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Tourist ban floated for Australia's biggest lake

Jacob Shteyman -

Visitors will no longer be able to set foot on one of Australia's premier tourist destinations under a proposed plan to protect its cultural significance for traditional owners.

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is the continent's largest lake. Every few years it breaks out into a spectacular kaleidoscope of colours when flooding rains from Queensland fill the immense saltwater basin, transforming the bleak desert landscape into an oasis of flowers and birds and attracting scores of tourists.

But it is a sacred site for the Arabana people, who have lived in the region for millennia and are the lake's native title holders.

Under a proposed management plan, all recreational access to the lake bed will be banned out of respect for Arabana culture.

Their lore considers it dangerous to visit the lake without the guidance of cultural authority.

Swimming, driving, boating and landing aircraft on the lake are already banned, but the new plan would prevent visitors setting foot on its bed without permission.

Arabana Aboriginal Corporation chairwoman Bronwyn Dodd said her people were proud to share Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre but urged visitors to respect their Ularaka (stories), lore and culture.

"We have a responsibility to look after the lake and in turn it looks after us," she said.

"Preservation of this lake is also the preservation of our culture."

National Parks and Wildlife Service program director Jason Irving said the South Australia government was committed to its partnership with the Arabana people.

"The request for visitors not to enter a sacred cultural site is made in recognition and respect for Arabana culture and to ensure the safety of visitors," he said.

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is one of a number of culturally significant sites in SA to enforce strict rules around entry to visitors, including Koonalda Caves in the Nullarbor, Sacred Canyon in Ikara-Flinders Ranges, and Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park.

Feedback to the proposed management plan is open to the public until July 19 via the SA Department for Environment and Water website.

Jacob Shteyman - AAP

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