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