Aiming for an events led tourism recovery

p2048-Jamie-DeBrenni-1By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Cranking up tourism by starting, developing and attracting major sporting and social events, and giving his kids a reason for staying in town, being part of its growth: That’s the aim of council candidate Jamie deBrenni (pictured), a builder.

 

Standing for council is “the perfect opportunity of giving back to the town what it’s given to me,” says the third generation local.

 

The motor sport fanatic, who has strong links with Chief Minister Adam Giles, says he would need to find his feet if elected to local government: Not having access to the discussions in the confidential parts of the council meetings “it’s hard to know the full story about what’s going on, where they are at with different things”.

 

He is wary of, but accepts as inevitable, “procedures and protocols” that may stand in the way of the council’s dealing with higher forms of government, unlike in “the old days when we could get things done quickly.

 

“I know it frustrates a lot of people. It frustrates me as well.”

 

He quotes as an example Cr Chansey Paech’s current efforts in improving services for young people.

 

NEWS: Couldn’t the council simply communicate a request or a demand to the government?

 

deBRENNI: My understanding is the council does communicate with the government. But it would be lovely if you could say, this is what we want, bang, bang, bang. The whole world would be perfect. But everyone’s got to work together. Maybe, once I’m in there, there may be ways to change those procedures.

 

NEWS: What are the most important initiatives you would like the council to pursue?

 

deBRENNI: Events that bring people to Alice Springs, and bring economic rewards. The council supports events but I am not yet clear to what extent, how they can be involved more. That’s what I’d like to work on. I’m the vice-president of Motorsports NT. The Australian speedway titles, the Australian quad titles on the motocross track, NT karting titles are some examples. The Red CentreNATS drags will get stronger and stronger. We estimate we will double the number of entrants next year. We already have 73 more than we had in this inaugural year. We’re getting interest from overseas. The council may be able to lighten the load on the steering committees. As an ongoing event, the economic benefits of the NATS will be second to none.

 

NEWS: What would be your other objectives on council?

 

deBRENNI: Encourage the ongoing beautification of the town. First impressions for people coming through The Gap or the northern hills, are always the biggest thing for a tourists. Once visitors get to know people they love the town, but we’ve got to give them that first impression. The council does a great job but it can be improved on.

 

NEWS: What else?

 

deBRENNI: Sporting infrastructure across the whole town. Growing up here I’ve been involved in every sport you can play here. Let’s give our kids the same opportunity.

 

NEWS: Given that the council can be a conduit to the NT Government for the people of the town, what has the current government done for it so far?

 

deBRENNI: Government is accessible by the people direct but they can go through the council. The government has done a lot, both governments, in the last 15 years. The development of the town is ongoing. But we’re not running for NT government, we’re running for local government.

 

NEWS: The council, whose nine members are all elected by locals, could make its points very forcefully. The government would be be foolish not to take seriously demands from the council.

 

deBRENNI: The job of the council is to work with the governments of the day, Federal and state. They, in turn, need to engage with local government which is the first step for community engagement. And it should be. The people of Alice Springs should have the confidence to go to the council, ask the questions and have the council to follow them up.

 

NEWS: What should the council be saying to the government right now?

 

deBRENNI: They should say thank you for getting behind the town with events that are bringing tourism to town – including the NATS, Truckies’ Hall of Fame, writers’ festival, Desert Mob and so on. There’s a lot of in-kind work, and work behind the scenes.

 

NEWS: What about big picture issues? For example, we have road trains carrying cattle going south and returning empty. We have  road trains carrying general cargo going north and returning empty. We no longer have an abattoir. Moving freight by rail is four times more fuel efficient than moving freight on the highway.

 

Is there a place for council to research, promote, advise, encourage – and regulate, if necessary?

 

deBRENNI: It’s about viability, location, cattle prices and so on. In a perfect world I’d like Alice Springs to be the central hub of all industry in Australia. And why wouldn’t you? It’s the middle, especially with modern technology. Pine Gap had the foresight. We’ve got the clearest days. The perfect place for an online shopping distribution hub is the middle.

 

NEWS: Some people say a council should be all about roads, rates and rubbish.

 

deBRENNI: I think the council is looking beyond that, looking into the future, with developing events and supporting them. Tourism has always been our number one income source. People will not come just for our [natural] attractions. They will take in Ormiston Gorge once they’ve come for one of our events. It’s a flow-on benefit. The council is doing a fantastic job with the sporting facilities they maintain.

 

NEWS: Does the council have close enough connections with other lobbies such as the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Central Australia, Congress and ALEC?

 

deBRENNI: I think they do but I have access only to council business not dealt with in confidential session. The very diverse group of people who are the council’s elected members also gives it access to those organisations.

 

NEWS: Which of the sitting councillors would you be most comfortable dealing with?

 

deBRENNI: All of them. When it comes to this town, that is my priority. It is a democratic system. You need five of nine votes to get a decision.

 

NEWS: Should there be party politics in council?

 

deBRENNI: No.

 

NEWS: Are you Alice Springs born and bred?

 

deBRENNI: I was conceived in Alice Springs, born in Adelaide. I spent three days out of town, to be honest with you.

 

The 49-year-old is the third generation of deBrennis in Alice, and he is working on the fourth: One daughter is a business graduate, the second a journalism student (recently doing intern work with the Alice Springs News Online), and a son in highschool.

 

“I want to somehow play a hand in giving these kids a reason for staying in Alice Springs and giving me my grandchildren,” says Mr deBrenni.

 

 

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8 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Posted September 29, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Great to read Jamie’s enthusiasm for the town and especially on tourism.
    Having had to the opportunity to chat to him about tourism (long before he put his hand up for council) I know his enthusiasm is genuine and well grounded.
    I have always said we have the potential here to be the events capital of Australia. Where else can we get such a diverse mix as trucks, desert racing, indigenous arts and beanies all of which attract an international audience.
    Good to see also that Jamie is going in with an open mind.
    The 4Ps (Protocol, Policy, Process and Procedure) can indeed be frustrating especially if you come from a private enterprise background as I do.
    I agree there is room for improvement in several sectors that continue to frustrate the community. It is hard (but not impossible) to do that without compromising stakeholder and community consultation.
    I am sad to leave council and absolutely enjoyed my time there. However, I leave with a wider appreciation of what community is all about, the uniqueness of our man made and natural environments and the culture and diversity of our populations. There really is no-where else like it in the world!
    To me it has always been about roads, rates and rubbish as the core business of council – that keeps us busy enough. However, each of those come under the massive umbrella commonly called “community”.
    The current Mayor and Councillors do a great job under sometimes very difficult circumstances and it will be good to see them “bolstered with new blood”.
    Council has a key role to play in the social and economic well-being of the broader community. This is intrinsically linked to how council manages roads rates and rubbish.
    The work council does behind the scenes is often thankless but truly commendable; particularly with community events, the arts, social services and their provision, sporting activities, youth and senior issues and the lobbying of all levels of government on all manner of issues.
    I commend Jamie for taking a stand for the town and its future and know he calls Alice “home”. For that alone he will excel. I also congratulate the other candidates for putting their hands up – its all about diversity and representation of all sectors of the community so I wish you all well.
    I look forward to reading all your profiles as we near election day. I am available if any would like a chat notwithstanding the confidential stuff!
    And Yes, the complexities of confidential section will open the eyes of any new councillor – it certainly did mine.
    As an old ex-councillor friend (from Darwin), once told me, being on council is like working a five step program …
    1 x W – Well-being (of the community).
    2 x Cs – Commitment and Consultation.
    3 x Rs – Roads Rates and Rubbish.
    4 x Ps – Protocol, Policy, Process and Procedure.
    5 x Fs – Facilities, Faculties, Fun and Forethought for the – Future.

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  2. Monnie
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Evelyn, you cannot simply base your opinions on a candidate based on the words of someone who has grown up with the candidate.

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  3. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 11:13 am

    @ Mark Fitzgerald: I am one of those you call “ferals”. I know there are a lot of us, not only in Australia but around the word. By swearing (unless you are still suffering of your first fuck syndrome) and insulting those who dare have different opinions, you have not help Jamie, because I am sure you know the popular adage: “Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are?”
    I cannot vote for a councillor who will insult those who do not agree with him. So it is bye-bye Jamie for me.

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  4. Sean
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Agreed Jason and Phil. Fracking is a very relevant topic for all locals and their town leaders – including those who what to become leaders. So to suggest otherwise is simply ignorant and out of touch.

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  5. Jason Quin
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 12:56 am

    Thanks to the Alice Springs News for profiling Jamie, as a candidate for the upcoming by-election.
    To Evelyne, I agree that the electorate needs to know who they are voting for, and I’d welcome the opportunity to introduce myself to the electorate through this source of local news.
    To Phil, I think the issues surrounding fracking grow in importance every day, we live at the forefront of a contemporary gold rush, with potentially grave risks for local communities, primarily for water security, and with negligible local economic benefits.
    It is important to know how our prospective leaders stand on this issue, just as we should seek governments willing to lead our communities into the future: a clean, renewable future with real jobs in a sustainable economy.

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  6. Posted September 28, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Onya Jamie – if I was in town, I’d definitley vote for you.
    Having grown up together, I know where your moral compass is pointed and good on you for having a crack at making the Alice a better place for locals and visitors alike.
    One thing that stands out to me with this interview is that you have not lost your vibrancy and zest for like – hopefully some of that rubs off on your fellow counselors mate 😉
    Got to say that I’m disappointed with the first comments from the ferals asking about fracking – FFS.
    Personally I’m sick and tired of blow-in mung bean wannabes having a crack at something that candidates have little control over – be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.
    Focus on what the council has control of – making the town a destination and not an abomination.

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  7. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted September 28, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Good point Phil, but thank you to Jamie for introducing himself. I hope other candidates will do the same. We cannot vote for people we do not know.

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  8. Phil Walcott
    Posted September 28, 2015 at 10:16 am

    What’s Jamie’s position on fracking?

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