I’m by no means the world’s best graphic artist so please forgive me a bit for what I have done with this map … but I do think that it is clear enough to serve its purpose.
This is a map of Uluru and its environs that I have taken from the Parks Australia website. I have added an X to mark the spot where the mooted replacement for the old sunrise viewing area should have been placed – and would have been placed if Parks Australia was concerned at all about taxpayers’ money. I have also added a really big E for East and have run a blue ‘ink’ line over the new roadworks in the national park that link the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku Viewing Area with the park roads that existed before 2009.
Now according to an email that I got from Peter Cochrane, the Director of National Parks, on October 23rd, 2009 – the cost of building these new roads (11.3 kilometres in length) was approx. $12 million. Which is a very substantial part of the $21 million spend on the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku Viewing Area project. On that basis of about $1 million being spent on each new kilometre of road, a simple spur road to what should have been the new sunrise viewing area would have cost approx. $2 million.
In that same email of October 23rd, 2009, Cochrane also claimed that “it became apparent that the original proposed site was inadequate with limited capacity for future expansion (it would have coped with no more than the number that crowded into the old sunrise viewing area each day), limited options for use by the tourism industry throughout the day and cultural site issues for both men and women.”
However I find it really quite difficult to believe when I look at the lay of the land within this part of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, that park management would not have been able to find the space to place a larger site there which would have dealt with the “capacity” issue that Cochrane raised. Additionally, as for the “cultural site issues” that Cochrane mentioned, there have been literally millions of pictures taken of the north-east flank of Uluru since a national park was first established here over fifty years ago. Only an ostrich would think that by moving a viewing area to the south-east side of Uluru that somehow these images could possibly “go away”.
And images of Uluru taken from the north-east side of the Rock are still being made despite the opening of the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku site in October 2009. I was at Uluru in mid-June and noticed that each morning I was there, that plenty of people had made their way to the old sunrise viewing area on the Uluru ring road. And they were going here despite the fact that this area was no longer signposted as a viewing area and in spite of all the promotion of the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku site by Parks Australia. And it was these people who left the area with smiles on their faces having seen the true effects of a sunrise on the face of Uluru and not the pathetic scrapings of sunlight that glanced along the Rock’s surface in the view from Talinguru Nyakunytjaku.
And this is one of the views that the people who went to the old sunrise viewing area on the north-east side of Uluru would have seen.
As you can see, the Rock is about 100% in sunlight whereas on the other side of Uluru which was visible from the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku site less than 5% of the Rock had any light on it within a few minutes of the sunrise. Even an hour later at 8:30 am less than 20% of the Rock’s surface would have been lit up. And why was this? Because that side of Uluru is on the south-east flank and right now in winter, the 348-metre high monolith is throwing a dirty big shadow over itself – just when the peak time for Australian visitation to the Red Centre is happening.
And if that isn’t a further demonstration of Parks Australia’s contempt for Australian travellers, then I don’t know what else is.
And as for the notion that there were “cultural issues” which prevented a new, improved sunrise viewing area being built on the spot marked X (the north-east side of Uluru), please explain this to me, Peter Cochrane. Why is it that the X position was able to be used by professional photographers in the early 1990s for doing early morning shots of Uluru and why is it that one of those photographers who used that position – namely Stanley Breeden – was able to use a shot taken there on the front cover of his 1994 book, Uluru: Looking After Uluru-Kata Tjuta – The Anangu Way?
Please note, Peter Cochrane, that this book has been reprinted in 2010 and is being sold once more in the souvenir section of the Anangu-owned Ininti Cafe at the park’s Cultural Centre. The cover image shows all of the north-east side of Uluru, including the various sacred sites which you claimed were the rationale for the decision to shift a new sunrise viewing area to the south-east side of the Rock. And by selling this book, Peter Cochrane, Anangu are obtaining a commercial benefit from an image which if it was taken by anyone else would not be ‘approved’ for publication in 2010. Do I have to spell out the hypocrisy anymore of the photographic ‘guidelines’ or guess at your part in what appears to be a grotesque waste of public money?
Lastly, as for claims that have been made by a number of Parks Australia spokespeople that Talinguru Nyakunytjaku isn’t just about sunrise viewing, then why is it that all the tour companies based at the Ayers Rock Resort (Yulara) only do a sunrise tour to this site? After all this is what Uluru Travel has to say about this new viewing area:
Travel to the sunrise viewing area, Talinguru Nyakunytjaku, near Uluru and watch the first sunlight of the day creep across the desert plains. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and biscuits as the morning sun slowly changes the colour of Uluru. In summer, watching sunrise at Uluru in the cool morning air is the perfect start to the day. (http://www.uluru.com/activities/sunrise_tours.html)
But this is what Margot Marshall, the Director of Public Affairs at Parks Australia, told me in an email dated June 20th, 2010:
“Talinguru Nakunytjaku is not just about looking at Uluru – if you want your classic red shots, go to the sunset viewing area at sunset. It’s about a whole sense of place, about understanding the traditional owners’s stories of landscape and about seeing Uluru and Kata Tjuta rising above the desert oaks and sandunes. The views and the colours change throughout the day – and throughout the seasons.”
So on this basis Margot, keen photographers shouldn’t even bother getting up before dawn for that ‘classic’ red shot of Uluru at sunrise?
And as for what you told me about the “advantage for visitors of being able to have tea, coffee and a hot breakfast in comfort” … well, $21 million is a heck of a lot of money to spend on a breakfast ‘bar’ isn’t it?