Google Maps urged to stop people ‘walking’ on sacred site with visitors banned

Google Maps has been urged to stop users "walking" on a sacred indigenous site when logged into the street view function.

Parks Australia, responsible for managing the country's protected areas, has pleaded with the internet giant to remove images of the top of sacred site Uluru, in the Northern Territory, which allows users to walk on its summit.

Visitors have been banned from the top of the rock, which has spiritual significance to the Anangu people, the aboriginal traditional owners of the site.

Google Maps' street view function allows people to move around different environments as part of a virtual walking tour.

It contains 360-degree images of the summit of Uluru, allowing users to effectively defy the ban on visitors.

A spokesperson for Parks Australia said it had "alerted Google Australia to the user-generated images from the Uluru summit that have been posted on their mapping platform".

The organisation wants the content to be "immediately removed in accordance with the wishes of Anangu, Uluru's traditional owners, and the national park's film and photography guidelines".

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Google had been promoting a link to the virtual tour on the search homepage but that has since been removed.

But the 3D walk-through on the summit of Uluru was still online today.

Google Australia said it is working on having all the images removed, including the user-generated content that allowed the walk-through.

Parks Australia stopped visitors climbing Uluru in October 2019. It followed a long battle from the Anangu people to stop climbers scaling the summit.

The traditional owners wanted the climb closed because of Uluru's cultural significance as well as concerns about safety and the environment.

The formation, also known as Ayers Rock, is estimated to be around 600 million years old. The sandstone rock is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings.

It is sacred due to its age and the amount of time the traditional owners have lived there. The Anangu see it as a resting place for sacred spirits.

The land title was handed back to the Anangu in 1985 by the Australian government after decades of tourism use.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the site in 2014.

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