Op Ed: Looking after priceless gifts of natural wonder

30 April 2023

The Northern Territory doesn’t just have the loveliest sunsets, the best camping spots and the spiciest laksa in Australia. That would be enough for most places. But no, you’re also blessed with two of the most famous national parks in the world.

With Kakadu at the top and Uluru-Kata Tjuta at the bottom, Territorians are spoiled with natural beauty and cultural history. These places are so rich and attractive that people travel from the ends of the earth for a chance to see them.

And why wouldn’t they?

Where else can you find those sparkling green waterholes, flanked by walls of rock on every side? Where else can you stand before such spectacular monoliths, as tall as city office blocks, emerging out of the deep red soil? And where else can you witness such a concentration of native animals, with birds and marsupials and crocodiles found nowhere else on earth?

These places are national treasures, recognised around the world. They attract almost half a million tourists every year. They drive economic growth and generate thousands of local jobs. Their management should be a top priority for any government.

But sadly, that’s not how they’ve been treated over the past decade. Because of chronic underfunding, park facilities and tourist infrastructure haven’t been maintained at the high standard people rightly expect of them.

At Kakadu, the Jim Jim Rangers station roof is peeling off like old skin, crocodile warning signs are broken or missing, and programs to manage feral animals and invasive weeds are not keeping up with the problem. At Uluru-Kata Tjuta, roofing is falling apart on shelters designed to provide shade and protection from the harsh desert heat.

These places are Australia’s face to the world. It's our job to make sure they’re as lovely and welcoming as possible, so tourists go home and tell their friends what an incredible time they just spent in the Territory.   

That is why the Labor Government is investing an extra $262 million in the upcoming budget to support national parks like Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta. With this announcement, we are doubling the underlying funding given to our national park system.

This new money will support critical infrastructure needs, like updating unsafe equipment, providing essential ranger housing, and refurbishing rundown facilities like the Kakadu Aboriginal Cultural Centre. It will improve tourist infrastructure, encouraging more people to the Territory. And it will boost conservation activities and cultural heritage management, to make sure the landscape is protected and maintained for future generations.

It will also create 110 new jobs, including new roles for Traditional Owners to work on Country, as well as new positions to ensure safety and deliver major projects. It will support our brilliant park staff, who have been doing exceptional work under difficult circumstances.

This comes on top of the $276 million we are already spending to upgrade Kakadu, which is funding new facilities like the crocodile viewing platform we recently opened at Cahill’s Crossing.

Our government is determined to protect more of what’s precious, restore more of what’s damaged, and manage nature better for our kids and grandkids.

And that means looking after our most special places, like Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta, as the priceless gifts they truly are.

Published in the NT News