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Crisis in Kakadu: The turmoil threatening Australia’s biggest national park this week on Four Corners

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Kakadu is one of the great natural wonders of the world.

The stunning landscape, teeming with wildlife, is a major tourist destination with scores of Instagram friendly sites. For tourism operators it is an iconic symbol of what Australia has to offer.   

Despite its beauty, there is trouble inside Australia’s biggest national park. This World Heritage listed site is in crisis.

On Monday Four Corners investigates accusations of mismanagement and neglect which have fuelled a bitter dispute between the park’s traditional owners and the authority that runs the park.

“Things are a bit tense here…It seems like it’s being run from far and beyond, meaning Canberra. We need people on the ground, at the grassroots level, dealing, talking with our people.”  Senior cultural tour guide

Key locations are in a state of disrepair, others are inaccessible and local community members are furious.  Tourism operators hoping to cash in on a domestic tourism boom after a horror 2020 say action needs to be taken now.

“We believe it can be fixed. We believe we have no choice but to fix it. Kakadu deserves more.” Tourism industry representative

The stakes couldn’t be higher for the local Indigenous community. Royalty payments that have flowed from the controversial Ranger uranium mine are ending.  After 40 years of production, the mine has shut down and there are massive plans to transform the former mining town of Jabiru into a tourism hub. Hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money have been committed to redevelop the town, but some are asking if this will be money well spent.

“I would not be putting all my eggs in the tourism basket, I can tell you that. A lot more effort needs to be put into the health of our people, the education of our people, employment of our people…Tourism is not the be all and end all.”  Senior community member

Traditional owners are speaking out about their frustrations and they want all of Australia to hear them.

“I really truly believe that this has got to be the turning point… if we don’t sit at the table very soon, things will be taken into our own hands.”  Senior cultural tour guide

Crisis in Kakadu, reported by Adam Harvey, goes to air on Monday 22nd February at 8.30pm on ABC.

It is replayed on Tuesday 23rd February at 1.00pm and Wednesday 24th at 11.20pm.

It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners. 

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