One of the Northern Territory’s oldest tourism ventures is shutting its gates to self-drive tourists after more than two decades, with its owner saying it was now “impossible” to continue operating as usual.
Lorella Springs Wilderness Park, a remote private property on the edge of Limmen National Park in the Gulf region, is a family-owned patch of “paradise” that is home to some of the NT’s spectacular waterfalls and swimming holes.
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Owner Rhett Walker shared an emotional statement saying he had dedicated his life to building the park up from nothing only for red tape and bureaucracy to change everything.
Walker said Lorella would be closed to tourists this year except for some guided tour groups, adding it was “out of my control”.
“It is not just the bureaucracy or the feeling of being forgotten and less supported in our remote location,” he wrote.
“It is not just either the pressure from those who do not accept that I, too, have an attachment to this land and care for it. It is the above and more.
“The red tape has become too much for us to keep things as they are.
“My dream has unravelled.”
Walker said he had dedicated his whole life to building Lorella from “a piece of land in the middle of nowhere that nobody wanted” 40 years ago to the thriving tourist destination it is today.
“It protected my family and I when we were at our most vulnerable, and in return it allowed us to care for it and made us its ‘keepers of the land’,” he said.
“It connected with us several decades ago and has led our lives ever since. And so, it only came naturally that we decided to let Lorella welcome others too.
“Fate would have it that Lorella would grow so popular that she became a victim of her own success.”
Walker described the park as “one of the longest-surviving tourist businesses in the Northern Territory” and said there were thousands of people in Australia and abroad who loved the destination.
Walker gave no further details on the red tape and bureaucracy he blamed for the difficulties forcing Lorella to close.
NT Tourism Minister Nicole Manison said the government was working with the business “through a raft of historic matters” and it wanted to see the operation continue to run.
“We’re trying to give them as much support as possible to work through those, from a range of different agencies,” she told the ABC on Monday.