ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
December 19, 2001.



TOURISM: BOOKINGS A WORRY! Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Qantas is exploiting its monopoly on flights to Central Australia to the detriment of the local tourism industry, which is facing grave uncertainty after the double whammy of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Ansett collapse. This is the view of Ren Kelly, managing director of VIP, one of The Centre's biggest tourism operators, who's just returned from a sales trip to Asia. Meanwhile CATIA general manager Craig Catchlove says the outlook for the industry in the first half of 2002, both in Alice Springs and Ayers Rock, is "looking very soft" because of a lack of forward bookings. Mr Kelly says wholesalers in Japan and other parts of Asia, who are bulk buyers of tickets, are telling him that "the biggest problem is Qantas and its monopoly". "On routes with competition from Virgin the airfares are different, but where there is no competition there are no price concessions," says Mr Kelly. "Naturally, Alice Springs and Ayers Rock are getting it in the neck, real bad." Cost of the airfares, new taxes and the cost of accommodation at the Ayers Rock Resort make travel there "almost unaffordable". Despite the slump in Japan's economy there are still many people who clearly have the funds to travel, but they're now giving Central Australia a miss. "It' surprising," says Mr Kelly. "The economy may be down but people are spending lots of money. "I was in the Ginza the day after the new princess was born and I've never seen so many Gucci and Louis Vitton shopping bags so full in all my life." Mr Catchlove says the retail market for air tickets is also affected by the latest developments: "Pivotal to next year is the airline capacĚity." as has enough capacity to "keep us going until March" but the number of cheap airfares is an issue. While Qantas hasn't decreased its number of discounted seats, the collapse of Ansett has halved the number of cheap tickets available. "What we're focussing on is Virgin committing to coming to Alice Springs. "The responses we get when we write to them – and that's often, we're certainly keeping in their face – suggest that March is the most likely time for them to start here, probably with a Sydney to Alice Springs run. "We've also asked them to look at a direct flight between Brisbane and Alice Springs. "But at the moment it's all investigation – ‘we're looking at', and so on. "What we need are some decisions being made. We need a few months to start marketing and fill those seats." Mr Catchlove says forward bookings for the first half of next year are dramatically lower than usual. "At this stage we have nothing in the system which is pretty scary for our industry," says Mr Catchlove. "We're hearing from sources in Europe that the market is still very resilient and there is every intention to travel. "It just hasn't translated into people actually walking into travel agencies and making bookings. "America is very flat although we hear the odd rumble from the odd wholesaler saying, it's not all that bad." The peak period for tourism in The Centre is July to November, and Mr Catchlove says "it's too early to make guesses" at this stage for that period next year. He says Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures are not yet available for the period since the fateful September 11 until now. "Some people are saying they have lost 40 per cent of their business, others say they've done some of their best business during October. "Ayers Rock Resort was full up before September 11 and people operating tours from Alice Springs couldn't get accommodation." ONE-THIRD FULLCancellations following the terrorist attacks have freed up rooms at the Rock and that has helped some operators. One industry source says the resort is now only one-third full. "On the whole I would say we've lost about 15 per cent – not as bad as feared," says Mr Catch-love. In the couple of weeks after the New York events and the Ansett collapse, "when everyone was cancelling left, right and centre, the fear was huge. "Luckily most people came back, saying Australia is quite safe." Mr Catchlove says the turmoil around the world could well act in Australia's favour – because it is safe. "The Australian and the NT tourist commissions, we believe, are both working on campaigns leveraging that idea. "It's pretty tricky: how do you do an advert saying, hey, we're safer than anywhere else. "Remember the American Airlines campaign – all planes crash but ours crash less frequently?" Mr Kelly says that this week will be one of his company's busiest ever with Italian tourists.Mr Catchlove says the segment of the industry suffering the least has been the backpacker market. "Most of these people have been travelling already here in Australia, because they tend to stay in Australia from between three months and two years. "And the people who were going to come tend to be very adventurous and what's happening way off in America isn't going to upset their plans. "They're a market which will go places any way they can. "If they can't fly, they'll go by train or bus. "That market has hardly budged." Backpackers spend just $12 to $15 a night for accommodation, compared to $100 for other travellers – or $200 at Ayers Rock – and live "on a diet of noodles". Their low daily expenditure is offset by the fact that they're staying longer and buy tours and other services. Mr Catchlove says the annual spend by tourists in The Centre – including Ayers Rock – is $414.5m. Figures for Ayers Rock are not readily available "because of privacy considerations – it's all one company". During 2000-2001 – before September 11 and the Ansett collapse – the visitor number to Central Australia was 743,000, up 15 per cent on the year before. Of these 368,000 people came to Alice Springs, inviting the conclusion that more than half – 375,000 – visited properties controlled by the Ayers Rock Resort Company, including King's Canyon. In fact the share for the Ayers Rock Resort Company is likely to be even higher because it also owns the Alice Springs Resort near the Todd Bridge. Neither Qantas nor the Ayers Rock Resort responded to requests for comment.

ADELAIDE FESTIVAL SNAPS UP OUR PLAY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

In a major artistic coup, the Alice-grown production Train Dancing, first staged at this year's Alice Springs Festival, has been bought by the Adelaide Festival. Director Craig Mathewson and playwright Michael Watts were looking to part-finance the production's tour to the Adelaide Fringe Festival, supplementing a hoped-for Arts NT grant, when they heard there were still openings in the main program.Mathewson sent festival director, Sue Nattrass, a video document of the play and a copy of the preview printed in these pages, commending it for its risk-taking, its courage in treading the race relations' minefield, and its artistry. After some negotiations about budget, Mathewson heard last Thursday that Train Dancing had been accepted. This will put the production, written and staged in a fast and furious dash over just five weeks, alongside the work of acclaimed international theatre companies.Says Mathewson: "It's extraordinary that a production which has shown only twice in a rural town has made this dramatic leap to the prestigious Adelaide Festival."On top of the glory, there's also relief: in the Fringe, the company, who've dubbed themselves Red Dust Theatre, would have performed every night for 25 nights, plus six matinees. Now, there'll be a far less gruelling schedule, six nights in The Theatre Space, and a whole lot of marketing support.BOUNDARIESMathewson wrote in the Alice festival program notes that the production aimed "to expand the boundaries of Central Australian theatre". This it did without leaving Alice Springs – there's never been a local production as confronting, wide-ranging and artistically rich, drawn from our complex social make-up and history. In Adelaide, before a sophisticated national and international theatre audience, Train Dancing will put Central Australian theatre well and truly on the map. Local musicians, Anne Harris, Amber Barrington, Django Nou, and Cyril Franey will be travelling with the production. For those who can't make it to Adelaide, Train Dancing will also open this year's theatre season at Araluen.

WEATHER: IT'S THE INTER-DECADAL PACIFIC OSCILLATION, OF COURSE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

There's no simple answer about why we're having a lot of wet weather.People who haven't been in the Centre for long might think it's an early effect of the much talked about climate change.But old timers have seen it before: the early ‘seventies saw a number of wet years in a row, as did the mid ‘fifties. And the historical record shows wet periods in the late ‘teens to early ‘twenties, then back again in the 1890s. 20 TO 30 YEARSThat's a 20 to 30 year timeframe and scientists know something – not a lot – about what causes it. It's called the Inter-decadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), but to explain it we have to talk first about another type of oscillation, the sweetly-named and more familiar El Nino (the baby). That's produced by a rise in temperature of a chunk of water roughly in the centre of the Pacific Ocean.When that occurs, then nine months later the baby arrives. There'll be rain on the eastern half of Australia, with some effect right across the continent. This happens on a roughly four to six year cycle. In what we experience as the dry years of the cycle, the chunk that warms up moves further to the east of the Pacific and the rain falls out at sea.The details of why the temperatures rise and fall are not understood very well, says Alice-based CSIRO researcher Mark Stafford-Smith, but scientists have observed that this other longer cycle, the IPO, alters the intensity of the El Nino temperature effect. In some decades the temperatures are very much higher or only a little bit higher, they oscillate. This has only been talked about for the last couple of years. Again, scientists don't understand the mechanism of what's going on but think it may have something to do with big bodies of water moving slowly around the Pacific and changing the temperature as they pass. "That modulates the effect of the shorter term El Nino oscillation, making some decades slightly wetter, and other decades a bit dryer," says Dr Stafford-Smith. In Central Australia, interplaying with these effects coming from the Pacific, are other weather systems coming from the west and north-west. In the longer term a lot of our big rains are carried in cloud bands coming in from the Kimberley and are dependent on a combination of conditions. Dr Stafford-Smith explains: "There has to be some wet air up there in the Kimberleys and it has to be streaming this way because of the particular pressure patterns, and there has to be a pressure system coming around southern Australia which might have a front on it. "If those two things happen at the same time, the wet air is sucked down through the Centre, right down through South Australia and into Victoria."So, summing up, and on top of influences from the Kimberley: we've got our day to day variation in rainfall; our seasonal one – we tend to get a bit more rain in summer than in winter; then we've got an inter-annual one with a lot of variability but on a four to six year cycle (El Nino); and all of that again is affected by this longer 20 to 30 year cycle (IPO), the wetter end of which is kicking in at the moment. And then climate change on an even longer time frame may be playing a role. The latest consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – an international gathering of a huge number of scientists – is that we are starting to see a discernible effect of human influence on our climate: the earth's warming is measurable which is compatible with the increase in carbon dioxide that we put into the atmosphere. But, says Dr Stafford-Smith, "that still doesn't mean that a wet year like this in Central Australia is evidence of climate change, because there are these other cycles that produce wet years". "A likely outcome of climate change though is that years like this become a little more frequent." In town, we enjoy greener gardens even if our verandahs are full of wet washing. Out bush, people have to put up with the impact on the unsealed road network, but the wildlife must be getting a great feed off regenerated pastures, as are the cattle, with pastoralists enjoying boom times.Is there a down side for them? Dr Stafford-Smith sounds a gentle note of caution: people might start to think that this wetter weather is normal, and expect to have better conditions than they actually do have in the long-term, on average. There is anecdotal evidence that some pastoralists in the Centre had their expectationsraised by the early ‘seventies wet. Elsewhere in the country, the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines has conducted a project called "Learning from History". They looked at severe pastoral degradation episodes in different parts of Australia's rangelands and found that they coincided with the ends of wet weather periods. In some cases, the country has recovered, but in other cases it hasn't, with notably the permanent loss of valuable perennial palatable plants.So, pastoralists need to be able to respond quickly to changing rainfall conditions, because, as Dr Stafford-Smith points out, "the fact that we are in a period that's a bit wetter than average doesn't guarantee that next year there's not going to be a drought".

A TOAST TO SANTA AND OTHER MATES. Column by ANN CLOKE.

Once upon a time NOT that long ago, growing up in New Zealand, Enid Blyton's books were part of my childhood … One day it was decided by the mighty powers who sat on the Censorship Board that perhaps Big Ears had homosexual designs on Noddy: Blyton's books were withdrawn from circulation, taken off book store and library shelves. Noddy vanished as did the Famous Five and Secret Seven series. We were young – what were homosexual tendencies anyway?! How children's vocabularies have grown! The other day I collected my nephew Bart (8) and niece Lesley Ann (9) from school. They couldn't wait to tell me about a particular incident that had happened that day, how the teacher handled it, what the children thought about it: these kids have opinions!In the telling, choice descriptive (?) words were used.When I was your age, I told them, I didn't even KNOW those words! Were you REALLY my age once? Bart asked.The question had absolutely nothing to do with the core matter of appropriate diction etc…just the query, was I young once?!Heading towards Christmas and glitzy hangings, fairy lights plus tinsel, red, green, silver and gold, adorn our mall, trees, streets, office facades and shopping centres. The annual Christmas motorcycle run, as usual, created interest: bikers from all around Alice deliver toys to needy children. It was super to see all makes and models of motorbike, chrome polished, flags flying, some with Santa look-alike riders, and also a few of the Bash cars, in the parade. Helping Santa at this time of the year is crucial because he simply cannot be everywhere at once!!There are over 7000 Santa websites. It's now possible to email him although I'm sure Mrs Claus and the elves help with outstanding correspondence. There are Santa games and races to find his Secret Village at the North Pole.He's making the odd special appearance around town, although he's dropping back on the "Ho Ho Ho" routine because it MAY intimidate little children – it's enough getting used to the jolly, rotund, bearded, bell-ringing, red suited chap without attuning to those booming chuckles.Some educators insist on teaching what they perceive to be absolute truths: this may cause trauma, especially if it is intimated to young students that there's no such thing as Santa Claus (Tooth Fairies, Easter Bunnies?)…I know Santa exists because one year my little nieces and nephews received personalised story-books from him, and neighbours have a special "Santa Stop Here" sign in their front garden. It works: he always stops.If I get a chance to sit on Santa's knee, I'll ask for the usual PLUS a competition airline to service Alice Springs, an end to poverty and anti-social behaviour, a "clean up the Alice" day EVERY day, universal peace and understanding, and a hope that everyone, everywhere, has a happy, healthy and safe festive season. And that we all live happily ever after following Santa's visit, celebrating Christmas 2001, and look forward to a bright and prosperous new year in the Centre.

STUDYING IN CANBERRA: ROUNDABOUTS, POLLIES. By DYLAN FITZSIMONS.

"So, how has uni been?" is the inevitable question you get asked by every family member, friend, friend of a family member, friend of a friend, or even by people you're not sure you have ever met, upon returning home to Alice for your first university summer holiday. It isn't the easiest question to answer. You need to reply with something that expresses everything that has happened in an eventful year unprecedented in your life, yet fits into a socially acceptable brief statement. Usually, this comes down to the reply, "Yeah, not too bad, thanks".Of course, it has been more than "not bad, thanks", as Alice Springs' university-bound school leavers are sure to discover when, in late February next year, they pack their bags and kiss mum good- bye, heading off to study at universities across the country.This is exactly the situation I found myself in earlier this year. University offers accepted, forms filled in, air fares purchased, summer holiday enjoyed, I threw myself into the tertiary deep end and emerged at the Australian National University, in Canberra. Although it seemed a little overwhelming before taking the plunge, after day one I knew it was all worth it.Barely knowing a soul in Canberra, and having spent little more than a day or two there before deciding to spend the next five years of my life in a strange city of round-abouts and politicians, I moved in to a residential college on the university campus, and into a lifestyle noticeably different from that of living at home for 18 years. Each resident is issued with eight square metres of room, a bed, desk, cupboard and sink to call their own and make like home. Every other aspect of housing that you used to share with only a couple of people, however, is now shared with a couple of hundred – toilets, bathrooms, laundries, kitchens, lounge rooms and dining halls. If you thought you hated your sister taking forever in the bathroom, wait until you get to college!Despite the hassles involved in finding a free washing machine on a Saturday morning, which some avoid by doing the washing as often as exams come around – twice a year – the college atmosphere is excellent for a first year student. Never having had the experience of being the new kid at school, I was a bit hesitant about living with 300 odd strangers, an apprehension quickly cast off with the first activities of Orientation Week, or "O'Week", organised by the university and colleges for the week before uni starts. As well as taking the complimentary tours of city night spots and pubs provided during the week, new students should probably also consider figuring out where their lecture theatres are as well, or end up being as lost as Burke and Wills when classes start after O'Week, especially on large campuses like ANU's, which is bigger than the Alice Springs central business district!O'Week provides a great chance to get out and make new friends, with the people you're going to have to live with, those you'll be studying with, and those who share the same interests and passions as you. There are a plethora of clubs and societies at university, who at ANU set up on "market day", looking to recruit new members. There's a club for almost everything, from footy to Indian "Bolliwood" cinema, and student societies for all fields of study. Residential colleges also provide a great range of sporting, cultural and social activities.Along with a different lifestyle comes a different way of studying. Classes are split into two – lectures, in which a lecturer will teach about 100 students at a time, and tutorials, which are run in small groups of up to 20 students. Study becomes quite independent. You are expected to have read and prepared for tutorial classes, which are discussion based and mainly assessed on participation. Timetables become much more flexible, classes running from nine in the morning until seven in the evening, with lectures repeated during the week in case you can't make it the first time! Many are also taped and notes are also posted on the internet, along with assignments. The time you spend in class, and the work you do, will depend on what you study. I am studying towards a double degree in Asian Studies and Law, which takes about 20 hours a week in class time, and assessment is mainly based on essays, participating in tutorials, and exams.Unfortunately, escaping to university doesn't mean escaping exams. As if enough weight wasn't behind the Year 12 exams at 50 per cent of your final mark, two of my law exams this year were worth 70 per cent! Like Year 12, all the work seems to stack up at once, and is generally expected to be of a higher standard than that done in school, although there's plenty of support to help you along the way. It takes many students a few goes to get the feel for uni work, so not doing as well as at school is nothing to get discouraged about. Unlike Year 12, uni students don't seem to suffer the same exam time anxiety.The best way to do well at uni work is to make the most of your resources – classes, libraries, teachers and your friends and classmates.If it goes anything like mine did, Alice Springs' first year students of 2002 will find the year will fly past. The best advice that can be given is for them to blindly throw themselves in at the deep end. With the terror of Year 12 behind, put all your energy into everything you do, be it academic, social, artistic or sporting, and make the most of your time at uni. Have a go at everything that you can.Of course, the next question everybody asks is how I cope with the Canberra weather, but we'll leave that for another time!

SCHOOL FORMALS: MEDIUM SIZE NIGHT OUT. By STEPHANIE HARRISON.

Well, it's that time of the year again – Christmas, holidays, the end of school, and of course, formals. Last year I went to my sister's Year 10 formal "viewing", the first one I'd ever been to. I thought it was pretty funny seeing all the boys and girls dressed up in suits and evening wear and not the usual baggy jeans, shorts and t-shirts, arriving at the Plaza hotel in all sorts of different ways. I especially liked checking out the old cars people arrived in. Some of them were lovely! Well, this year it was my turn. Unlike some girls, I didn't start planning what I was going to wear, who I was going to go with and how I was going to get there, when I was in Year 7! I personally didn't find it that big a deal, I mean, there was so much hype about it and it wasn't even our Year 12 formal! Laryssa, 15, started planning everything at the end of term two, start of term three: "I started planing that early because I thought it was going to be the biggest event of my lifetime. But it wasn't! "Before I ever went to the formal I thought it was a big deal. But after, when I was putting my stuff away, I was thinking, ‘ All this stuff for one night that wasn't even that good anyway!'"It was a good night, not what I'd expected though and I think it went on for too long."There's no shortage of ideas for hairstyles, dress styles, make- up and all that. The Internet is full of websites devoted to formals, or Proms as they call them over in America. From the abundance of websites and what we see in the movies it seems like Proms are a pretty big deal over there. Maybe that's why some people over here think that their Year 10 Formal is a big deal? But as we well know, hardly anything ever goes to plan. Even formals! It was a bit of a worry when some guys' suits still hadn't arrived two days before the formal when they were supposed to arrive a week before (some Year 12 suits still hadn't arrived on the night!). I thought the girls had the harder job of deciding what dress they should wear. But I guess the guys had a hard time too, choosing which suit to wear, and hoping it would arrive in time. Dean, 16, didn't really panic: "When it did arrive, I thought it was good. I liked what I saw!" One thing that I don't understand is this: every year there are at least seven formals (Year 10 and Year 12 from all the different high schools and colleges in Alice Springs); every year girls are buying dresses that sometimes cost them up to $500 (or they can get them made for a lot cheaper I would think). If the girls are buying the dresses and keeping them, that means that there must be hundreds of dresses just lying around in people's cupboards all over Alice Springs... and still people are buying more! I don't understand why more girls don't just borrow dresses from the previous year's formals (that's what I did) instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a dress they're only going to wear for about six hours on the big night and after that, they''re probably never going to wear more than twice. It's just crazy! For Year 10 anyway, Year 12 is a bit different. The formal itself was all right. All the girls looked beautiful in their dresses and with their hair done up all fancy. The guys scrubbed up well too. One boy's mum had made him a bright pink suit, which everyone loved. People arrived in all sorts of different cars as well; two couples arrived together in a Mac Truck, which everyone thought was great. The rest of the night was just sitting around at our tables talking, dancing, eating, and getting our photos taken. Unfortunately all the professional photos my friends and I had taken were spoiled because there was something wrong with the flash. We were all looking forward to those photos too, so it was a huge disappointment to everyone. Apart from all of that, many people, including me, had a pretty good night. Awards were given out and my partner Luke and I won best couple of the night, which was a surprise to both of us! Laryssa said, "What also made the night a bit annoying and boring, was having people younger than us [Year Nines!] and older than us [Year 11s!!] at our formal. That's because they had either already experienced it or should be waiting to experience their formal next year, not when it was our turn."Schools should stick to just having Year 10s from their school at the formal and not from other year levels or schools because that sort of ruins the night." Dean had fun at the formal: "It wasn't that bad. It was something different." But Dean was angry that the photos hadn't worked out because, apart from pre-formal photos that were taken of him, they were the only photos he had of his friends and himself at the actual event. With all that said and done, it was a fairly good night. Only two more years then we get to do it all again – uh oh!

2002 SPORT IS ABOUT GETTING RIGHT INTO IT.

February 12, 2002 ushers in the Chinese Year of the Black Horse.For many it will be an omen, with punters having fond memories of Kingston Town, and be looking out for a similar champion to appear on the track.Although 2002 will not be a summer Olympics year, Collingwood supporters will dream of a premiership, and Paramatta could again be up there vying for an elusive flag.Meanwhile in Central Australia we will celebrate on the sporting field, maybe without the power of televised events, but certainly with the endeavour of country sport being played for its real purpose.The highlight of the year will be the Masters Games. Bob Corby is at the reins of this festival of over 30 sports, which has been recognised as the "friendly masters" from competitors the world over. The Games of 2002 will be conducted as the Alice Springs Masters and will be a truly Centralian affair with local businesses and the community being the backbone to success. From Peter Kittle, as a prime sponsor, to Reggie Powell in the marathon, the Games will be distinctly Centralian. Already Ian Low has claimed No 1 by virtue of his early bird registration. For Low the Masters is a real chance to get out and simply enjoy sport. Second through the Registration door was Paul Pearson, the ardent golfer who was able to cajole his prized No 7. By October 19 next year over 4,000 registrations will have been received and the party will begin.The sporting year itself will be heralded by the Alice Springs Yacht Club on the waters of Victoria and Tasmania. They could well greet the New Year as winners of the Melbourne to Hobart classic. Cricket will then make its comeback to the turf wickets at Traeger Park and Albrecht. For the men in flannels the real part of the season begins in January.Super 8s, the competition aimed at attracting corporate involvement, will open the season on January 4 and 5. This action packed form of the game is a spectacle and with play going into the night under lights, it should be a cricket lover's dream.Two rounds of one day matches, again utilising the lights, will lead into the one day final on Australia Day. West and Rovers have had the edge on RSL and Federal Demons in the lead up to this series, but with firmer pitches in January, any of the teams could prevail.A full round of two day matches will then lead into the semi and grand final of that form of the game, with the winner being known on March 24. Following the domestic season, the traditional Calder Shield will be contested between Darwin, Alice Springs, an NTIS side and one from the Country. Adding flavour here in town will be the Imparja Cup for Aboriginal sides. It is heartening to see two divisions of this competition will be contested in 2002. Over the Easter break, the State sides will play on Traeger and Albrecht; and on the concrete the communities competition will take place.With the month of April, horse racing is at its premium in the Centre. The Alice Springs Turf Club will again host a month of galloping with the Chief Ministers Cup; the Sprint; and culminating in the running of the Alice Springs Cup on May Day.Running through the pre-Easter period at Anzac Oval will be Rugby Union. This year would be far and away the tightest competition conducted by the CARU. In a complete turn of the tables, the Eagles and Feds Devils have been the power houses in the game. Tui Ford came to the "green machine" and brought with him more players and a sense of discipline. With the indefatigable Joe Dixon directing, the Eagles have taken all before them, and sit at the top of the table. In the Devils' corner it has been Terrence Titus who has patiently brought another crop of juniors through and the rewards are being reaped.For the reigning premiers the Cubs it is in this part of the season that the score has to go on the board. They miss the drive of AJ Doidge, and have John Sullivan and Stewy Bright listed as departures. To be there on grand final day the Cubs have to regroup and fire. The Warriors have dominated the competition for years but have been hit hard by retirements. Following the latest, Joe Kaihe, things look tough for the Kiwis. One cannot, however, underestimate the ability of the Shelford family to see the Warriors back in winning form. The Central Australian Football League has planned for a monumental year in 2002. The recently elected board, headed again by Steve Menzies, has the Origin Lightning Carnival scheduled for April 13 and 14.The communities will begin the Country competition on April 20 and the CAFL on the 21st.In the Country Cup, Yuendumu have to a degree been "let off the hook" in that a Central Anmatjere side has been named as their replacement for the season. This common sense decision will allow all players to still participate and the supporters will have a team to follow. Otherwise Santa Teresa, Harts Range and Ti Tree, Pitjantjatara teams from South Australia, McDonnell Districts and Western Aranda, will again all run onto Traeger Park.In terms of the CAFL it would appear that all five sides will give it a go again in 2002. Federal are yet to hold an AGM, but they have the players, and absolute loyalty in the face of adversity of a few will probably see an administration formed and red and white reappear.The league have the chance to host a representative team from the Spencer Gulf League on Traeger mid year. The trip to Port Augusta by a representative CAFL side in 2001 was a landmark occasion, and with the "muddies" pledging the return trip to the Centre a tradition could be established.The Desert Warriors, who represented the Centre so well against the Tiwi both at home and away last year, will be pitched against a Katherine side on June 15 at Traeger Park. There have also been whispers of a curtain raiser for the two sides on Marrara on Australia Day! Should these matches be played it will be a bonanza for the Country Clubs. Katherine consider themselves to be second only to the Darwin Competition and could be in for a rude surprise. At Under 17 level the communities will also field a side against Tennant Creek, as a curtain raiser to the Warriors v Katherine game.Football of the Rugby League variety will continue to prosper during the winter at Anzac Oval. Again the four team competition will be led by the Vikings and Bulls who played last year's grand final. Traditional rivals West and United will complete the four. Ron Raper, who has been an achiever especially with the juniors will again be in there boots and all. However he will need a hand. His right hand man of the last few years, Jimmy O'Grady is leaving for Ireland (presumably to support a green and gold side) and will be sorely missed.In talking sports and sports fields, the whole town will sorely miss the presence of Dave Perry in 2002. Perry has put in the hard yards on all sports grounds in the ‘eighties, ‘nineties and in these early years of the new millennium. As boss of the council's parks and gardens, it was he who saw the Woolongong Steelers versus the Broncos appear in perfect conditions on Anzac Oval. Perry and his staff have also ensured the clashes between the Northern Territory and the West Indies, Pakistan, England A and various Shield sides. Traeger Park was also right up to AFL standards when the Adelaide crows played Essendon.With the same level of commitment he has seen that locals can play on fields which are well prepared, week in week out, and it has all been done with a minimum of fuss.Allan McGill in Darwin will be quietly rubbing his hands together at the opportunity to again work with a consummate professional. 2002 will also be a monumental year for the Alice Springs Netball Association. Heather Parkinson and her committee have secured the Northern Territory Championships for next year. For the first time in 18 years they will be played in the Centre. The Pat Gallagher Courts will host teams from all over the Territory. This is apt reward for an association who have dominated all grades of the game at championship level over the past two years.

29.1 LITRES FOR 1600 KM DARWIN TO ALICE!

Adventurer and seasoned outback car tester Hans Tholstrup drove a car from Darwin to Alice Springs using 29.1 litres of fuel. Yes, that's right, 29.1 litres, and he paid $29.94 when he filled up here. When he next bought fuel it was in Adelaide and he paid for 30.6 litres. It was one of the stunning by-products of the recent solar race, Hans' brainchild. But this time ‘round he was sitting in what looks very much like a normal small car – but plainly isn't. It's available at your local Honda dealer – the Honda Insight, priced at just under $50,000. It has a three cylinder "lean burn" 995 cc engine that puts its power to the road via a flywheel system which harnesses energy from braking and going down hills, and stores it in batteries. The car is claimed to have virtually no emissions. It meets standards 90 per cent below the existing national emission requirements. An electric motor sits between the engine and the gearbox and assists during acceleration. The engine's maximum power is 56 kW at 5700 rpm, and runs through a five speed manual gearbox. True, the trip wasn't all beer and skittles. Hans, pictured with Alice Honda dealer Peter Harvey, rarely exceeded 50 km/h, kept the air conditioning off, the windows shut to reduce drag (he looks as though he lost 15 kg en route), and the low rolling resistance tyres pumped up to 80 psi.The car is highly aerodynamic (with a drag coefficient of just 0.25), and weighs 827 kg – 250 kg less than a conventional small to medium car. And it is twice as fuel efficient. Insight even has instruments that tell you when to change gears. Says Mr Harvey: "Even the world's worst driver can get 800 km out of a single tank – 40 litres – of Premium Unleaded."The only cars using less fuel were the sleek, shark-like machines getting their power direct from the sun.

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