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Alex's Fishing Column 4 June 2020


With Alex Julius

The discussion on when state and territory borders should reopen has been the subject of widely-diverse views.

Here in the NT, Chief Minister Michael Gunner has hinted our borders will be reopened by August.

Meanwhile NT businesses are asking for a July 1 opening.

Mr Gunner has gone on record stating: “Opening the borders will happen dead last; I do not want the second wave to come.”

That’s a bit of a no-brainer really; who of you reading this actually wants a second wave to come?

Most people agree that the NT Government has done a terrific job in basically making the Territory Coronavirus free.

In my opinion – and that of so many people in the fishing tour industry I’ve discussed it with – the issue is not how soon we reopen the NT’s borders; it's giving us a precise date that our Chief Minister is happy to stick with. NT fishing tourism – and tourism in general – is on its knees.

Meanwhile millions of Australians are looking forward to booking their interstate trips.

And of those, there’s an army of potential fishing tourists who would normally flood in during our second peak barra fishing season: the build-up which happens every September, October, November and early December.

But they can't do this, they can’t book a trip, not until they have a destination that they know will be available from a specific date onwards… a date far enough ahead to give them time to lock in arrangements.

While Premier McGowan in WA – and especially Annastacia Palaszczuk in Qld – are saying their borders will be closed for possibly months yet, the NT has an amazing opportunity to get the drop on those two big tourism powerhouses.

By setting a date to reopen the borders before Qld and WA do, it will give NT tourism operators the opportunity to market furiously and lock in millions and millions of dollars in trips while the other states are still closed. Even better, Tourism NT could quickly smash an interstate campaign and grab all the "easy" tourists before the states get started on their campaigns.

The tourists I’m referring to are those from NSW and Victoria which have their borders open already.

Those states are where more than 80 per cent of interstate travellers – including fishing travellers – are coming from to visit the NT. Bloody hell, it's a no-brainer!

There are no more Ruby Princesses, and international travel back to Australia is all but over, especially given the strict quarantine requirements. Look how far we've come since NT borders were closed a bit over two months ago.

With a continued ban on international travel, I reckon the next two months will just about see all Covid 19 concerns as a distant past. So let's have a firm date now, albeit that it’s a cautious one because that doesn’t matter.

Let's get the drop on the big states before they get going with their huge budgets and their myriad amazing attractions.

Can you imagine what the Qld marketing train will do once it announces a date for its borders to open? Hello… the Great Barrier Reef.

And WA might have a dollar or two to throw at marketing the Kimberley to the rest of Oz.

This is just too good an opportunity to miss.

If we want to kick start end-of-year tourism to the NT, and if we want to help a crippled fishing tour industry try to get back on its feet before the wet season… so it’s still around for what promises to be a bumper Run-off season next year, for crying out loud, give us a date when the NT’s borders will be reopened.

We need to grab this amazing opportunity with enthusiasm and haste... every day counts.


This 120cm barra was tagged in the McArthur River NT in 2010 and recaptured north of Karumba Qld in 2020.

This big tagged barra ignored border closures.

The muddies are on the go in Darwin Harbour; Stephen Walsh with a pair of beauties from East Arm.


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