Move to ban boats passing through Aussie tourist attraction

Traditional land owners are calling to ban boats from passing through Horizontal Falls in Western Australia.

A spectacular Aussie tourist destination that reportedly brings in millions of dollars a year is facing restrictions after traditional land owners shared concerns over a lack of safety and respect.

The Dambimangari Indigenous elders in Western Australia are calling for all boats to be banned from passing through the gaps at the iconic Horizontal Falls in the Kimberley region, about 250km east of Broome.

World-renowned Horizontal Falls in Western Australia's Kimberley region.
Traditional land owners are wanting to ban boats from passing through popular tourist attraction Horizontal Falls. Source: AAP

While the thousands of tourists who trek to the natural landmark will still be able to visit and see the falls — nicknamed 'the Horries' and known as Garaanngaddim by the Aboriginal community — they should no longer be able to pass through the two narrow gorges in Talbot Bay, 9 News reports.

The falls are formed by powerful tides that rush through the gorges, creating waterfalls turned on their side, according to WA’s Parks and Wildlife Service. The direction of the flow reverses when as the tide turns.

Boat accident prompts calls to ban boats passing

The Dambimangari Aboriginal Corporation’s call to ban boats from passing through the rapids was triggered by a boating accident that left more than a dozen people injured in May last year. It’s understood there was an incident while the vessel travelled through the falls.

“We have frequently voiced our concerns about the safety of tourists going through the Horizontal Waterfalls,” the Dambimangari Healthy Country Plan states. “This is an important cultural site and a dangerous place.

A boat passing through one of the gorges at Horizontal Falls.
A boating accident at Horizontal Falls last year prompted the push for more regulation. Source: 9 News

“They go on speed boats when the tides are pumping in full force. Accidents have happened in the past and we don’t want people to get hurt on our country,” the traditional owners continued.

“In the old days we travelled the sea when the currents and tides were small, not when they were the most dangerous. We are happy for visitors to come to Dambimangari country if it is done the right way.”

A boat of tourists on a boat passing Horizontal Falls with waves splashing.
The world-renown destination reportedly brings in millions of dollars a year. Source: 9 News

Horizontal Falls 'creates jobs', brings money

A WA government spokesperson told 9 News Horizontal Falls is “an iconic tourism experience” that “creates local jobs, attracts visitors from around the world, and generates visitor spend in local communities”.

“We want to see horizontal falls remain open to visitors, so those economic benefits can continue to flow — especially to the local community,” the statement said.

CEO of the WA Tourism Council, Evan Hall, told the publication “it is a lot safer” to visit the state’s national parks “with a tourism operator than free and independent travel”.

“We really want to make sure that that experience is there for everybody, but it is there and in a safe and culturally sensitive manner,” he added.

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