Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten scramble to announce more than $200m to save Kakadu National Park



January 13, 2019 10:25:21

The 2019 federal election campaign has kicked off with a political football in the Northern Territory, as both major parties scramble to announce $220 million for Kakadu National Park.

Key points:

  • The PM is flying from Darwin to Jabiru to make an announcement
  • The Coalition Government is expected to offer funding to Jabiru to help transition the town from mining to tourism
  • The NT Government and Aboriginal traditional owners have been negotiating with the Commonwealth to help fund a masterplan for the town

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will touch down on the edge of the national park this morning where it is understood he will offer a lifeline to the struggling Territory township of Jabiru.

Mr Morrison made an 11th-hour rush to the tropical north to announce a $216 million package to help Jabiru and the Canberra-controlled national park in an apparent bid to beat his opponent Bill Shorten to the glory.

Mr Shorten’s Labor team were scheduled to arrive in the NT this evening and make a similar announcement for $220 million for Kakadu.

In Jabiru, Mr Morrison was expected to detail the Coalition’s election pledge to help rejuvenate the region, which included $70 million to upgrade roads to Kakadu tourist sites, $40 million to upgrade campground infrastructure and up to $60 million to “support the development of an Indigenous-led Kakadu visitor centre in Jabiru”.

“We want to ensure Kakadu and Jabiru and all the families and jobs they support are set for the future,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Shorten’s team flagged they planned to spend $100 million on key Kakadu access roads, $44 million on park infrastructure and $45 million on asbestos remediation work in Jabiru as part of their package for the remote region.

“Because the upgrades that the national park desperately needs have been ignored for too long, fewer tourists are visiting and Kakadu has gone backwards,” Mr Shorten said.

“We want Kakadu to be at the top of the list for Australian and international visitors – and Labor will help make that happen.”

Jabiru’s future looking bright

A $446-million masterplan to help transition the ageing mining town to a tourism hub was revealed in mid-2018, but was largely contingent on Federal Government funding to ever be achieved.

In November 2018, Parks Australia, the arm of the Federal Government that controls Kakadu National Park, told the ABC a “plan for Jabiru’s long-term future” was being negotiated with the NT Government and the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, on behalf of traditional owners the Mirarr people.

“The Australian Government is negotiating [over Kakadu] in good faith,” a Parks Australia spokesman said at the time.

Jabiru has long been pegged for demolition after the expiry of the town’s head lease, which would coincide with the mothballing of the long-running Ranger uranium mine, which currently populates the township of about 1,100 people.

Jabiru’s post-mining future

In July, then environment minister Josh Frydenburg said negotiations were working to ensure “the future of Jabiru is settled well in advance of the expiry of the head lease in 2021”.

Traditional owners have long been pushing for a future in Jabiru post-Ranger, with the masterplan outlining an ambitious overhaul of the town into a tourism hub.

The draft masterplan features a plan to forge a new town centre and build infrastructure to better use the town’s lake for tourism purposes.

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation CEO Justin O’Brien previously said a firm commitment from the Federal Government would pave the way towards the town’s revival.

“We need to reorient the sense of arrival to Jabiru,” Mr O’Brien said.

“At the moment you come and you come to the back of all the shops — there’s no real sense that you’re in Kakadu National Park at all.

“It’s just a matter of balancing the interests of the tourism industry and the traditional landowners of Kakadu in a sustainable and economically positive way.”








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