LET THE WORK BEGIN
Tourism operators thank Sco Mo for Kakadu cash but ask when will they see it
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.’
PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison meets with local residents during a visit to the Bowali Visitor Centre, Jabiru