I really think the intent of the path is to …

Comment on Did they go too far? by Annette.

I really think the intent of the path is to restrict visitors on their walk to Mushroom Rock (and prevent them from impacting upon the surroundings), which is why they are required to return along the designated path. I would think the Department of Natural Resources would expect that visitors will explore the actual rock just off the end of the path.
What if there were a dozen visitors there all at once? I don’t think they are all going to stand there on the edge of the path.
Additionally, having walked the track out to the rock, it is reasonable to expect that most visitors are going to sit down, rest, and have a drink, take some photos.
Normally, when managing areas of high human impact in national parks / reserves / conservation areas, there are a minimum number of “sacrificial” sites that visitors are permitted access to, in order to protect the resources of the remaining area yet still allowing for enjoyment of tourists. I would think that it would be quite upsetting for visitors to reach the end of the path and not be permitted off the end, which is why the area adjacent to the track is in fact a public area.
The sign does not tell visitors not to explore the actual rock, just to return along the path. If the regulations were such that exploration of Mushroom Rock was not allowed, I would expect that clear signage would make this explicit.
Also, the Joint Management Plan for the Rainbow Valley Conservation Area was completed in June, 2008 and implemented from then.
Presumably once the plan was enacted, stronger restrictions were put in place and the designated tracks constructed.
You seem to assume that the photograph was a recent one. When was the photograph taken anyway … perhaps it was before this time?
One last comment, it seems a little strange to refer to “her mates” given that the two people in the photograph appear to be quite young children.

Annette Also Commented

Did they go too far?
This photograph appears to have been taken at Mushroom Rock, which is where the marked walking trail goes to. You can tell from the classic and unusual rock formation. It is just taken from an unusual angle, especially since it looks like the map of Australia. Great photo which really highlights the amazing places we have to visit near Alice.

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