavily one sided, unbalanced, lacks a diversity of views, and fails to cover major parts of the story related to NPWS' erroneous safety message and most shamefully censors the views of a deceased Aboriginal woman.
The report fails to mention and effectively censors the views of the Late Marlene Boyd. Marlene was Marlene was a Ngaraakwal elder and Mount Warning custodian. In a 2007 interview quoted in the press release she stated: "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!" It is to ABC'S great shame that they censored her voice and only provided one viewpoint about Aboriginal perspectives about the Mt Warning summit walk. The reporter would have been well and truly aware of Marlene's views as they were included in the press release
The report also fails to cover the errors in NPWS' safety classification.
The report fails to correctly mention the source of the documents and fails to accurately acknowledge the "Right To Climb blog".
This is perhaps one of the worst pieces of journalism I have seen and I have been reading and contributing to the press for 40 years.
The absence of any mention of the views of Marlene Boyd is a total disgrace. I do not know why your reporter has decided to discriminate against the legitimate views of a dead Aboriginal woman. If there was a Walkley for poor reporting she has won it.
To rectify the issue:
- SBS to apologize to the family of Marlene Boyd
- Correct the news story by including Marlene's wonderful message "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!"
- Accurately report on the errors NPWS have made in classifying hazards in the park.