Powerful land councils from Northern Territory are extensively working in opposition to the NT Government’s introduction of national park entry fees for now. The council cited the effect it could render with regards to tourism during this pandemic.
The NT Government had recently confirmed the monetizing Top End tourism drawcards namely Litchfield National Park as it will be charging international and interstate visitors during the next financial year.
Yet, the Government asserted the entry fees will not apply to Territorians taking a day trip.
However, the chief executive of the Northern Land Council (NLC), Marion Scrymgour, pointed the peak body for the Top End’s traditional owners “did not support the introduction of park-use fees at all NT parks at this time”.
According to him, “mainly because of the negative effect that could have on the tourism industry, in particular the many Aboriginal tourism operators working in the NT Parks estate,”
He added “The NLC accepts that there may come a time — particularly once the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have decreased — when the NT Government should consult on park-use fees.”
Although, a number of traditional owners from about the Litchfield National Park have cautiously embraced the directive towards fees, yet only under the proviso there is sufficient consultation and transparency from the government.
For instance, Helen Bishop, a Koongarakan traditional owner explained that fees would be “good”, providing all of the revenue from them will be allocated towards park management and heritage protection.
Yet, she then emphasized that the fees would not be of any good unless they going to set up a system that’s going to be recognizing the traditional interests in that land.
Ms. Bishop asserted that she wanted to see a new representative body to deliver inputs on exactly where future fee revenue would be lent, which is an idea echoed by other traditional owners.
In addition, Mak Mak Marranunggu traditional owner Peter Henwood pointed out he wanted to see a new board formed that will include stakeholders from the region, station owners and tourism operators.
He said “I believe if we have a board, or a type of board where everyone has a voice at the table, then it would be more transparent all around.” In line with that, Selena Uibo a spokeswoman for NT Parks Minister explained the Government would be “consulting with traditional owners, tourism operators and other stakeholders about a new online booking system and fee arrangements” in the coming weeks regarding the matter.