Time is now for Kakadu De­vel­oper says in­ter­na­tional air­port would save town

Sunday Territorian - - NEWS - ASH­LEY MANICAROS & PHILLIPPA BUTT

THE time to start mov­ing on an in­ter­na­tional air­port in the heart of Kakadu is now, ac­cord­ing to de­vel­oper, phi­lan­thropist and hote­lier John “Foxy” Robin­son.

The 67-year-old floated the idea as his con­tri­bu­tion to the cam­paign to Make the Ter­ri­tory Greater this week. Mr Robin­son is a ma­jor share­holder in Ry­dges Palmer­ston and has pre­vi­ously owned Knotts Cross­ing in Kather­ine and Dar­win Air­port Re­sort.

His sug­ges­tion is in line with de­sires by the Mir­rar tra­di­tional own­ers to di­ver­sify the econ­omy.

Kakadu is lo­cated about 250km from Dar­win.

“The Asian and Chi­nese vis­i­tors are 10-day trav­ellers,” Mr Robin­son said. “They fly into Aus­tralia, visit Uluru, stay a night or two, then fly to Sydney and see the har­bour, do a bit of shop­ping, be­fore head­ing up to the Gold Coast and the Great Bar­rier Reef, and then they head home.

“When you are in the tourism in­dus­try the Chi­nese and Asian mar­ket does not get the vast­ness of our land. If you are a whole­saler you are try­ing to sell a 6am bus de­par­ture from Dar­win to Kakadu and then a bus trip down to Kather­ine and then be back in Dar­win by 9pm. Now that is a 900km round trip and is not ap­peal­ing.

“We need to make the Jabiru air­port big­ger, make it longer, put in an immigration area and al­low peo­ple to fly right into the heart of Kakadu. It works at Uluru.

“And if they can ever get any money out of the $5 bil­lion North Aus­tralia In­fras­truc­ture Fa­cil­ity, then they should start build­ing the ho­tels and ex­pand­ing the air­port right bloody now, not in 2021 when min­ing comes to a halt.”

Kakadu hosts some 180,000 vis­i­tors a year. Ter­ri­to­ri­ans are not in­cluded in fig­ures.

The Gund­jeihmi Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion, which rep­re­sents the in­ter­ests of the Mir­rar tra­di­tional own­ers, a col­lec­tion of 32 in­di­vid­u­als, says there is no co-or­di­nated strat­egy to look at what the peak might be.

The en­tire future of Jabiru is up in the air. En­ergy Resources of Aus­tralia’s lease over the town ex­pires in 2021.

Gund­jeihmi Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion CEO Justin O’Brien told the Sun­day Ter­ri­to­rian last Novem­ber there was anx­i­ety about the future of the town.

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