The traditional owners of Kakadu National Park have threatened to shut it down amid anger at federal authorities for letting the site fall into neglect.
The Unesco World Heritage site, which is jointly managed by Kakadu's traditional owners and the federal agency Parks Australia, has long been a bucket list destination but recent years have seen a sharp decline in international visitors in particular.
Experts have blamed frequent closures of popular locations at Kakadu, including due to disrepair, which has created uncertainty among tourists about what they might actually get to see at the famous destination, according to an ABC Four Corners investigation on Monday.
The Twin Falls have been shut for two years because of the poor condition of a crucial creek crossing, while the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Yellow Water was closed for a year to undergo refurbishment.
Jonathan Nadji is a traditional owner, a member of the board that oversees Kakadu and a former park ranger. He says he is prepared to shut off one of the park’s biggest tourist attractions, the famous lookout and rock art of Ubirr.
“It’s about time we started making an impact by basically shutting down the park. And I will shut down Ubirr,” he told the ABC.
“We should start looking ahead, start sorting this place out, but we will close it to make our point.”
Mick Markham, one of the senior traditional owners for another key destination, Gunlom Falls, says he is also prepared to close down that site.
“We’ve had a gutful. The only way we can show some strength is to close something at the peak of the tourist season,” he said.
Local Murrumburr woman and senior cultural tour guide, Mandy Muir, says Kakadu is in crisis.
“The unhappiness has come to a point that if we don’t sit at the table very soon, things will be taken into our own hands,” she said.
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