Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Kakadu’s Tourism Master Plan threatens a decade of national park development

“The tourism master plan for Kakadu National Park launched by Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett on Tuesday promises ten long years of development for Kakadu National Park.  This tourism development plan could cut the eyes out of Kakadu.  Minister Garrett should be ashamed of this Plan, not celebrate it”, said Mr Keith Muir, Director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“More of Kakadu’s beauty spots and sensitive areas would be developed under this plan,” Mr Muir said.

As Minister Garrett stated on Tuesday “This plan doesn’t list a final set of future projects – it identifies gaps in the market and explains how businesses can take advantage of them” (media release 30 March 2010).  “Too right; the new tourism master plan replaces former protection zones with flexible development opportunities in seven tourism precincts”, added Mr Muir.

“The tourism master plan is based on ‘trust us management’ as the zoning controls have been removed from the national park.  No local government in Australia would be set loose on a sensitive area of private land with such a pro-development plan.  Such deregulated power was previously reserved for port development and growth centres.  The Master Plan creates ‘Brand Kakadudded’, that offers no protection certainty,” he said.

“The discretionary Master Plan is not culturally appropriate.  Its implementation will expose Kakadu’s Board of Management to increased pressures from vested interests.  For example, the proposed expansion of public-private-Aboriginal partnerships for this wonderful park could be a formula for ‘cronyism’, he said.

National Parks are supposed to be set aside from development and commercial exploitation, and it is not right to redefine national parks as profit zones.  Tourism roads, motor vehicles and resort facilities in national parks are not benign but cause significant environmental impacts.  Concentrations of people mean sewage, garbage, pest species, bulldozers, roads, and buildings,” said Mr Muir.

“Tourist numbers to Kakadu were static, so facilitating development of the remote parts of the park is the Plan’s short-sighted solution.  The Master Plan is just a poor excuse for unnecessary deregulation and the development commercial facilities within a national park.  This is no way to run our flag ship national park, it’s a disgrace,” he said.

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (ah)
For Kakadu’s tourism master plan visit www.environment.gov.au/parks/kakadu