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Commonwealth Government Records about the Northern Territory


Establishment of Northern Territory national parks

There are 16 national parks in the Northern Territory and nearby islands. Initially the parks were managed by Northern Territory Reserves Board first established in 1956, and then by the Territory Government's National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Despite the granting of self-government to the Territory in 1978, two parks remain the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government: Uluru–Kata Tjuta and Kakadu.

Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park

Ayers Rock and the Olgas (now known as Uluru and Kata Tjuta, respectively) are approximately 440 kilometres west of Alice Springs.

Tourist numbers to these areas began to steadily increase in the 1940s and early 1950s. In 1958, in response to pressures to support tourism enterprises, the area that is now the park was excised from the Petermann Aboriginal Reserve to be managed by the Northern Territory Reserves Board and known as the Ayers Rock Mount Olga National Park. The first ranger was former patrol officer William (Bill) Harney.

In the 1970s the park underwent extensive redevelopment. Existing camping and accommodation facilities were demolished and rebuilt at Yulara, 18 kilometres from Uluru. The park was renamed the Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park on 24 May 1977 under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act.

The site is traditional Aboriginal land which is leased to the park's management.

Selected records relating to Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park
National Archives, Canberra
Ayers Rock Mount Olga National Park, 1952–60 A452, 1958/892
Correspondence files, 1953–94
(Portion also held by National Archives, Darwin)
A8661
Development of the Ayers Rock Mount Olga National Park, 1972 A5882, CO1535
Development of the Ayers Rock Mount Olga National Park, 1974–78 A1209, 1974/6073
Rock art deterioration and protection, 1980–87 A8661, 580/5/5
Ayers Rock – Mount Olga National Park – Protection of Aboriginal sites, 1980–87 A8661, 580/5/12
National Archives, Darwin
Correspondence files, 1953–94
(Portion also held by National Archives, Canberra)
A9661
Northern Territory Reserves Board – Northern Area National Park, 1970–71 F1, 1971/333
Northern Territory Reserves Board – Northern Area National Park, 1971–73 F1, 1971/6384
Northern Territory Reserves Board – proposed master plan Ayers Rock Mount Olga National Park, 1973 E86, 1974/4515
Cabinet submissions – development of Ayers Rock Mount Olga National Park, 1973–77 F1, 1973/6133
Acquisition of Ayers Rock Hotel, 1974–75 E92, 1975/3/3012
Acquisition of Uluru Lodge, 1974–75 E92, 1975/3/3102
Cabinet submissions – development of Ayers Rock Mount Olga National Park, 1974–77 F1, 1974/7486
Conveyancing acquisition of Ayers Rock tourist chalet, 1976 E92, 1976/3/3076
Cabinet submissions – development of Ayers Rock Mount Olga National Park, 1977 F1, 1977/1059
Ayers Rock Park gets a new name, 1977 E532, D1977/33
Photographs of motels at the base of Ayers Rock taken prior to the creation of Uluru National Park, 1981 E1616

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park is 120 kilometres east of Darwin and encompasses an area of almost 20,000 square kilometres. It extends west from Wildman River, east to the border of Arnhem Land, and south to Mary River. The name Kakadu comes from the mispronunciation of 'Gagadju', the name of an Aboriginal language spoken in the northern part of the park.

The region is famous world-wide as a tourist attraction. It is home to an extensive array of wildlife, houses a prized collection of Aboriginal rock art, and is also the location of one of the largest uranium sites in the world. As early as 1964, part of the region was recognised as having biological significance. The Woolonga Aboriginal Reserve, located in the Nourlangie Creek catchment, was proclaimed as a wildlife sanctuary.

During the late 1960s proposals for a national park were made, and in 1972 the Alligator Rivers Wildlife Sanctuary was declared. In 1973 Prime Minister Gough Whitlam announced the establishment of Kakadu National Park, subject to the findings of the pending Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry.

The national park was declared in three stages. Stage 1 was proclaimed on 5 April 1979 (6,144 square kilometres), Stage 2 was proclaimed on 28 February 1984 (6,929 square kilometres) and Stage 3 was proclaimed on 12 June 1987 (4,479 square kilometres). The final stage included two former pastoral properties, Goodparla and Gimbat, which were resumed by the Commonwealth. In addition to the three stages, a Conservation Zone of 2,252 square kilometres was contained within the boundaries of Stage 3.

Selected records relating to Kakadu National Park
National Archives, Canberra
Kakadu National Park, 1973–83 A12912, 10
Alligator Rivers region – Kakadu National Park, 1977–81 A10756, LC1878 parts 1 to 4
Kakadu National Park – conservation zone, 1977–82 A1209, 1978/335 parts 1 to 5
Kakadu National Park – conservation zone, 1978–79 A1209, 1978/685 parts 1 and 2
Kakadu National Park – plan of management, 1979–82 A1209, 1978/1139 parts 1 and 2
National Archives, Darwin
Northern Territory Reserves Board Northern Area [Kakadu] National Park, 1970–71 F1, 1970/4770
Kakadu National Park land area, 1977–83 E1508, 4/800 parts 1 to 5
Transfer of property of statutory authorities, 1978 E108, LA1978/1337
Northern Territory (Self–Government) Act 1978 – lodging with Registrar–General certificate relating to 162,090 hectares of national park, 1978–79 E108, PA1979/3326
Northern Territory (Self–Government) Act 1978 – lodging with Registrar-General certificate relating to 19,857 square kilometres of national park, 1978–79 E108, PA1979/3327
Kakadu National Park proclamation and management, 1978–87 E460, 1983/293 parts 1 and 2
Kakadu National Park land settlement scheme, 1978–84 E460, 1983/465 parts 1 and 2
Kakadu National Park plan of management, 1979–85 E1509, 1985/250
Buffalo surveys, 1978–80 E1527, KNP3/1 and KNP3/1 part 2
Kakadu National Park rock art conservation, 1979–82 E1527, KNP9
Tour survey sheets, 1987–ongoing E1312
Mustering contracts, 1989–ongoing E1301
Animal removal, mustering statistics, 1990 E1300

The Jabiru township is in the centre of the National Park. Most of the national park is now recognised as traditional Aboriginal land under the terms of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, and leased back to the park's management.

Part of the park's management includes the control of feral pests, including Asian buffalo, pigs and horses. By the 1970s it was estimated that there were over 20,000 buffalo in the park, which were causing substantial damage. An eradication program was begun in 1979, and by 2011 only several hundred buffalo remain. In the 1960s crocodile numbers were declining, and they were considered to be an endangered species. Since 1971 they have been fully protected.

Parks Australia North

To effectively manage the two national parks the Commonwealth Government established Parks Australia North in 1975. The agency advises on and implements nature conservation policies, including wildlife and nature protection. It also provides specialist advice and assistance to relevant State and Territory authorities and the governments of overseas countries on national and international training and education programs in nature conservation.

Selected records created by Parks Australia North
National Archives, Darwin
Correspondence files, 1979–ongoing E1527
Correspondence files, 1980–ongoing E1526
Correspondence files – unregistered, 1980–ongoing E1528
Correspondence files, 1983–ongoing E1525
Correspondence files relating to works and services at national parks, 1991–ongoing E1596

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Chapter 14
Environment