Local business needs shot in the arm

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The government urgently needs to get behind Central Petroleum’s project to produce “ultra clean” diesel from massive coal deposits in the Simpson Desert. That’s the view of Julie Ross (pictured), chair of the Alice Springs Chamber of Commerce.

She says there is little else the local economy can look forward to: the construction of accommodation on Aboriginal town camps, funded by Canberra, is drawing to a close. Apart from tenders soon to be called for a gas pipeline to Pine Gap, expected to cost $5m to $6m, and headworks for the Kilgariff suburb at the AZRI site, there are no major infrastructure projects.

“The only growth industries are pest control, security and removalists,” says Ms Ross, “dealing with the mouse plague, the crime wave and people leaving town.”

She says labour shortages are already beginning to bite: one company has lost a refrigeration mechanic and it now takes three to four weeks to respond to service calls.

“We are at a critical stage. Skilled people are leaving town and new employees aren’t coming to town because of the negative publicity.”

Ms Ross says the tourism industry is on its knees, not helped by the unfortunate publicity generated by Action for Alice. Instead of taking up the issues of crime and public disorder with the politicians, Ms Ross says the group’s advertising suggesting rampant anti-social behaviour by young people has been going to all the wrong places. The Murdoch owned London Times last month did a two-page spread calling Alice Springs an “Aboriginal community crippled by crime and violence … where even security guards live in fear”.

Ms Ross says the coal to diesel proposal should not be subjected to the treatment suffered by the Angela Pamela uranium project on which the NT Government pulled the pin during a by-election. She says the site’s distance from town, some 200 kms, environmentally friendly product and huge benefits to the local economy should put into perspective any opposition.

The government has already missed the boat with the rare earths project at Nolan’s Bore near Aileron: all processing will be done at Whyalla because “the NT Government was too slow off the mark, not offering land in Darwin,” says Ms Ross. The processing requires huge amounts of water and therefore needs to be near the sea.

 

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