There is no end in sight to the red tape which has ensnared Katherine tourist icon Springvale Tourist Park.
The NT’s oldest standing homestead, and possibly the Territory’s largest trees, have been off limits to the public for four years already.
Owner Werner Sarny last week spoke to the Katherine Times about his shared frustration with the citizens of Katherine, and the NT, on the need to open Springvale’s doors again.
“I want people to know I have never stopped trying, I am still trying, to open up.”
More than 10 cars a day still regularly drive up to the locked gates of Springvale hoping for a glimpse of our pastoral history.
Frustrated by signs and websites which still attract people to Springvale, some even jump the fence for a look.
“I understand some people have come a long way hoping to see Springvale but it is closed and as it stands, it is going to stay that way,” Mr Sarny said.
Springvale was forced to close four years ago after new flood zone laws meant waste water disposal of the past needed to be updated.
And that’s when the bureaucratic nightmare began for Mr Sarny.
“Most historic places like this are on public land, but not Springvale, our problems are passed from department to department.”
Mr Sarny, who famously ran the Nitmiluk Gorge boat trips for decades alongside the traditional Jawoyn owners, said the wrangling over how best to solve the issues seems to have no end.
As the years have passed so to has the decay on the park’s 50-bed accommodation blocks.
The powered camping sites are overgrown, the pool is outdated, only the orchids are still flowering in the pond.
The famous Croc Spot tours are gone but the homestead itself, built of local stone in 1879, is in remarkably good shape.
Mr Sarny said the giant Indian Rain trees, four planted for each of the original owner’s children, now more than a century old, are likely the largest trees in the NT.
Each are heritage listed but need the attention of professional arborists before the public can be allowed to walk underneath them.
Mr Sarny has enlisted the support of local community leaders to try and break through the red tape but each time his request is passed back to various departmental officers.
“It is not just the money, but there is no one listening to our ideas for the place,” he said.
One costing on the government’s requirement puts need waste water works at near half a million dollars.
There would obviously need to be a lot more spending to bring the park back to any sort of use, even opening the homestead and the trees to tourists again.
Mr Sarny, approaching 80 years of age, said he has no intention of selling the property although there has been some interest.
“This is a work of my life, I want to collaborate with others to open but they don’t want to work with me.
“I just want people in Katherine to know I am still trying.”
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