Tourism operators in the Top End have slammed a decision to re-open Kakadu National Park in a staged manner.
Parks Australia today announced it was taking a “cautious approach” and would re-open the park’s many swim spots, walking tracks and campsites in different phases.
The timeline for the openings will be announced next week. Â
“This is outrageous from a tourism perspective,” Tourism Top End general manager Glen Hingley told 9News.
“Businesses have been doing everything they can, to now get this â€¦ it’s a kick in the guts.”
The Northern Territory is relaxing its final stage of restrictions tomorrow, meaning all businesses and organisations which previously had to close, can resume operating, so long as they have a safety plan.
Territorians will also be free to travel within the NT again.
Its estimated the decision to keep Kakadu closed will cost the industry more than $1 million over the next two weeks.
“Biozones were lifted by no less than the Federal Health Minister almost two weeks ago,” Mr Hingley said.
“So to be hiding behind the COVID-19 excuse is a shocking blow to tourism.”
Mr Hingley said he and businesses in Kakadu had been in conversations with Parks Australia about a re-opening date for some time.
“They’re saying it looks good, it looks like it’ll open, our intention is it will, we’re working through some last minute details … and for that now to have ceased for no reason, and to be advised that it’s not opening – it just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
“What’s clear in this is Canberra aren’t providing the funds necessary to properly operate and maintain a jewel heritage, world-listed national park.”
National Parks director Dr James Findlay said the decision for a staged re-opening was based on a number of factors.
“As we have seen in national parks throughout Australia, there is high demand from visitors to get back to the great outdoors,” he said.
“We are carefully planning how we will maintain physical distancing, support good hygiene and comply with guidance on public gatherings, particularly in high visitation sites.”
To date, the NT has recorded no cases of community transmission of COVID-19, and no deaths caused by the virus.
All 30 people who tested positive in NT have since recovered.
Parks Australia said additional cleaning will be undertaken in Kakadu, and hand-wash stations will also be set up.
Walks will also be one-directional with clear sign posting.
“We understand this is a difficult time for the tourism industry and that they are keen to get back to business as usual,” Dr Findlay said.
“Next week, we will share a more detailed overview of the park’s re-opening plans, including the areas that will be accessible to visitors from Friday 19 June and those that will remain closed.”
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park will remain closed until at least the 18th of June.
Parks run by the Northern Territory Government will re-open for camping, swimming and hiking on June 5.