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Ambitious plan revealed to put Traditional Owners first in zero-extinction NT parks plan

Giovanni Torre -

First Nations knowledge would be front-and-centre under ambitious zero-extinction plans proposed for the Northern Territory's national parks.

The draft NT Parks Masterplan released last week outlines a 30-year management model for the 85 parks and reserves in the Territory, including measures to improve Indigenous engagement and economic development, preserve native species, and grow tourism.

Key features of the draft, which aims for zero native animal extinctions in the parks by 2052, include developing a rock art trail, boosting support for Indigenous rangers and tourism, and improving access to country for Traditional Owners.

The final round of public comment follows the collation of feedback on the consultation paper that received almost 600 submissions.

National parks overhaul must bring TOs to the fore: report

The finalised NT Parks Masterplan 2022 - 2052 should be released in November this year.

Among the nine key themes identified in the Masterplan are cultural values and heritage; joint management in partnership with Traditional Owners; and Aboriginal economic development.

The plan includes increasing operational support for rangers to manage fire, weeds and feral animals; including establishing a fee for service workforce that can be employed on a seasonal basis and establishing mobile teams to lead, coordinate and implement natural resource operations across the Northern Territory.

A rock art trail across the parks estate interpreted by site custodians would be mapped, parks and places would have Aboriginal names by 2028 where agreed, and park joint management plans would be redesigned for Traditional Owner input.

Under the draft masterplan Aboriginal tourism operations would operate on half of the parks and reserves; and half of park rangers would be Indigenous.

The NT Parks Activation Plan is also open for comment on strategies for the development and improvement of infrastructure on parks and reserves over the next decade.

The draft plans will be open for comment for a period of six weeks with submissions invited online.

A Northern Land Council spokesperson said they made 20 recommendations in a detailed submission in response to last year's NT Parks Masterplan Consultation paper.

"We emphasised the need for greater consultation with Aboriginal people and the Land Councils on the Masterplan itself, and in all aspects of park management, especially jointly managed parks," they said.

"The NLC also wants to see greater focus on employment and service/tourism related business opportunities for Aboriginal landowners in park management.

"Since that first submission, Parks and the NLC have held meetings and both parties agreed there is a need for more Aboriginal consultation in regards to Parks' planning."

Northern Territory Parks and Rangers Minister Selena Uibo said the plan established a long-term strategy for parks and reserves.

"The NT Parks Masterplan will provide a blueprint for the next 30 years and I urge members of the public from across the Territory's urban, regional and remote areas to have a say in shaping the future of our parks and reserves," she said.

The Northern Land Council will make a further submission following an upcoming stakeholder forum.

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