Tourism op­er­a­tors thank Sco Mo for Kakadu cash but ask when will they see it

NT News - - FRONT PAGE - LAU­REN ROBERTS lau­[email protected]

BUSI­NESSES and tourism op­er­a­tors in Kakadu Na­tional Park have wel­comed the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s near $220 mil­lion in­vest­ment in Jabiru and KNP, but want the Com­mon­wealth to set a fixed date for work to be­gin.

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son flew into Jabiru yes­ter­day to spruik the Gov­ern­ment’s $216 mil­lion plan to up­grade the park.

Con­ve­niently, Mr Mor­ri­son’s last-minute NT trip was sched­uled just one day be­fore Op­po­si­tion Leader Bill Shorten was due to an­nounce the ALP’s $220 mil­lion com­mit­ment to Kakadu.

Mr Mor­ri­son de­nied try­ing to one-up his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent, main­tain­ing the de­ci­sion to fly into Jabiru was made late last year. How­ever, when ques­tioned, Mr Mor­ri­son was un­able to say when his Jabiru itin­er­ary was set.

“I don’t go into my pro­gram,” he said.

In­stead, the Prime Min­is­ter wanted to talk up the Gov­ern­ment’s plans for Jabiru and KNP.

“This is go­ing to be a gamechanger – it’s been two years in the mak­ing,” he said.

“Vis­i­tors to­day – while it has im­proved to over 200,000 – is still well down on where it was a few decades ago when it was re­ally at that icon sta­tus.

“It’s time to re­ally give Kakadu Na­tional Park a big up­grade.”

The Coali­tion’s $216 mil­lion, 10-year com­mit­ment in­cludes $5 mil­lion to re­lo­cate the KNP vis­i­tor cen­tre from Bowali to Jabiru; $70 mil­lion to up­grade road ac­cess and $40 mil­lion to up­grade camp­ground in­fra­struc­ture, walk­ing tracks and view­ing plat­forms.

To­day, Mr Shorten will ar­rive in Jabiru to share de­tails of his $220 mil­lion plan to re­ju­ve­nate the park and town­ship.

Mr Shorten’s pro­posal in­cludes $25 mil­lion for a new Kakadu Vis­i­tor Cen­tre in Jabiru; $45 mil­lion for as­bestos re­me­di­a­tion work in Jabiru and $2.5 mil­lion to im­prove mo­bile con­nec­tiv­ity in the park.

Kakadu Croc­o­dile Ho­tel gen­eral man­ager Chris Chaffe wel­comed the fed­eral fund­ing, but wanted both par­ties to com­mit to a fixed start date.

Mr Chaff said a set date gave lo­cal busi­nesses “more se­cu­rity” and al­lowed them to make long-term plans.

Fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Melissa Price said within the next 12 months there was be a “very clear plan” about when work would start on projects across Kakadu.

“It’s over a 10-year pe­riod, and we’ll be sure to con­sult with the right peo­ple,” Ms Price said.

Both par­ties’ plans in­clude the con­struc­tion of a new vis­i­tor cen­tre in Jabiru, which Kakadu Tourism chair Rick Allert said he was in full sup­port of.

“We would like to see Jabiru es­tab­lished as Kakadu tourism’s heart in the wake of the end of min­ing, and we would like to en­sure that vis­i­tors to Kakadu can visit the re­gion’s prime tourist at­trac­tions through­out the year,” he said.

“At present, too many of the ‘icons’ are in­ac­ces­si­ble for much of the year, which has se­ri­ously in­hib­ited grow­ing tourism.

“It is a long way to come for over­seas vis­i­tors and they have ev­ery right to ex­pect to ex­pe­ri­ence our key wa­ter­falls, swim­ming holes, rock art and walks for most of the year.”

Mr Allert said 2019 rep­re­sented the 40th an­niver­sary of KNP, which was a “great op­por­tu­nity” to high­light and cel­e­brate the na­tional won­der.

Chief Min­is­ter Michael Gun­ner said Kakadu was a proven draw­card for in­ter­na­tional tourists but had been “ne­glected” by fed­eral politi­cians for too long.

“One of the best things we can do to cre­ate hun­dreds of jobs for Ter­ri­to­ri­ans is to drive in­vest­ment into Kakadu and Jabiru,” he said.

“That’s why we worked with the Mi­rarr peo­ple from the be­gin­ning of this term to de­velop a plan to en­sure the fu­ture of Jabiru and Kakadu.”

NT Op­po­si­tion Leader Gary Hig­gins thanked the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment for the cash splash.

“I look for­ward to the out­come of fur­ther dis­cus­sions with tra­di­tional own­ers and oth­ers on in­fra­struc­ture up­grades and in­creased ac­cess to some of the unique art sites. This amaz­ing prod­uct will see an in­crease in in­ter­na­tional tourist num­bers,” he said.

“The im­por­tance of the world her­itage listed Kakadu Na­tional Park to our re­gion can­not be un­der­es­ti­mated.”

North­ern Ter­ri­tory La­bor MP Luke Gosling voiced his sup­port for Mr Shorten’s plan for Jabiru and KNP.

“In­vest­ment in Kakadu is im­por­tant not only for the Top End tourism in­dus­try but also for thou­sands of small and medium sized busi­nesses who will also ben­e­fit,” he said.

How­ever, NT Se­na­tor Nigel Scul­lion said he didn’t trust the Ter­ri­tory and Fed­eral La­bor Gov­ern­ments to plan, fund and de­liver any pack­age to pro­tect the fu­ture of Kakadu.

“Kakadu is an iconic piece of the Ter­ri­tory and the Coali­tion is to­day un­veil­ing a fair dinkum pack­age of mea­sures that will pro­tect Kakadu for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to en­joy, and en­sure the town­ship of Jabiru con­tin­ues to be a ma­jor ser­vice cen­tre for the re­gion,” he said yes­ter­day. “The Mi­rarr peo­ple have cared for this unique and pris­tine en­vi­ron­ment for over 65,000 years and our in­vest­ment will en­sure the Mi­rarr peo­ple re­main front and cen­tre in man­ag­ing the World Her­itage listed site.”

‘This is go­ing to be a gamechanger – it’s been two years in the mak­ing.’


Pic­ture: AAP

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son meets with lo­cal res­i­dents dur­ing a visit to the Bowali Vis­i­tor Cen­tre, Jabiru

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