The closure of the Sitzler office in Alice Springs has few practical consequences, and it is likely to be re-opened the moment a major project pops up.
The office, since the relocation to Darwin of the formerly prominent Alice Springs construction firm, has been subjected to the ebb and flow of the industry, mostly driven by public spending.
Local staff numbers fluctuated accordingly.
This is the view of Steve Brown, a Town Councillor, a builder and electrician, member of a local construction dynasty entering its third generation, and “a friend of the Sitzler family,” as Mr Brown puts it.
Mr Brown says for decades the two families have worked alongside and competed with each other, with the erstwhile Sitzler brothers – Peter and Paul – doing mostly the larger projects in and out of town, such as clinics and police stations, and the Browns, building homes.
Both were driven almost entirely by government spending, either as providers of funds or paying rent for premises.
An exception, for Sitzlers, is the Catholic Church built in 1967.
The Sheraton Hotel, now called the DoubleTree by Hilton, was built with government-guaranteed funds, and so was the Ayers Rock Resort in whose development Sitzlers were “the key participant” according to the company’s website.
“Ayres [sic] Rock Resort holds world icon status. We have worked in partnership with the owners over the past 20 years to assist in achieving this status, bringing to the table sophisticated construction solutions tailored to suit the Resorts needs at any time.”
More recently Sitzlers have been building the Kilgariff suburb, an ongoing project. So far 80 blocks have been built, at a cost of $100,000 each, or $8m. The NT Land Development Corporation is the client.
The sealing of the remaining 43 kms of the Mereenie inner loop went to Sitzler for $25m, and is now almost completed.
Sitzlers will get $1m a year rent for 20 years from the NT Supreme Court, and the remainder of the new building – much criticised – in Parsons Street will, reportedly, also be leased to government tenants.
Meanwhile the announcement of the office closure is likely to spark debate about the local economy being almost entirely dependant on political whim: In the NT, government welfare clearly has many faces, one of them being the top level of local commerce.
It is astonishing that substantial firms like Sitzlers, who are active also in SA and Queensland, have not invested some of their money in private enterprise ventures such as tourism resorts in the West and East MacDonnells.
It seems that this major firm is sitting tight until the next government jobs come on line, presumably the Indigenous art gallery and the Indigenous cultural centre.
We have asked Mr Sitzler for a comment and he said he would get back to us. We will post his responses.
PHOTOS from the Sitzler website: The Highbury Primary School library in Adelaide (top) and the Australian Federal Police Building in Darwin.