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Traditional owners uncertain on tourism development around sacred sites and national parks

Traditional owners uncertain on tourism development around sacred sites and national parks
April 16, 2014

Traditional owners are divided on plans by the Federal and State Governments for commercial development in and around national parks and sacred indigenous sites.

A traditional owner of Uluru, Bob Randall is among those rejecting development, calling on the Federal Government to reverse plans to seek commercial opportunities and economic expansion at some of Australia's national parks.

The Federal Government has discussed commercial ventures at Uluru and Kakadu National Parks, including creating seasonal visitor fees and 'glamping' (glamour camping) along with potential commercial sponsorship and the release of land for new hotels.

The Victorian and Queensland Governments, along with the Government of the Northern Territory have also been advancing plans for tourism ventures in State national parks.

Randall told the ABC that he rejects the need for change to attract visitors, stating "just leave us alone, on our land with the way it is.

"That is the way my family, as I understand, would want it (and) there is a lot of land in other places which can be used.

"They have got a lot more (land at Uluru) than anyone else and the people don't benefit from it anyway, so what's the point?"

Justin O'Brien from the Gundjeimi Aboriginal Corporation represents traditional owners from Kakadu who want a new deal on tourism.

He explains that the new deal should be "one that doesn't exclude Aboriginal people but brings them in as the key stakeholders.”

O’Brien told the ABC that there are overseas models where indigenous communities are treated more fairly, adding "we need to look at improving the yield that tourism brings to the park, and it is not just the economic yield.

"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, telling the ABC "everybody is losing at present through declining visitation to those parks.

"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."

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, adding "the hotels that are out there, particularly in the busy season, are very busy and full.

"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.

Williams says the resort's Indigenous training program is moving closer to its objective of 50% Indigenous employment by 2018, explaining “we are just under 30% at the moment so we have made great progress over the past few years but there is more to do.

"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."

Williams says he wants to attract more domestic business by developing the conference and events markets in central Australia. 

10th April 2014 - CONSERVATIONISTS OUTRAGED AT HORSE RIDING TRIAL IN NSW WILDERNESS AREAS

21st January 2014 - BALLOON FLIGHTS PROPOSED AS SAFE ALTERNATIVE TO CLIMBING ULURU

13th January 2014 - QUEENSLAND NATIONAL PARK ECOTOURISM PROPOSALS MOVE TO NEXT STAGE

22nd March 2012 - NEW NATIONAL PARK FOR NORTHERN TERRITORY

31st May 2010 - NATIONAL PARK RETURNED TO TRADITIONAL OWNERS

18th January 2010 - ULURU CLOSURE CONDITIONS ‘DISAPPOINTING’

28th October 2009 - JOINT MANAGEMENT FOR FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND NATIONAL PARK


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