After 34 years here and four in the remote area …

Comment on Tourism: let the battle for the big spenders begin by Trevor Shiell.

After 34 years here and four in the remote area tourism area I think the planning authorities have missed the mark in focusing on the high yield end of the market, and are being slightly greedy.
One manager put it to me this way: I would rather have one client paying $1000 a night than 100 clients paying $10.
Less problems and easier money. They miss the point that 100 people coming here spend more money in associated businesses – food, entertainment, regional travel etc that one “high yielding” client.
The total return to the operator might be the same but the distribution of the economic activity is far more widely spread.
This is where we have gone wrong. On a recent trip South in May last year we encountered 374 vans heading North between here and Coober Pedy.
I wondered at the time how many of them actually saw the visitors centre in town or for that matter, went on straight through without being intercepted at all by the town.
Maybe they did not even know where it was. Signage at the same rock perhaps? Still conspicuous by its absence.
There are at least 10 items of interest to visitors between there and the Gap, only one of which is exploited, but we have a brand new row of back yard fences were we should have a vibrant display of everything we do here, advertising ourselves and who we are.
An unique environmentally sound village there would have been a hit, but no, we got a replica of anywhere else in Australia.
Similarly at round the same time I did a brief survey of the traffic flow around the welcome rock south of town and there were 102 people photographed on that rock in the several hours that I sat there.
It is so obvious that his is where the interception area for the “low yielding” visitors should have been and from there, directed to where we want the economic activity to be.
I believe the total benefits to the NT would and should have been far more substantial and widely distributed than a few high yielding people arriving at the five star end of the market which seems to be the ultimate aim of the marketing plan.
I have witnessed caravaners being fined for parking illegally while trying to access the Visitors centre.
These things spread very rapidly amongst the caravaning community. In January last year the ABC programme “Summer all over” ran a survey of what the travelling public want in a visitors centre.
The view was that the essentials were clean toilets and adequate parking. Ours has neither. The refusal of the planners in the industry to look at places such as McLaren Vale, in SA and in North Qld show just how far we are away from enticing travellers to stay here and investigate.
The signage here is appalling and again I invite the planners in the industry to look at SA and the signage around Lake Eyre Eyre and then look at what we offer here. (Anzac Hill!)
There are new attractions all over the world that could be staged here but are ignored. Japan has a 100 km student marathon attracting 80 million TV viewers.
Imagine that from Glen Helen to the Mall, but the planners show no interest in that free publicity when I explained it to them.
The recent sand castle building on the beach South of Adelaide could be replicated here in the Todd.
So the list goes on and will be so until the planners take off their blinkers and look around at where the real market is, and act accordingly.

Recent Comments by Trevor Shiell

Don’t mess with our treasures, says Alice
We seem to never learn in the name of “Progress”.
I am often asked by visitors with long memories, what happened to the bullbar where we used to meet?(Now a characterless adjunct to the Ford Plaza.)
Another asked: “Where are all the verandas?” Another told me: “This is just like Christie’s.” He lives at Christie’s beach, South of Adelaide.
I frequently get comments like: “What happened to Alice Springs” and “it’s just the same as everywhere else.”
We still refuse to look at places like Hahndorf where they have used their heritage to create a huge industry, while we have allowed – even encouraged – a few greedy developers to make their money and then hightail it out.
No wonder people no longer travel the long distances to get here only to find that its just the same –sometimes even worse than the place they had just left.
There has been no imagination or LONG TERM future direction in planning.
Were it not so, where the disgrace of Kilgariff is now would be a vibrant demonstration of what is being done to feed the extra nine billion people expected to inhabit the earth within 30 years, and encourage the investment to make that happen.
They can’t eat houses and Todd Mall would be filled with throngs of people experiencing both the history, culture and possibilities of what can still be a unique town if they make the right decisions on what is valuable.
And that is not they yield in housing allotments or parking spaces per hectare as was a planning consultant’s vision of the town. Time to start again.


Planning another plan
Remember the towards 2030 document of a Labor administration several years ago? Full of social platitudes with no concrete plans.
In the 35 years that I have lived here I cannot recall a single proactive initiative to produce new industries and employment opportunities.
There have been so many opportunities missed for the want of a proactive approach.
Some examples: A famous German research institute looking for a venue to research solar technology.
Ignored here, in the context of a technology park on the airport land when it was managed by Infratril.
Before Christmas, a consortium procured the old Chrysler factory in Adelaide to produce hydrogen for the emerging car industry. Their justification was the quality of sunlight in Adelaide! Did anyone chase them to come here?
I have this week sent caparis seed (our own caper bush) to a grower in SA who has 500 plants in the ground and intends to increase it by a factor of 10.
There is a growing market again not recognised here. There are numerous other examples passed by.
I was also asked to procure wattle seed for the food industry. Currently research on this is being done in Africa and India. Why?
Last year the Indian High commissioner outlined India’s need for food (in the billions of dollars). Surely that should have awakened a little interest in supplying that market and doing the research to satisfy that market, but it went unnoticed.
The issue was raised also by the Chinese vice president for food production three years ago but it too went unnoticed here.
I can almost guarantee that the coming World Food Forum in Sydney will pass un-noticed here while everyone else will be scrambling for market opportunities.
Years ago, I asked the then Minister for Agriculture where Old Man Plains research station was and he told me he thought it was near Arltunga.
If you go looking for it take an EPERB, a cut lunch and a water bag. And if you are a potential investor in food production here and subsequent employment don’t bother.
The ex-mayor has little to distinguish himself by, apart from – like every other expert who has written reports – has at the sole aim to replicate the urban sprawl which is occurring south of Adelaide where even the Willunga Golf course is under threat of subdivision.
Could it happen here?
No mention of Christie’s Close in the Adelaide CBD, or the Eco village. There is nothing here to distinguish us from any other suburb in Australia. The last consultant measured his success by housing plots per hectare.
Is that what Alice is all about? Who benefits?
We have the unique situation south of town where we have the intersection of three major cross country transport routes, a rail head and an international airport all together, yet we refuse to acknowledge that the town is now in the wrong position for future growth.
And that includes the cultural centre which should be incorporated into Yirara College. After all it’s their culture which we all share and use.
Do we really want to be the same as everywhere else?


Miners are spreading myths, says environmentalist
There was once the possibility of mining diamonds from the Kimberlite pipes at the Merlin deposits near Boroloola by members of the Gutnick family who were prominent mining entrepreneurs at that time.
The project never went ahead, I suspect, because diamond supply and consequent price is still tightly controlled by the De Beers family and other South African interest.
At one time I was a shareholder in the Merlin mine but the ethics of it smelled to high heaven and I quit.
There is no shortage of diamonds but the marketing is so tightly controlled to prevent barriers to further entry.
In addition the main value is in industrial use and in the small but lucrative top end of the market.
Like in so many of the high end uses (recently well demonstrated in the high fashion industry and in our own Indigenous art, where thousands of fine pieces are held in reserve for fear of flooding the market). The idea is to restrict supply to drive up price. There is little value in that for us in the NT as nice and comfortable as it may sound to have the Indigenous women cutting and polishing stones in the Mall thus increasing the supply and driving the price down.
If it were not so there would be an immense flood of polished stone coming out of West Africa.
The powers in control of the market will never let it happen – a sad reality of marketing.
Re the development of other industries which are a more immediate need for us: The failing of this and previous governments has been the lack of proactive planning when new industries have emerged.
The most most obvious ones of recent times have not been diamonds but medicinal cannabis, a billion dollar industry well suited to here, and production of hydrogen from water and solar power for the hydrogen car revolution coming our way.
The establishment of hydrogen production facility in Adelaide was justified on the intensity of the sunlight in Adelaide!
No-one thought to ask them to investigate The Centre, and this lack of proactive planning and action is the root cause of our economic woes.
Where are the demonstration plots of medicinal cannabis to attract the investors?
All covered in houses. And here we are involved in the Beetaloo gas discussions re fracking while the Permian beds under Texas and Mexico have so much gas that they are having difficulty giving it away.
We stew in our own juice.


The financial crisis in the Northern Territory
Lets not forget this is a two way thing.
I am aware of several female friends who have mothered Indigenous children for both social reasons and to get the substantial benefits which go with being Indigenous.
I also have seen contractors in a remote community having completed repairs on around 30 houses then having to return to house one to start again. Pretty lucrative work.
I also recall seeing TV footage two years ago showing a group of Eastern states people being taken to the Top End and shown a house in disrepair, but the occupant insisting on being given a new house when there was a lot of evidence (not mentioned) that she really needed a scrubbing brush, some soap, a toilet brush a broom and a bit off elbow grease to improve her situation considerably.
But the programme was structured to not offer these as an alternative as the rest of us would be expected to do.
To see where the money has gone, and how effectively it has been used, visit Mt Barkley, near Conniston, or Pannels Well near Ambalindum – and this is the thin edge of the wedge.
There will be readers who immediately consider this as racism. But my two closest friends are Indigenous men.
I had an Indigenous tutor as a child and who virtually lived with my family and I grew up with their children.
I also lived for a long time in a remote part of a Pacific Island country where if you wanted a new house you did not wait for the Government to provide – you just got in and built it.


National Indigenous Art Gallery future in doubt: Gunner
The so obvious position for a cultural centre come art showplace is adjacent to Yirrara college and in conjunction with that institution.
It would enable the students to display and promote their own culture and art and at the same time acquire the business skills needed to run such a business, as well as showing the positive side of Indigenous education.
As a complete complex it should also incorporate an open air market for the combined art centre movement.
Of course, this would go down like a lead balloon with the huge vested interests North of The Gap but as Professor Ian Chubb, former Chief scientist, recently said to the National Press Club, its the communal good that is sadly lacking in many planning matters, not sectional inwardly directed interests as so often has happened here.


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