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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

 

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Transcript
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Interview on Darwin Top FM
Thursday, 10 June 2004

Tourism and Australia's Northern Territory


Daryl Manzie - Presenter:

The Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, has been in Territory, still is in the Territory, actually, in Alice Springs at the moment, but he's been here for the last couple of days and he's covered a number of issues. We're now joined by Dr David Kemp. Good morning to you, David.

Dr David Kemp - Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage:

Good morning, Daryl.

Manzie:

Now, you've been talking about a number of issues. Kakadu and Twin Falls, obviously, is probably one the media has focused on the most, but you were able to make a couple of announcements which really, I suppose, give us a new sort of future for Kakadu.

Kemp:

Well, that's right. We have now got a tourism vision for Kakadu being prepared by John Morse and John King and others in the tourism industry, and they're working very closely with traditional owners. And a plan and a vision has got to come out of the views of both those two groups in particular, as well as other stakeholders.

And I think this is going to really put Kakadu back on the map internationally. It used to have a very high profile internationally. It's clear that it doesn't have that sort of profile now. Uluru is way in front. But Kakadu is a wonderful park. It has got tremendous cultural heritage. It has got places like Twin Falls. But as John Morse is saying, only a minority of the tourists who go to Kakadu go to Twin Falls, and that's probably always going to be the way because it's for the more adventurous.

And the thing to do is to look for many other features of Kakadu that will attract people to the park and make them want to come back again. And undoubtedly, the cultural landscape of Kakadu is going to be one of the important elements to sell the park internationally.

Manzie:

I think that has been one of the drawbacks. It's a big area - twenty-two thousand square kilometres, bigger than the country of Israel, yet there's been very limited access to only certain areas. And some of the messages coming out have sort of ended up going overseas along the lines of, Kakadu is closed. So there is a need to sort of, I guess, regenerate that interest, and I think the way you're going about it is probably the best way in the medium term to actually get a permanent result there.

Kemp:

Well, one of the really interesting things that has just come out of the consultations that has impressed John Morse is the fact that there are, so far as the traditional owners are concerned, some six seasons in Kakadu, and each of those seasons has its own features. And it may well be possible to develop really good tourism programmes that take advantage of the main features of each of the different seasons, and so that it's not just a dry season place to visit, but it's ... at various times of the year, there are different things to go and see.

John mentioned the incredible electric storms that occur over Kakadu. Apparently, some of the most lightning strikes in the world occur there and people will come to see that kind of event. And so, thinking imaginatively and thinking laterally, there's a tremendous amount that Kakadu offers, and it's matter of really crystallising that for the international market.

Manzie:

Indeed. There's a range ... a tremendous range of opportunities there, and as you said, the changing environment, the wet season. I mean, the wet season access, of course, is something that needs to be worked on, but they're all issues that, if they're identified, they can be worked out on the long term.

There's something else I would like to ask you too, David. You have just made a major announcement regarding renewable energy projects in the Northern Territory. Could you just cover something about that?

Kemp:

Yes. We have been working through the Australian Greenhouse Office with quite a number of companies in the Northern Territory and communities, on renewable energy. Some forty million dollars has been invested in renewable energy projects in the Northern Territory and I have just announced that some new facilities using solar power and photovoltaic cells, the new PV panels, will be used at the Bradshaw Training Area, and they will provide a very economical kind of power.

I also visited a company in Darwin called Powercorp which develops some really good ways of interfacing renewable energy with diesel power and what they're aiming to do is to maximise the contribution of renewable energy in an economic way and to therefore replace costly diesel fuel with very cheap and, once installed, often costless, renewable energy.

Manzie:

Actually, Powercorp are real innovators in that whole area. I think they're some of the world leaders in wind power, and they have won contracts around the world. I guess, they're one of the hidden, sort of, secrets of the Territory but a very successful group.

Kemp:

Yes, I was very surprised to find that they had contracts in Antarctica on the one hand, and Alaska on the other.

Manzie:

(Laughs) That's right. I think the sad thing...

Kemp:

(Laughs) They have got a very wide international reach.

Manzie:

Yeah. The sad thing is, I don't think they have got a contract in the Territory at the moment.

Kemp:

(Laughs)

Manzie:

Not in the wind power one. They have got a lot in the diesel hybrid system, yeah.

Kemp:

That's right. Well, they have got ... there's a lot of potential in wind power to interface that with diesel power in remote communities.

Manzie:

Indeed.

Kemp:

And a lot of indigenous communities I think would undoubtedly benefit from having access to that sort of renewable energy.

Manzie:

Without a doubt, and there's a lot of things that we need to look at as a nation to make some changes in those areas.

David, look, I know you haven't got long, and I thank you for talking to us. One last question. One of the things we do peeved off with in the Territory is having to pay a big fee to get in to both Uluru and Kakadu. You know, they're parks that we sort of brought to the attention of Australia some years ago, say, hey, these are areas should be parks. This is when we were still a colony out of Canberra. Do you think the day will ever come when, 1) we may be running those parks ourselves, and 2) when we, as Territorians, don't have to pay and we can get in to a lot ... we can get in to the hundred odd parks that we have in the rest of the Territory?

Kemp:

Well, it's a matter really of how you're going to resource those parks because the fees are an important part of the income to build up the infrastructure. With some ... a park like Uluru, for example, where you have seen a huge increase in tourism, the fees that are charged to international visitors to the park and visitors from outside the Territory are fees that really help to build up the roads and viewing areas and other parts of the infrastructure and so attract more people. So fees really have a critical role there.

What we have decided in relation to the fees for ... annual fees for Territory residents at Uluru is that there won't be any change to those, that they will be kept at the level that they were, even though the other fees at the gate for daily visitors and short term visitors go up. And we have decided on no fee increase at Kakadu at the moment, and we'll just have to look at fees further in the future.

But ... you know, if people can come up with alternatives, I suppose you could look at that, and there are people suggesting various alternative ways of funding the infrastructure, but it is important that we keep it up to scratch and we continue to build it up because nobody wants to go and visit a park where you have got declining facilities.

Manzie:

Okay, David. Thank you very much for talking to us.

Kemp:

Thanks very much, Daryl.

Manzie:

Indeed. Dr David Kemp there, Minister for the Environment and Heritage. And I guess we won't see any change there in that fee structure, I don't know. I guess ... especially when it comes to Yulara, the Territory built the roads and built the community out there, the village at Yulara, so never mind. That will be an ongoing thing. And we don't charge fees for Litchfield and we seem to do better.

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