$220 million Kakadu rescue package
THE Northern Territory has emerged the big winner of a scrappy game of one-upmanship between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
The Sunday Territorian can exclusively reveal both major parties have pledged to support a $220 million rescue package to breathe life back into Jabiru and Kakadu National Park.
It comes only two months after the NT News launched a campaign to "Save Kakadu".
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was scheduled to announce his support for the plan on Monday.
But that was pushed forward when word reached the Labor camp that Mr Morrison planned to gazump the Opposition Leader with his own announcement today.
Mr Shorten's office was keen to point out his visit to Jabiru on Monday was "long planned". The Sunday Territorian understands Mr Morrison's office informed Traditional Owners of his visit on Saturday morning.
It's expected the cash-strapped NT Government will scrounge together a contribution but won't immediately match the $220 million pledged.
The Gunner Government last year pledged to continue to provide essential services - such as electricity, water and sewage infrastructure - and education and health services to Jabiru at current levels for the next five years, past the closure of the Ranger mine.
The duelling funding pledges come five months after the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation and the NT Government revealed a $446 million masterplan to redevelop Jabiru and revitalise Kakadu.
Their blueprint from Jabiru's Mirarr Traditional Owners, designed to transform the town from a service hub for the uranium mining industry to a tourism-focused regional centre, included a plan to remove crocodiles from the lake, and the development of a five star lodge and luxury "glamping" facilities.
Mr Morrison said the upgrades would "future proof" Jabiru, which faced an uncertain road ahead with the closure of the Ranger uranium mine in 2021.
"We want to ensure Kakadu and Jabiru and all the families and jobs they support are set for the future," he said.
"Better services and infrastructure for Kakadu will mean more visitors and that means more jobs not just for Jabiru, but for the whole Territory.
Kakadu National Park board chair Maria Lee was part of a delegation who welcomed Prime Minister Morrison to Jabiru this morning.
"Kakadu is in the spotlight - it's great, we've been going up and down but the (federal investment) is great," said Ms Lee.
She said it was the first time she had met one of Australia's leaders.
"They are paying attention," she said.
Mr Shorten said Kakadu was a natural wonder and should be preserved for future generations. "As a father, I want my children to take their children to this stunning piece of our country," he said.
"I know there's been a great deal of work done by the NT Government to improve tourism in Kakadu and help Jabiru transition from mining to tourism."
Both parties' plans include major improvements to Kakadu's road network. Labor's plan would allow for year-round use of Jim Jim Falls Access Rd, Gimbat Rd and Gunlom Falls and Maguk Gorge access roads. Details of which roads would be upgraded under the Coalition's plan weren't available.
Both plans will also include upgrades of walking paths, camping grounds signage, the construction of a new visitor centre in Jabiru and asbestos remediation work.
Once one of Australia's top tourist attractions, visitor numbers to Kakadu National Park have dwindled from 300,000 per year in the 1980s to about 185,000 a year today.
The number of international tourists making the trek to Kakadu has plummeted from almost 150,000 per year to just 30,000 in the same period.
HOW THE PLANS COMPARE
Scott Morrison and the Coalition's plan
- $216 million in total funding for the park
- $40 million to upgrade campground infrastructure, walking tracks, viewing platforms and interpretative signs
- $5 million to move the visitor centre from Bowali to Jabiru
- $3.5 million to develop a Kakadu tourism masterplan and roads strategy
- $2.5 million to upgrade mobile and Wi-Fi services
- $20-60 million for a new indigenous-led Kakadu Visitor Centre in Jabiru to support indigenous enterprise and employment and regional development
- $35 million over 10 years for asbestos remediation work in Jabiru
- $70 million over 10 years to upgrade road access to key Kakadu tourist sites
Bill Shorten and the Labor Party's plan
- $220 million in total funding for the park
- $100 million to upgrade four key access roads in the Kakadu to allow for year-round access to key sites
- $44 million for environmental and national park infrastructure upgrades, including work to tackle invasive species, better fire management, and improved camping facilities and carparking
- $25 million for a new Kakadu Visitor Centre in Jabiru
- $2.5 million to improve mobile connectivity in the park, for increased visitor safety and better reception for locals;
- $2.5 million for a new tourism masterplan
- $45 million for asbestos remediation work in Jabiru
- $1 million for a roads strategy to be developed to improve safety on remote roads