Kakadu will get a multi-million-dollar funding injection from the federal government – regardless of who wins this year’s general election.
Both the Coalition and Labor have pledged sums of between $216-220 million to revive the region’s flagging tourism industry as the World Heritage-listed national park marks its 40th anniversary this April.
The Norther Territory region famed for its landscapes, wildlife and Indigenous culture was first declared a national park in 1979, but since the Crocodile Dundee-fuelled late eighties, tourist numbers have fallen from 300,000 a year to about 185,000.
Both packages aim to arrest that decline in visitor numbers, Mr Shorten saying tourism and the environment of Kakadu had been neglected for too long.
The funding promises include significant allocations for upgrading roads, accessibility, camping facilities, and establishing Jabiru as a major tourism and hospitality centre to service Kakadu’s tourism industry.
The park’s largest tourism operator, Kakadu Tourism, says the funding would be crucial in rejuvenating one of Australia’s most important natural and cultural tourism destinations.
“We really welcome both parties’ commitment to significant infrastructure investment in Kakadu,” said chairperson Rick Allert.
“Our Cooinda and Jabiru properties are fully Indigenous owned and have provided the lifeblood of Kakadu’s tourism industry for many decades, but there is no doubt that tourism infrastructure has really held back the industry from progressing since the pinnacle of the Crocodile Dundee days.
“Jabiru’s Crocodile Hotel is renowned around the world for its distinctive architecture and its integration of Kakadu’s art and spirit in its design, but the town requires a re-invigoration of services and facilities along with a new vision to help rejuvenate the destination.
“2019 marks the 40th anniversary of Kakadu National Park. This is a great opportunity to highlight to the world that not only is the park one of Australia’s most inspirational landscapes but also one of the most important cultural destinations, celebrating the legacy of some 65,000 years of continuous Indigenous habitation.”
Allert said the tourism body determined to provide year-round access to iconic sites currently inaccessible for months at a time.
“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,” he said.
“Last year one of our most prized attractions was open for barely two months because of inaccessibility, which is clearly not good enough.”