Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Today's is written by ACM national agriculture writer Chris McLennan.
A few readers have asked why my columns focus so much on the Northern Territory.
Two reasons really.
Firstly, I recently spent a number of years working up there and fell in love with the place.
And secondly, there's so little media in the Territory, someone needs keep on eye on their shenanigans.
This latest move by the Territory government to tax tourists is a ripper.
Yes, you read that right.
This is an economy which is the worst performing in the Commonwealth and relies almost totally of the largesse of the Australian taxpayer through GST funds to survive.
Mining does well up there, agriculture is a steady performer and lots of military folk keep watch but tourism is a regular winner for the Territory.
If you keep clear of the wet season, it is a wonderful place to visit, more Australians should go and have a look.
My wife was offered up a job up there some years back after our kids had left the nest.
We didn't realise it but we were up for an adventure after a lifetime in the cold, crowded south.
So we flew up to Darwin on holiday for a week to check it out and were instantly hooked.
I'll never forget the night we spent with friends, and their friends, on their bush block.
Barbecue, lots of drinks, and when the dew settled with the night to cause a chill, an old blanket was cut up to supply all with makeshift ponchos.
In the dark, some daredevils were jumping off the home's verandah into a lagoon which may or may not have had crocs in it.
We decided to rent out our place after I found a job up there as well and off we went, thinking a year or two would be fun.
We stayed six years.
Only the COVID-19 lockdowns which denied us access to our southern family made us leave.
We soon learned how important tourists were, especially in my patch in outback Katherine.
Thousands of grey nomads head there in the cooler dry season to pack the caravan parks and under any spare tree they can find nearby.
These folk travel on a tight budget, individually they might not spend much but collectively they make a big difference.
This is why I was surprised to learn the government will, from April next year, require all tourists, domestic and foreign, to obtain a Parks Pass to enter most Territory parks and reserves.
Territorians will be exempt.
The government says proceeds from the pass "will help protect, modernise and improve our parks and reserves by providing valuable information about visitation to our parks and reserves and through the generation of new revenue for their care, management and development".
"Revenue from fees will be invested back into the protection, maintenance and safety of our parks, and the creation of new visitor experiences," Parks and Wildlife executive director Sally Egan said.
Tourism operators have a further six months to adjust to the introduction of the pass with a moratorium in place until October 2023.
There is no information on how they are to be policed, just that they have to be booked online, because most of the parks don't have the infrastructure to sell them.
A day pass will cost a family $25, an "open pass" to do the rounds will cost $150.
I spoke to hundreds of nomads and other tourists during my time in the Top End.
Being thrifty, one thing most remarked on was their ability to find a camping spot and travel around to visit all the parks cheaply.
For example, it costs a fair bit to take a boat ride down the Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge but you could go and enjoy the incredible scenery for free.
Those boat rides start at $100 per person, adding a park pass to the fee just makes it more expensive. The exemption for tourist operators is not clear.
Or in another section of the park is the popular Leliyn (Edith) Falls, a giant rock hole free of crocodiles locals call the plunge pool.
The nomads buy a cheap "noodle", a foam flotation tube, and while away the heat of the day bobbing up and down in this cathedral-like pool.
Elsey National Park (We of the Never Never) will require a pass as well, the home of another popular swimming hole, Bitter Springs.
I wonder if they will buy a pass for the pleasure?
I wonder whether the Territory is taxing the very industry it needs to survive?
And one final amusing part of this ill-conceived plan.
"Territorians are exempt but may still need to display their pass," states the government advice.
"Options are still being explored as to how Territorians are provided with access to parks without having to pay for a parks pass," it continues.
"One idea is that it could be applied on a Territory number plate basis. Another model is that residents will be asked to go online and add a pass to their cart and verify that they are a resident, through the system, which will provide them with a Territorian pass free of charge."
Lots of "back of beer coaster" ideas get up in the Territory, this sounds like another.
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