A ban on public drinking in Coober Pedy is an outstanding success,
according to an official report after the regulation has been in force
for six months.
Half-way through the 12-months Coober Pedy dry areas trial period, initiated by the Coober Pedy district council, the SA Attorney General's Department was told: "It is clear that a large number of Aboriginal people residing in dry communities have chosen not to come to Coober Pedy to drink."
The Coober Pedy Dry Areas Review Panel includes police, local government, Aboriginal interests, health and welfare officials and politicians.
It says: "Surveys indicate there has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of vandalism and property damage in the retail business area of the town."
The review panel believes that the reduction in vandalism and property damage can be linked to the decrease in persons under the influence of alcohol in the town area.
"Residents and visitors are now rarely subjected to instances of drunken, disorderly, and anti-social behaviour that were all too common prior to the (dry areas) strategy."
According to traders and business people surveyed for the report, indications are the business outlook for Coober Pedy has improved.
The town's tourism image has also improved and there's been a sharp decrease in litter and dog control problems in the retail area.
Local shop owners report that a previous general trend to bypass local supermarkets and freight in supplies from Port Augusta, has reduced.
Local police are pleased with the results so far of dry areas, particularly with the decrease in detainees under the Public Intoxication Act (PIA).
In four months from October to January during the dry area trial, PIA figures totalled 97, compared with 289 in the same period 12 months earlier, before the trial.
Instances of urinating and defecating in the town area have, "all but stopped, in stark contrast to behaviour prior to dry areas introduction," according to the report.
However, the report says there has been a relocation of drinkers since the implementation of the scheme.
"In particular there is an increase in drinker numbers at the Umoona Community, Aboriginal Housing Trust houses in the town area, and at the fringes of the dry area zone."
There is a general consensus that there has been a relocation of domestic violence and child protection incidences to the Umoona Community, although there is no evidence of any increase in these offences.
There have been a number of community benefits following the introduction of dry areas in Coober Pedy.
The report says: "Further services will need to be in place (such as a Sobering Up Centre), and consideration may need to be given to changing boundaries to incorporate other areas where there has been a dramatic increase in relocation of drinkers."
Overall though, results are positive: six other townships in SA have requested information to study for possible implementation of their own dry areas strategy, and Coober Pedy township is "now in general a pleasant place for locals and visitors to shop and socialise.
"There is far less apprehension by people to frequent the main retail area in Coober Pedy than prior to implementation of dry areas."
(The Alice News reported about the first three months of the Coober Pedy initiatives in our December 26, 1996, edition. The text of that story is reprinted on our Archive at Issue Dated December 26 1996 )
Eric Poole will soon need to defend his seat of Araluen. He's the
Minister for Trade and Regional Development. The Alice is falling short
on both counts. The Chief Minister's assistant on Central Australian
Affairs spoke with Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA.
News: What's the state of the Alice Springs economy?
Poole: Alice Springs is no different to any other tourist area in Australia. Times are fairly tough. We're facing a change in lifestyle.
Family groups aren't moving around as much, people travel more as individuals. We went through that period where we thought everyone would stay in a five star hotel. No Australians really ever did.
The people who stayed in five star hotels were business people or those who had their accounts paid by companies or governments.
News: So our five star hotels were a mistake?
Poole: There's been too much emphasis placed on them. They're still huge money makers in downtown Sydney and Melbourne.
News: The average motel occupancy rate in Alice Springs is 49 per cent. That's remained the same for years now. Why?
Poole: I think the main reason is the death of the CATA [not CATIA but the former local coach company, Central Australian Tourism Association] type promotion, where you had a number of individuals who owned properties, from Ross River to the Oasis Motel, out to Glen Helen.
You had a group of people who had a personal interest in the success of those properties. They got together and formed their own coach company and were running tours, to Palm Valley and out to Arltunga, for example. The Bill Kings of the world.
That's changed. Now they're all national companies and the small operators do their own thing. What's lost is the personal, regional marketing.
When I first came up here [in the mid 70s, as the head of the Tourist Commission] there were more people running tours to Palm Valley, at least in terms of seat numbers, than there are today.
News: Ren Kelly, of VIP Tours at Ayers Rock, could be regarded as the grand champion of self promotion. He's been at The Rock for 20 years, had 175,000 "passenger movements" last year, more than half of them major tours. He runs 57 vehicles and has a staff of 90.
VIP has its own offices or agents in London, Los Angeles, Singapore and Frankfurt. Yet the Ayers Rock Resort Company, in which your government has a 60 per cent share, is dragging Kelly through the courts, seeking an injunction to stop him from operating at The Rock.
Poole: I know what he's doing and I have every sympathy for him. It's not the government that's taking him to court.
News: The government is the major shareholder of the company that's taking him to court.
Poole: The company is controlled by a board. If they've made that decision they've made that decision.
News: That board, surely, is answerable to the NT government. The NT government owns 60 per cent of the Ayers Rock Resort Company. Is it right what they're doing?
Poole: I'm not prepared to say it's right or it's wrong because I don't know the circumstances. The board stands alone, there is that distance between the government, the Minister and the board of Yulara.
You can't appoint a board to run a commercial entity and then try and control it.
News: In every private company the majority shareholder calls the shots.
Poole: You'll find [the NT government] is deliberately distanced. If you want people to make commercial decisions you give them the power to make them.
News: NT Government has fostered the advent of the big companies. When you look at Yulara, it's not owned by a whole bunch of locals, but by the NT Government, and 40 per cent by mainly interstate and international insurance and superannuation companies.
Poole: At the end of the day you would never have gotten local people to come up with the millions of dollars that investment has cost. You would have ended up with the sort of expansion of small hotels you had down there previously.
News: What's wrong with that?
Poole: It depends on your point of view. Personally, there's nothing wrong with that, but I would suggest to you that environmentally, you'd never allow that to happen nowadays.
News: Why not? The complex is outside the Ayers Rock national park.
Poole: I don't think you would have found anyone to build a 50 room motel outside the park. And there's nothing to stop them doing that now. There's nothing stopping Curtin Springs, for example, to build a 100 bedroom motel.
News: You can't at Yulara, though. Why?
Poole: We put that management restriction on the growth of that area. The cost of servicing would just go up and up.
News: Why is it that so little at Yulara is owned by local businesses?
Poole: Yulara is generating money now for the NT Government.
News: How much did the government make out of Yulara last year?
Poole: I'm not certain, to be honest, but I know it's profitable.
News: Is it true the Ayers Rock Resort Company is looking at buying into Queensland's Hamilton Island Resort? That resort is now being run by the former CEO at the Rock, Wayne Kirkpatrick. If a Queensland - Rock axis is established, Alice Springs may suffer greatly.
Poole: The idea was floated a couple of years ago, but we didn't like it and Cabinet knocked it on the head.
News: Yulara has been run under the new regime for some five years now. The hype at the time was that it would benefit Alice Springs. It clearly hasn't so far.
Poole: The reason is lack of local marketing. The job of the NT Tourist Commission has always been to get people into the Northern Territory.
Once they're here, where they went and what they did was really the job of the tourism industry. The NT is still top of the list of "desire to go".
In terms of converting that desire into actually coming, we drop half-way down the list.
It costs three and a half grand to come here and they can go to the Gold Coast for two.
NEXT WEEK: Promotion budget and THE railway.
"In a landscape there are so many variables - you create your own
Dutch-born local artist Robert Kleinboonschate, whose exhibition Infinite Now opened at Araluen last weekend, is disarmingly straightforward in talking about his work.
"When I look at a landscape I want people in it, so I've put them in."
Let the simplicity of the statements lead you into the work which, when you first enter the utterly transformed gallery, appears to be anything but simple.
Indeed, it is not often that we are treated to such a dense working through of ideas and of an artistic process: here some 60 works, while all able to stand alone, come together in intense relationship to one another, creating of themselves their own environment.
The landscape is Billy Goat Hill in whose aura Kleinboonschate lived for a year, in a house in Hartley Street. He felt it as a creature, isolated by encroaching roads and buildings from its landscape of origin, chopped off at the top, scarred on its western flank by a service road, yet still alive.
"I wanted to start painting it to see if I could imagine a story about it.
"I love the activity of painting - that and living there are my only claim to doing this."
He didn't know where the process would take him but started sketching the hill and observing the human activity around it. This step is evidenced in an installation of 18 drawings, accompanied by written observations.
An example: "Police came twice / man sitting drinking alone / coughing."
There are only 12 of these, so there's an interpretive game you can play: which drawing do they relate to? Or, which drawing do they animate - for you? Or again, you can try to perceive the work as a whole.
A synthesis of the human figure and the landscape begins to emerge. If there's a story, it's about form and energy, closely connected single line poems, rather than a linear narrative.
After about 150 drawings, Kleinboonschate didn't know whether this had been a fruitful exercise but he moved on anyway.
He started to paint figures.
There are nine of these in the show, larger than life, without character or individuality, but enormously potent. Most are featureless, finally even body sections are "disappeared" but they answer your gaze; you are caught in the arc of their gesture, you feel the knee-sagging burden of some, the lightness of being of others.
These figures were problematic and unfinished when Kleinboonschate started to paint the hill. In a huge work, Billy Goat Hill West View, History of Emergence, the hill is destructured, "a ball of string pulled apart", the rich forms of its western flank opened up and somehow reintegrated, centred and, at the same time, tumultuous.
Strong vertical lines are thrown through it - the ultimate minimalisation of the human form, or vertical energy, moving through the landscape that Kleinboonschate looks for.
In the panels on either side, sections of the hill are lifted out and recompose themselves as human figures.
There are six other horizontal format versions of the hill, enlivened in different moods - violent, gentle, musical - that grew out of this part of the process, while two paintings relate to the earlier drawing process, focussing more closely on sections of the hill, held back just short of a more literal anthropomorphism.
Kleinboon-schate went on to complete the imagined figures, realising that he could just be "honest", acknowledge the process in its complexity and difficulty.
There's not the space here to consider in detail the 18 sculpted figures, dancing, writhing atop their narrow plinths, who are the sprites of the hill - the spirit matter / matter spirit of their titles.
It must suffice to say that they are part of what creates an experience of immersion when you enter Infinite Now, a stimulating, deeply satisfying experience not to be missed.