Article – NT traditional owners divided on national parks development plans

9 April 2014
Mark DiStefano
ABC News

PHOTO: Waterfalls run off the sides of Uluru during rare heavy rain at Yulara in central Australia.

A prominent Northern Territory traditional owner has called on the Federal Government to leave Uluru alone.
The government has suggested it will seek commercial opportunities and economic expansion at some of Australia’s national parks.
It is planning commercial ventures at Uluru and Kakadu National Parks, including creating seasonal visitor fees and ‘glamping’, glamour camping, options.
Commercial sponsorship and the release of land for new hotels is also being considered.
A traditional owner of Uluru, Bob Randall, rejects the need for change to attract visitors.
“Just leave us alone, on our land with the way it is,” he said.
“That is the way my family, as I understand, would want it.
“There is a lot of land in other places which can be used.
“They do have enough [land] at Uluru and they have got as much money as they’ve got.
“They have got a lot more than anyone else and the people don’t benefit from it anyway, so what’s the point?”

Make Aboriginal people ‘key stakeholders’

Justin O’Brien from the Gundjeimi Aboriginal Corporation represents traditional owners from Kakadu who want a new deal on tourism.
“One that doesn’t exclude Aboriginal people but brings them in as the key stakeholders,” he said.
He says there are overseas models where indigenous communities are treated more fairly.
“We need to look at improving the yield that tourism brings to the park, and it is not just the economic yield,” he said.
“It is about non-indigenous Australians and the government yielding to the Aboriginal community the resources it needs to properly manage tourism the way they see it.”
Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary to Environment Minister Greg Hunt, says several options are on the table for rejuvenating national parks.
“Everybody is losing at present through declining visitation to those parks,” he said.
“We need to find a way to reduce the declining visitation but our top priority is better economic outcomes for the local traditional owners, just as much as it will improve the budget profile for all taxpayers.
“We need to have a look at whether the accommodation offerings are of a quality that are attracting visitors, that will provide good strong revenue streams for traditional owners.
“That is not necessarily hotels these days; it is often in the form of glamping, luxury tents, those types of services.”

Support for hotels in parks

A member of the Kakadu management board says he support hotels being built in the national park.
Tour operator Rick Murray says there should be a focus on “eco-friendly” lodges in the park.
“The hotels that are out there, particularly in the busy season, are very busy and full,” he said.
“It is hard to get a room and that is reflected in prices.
“The dilemma is in the off season they are empty and losing money hand over fist but that is nothing new to our industry.”
Meanwhile, the new chief executive of Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia says Ayers Rock Resort near Uluru is on target to attract more tourists to central Australia.
Andrew Williams spent the past three years as the company’s chief financial officer before his appointment to the top job.
He says the resort’s Indigenous training program is moving closer to its objective of 50 per cent Indigenous employment by 2018.
We are just under 30 per cent at the moment so we have made great progress over the past few years but there is more to do,” he said.
“One of the initiatives we are looking at in the near term is developing more supervisor and manager training … growing the next generation of management for the resort.”
Mr Williams says he wants to attract more domestic business by developing the conference and events markets in central Australia.
Courtesy of ABC News