labor commits 220m to improve kakadu

Labor commits $220m to improve Kakadu

Australia

For the second day in a row Kakadu National Park will be visited by a political leader promising more than $200 million for the World Heritage-listed site.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Monday will pledge $220 million for Kakadu if Labor wins government this year.

Mr Shorten’s visit to the town of Jabiru follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement in the town on Sunday of the coalition’s $216 million package to improve roads and tourist facilities.

The prime minister’s trip was organised after his office learned of Labor’s plans.

Labor’s funding includes $100 million to upgrade four key access roads, allowing for year-round access to key tourist destinations closed during the wet season, shutting out tourists.

A $25 million new visitor centre is planned for Jabiru, which is struggling as the nearby uranium mine winds down.

Both parties’ packages aim to arrest a decline in tourist numbers, which have fallen from 300,000 a year in the late 1980s when Crocodile Dundee was filmed there to around 185,000 currently.

Tourism accounts for about 10 per cent of gross regional product in the NT.

Mr Shorten said tourism and the environment of Kakadu had been neglected for too long.

“I genuinely don’t mind if the prime minister wants to take some of our ideas and announce them,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“I don’t care about the politics. I care about the issues.”

Kakadu is about one-third the size of Tasmania, boasting ancient rock art and rich flora and fauna.

However the infrastructure is tired and there is criticism of the standard of how the park is joint-managed by the Mirarr Aboriginal traditional owners and Parks Australia federal agency.

Visitors complain about difficulty accessing much of Kakadu, including the regular closure of roads after they spent thousands of dollars to get there.

Unlike Uluru, there are no direct commercial jet flights to the park.

“This is an incredibly sacred peace of ground in Australia, Kakadu is an icon in so many senses,” Mr Morrison told reporters.

“It is a living ground of 60,000 years of the world’s oldest living civilisation, when visitors come here from all around the world I think that just blows them away.”

A $446 million master plan for Jabiru was released last year by the NT government, who was seeking federal help.