NT in 'final stretch' before borders open

Greg Roberts

The Northern Territory is in the "final stretch" of isolation before it reopens its borders, after they were shut nearly three months ago due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Once that happens, the NT Government plans to sell itself as the "safest place in the country" and attract extra domestic tourists who can replace the 300,000 international tourists a year it has lost for now.

In the meantime, a voucher scheme is available for locals who go on trips around the Territory.

More than 26,000 vouchers worth $200 each will be available from July 1, to put towards a tourism experience, tour, accommodation, hire car or recreational fishing charter, so long as they match the spend with their own money, adding up to a $400 experience.

The aim of the $5.2 million scheme is to help keep NT tourism operators, which represent one of the Territory's biggest employers, to stay afloat along with hospitality venues who are hardest hit by the pandemic until borders can safely reopen.

The winter and dry season in the NT is when tourism and hospitality businesses are usually their busiest.

"We are in the final stretch here in the Northern Territory leading up to borders opening," Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters on Thursday.

"The absolute best thing for the Territory right now is we are the safest place in the country. There is no better advertisement for the Northern Territory over the last few months than how we handled coronavirus.

"People are looking on with envy at the Territory and want to come."

A date for reopening borders is expected to involve about 30 days' notice.

There are no active cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Territory and there has been no community transmission, with all of the 30 positive cases connected to returning travellers.

The fact that a person who attended a Melbourne Black Lives Matter rally had tested positive on Thursday would not delay the NT borders reopening, Mr Gunner said.

A similar rally is due to go ahead in Darwin on Saturday, pending approval of a COVID-19 safety plan, despite the national medical expert panel urging Australians to avoid mass gatherings.

NT Tourism Rebound Taskforce Chair Michael Bridge said he welcomed calls by business groups to open some borders proposing a "centre-west travel triangle" that would allow movement between Western Australia, South Australia and the NT.

"Any opening of borders at this point in time is positive ... but at the end of the day most of our domestic visitation comes out of Victoria and NSW," he told reporters.