A Call to hold Parks Online Booking System until after community consultation

Media release:

Four Wheel Drive NT, the peak organisation representing 4wders in the NT is calling on the NT Government to hold off on a tender for a Parks Online Booking System until after community consultation.

Four wheel drive NT has concerns about a tender that is being planned for release in February for “Provision of an online booking and permit system including software licences, hosting and support for a period of 48 months.”

After the information provided in the media in early January about plans to charge for park access, Four Wheel Drive NT reached out to Mr Gunners office (as Treasurer) and Mrs Uibo’s office (as Minister for Parks) and we were assured that we would be included in the public consultation before any decisions were made. Mr Gunner was also quoted on the 19th of January saying “there’s still a bit of work to do here yet, and I believe in doing consultation to know what you can and can’t do” and in the same interview “for me it’s important that government consults”.

This has not happened to date, however a tender for up to $1.25 million dollar a year booking system is expected to be advertised and detailed this month for tendering offers. 4wdnt has great concerns on how the online booking system would work; where it has been brought in to other states it has received very negative responses.

The issues would be far greater in the NT where phone coverage is sparse across most of the NT Parks. How would it be policed? There have been reports of disputes and even physical violence in interstate campsites after disputes over rights to campsites.

  • What is the cost benefit analysis done on this booking system? We have concerns that fees would have to rise substantially to cover the cost of the booking system.
  • There is potential for the online booking system being abused where those who could afford it could book campsites years in advance on the off chance they want to go camping that long weekend. Or book out an entire site to have the place to them-selves.
  • Has there been consultation (that we were not included in) calling for this system?
  • Have there been studies showing that the current honesty system is failing to the point of needing to spend up to $1.25 million a year to fix it.

We also have concerns about charging interstate visitors for day use of the parks. Not to mention it sends a very poor message to interstate tourists that they are deemed second class citizens in the territory and must pay a special fee. We are unaware of any other states/territories that charge fees just for interstate visitors. At a time where the whole tourism industry is solely relying on interstate visitors to keep them afloat, it’s not a great look. Kakadu has done this over recent decades and visitor numbers have plummeted.

If we were a part of community consultation we would suggest to:

  • We are more than happy to have a modest increase in camping fees, and suggest a flat fee increase to $10 per night per vehicle/site. A nice round figure, thus not having to carry the exact change.
  • Potentially have a ballot system at times of high demand like long weekends (again this is done interstate).
  • Complete a study into how regularly people are missing out on camp sites; the Chief Minister has suggested that this has been a recurring problem. If it is actually a regular issue that needs addressing, then the $1.25 million a year could be better spent on adding additional camp grounds with very basic facilities to meet the rising demand of tourists to the Territory.

To be fair, the NT Government has invested very wisely in adding more camp grounds recently such as Central Valley and parks in general. However we simply believe this online booking system is a miss step, and not consulting with interested parties is even more so.

Media release in PDF format:

Kakadu in crisis: Traditional owners threaten to close Australia’s biggest national park

As released and shared from the Australian "ABC News In-depth" Youtube Channel on 22 Feb 2021 https://youtu.be/vT6VIw6dMDc

Let it be noted that the Four Wheel Drive Association of the Northern Territory is an interested party in Park access and the well being of this great National Park. We have also experienced difficulty in obtaining meaningful consultation via National Parks Management.

New Website for Four Wheel Drive NT

The new website that replaces the, had been developed with mobile devices in mind, and for a running News blog, to keep followers upto date.