Media Release: New Parks Masterplan 2023 - 2053 could be a win win for tourism, fishing and marine life

Top End conservationists, fishers and tourism operators have welcomed the release of the NT Government’s Parks Masterplan 2023 - 2053, but warn that law reform and increased investment are needed if the Plan is to deliver what Top End nature and tourism needs.

The Parks Masterplan demonstrates a strong commitment to protecting our unique Top End lifestyle, built around one of the last intact tropical marine and coastal regions in the world.

The Parks Masterplan demonstrates a strong commitment to protecting our unique Top End lifestyle, built around one of the last intact tropical marine and coastal regions in the world.

The Masterplan includes a recognition of the natural and cultural values specific to the Territory, and includes ambitious steps towards ensuring that our Top End coasts and land can be even better than they used to be.

Dave McMahon, Head Tour Guide at Venture North and Cobourg Fishing Safaris, said “Territory marine parks, like Cobourg Marine Park, boast some of the best fishing in Australia, attracting visitors from across the globe and supporting a growing tourism industry. They also support Aboriginal people to manage sea country, combining traditional ecological and local Indigenous knowledge with conventional science.

“The NT Government’s commitment to both protecting and investing in our parks will help to ensure that we protect these environments, the economy, and our Top End lifestyle, now and into the future.”

Katherine resident and enthusiastic bushman, Ben Rosevear, said “I’ve been going to Limmen Bight for almost 30 years. I am so pleased that it is now a Marine Park. I love spending time exploring creeks, prying oysters from rocks, checking out ancient fish traps, feeling the culture, looking at huge shell middens and cooling off at the beautiful beaches. The bird life is as varied as the species underwater. The fun families can have visiting islands and beaches is untapped and pristine, and the only way to keep it that way is a strong management frame.

“My long term dream is to operate a small tour vessel for sightseeing the extraordinary coastline and experiencing Aboriginal culture at Limmen Bight Marine Park.”

Ned Bible, spokesperson for Keep Top End Coasts Healthy, said “Territorians love their parks. These precious places provide a vital haven for native wildlife and are highly valued as a place to spend time outdoors, camping, fishing and enjoying time with family and friends.

“The NT Parks Masterplan has the potential to be a turning point for the protection of our unique natural and cultural values.

“It is great to see the inclusion of zoning and integrated management across sea country as a priority for our marine protected areas, which is needed to maximise benefits from Commonwealth marine parks as well as sea country Indigenous Protected Areas. 

“We look forward to working with the Fyles Government to ensure the laws and funding are put in place for successful implementation of the Parks Masterplan.”

The 30 year NT Parks Masterplan includes some strong commitments for biodiversity and cultural heritage protection, including: 

  • establishing a baseline understanding of the natural and cultural values of the Territory’s land, coasts and marine systems to identify gaps and priorities for conservation;
  • Strengthen legislative and policy provisions for the protection of essential habitat identified through biodiversity assessments and potential development pressure and habitat change;
  • Ensure that those areas with values requiring protection have the best possible legislative protection;
  • Identify natural system thresholds or tipping points that may call for an immediate change in management practices or significant management intervention;
  • a commitment to review, establish and implement models of management for marine protected areas managed under Northern Territory legislation including zoning and models of integrated management with other sea country reserve types;
  • a recognition that Traditional Owners have an essential role in sustaining natural biodiversity values within the parks estate, and that ‘Two way’ management will be essential to protect biodiversity and mitigate threatening processes, and
  • Acknowledges that many of the Territory’s terrestrial, coastal and marine biogeographic regions are underrepresented within the protected area system.