A political squabble has broken out over the big ticket Nitmiluk gorge Skywalk project near Katherine.
NT Senator Nigel Scullion has warned the Labor Government “not to walk away from the walkway”.
New Katherine MP Sandra Nelson last week virtually killed off the $10 million CLP project by asking her Government to reallocate the money to more needy local projects.
The following day Senator Scullion, the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, said he was “surprised and disappointed” at Ms Nelson’s calls.
Senator Scullion said it appeared Ms Nelson “fundamentally misunderstood the way governments allocated money”.
“This money has been allocated to NT National Parks and to deliver on Ms Nelson’s illinformed comments would require a significant cut to the budget of the Department of Territory Parks and Wildlife,” Senator Scullion said.
“I support improved social services in Katherine, but not at the expense of one of the Territory’s most important industries that employs more than 15,000 Territorians (over 10 per cent of the Northern Territory’s total employment).
“The former Country Liberals Government did much to diversify the Territory’s economy, particularly through a focus on increasing tourism numbers. In 2016, there was a 29 per cent increase in tourism numbers on the previous year.
“Given this success, it is particularly disappointing Ms Nelson chose as one of her first official duties to ask Chief Minister Gunner to refocus the $10 million away from the Skywalk project.
“The Nitmiluk National Park is already a magnet for tourists who visit to experience the stunning Katherine Gorge and if built, the Skywalk will provide an added incentive for people to visit the region.
“Ms Nelson’s comments sends a terrible message that the new Labor Government is not interested in tourism and Chief Minister Gunner should intervene to ensure the project goes ahead.”
During her maiden speech to the NT Parliament, Ms Nelson said did not believe the community could afford a grandiose project like that promised by former NT Chief Minister Adam Giles in May this year.
A 300 metre glass walking platform was to have been built at Pat’s Lookout.
“During my campaign, I spent a significant amount of time listening to constituents raise several issues and concerns, one of which was the $10 million allocated by the previous government to build a skywalk bridge,” Ms Nelson said.
“I'm keen now to hear from Katherine locals and traditional owners if they think $10 million could be spent differently.
“I fully understand how government allocates money. And more importantly, the people of Katherine deserve a say in how it's spent.”