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Gate fee deal threatens Kakadu services.



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MEDIA RELEASE

The Hon Warren Snowdon MP Labor Member for Lingiari Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia and Indigenous Affairs

Tuesday, 4 January 2005

Gate fee deal threatens Kakadu services

The Howard Government has broken its election commitment not to cut services in Kakadu National Park to pay for its decision to scrap entry fees, Warren Snowdon said today.

The Australian newspaper today reported that ranger and conservation services were being cut back and six park vehicles had been sold following the removal of fees in December last year.

Mr Snowdon, whose electorate of Lingiari includes the World Heritage park, said the government must restore and expand the park’s services and facilities, which have been neglected for years.

“Labor warned that this would be a consequence of the entry fees decision,” Mr Snowdon said.

“We supported the removal of fees for Territorians, on the provision that the policy had the support of the park’s traditional owners.

“But why should Australian taxpayers subsidise park entry for international tourists?

“Fees are charged at most similar World Heritage parks overseas, and the government has still failed to explain the case for making Kakadu an exception.

“The decision clearly had nothing to do with good public policy, and everything to do with getting the gormless member for Solomon re-elected.

“Unfortunately, visitors to Kakadu are now going to pay the price of that decision — not at the gate, but in reduced services and a less protected environment.”

Mr Snowdon said the government had also failed to explain why fees were still charged at Territory's other major tourist destination which is a federal responsibility, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

“If there is a good public policy reason why fees shouldn’t be charged at Kakadu, then presumably the same applies to Uluru.

“The government has a responsibility to go through and explain the arguments behind this policy to the public.”

“But the government clearly has no plan to address the real issues in the park.”

Ends.

Contacts: Warren Snowdon — 0419 626 601 Markus Mannheim — 0418 846 596