February 11, 1998


Attracting "mature affluent" tourists from Australia and Europe to The Centre is shaping up as the focus for local tourism promoters in 1998.
At the same time several of them - traditionally pulling in different directions - are moving to join forces - and budgets.
"The 'mature affluent' can afford the short break holiday, and they look for a different, original destination," says Merran Dobson, the general manager of the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association (CATIA).
"We've only got a limited number of beds, and the people who sleep in those beds, we want them to spend a good quid while they're here," says Tony Mayell, managing director of the NT Tourist Commission (NTTC).
Meanwhile Helen Bateman, a member of the Todd Mall marketing and several other committees, says local business must offer tourists more and better service, and they need to "vitalise" the town (see interview page 7).
Ms Bateman says jealousies between commercial interests and fragmentation of initiatives have led to expensive failures in the past, and strong current moves towards a united effort need to be encouraged.
Ms Dobson says: "It doesn't have to be a dull town, it can be vibrant.
"We can say to the world, we are here, let's get up and get going."
"We've got to make the town profile itself far more significantly, and the citizens of this town will see monumental changes in the next six months."
She says these will result from initiatives by the new town council CEO, Nick Scarvelis, the council's new director of economic and community development, Suzanne Lollback, and her appointment to CATIA last year.
"We're saying to the old school, we're all new here, we can give you different ideas, don't sit back and say, 'oh, we don't think it will work'," says Ms Dobson.
"Run with it and give it a go." There's new blood in town that can see the big picture. "Factions can see their own individual needs, but they're not necessarily in the big picture."
This follows what Mr Mayell describes as "a summer of more of the same" - with business at a low ebb, except - according to some sources - some increase in visitation from Europe and in the budget - backpacker trade.
Mr Mayell says the NTTC's advertising spending is now directed in about equal parts to domestic and overseas tourism, with Europe the prime target.
On the domestic front, two new TV commercials will be screened soon, one of them dealing with Central Australia. In the domestic market, which Mr Mayell expects to remain "fairly soft" this year, "we recognise we need to position Alice Springs as the real gateway to Central Australia."
Overseas the focus will be on Europe - the source of a double-digit increase last year - because "not only does it provide longer stays, they're also a pretty high spending market as well."
The NTTC will push opportunities for extending Asian holidays into the NT from Europe, as well as offering operators "assistance and encouragement" to do their own advertising abroad in a new program.
"We've just launched the international marketing support scheme that's about helping operators financially to get their product in front of the international market.
"We can promote the NT and Central Australia as a generic destination, but until the product suppliers get behind us, and get their faces in front of these markets, then all our efforts are for nothing."
Mr Mayell denies rumours that the NTTC is trying to get out of its contract with TV star Daryl Somers, seen by sections of the industry in Alice Springs as having outlived his usefulness.
Mr Mayell says Mr Somers "will not be as visible in the campaign so far as the public is concerned but we're looking at other ways we can use him."
This will include trade promotion with travel agents: "He still appeals to the younger travel agent."
"I think the other ways are going to prove just as effective as he's proven in the past in putting the Territory on the map in terms of awareness." Mr Mayell says Alice Springs has to make the most out of the drawing power of places such as Ayers Rock.
"That means getting more product in front of the market. We'd love to see more activity from product suppliers here. There's a gap between the general service industry and the tourist industry, and the whole community [needs to become] aware of the importance of tourism. We need to look at activities within the CBD, in the mall, what shops are open, what times, and what's actually put on for visitors in the town. I worry that operators are not doing enough business planning. They're not sure where exactly their target markets are, where their true source markets are." Mr Mayell says with just 5000 tourist beds, the town "is not geared up for, and we're not really interested in mass market tourism".
He says the NTTC has rewritten marketing plans, and a draft has been tabled.
"It's all about targeting high yield people."
Asked why this hasn't this been done before, Mr Mayell says: "I've been here one year and the whole marketing plan's changed in that direction.
"That's our approach from now on in."
Both Ms Dobson and Mr Mayell say that the Asian crisis will impact on tourism here although Asians do not make up a big slice of our market. However, Queensland - the preferred destination of Asians - will experience a sharp drop in business and will seek to invade the Territory's markets.
"They're going to put every dollar they have into our own fairly stable marketplace," says Ms Dobson.
"If we're not in the agents' face, we're going to lose our domestic market to those other places - particularly the Queensland areas." FOOTNOTE: Three women - Ms Dobson, Ms Bateman and the recent arrival, Ms Lollback - are behind the push for tourism promotion reform.
Paul Ah Chee's Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Centre presented a painting to CATIA for the boardroom in its new office, opened last week.
The painting - "significantly" as Ms Dobson puts it - depicts a women's meeting place.


<>If you're talking to a Legislative Assembly Labor candidate in The Centre, chances are you'll be calling him Peter.
Sitting MLA for Stuart Peter Toyne is again being joined by Peter Kavanagh (Greatorex) and Peter Brooke (Braitling).
Preselected this week - just six months after the last election, and up to three and a half years before the next one - Mr Kavanagh and Mr Brooke are eliminating a major worry they faced in 1997: lack of time.
Never before has the ALP in The Centre had a candidate, other than a sitting one, who stood more than once.
Says Mr Kavanagh: "We've now got continuity of candidacy. We've got the ball rolling."
Both first-time candidates last year, Mr Brooke had five months to campaign, and Mr Kavanagh just three, after moving to Alice from Yulara which is in the seat of MacDonnell.
No sooner had he been preselected in the, to him, unfamiliar Greatorex, than Neil Bell resigned unexpectedly from MacDonnell.
Union official Mark Wheeler - no doubt more acquainted with Greatorex - was hurriedly slotted in for MacDonnell, Mr Kavanagh's stomping ground for several years.
Senior Labor polly Toyne is clearly determined to avoid a repetition of that kind of fiasco: continuity, and mutual familiarity with the electorate, will be major weapons for the ALP, he says.
While preselection for the seat of MacDonnell has not yet taken place, Mr Toyne says nominating Mr Brooke and Mr Kavanagh for the urban electorates will broaden the region's access to the Labor party beyond just having himself as a sole sitting Member: "We also represent a think tank, working through the town's problems, and come up with solutions to them. We're inviting the town to accept us into all the aspects of its life," sharing ideas during door knocking or at a variety of public meetings, the "bulk of which" will be attended by one or another candidate. The much more generous amount of time available quite clearly will result in far more specific proposals than have been presented in the past. A cornerstone will again be the antisocial behaviour plan for Alice Springs, announced prior to last year's election, and the result at least in part of a comprehensive survey of public opinion by Mr Toyne.
That policy's major points are more police, including a juveniles' squad with a shop front office in the Mall; doubling the grog wardens to four; better lighting for "dark sports"; dialogue between urban and bush leaders, especially with regard to behaviour required in the town; school attendance officers combating truancy; programs creating employment and sporting opportunities; creating facilities to deal with petrol sniffing and other substance abuse.
Mr Toyne says this major plank in the Labor platform will now be developed further.
He says there's a "crisis" in attitudes towards schools, both in town and in the bush.
"People are losing the reasons for having kids at school," he says.
"There's no guaranteed job at the end of it, no clear advantage for someone who's gone through 12 years of education compared to someone who's dropped out."
For the bush communities there needs to be "a regional development plan both for service delivery and economic development".
How? "You have to work backward from an economic plan."
If you have a major economic development along the Plenty Highway, for example, you'll need a whole series of skills.
"Horticulture and whole lot of new forms of primary industries" would offer other opportunities.
"The smart industries, the arrival of the remote area digital network over the next three to four years, are going to offer a huge potential multi media development, for example."
Mr Brooke says youth in The Centre lacks a strong voice, expressing concerns that the Chief Minister's Round Table may not be a "truly representative body".
He says: "If the Round Table is unable to formulate a position on mandatory sentencing, for example, I would argue that the real positions aren't being debated."
"If you're not good at sport there's not a lot else for you."
He says he's resolved to "listen" to the kids and support organisations, and support a roller blading and blade hockey facility at the Wills Terrace Youth Centre.
Development in the Larapinta area of sporting, parks, child care and toy library facilities are also high on Mr Brooke' list of priorities.
Another is what he describes as the government's inability to retain public servants, including police.
A former teacher himself, Mr Brooke says: "There are record numbers of new teachers. There's a huge turn-over of health staff."
"That's why you hear talks of setting up another party in Central Australia, because people are so depressed about their standard of representation from the local Members, and their lack of impact on the Cabinet in Darwin."
Mr Kavanagh says concern about the future of the town is uppermost in the electorate's mind: "Everything branches from that. It's a watershed period here for us in Alice Springs. We've got to do something or Alice Springs will become another Arltunga, a huge ghost town."
He says there must be more openness in the government processes, starting with Freedom of Information laws.
Parliamentary sittings on just 35 days a year - subject to change "at the whim of the CLP" - are the only time "when this administration is accountable.
"The rest of the time they can do what they like. When the Chief Minister says 'we're not sitting on our hands', what he means is, we're operating in the back rooms, in the shadows, doing our own thing, and the electors really have no right to know what we're doing."
Mr Kavanagh wants to apply principles of democracy also to the planning process, ensuring that Planning Authority members are answerable to local government, and can be overruled by the Minister only after Parliamentary scrutiny, with all relevant facts having to be tabled in the House.

"What's the use of a Minister who may live in Darwin or Katherine planning the future of Alice Springs?
"These people are not accountable to the people of Alice Springs. We need to have that strong community input."
What are the Peters' chances?
While the CLP's Loraine Braham last year won Braitling handsomely, with around 65 per cent of the vote, Mr Brooke points to a swing of almost five per cent - the fourth highest in the NT, while the sitting Member's vote dropped almost 10 per cent.
Mr Brooke has lived in Central Australia for eight years, is the father of four sons and works as an electorate officer for Mr Toyne.
Mr Kavanagh, a manager in a large tour company and the brand-new father of a girl, Emily, says he doesn't believe "we did anything wrong" in the Greatorex campaign.
Despite his late start and being new in town, he managed to improve on the remarkable advances of his predecessor, Kerrie Nelson, by a further two points, losing to Richard Lim by around 40 per cent to 60 of votes cast.
There was an "extremely high" number of informal votes - some 10 per cent, says Mr Kavanagh, "indicating dissatisfaction with the sitting Member".


A swift and welcome response to the publicity last week over proposed plantings on the North Stuart Highway.
Ken Hornsby, who is a senior manager with Transport & Works in Darwin, has advised me that Greening Australia, Alice Springs, have been invited to comment on the species list.
He will also be meeting with Deputy Mayor, Geoff Miers, and other members of Town Council during the coming week to discuss the matter further.
The plantings are the first stage of a long term NT Government Regional Roads Strategy which aims to enhance the visual approaches to urban centres across the Territory.
Funds are separate from the Urban Enhancement Scheme which is currently underway.
A promise from Ken to look at old road signs around town is also most pleasing.
In my last column, I spoke about how The Alice has benefited from the many and varied contributions of the people who have lived here.
By coincidence, Chief Minister Shane Stone has announced a new award for Territory women to be known as the 'Northern Territory Women's Achievement Awards' to be presented annually.
This year's nominations close February 16.
This is an ideal opportunity to put forward Centralian women whose personal efforts have enriched our community.
Further details are available from the Women's Information Service 8951 5880.
Sometimes the wider community may appear at odds with sections of the Aboriginal community particularly over grog issues, and the latest application by the Tyeweretye Club for a take-away licence is a case in point.
It is quite a number of years since the first proposals for the establishment of three such clubs was hotly debated.
Whilst the idea had its detractors, the general attitude towards the establishment of a least one Aboriginal social club was to "give it a go"; that maybe access to grog in a setting where the major goal was to help people enjoy in a drink in a socially responsible manner, would be a step forward.
Comments which I hear around town at the moment certainly do not support the club's application.
What I am also picking up is a genuine concern which would make it extremely difficult for any applicant to get support for such a licence.
A liquor licence which includes the sale of take-away by its very nature excludes any control over the place or circumstances where the drinking occurs.
The community concern around this issue is about where some of the prospective purchasers are going to be taking their grog.
While the majority of us enjoy a quiet beer at home or at a social barbeque with friends, small but significant groups continue to drink in river beds and other spots around town, stretching police resources which could be better spent elsewhere.
Locals and tourists alike become victims of harassment either being pestered for money, cigarettes or sworn at.
The alcohol related harm that binge drinkers do to themselves, their families and the community at large, costs many dollars spent by Government through Health, Police and other departments, and through our Court system.
I know the causes of alcohol abuse are not easy to solve, just as it is simplistic to expect liquor licensing controls to solve anti-social behaviour problems caused by drinking too much.
I admire much of the work that Bill Ferguson has done in managing the club and understand the wish to make the club financially viable and to expand its range of activities.
Social clubs have always had to balance their operations between their members requirements and competing with other facilities.
Some prosper, some struggle, and others, like the Verdi Club, fall by the wayside.
The Tyeweretye Club is uniquely placed with its focus on responsible drinking and a predominantly Aboriginal membership.
I believe that the way to go is not by take-away, but to attract those who drink at other establishments, including public places.
This will be no easy task.
It will take active assistance from Tangentyere and Arunda Councils, remote communities and support from other organisations.
It will require a lot of thought and special strategies.
Some other Licensees would be put under pressure.
It won't solve all the problems with anti-social behaviour but, if successful, many people would benefit.
In the meantime when this application is heard by the Liquor Commission, the members of that Commission will look at the history and conduct of the licence.
They will look at all the evidence of objectors and supporters in addition to the case put forward by the applicant.
And finally in considering all this they will make a judgement as to whether the Tyeweretye Club's application meets the needs and wishes of the community at the present time. [
June Tuzewski is a former member of the Liquor Commission.]


The Desert Park, heading towards its first anniversary next month, may reach its target of 100,000 visitors for the year.
Commercial manager Ian Cawood said last week that so far, 81,000 people had gone through the gates.
He says 50 to 60 per cent of them were locals, suggesting that nearly every man, woman and child in the town visited twice.
The balance was made up in roughly equal parts of Australian and international tourists, the latter increasing in numbers during the more recent months.
Visitor comments are overwhelmingly positive, says Mr Cawood, with the nocturnal house, the "nature theatre" with the birds of prey and the film being the most popular features.
He says the park is unique in the world: "It's not a zoo nor a botanic garden. It's the only 'bio' park in the world which represents all of the samplings and all of the themes and all the aspects of the desert environment."
Mr Cawood says revenue was $600,000 for the first eight months, indicating that many visitors qualified for concession tickets as the normal admission price is $12 a head.
He says he expects an increase in numbers in the second year, based on forward bookings, and further increases as the nation approaches the 2000 Olympics.
"We knew we were going to have a soft year in the first year," Mr Cawood says, because this year tour companies "couldn't change itinerary at short notice."
This indicates a shortcoming in the park's early marketing because plans for the attraction have been around for many years, and its facilities and concept are at least broadly in line with those plans.
Given the park's cost of $24m, and it's $2.58m annual expenditure, it's hardly a commercial proposition.
Mr Cawood is cautious in his comments about the spin-off from the park for the broader community.
He says visitors spend an average of three and a half hours looking at the park, hardly a major factor in extending the time tourists spend in the town - a prime objective for industry promoters.
Mr Cawood claims there is an "indication" the average stay in The Alice has increased from 1.3 to "probably 2.3 days", and that the park has been a major factor in achieving this.
The Central Australian Tourism Industry Association's Merran Dobson says she can neither deny nor confirm these figures.
What's least clear is in what way the park is serving as a promotion for the region generally, and the vast Western MacDonnell national park in particular; and whether it is providing the desperately needed boost to our sagging tourism industry.
The Desert Park has always been portrayed as a gateway, a point where - ideally -tourists can get some basic information which they can use in a much more prolonged exploration and enjoyment of - say - the "West Macs".
No structured effort to achieve this seems to be in place at the Desert Park, and if it is, there are no data showing to what degree those objectives are being achieved.
"It's hard to gauge," according to Mr Cawood: other attractions are being promoted by rangers, staff and publications, but apparently merely in a casual way.
Evidence that the park is bringing people to The Alice is also anecdotal, at least at this stage.
For example, a member of the Smithsonian Institute has told the Tourist Commission that she'll recommended people to spend less time in Sydney and more in The Centre - because of the Desert Park.
Mr Cawood is reluctant to comment on whether so much money needed to have been spent on an "introductory" facility - with the real thing just outside the gates.


<>Proposed changes to the Heritage Conservation Act will give the Minister sweeping powers to "demolish and destroy" heritage places irrespective of any protection they might previously have had.
Prepared in the wake of last year's planned demolition of the old Alice Springs Gaol, stalled by a Supreme Court ruling that the government had acted illegally, the Amendment Bill unabashedly rules the public and the Heritage Advisory Council (HAC) out of the process.
Although there is optional provision made for involving the HAC, Section 39H (1) says: "The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette , revoke the declaration of (a) all or part of an area of land to be a heritage place; or ( b) a heritage object."
Subsection 2 says the Minister may revoke such a declaration "of his or her own motion".
Subsection 6 goes on to say: "The Minister may exercise his or her power ... notwithstanding - (a) any other provision of this Act ... ; or (b) that a conservation management plan is in force in relation to the heritage place or heritage object."
Solicitor of the Northern Territory's Environmental Defender's Office (EDO), Robin Dyall, in Alice Springs last week to explain the changes to a public meeting, says what has been a very good Heritage Conservation Act will, if the Bill is adopted, become the worst in Australia.
The EDO is a Commonwealth initiated and funded community legal service specialising in public interest environmental law.
There is one in every capital city in Australia, as well as in Cairns.
Part of its mission is to educate the public about legislation and its reform.
Says Ms Dyall: "When you see a piece of legislation, such as this Heritage Bill, which intends to give the Minister such wide discretion and where there are no accountability mechanisms and no transparency in the process, then it's appropriate for our office, as a legal office, to make a submission along those lines and to inform the public of the intent of the Bill."
"It's then up to the public to decide whether they see that as a concern themselves." Previously the Government or an applicant had to go through the HAC and get it to make a recommendation to the Minister as to whether or not a heritage declaration should be revoked.
At least this involved a public process and an assessment of the heritage values of the place.
"Under the new process there's no requirement for any reassessment of the heritage values and no requirement for any notice that the Government is intending to take away the heritage status of the property."
"The Minister can order at the stroke of a pen the demolition and destruction of any heritage places that are on vacant Crown land or on land that's owned 'in fee simple' by the Crown."
Ms Dyall says there is no legislation that can be compared to the Bill anywhere in Australia.
"Our Bill oversteps any discretion that any other Minister has to override process. In some other jurisdictions the Minister has the ultimate decision but along the way there are inbuilt accountability and participatory processes which give a large measure of protection and the opportunity for public opinion and comment to be taken into account."
The discretion the Minister wants to give himself is also far beyond that contained in any other piece of Territory legislation.
In the Planning Act, for example, the Minister's discretion is still governed by the provisions of the Act, whereas under the Heritage Bill they are trying to say he can reach a decision notwithstanding any other provisions of the Act, including Section Three which is the objects clause of the Act .
"This makes you wonder what he has to have regard to in making his decision? There is nothing at all in the Bill which points to what he should have regard to."
It's not good government to give a Minister this kind of discretion.
It leaves the Minister wide open to all sorts of allegations.
In the future, the confidence level in the Government could well be reduced and I wouldn't have thought that that would be a good thing. "Transparency works both ways: it works to protect the Minister as well as to protect the public."
Parliamentary sittings, during which the Bill is expected to come up for consideration, recommence on February 17.
Meanwhile Edwina McRae, of the Territory Construction Association in Alice Springs says the construction industry was "bemused to read of the enormous profit that could be expected were the Old Alice Springs Gaol to be subdivided".
She was responding to a proposal by Domenico Pecorari and others seeking to save the historic complex, reported in the Alice News on December 10 last year.
Mrs. McRae says: "No consideration was given to the costs involved in achieving the proposal. Unfortunately, with the high demand for land in Alice Springs of late, a broad spectrum of investors have ventured into the property market unaware of the hidden costs."
This proposal ranks right up there with the Work Health advertisement 'The blindfolded trainee and the bear trap.'
"Assuming the values estimated by the proposer are realistic at $1,500,000, the following direct costs need to be considered:  The land needs to be cleared. The cost of demolition would be high as the razor wire represents excessive hazard and, whilst the structures are generally dilapidated and unserviceable, the walls are bulky and designed to be difficult to demolish."
The concept of saving the walls and so on is totally impractical and the cost would be difficult to estimate - they would likely need to be saw cut, jack hammered, plastered and then repainted.
"The suggestion of imposing charges for dumping at the town dump would also have to be considered."
The land needs to be re-serviced with power, water, sewerage and telecommunications.
Whilst these services are available on site, the reticulation would need replacement, including new meters to each individual user.
Access roads and paths including kerbing and guttering, storm water drainage, street lighting and landscaping would need to be contracted out. "In addition there are a few indirect costs:  A development [proposal] would need to be submitted to the Planning Authority and to the Heritage Architect. Preparation of this submission including lodgement fees and so on, would be excessive.
The current interest rate for development finance is about nine per cent. On a $1.5m development this equates to $11,250 per month compounding.
It is unlikely the development consent with heritage approval would take less than six months, the construction phase a further three months, issue of new titles one month."
A total of 11 months would be optimistic and assuming there are no further objections.
Selling fees would normally equate to four or five per cent of the property value.
Assuming the developer offered a sole agency on a project of this size the fees may well drop as low as 3.5 per cent.
There are normally fees for provision of water, sewerage and power.
Council rates including garbage would apply to a developer.
Stamp Duty would be applicable to the sale of the properties.
"In total there probably would not be much change out of $600,000."
Finally, a couple of questions about the $1,500,000 estimate that common sense would suggest need to be asked: Why is the gaoler's residence valued at $220,000 when houses across the road have been selling for $160,000?
What is the demand for tourist and exhibition spaces?
If it is high why has the Residency sat vacant for so long?
What possible reason could there be for putting a coach depot that far from the CBD?
One of the reasons for the failure of the coach depot at the original Ford Plaza was that it was too far from the action.
Would we run buses to take tourists into town?
Car parking for the council - why?
Would our aldermen consider paying $180,000 for car parking that no one would consider using!
What next, maybe the old drive-in site would make a good car park too!
Are there any artists with $240,000 for land to build a workshop on?
"We only hope if any potential investors are taking this seriously, that they contact the Territory Construction Association for some practical advice before they sign on the dotted line," says Mrs McRae.


A radically new attitude towards our visitors is the key to getting The Alice out of its present slump, says Helen Bateman. She's on the Todd Mall Marketing Committee and a former chairwoman; serves on the town council's economic development committee and the Honda Masters Games advisory committee, and is the vice chairperson of the NT Olympics Committee.
She spoke with Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA. News: We've got the Todd Mall Marketing Committee, the town council, CATIA, the Chamber of Industries, the Tourist Commission - all promoting Alice Springs, yet the town seems to be slipping backwards, with the crucial bed occupancy rate apparently down to 44 per cent. Why?
Bateman: There are too many people with to many fingers in the pie and no-one's finishing off a job.
The promotion dollar is spread thinly because it's spread over so many associations.
There are too many players, trying to do too many things.
I and a lot of other people are thinking we should be promoting ourselves as a region, Alice Springs as a whole.
News: In what directions are the different players pulling at the moment?
Bateman: The town council, for example, has the economic development committee of which I'm a member.
A few years ago we began to target the corporate and convention market.
Now we find that we went too big too soon - 200 or 300 people, let's get them into the town!
Most of our hotels and motels don't have that capacity.
We weren't successful in that campaign.
We then decided to channel the economic development budget through CATIA to look at smaller conference groups, 20 or 30 people, get them on one bus, into one restaurant, they can all go camel riding together.
That has now commenced, and we have no indication of its results so far - it's too soon.
News: Are Alice Springs business people united in their objectives?
Bateman: The Masters Games promotion committee, of which I'm also a member, tried to call meetings of the Central Business District as a whole. But somehow each shopping centre feels threatened.
There's a certain one-upmanship.
We've lost community involvement and ownership of the town as a whole.
It's "I'm here just for me." We're hungry as individuals rather than being hungry for the town as a whole.
News: What's the town image we need to push?
Bateman: That we are unique.
In a way there are a number of people in the town, in businesses, who don't seem to know they're in a tourist town.
We're missing out by not being open seven days a week, by not having vital activities around the town.
Many of the town's attractions could be "theaterised".
We're not creating any flavour.
I went on a tour to the Adelaide House, Royal Flying Doctor, Pioneer Women's Hall, School of the Air and the Telegraph Station.
There wasn't any excitement, any thrill, there was no presentation, no flavour.
In Sovereign Hill people are dressed up and they pull you off the streets and say, "what are you doing walking down the street the wrong way?"
Our Heritage Week is fantastic but we need Heritage Week 12 months of the year.
We have public holidays here where you're lucky to have two retailers in the Mall open.
Yet that public holiday may be the only day certain tourists are in the town!
What are they going to say to their families and their friends?
News: There's a move to change the Todd Mall Marketing Committee into a Central Business District marketing group.
Bateman: The town council has a new project officer, Suzanne Lollback.
She will be reviewing all council committees.
We have to look at the bigger picture.
News: What's the bigger picture?
Bateman: Looking at the whole CBD, and having representatives from all areas and shopping centres on the committee.


We conclude our historical feature about the town's oldest trading family.
As anyone who runs a business knows, staffing as much as product is a make or break factor in success.
After 60 years in electronics retailing, Murray Neck has an interesting perspective to offer on staff recruitment and management.
He has also had a wealth of experience in diversifying and consolidating business interests and has been able to make both approaches work. This is the final part in the Alice Springs News special historical and advertising feature celebrating the long-lived achievements of this unique Central Australian company.
While Murray Neck arrived in Alice Springs as a babe in arms, with some family and friends already here, for most non-Aboriginal residents of the town, this is not the case.
The transience of the population is a long-term problem for employers.
In Murray's experience a lot of men like the Central Australian environment, but "some of their ladies are not all that keen".
"They miss home, their parents and relatives," he says, "and so eventually the man has to pack up and go back to the bright lights."
For every four service-related people who come to Alice Springs, three leave.
It's a great pity but that's always been the case and still is, to a lesser degree, even though Alice Springs is now quite a sophisticated city, offering services that most country towns can't offer.
"Well, if you can't attract staff, make your own!" In 1951 Murray married Mary Kerrison from Renmark.
They went on to have four children, Chris, Greg, Anthony and Jenny.
For their primary schooling the children went to the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent school in Alice, but then, like their father, went to boarding school in Adelaide, the boys to the Christian Brothers' school at Rostrevor and Jenny to the Loreto Convent school at Marryatville. "The children all eventually came back to Alice Springs and joined the business. It was never planned that way, it was their wish to do so," says Murray.
"They are an integral part of it and have been now for a long time, working awfully hard at what they do."
Greg was the first to come back in 1972, as Chris had gone on to do a business studies course at the Institute of Technology in Adelaide. Anthony went to Melbourne to study accountancy at the Footscray Institute.
He passed with honours, joined the firm of De Loittes, working as an auditor with them for a couple of years in Adelaide before he too came back to Alice Springs, at first with De Loittes, then joining the family business as their accountant.
Jenny's first job was with the Commonwealth Bank in Alice Springs before being transferred to Forster in NSW.
She ultimately left the bank to return home and take over the management of the family's fledgling videotape business, set up in 1980.
Greg had joined the business as second-in-charge at the Alice Springs Sports Depot.
Murray had started stocking sporting goods as an add-on to his electrical business, after becoming involved, as secretary of the Federal Football Club, in the purchase of all the teams' requirements.
Eventually he established a separate shop on Gregory Terrace.
Greg went on to manage the Sports Depot for a number of years before it was sold.
He then started work in the electrical shop as Murray's deputy.
After Chris's return, the family took on the Honda franchise, operating out of the old Lackman Agencies building on the present site of Coles' supermarket.
When, in 1977, they received notice to move from the Coles site, they bought their present site at the corner of Stott Terrace and Railway Terrace, opposite Billygoat Hill, where they set up the Alice Springs Honda Centre and later added the Volvo franchise.
At first they ran cars only but gradually got into Honda motorbikes and power products, and then Kawasaki bikes.
"It was an excellent business," says Murray.
"We had a full service department, and it was quite profitable for those early years but it wasn't really compatible with the rest of the things we were doing. We had sold off our Sports Depot, we were building up our videotape rental business and we made a decision to sell our motor vehicles and associated products, in favour of expanding the videotape business and re-entering recorded music sales.
We moved the videotape rentals from the initial Todd Street site, where it had been amalgamated with appliance rentals, to Billygoat Hill, and as we kept expanding, we kept taking over more showroom space.
Like so many of the things we have sold, our family introduced video products to Central Australia."
When Alice Springs finally got TV in 1970, it could have gone straight to colour.
However, the ABC, the sole transmitter at the time, had put a colour bar on its equipment.
"Nobody realised this," recalls Murray, "but we had a technician here called Stan Hillard in charge of the transmitter.
He went to Adelaide and while he was having a look at their equipment, he noticed the colour bar, pulled it out and all of a sudden Alice Springs had colour.
"He got into hot water for doing this, the ABC were going to reinstate black and white but the Northern Territory Government intervened, someone in the ABC got their knuckles rapped and Stan was a hero for the town!"
Murray has heard that Stan now lives in Rockhampton.
Many people wanted television once it arrived, yet couldn't afford to buy a set.
This prompted Murray to set up a rental company, to provide finance for the purchase of black and white TVs, later colour, and ultimately the arrangements were extended to white goods.
The introduction of the videotape recorder in 1979 upset the sale of recorded music for a number of years.
People were investing in VCRs rather than hi-fi equipment, but after that initial wave, interest in hi-fi returned, and when the compact disc came onto the market the Necks decided to rebuild their recorded music business, initially at their Billygoat Hill site.
"When the Ford Plaza was built, Chris established a stand alone music shop called Murray Neck Musicworld. It's now a flourishing business in the Alice Plaza. In fact Chris keeps winning awards for it, including last year's Best ABC Shop for South Australia and the NT."
After 15 years in the videotape business, first under the management of Jenny, then later Chris, the Necks decided to sell out to Blockbuster in 1995.
They knew the national chain were interested in coming to Alice Springs: "Although we were running an extremely good operation, we knew we would lose some of our market share. As well as that, because of the expansion of the recorded music business, we no longer had a family member to monitor it.
"So, we approached Blockbuster and negotiated the sale, retaining them as a tenant.
They run a very good operation and we're happy that they are next door to us."
At the same time the Necks also refitted the showroom of Electricworld, reasserting their presence at the Billygoat Hill site.
They had been a member of the Retravision buying group for 25 years, but along with some 10 other South Australian members, resigned from Retravision to join the Better buying group.
"We feel very comfortable with them because they give us a lot more freedom in the way we merchandise," says Murray.
Jenny is now in charge of the computer side of the family's business: "We have a very sophisticated computer system that runs our total operation. We certainly couldn't run this business manually."
Jenny also has other responsibilities including staff training.
The four children, their mother Mary, and Murray make up the board of directors, meeting almost every week to make changes as the need arises.
"Nothing's forever," says Murray.
"Some decisions are easy, some are hard. We've made them in the past and we'll have to make them in the future. The family will be taking over. I've got eight grandsons and four granddaughters. No doubt some of them will come into the business. We have a policy whereby if they do, they've got to bring in some additional qualifications that none of us have. They'll probably be sent away to get this technical specialist knowledge that they'll bring back to this business and to the community of Central Australia."
Last year was Murray's fiftieth year in the business. He was supposed to be in semi-retirement but took on the supervision of the installation of the AUSTAR antenna system.
Now, after some 2,000 installations, AUSTAR can be said to be well established.
Maybe 1998 will see Murray once again roaming the hills and gullies of his beloved MacDonnell Ranges.
"I've had an exciting 50 years in this industry and I'm very happy to spend the rest of my time here and I think my children are as well."
What future does he see for the town?
A key issue for any expansion will be water, says Murray, with supplementary surface storage becoming the rule of the day.
As for race relations, he is optimistic: "Generally speaking, we have a pretty good working relationship with Aboriginal people here and there are many positives.
"In the sporting area we associate very closely with them, we recognise their skills in this area, and they have skills in other areas. Indeed they have no peers in certain arts and crafts. I haven't ceased to be amazed by their imagination."
Communication, he says, is the bottom line of peace and progress, here as throughout the world.
The future of our global village will require goodwill to match the undreamt of improvements brought about by the industry to which Murray has dedicated his life.


The bombing of Darwin caused the removal of the Territory Administration to Alice Springs, and the upgrading of the Stuart Highway.
Local historian Max Cartwright continues tracing the development of communications in the Centre, which, in the case of electronics equipment, often went hand in hand with the development of Murray Neck's business.
(See last week's issue for the first part of Mr Cartwright's article.)
When peace was declared in 1945, the Administration returned to Darwin and all schools in the Northern Territory came under the South Australian Education Department, utilising their curriculum and teachers.
By 1946, water was reticulated to the residents of Alice Springs and in the absence of a newspaper Les Penall, Frank Gubbins and Janet Buchanan printed and distributed, free of cost, a four page newsletter which they called The Dead Heart?
After 30 issues, the newsletter ceased publication and shortly after, on May 24, 1947, "Pop" Chapman, of The Granites fame, founded the Centralian Advocate newspaper.
Also in 1947, Chapman applied for a broadcasting licence to establish a radio station.
This was approved in principle but later rejected.
Although many people had various types of radio receivers, they were only of use during nighttime hours.
This situation remained until Radio 5AL became a local broadcasting station in December 1948.
The first School of the Air lessons to students of the remote regions of central Australia, were broadcast from the Flying Doctor base on September 20, 1950.
Also in 1950, the face of Todd Street was to change with an upsurge of new business premises.
In keeping with this trend, the Neck family business increased its range of home electrical appliances to a stage where they traded solely in this field.
To cater for this, they built a larger store to the front of their original premises on the northern end of Todd Street.
While on the Hatches Creek wolfram field in 1950, I bought a "Charles Hope" Coldflame kerosene operated refrigerator from the family business of D.B.Neck.
It cost £104 ($208). Wages being $25 per week, this represented just over eight weeks' work.
Having been a customer of the Neck family business' for almost 50 years, may I congratulate the firm on their 60 years of progressive enterprise and service to the residents of Central Australia.


Anyone keeping an eye on local performing arts would have realised by now that Alice is graced with, in the person of Dian Booth, a fine violinist, with a great talent for improvisation.
Where did this gifted musician with a slight English accent, an unusual philosophical outlook and a seemingly unfailing energy spring from? Dian grew up in the Blue Mountains and Sydney but always felt a foreigner in the land of her birth.
She found herself most at home with Central European Jewish immigrants: "They had an attitude towards music and art that I resonated with.
It wasn't just that a piece of music was something to fill in the background while you were chatting over a cup of tea, or a painting something to fill up the space.
"These [works, for them] were actually statements of the way life is, the way the universe is, while for most other people with whom I was in contact that wasn't the case."
Dian had always intended to become a professional musician and graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium with a diploma in violin.
She went on to take a degree in psychology, before migrating to England in 1969 where she began her involvement in the London music scene as leader of the Royal Ballet Orchestra at Covent Garden.
At the same time she was looking for a way to bring her two lines of training, psychology and music, together.
Music therapy, introduced by the Nordoff-Robbins school in America and England at that time, didn't feel right, and for a decade her desire to integrate the two strands of her life was put on hold.
She worked as a psychologist in the intelligence and industrial fields and in vocational guidance, until in 1980 she came into contact with the healing world: "This gave me the 'in' I was looking for. The psychology degree enabled me to talk to people and I could use my music as part of the treatment process."
Dian went on to do some 14 years training with a guru in England, whose practice was a mixture of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, revised to suit twentieth century Western needs.
In the meantime she started treating clients, using a mixture of recorded classical music and colour.
She would shine light from an old stage lamp, applying coloured filters, onto the body and play recorded classical music.
Her first clients were fellow musicians, violinists and viola players, whom she successfuly treated for shoulder pain.
Over the years she moved from using recorded music to the live sound of her violin and of other instruments she had collected from indigenous cultures around the world: "They have very powerful healing sounds built into them, having been used for that purpose for many centuries." The connection between colour and music, says Dian, was made in ancient pre-pyramidal Egyptian culture, may well have been used in Mayan culture, certainly in Indian culture and, in Europe, was revitalised by the Greek philosopher Pythagoras.
Put simply, there is seen to be a relationship arising from the measurable vibration patterns of both sound and colour waves.
Says Dian: "All ancient indigenous cultures, including the Australian ones, have held that, rather than the atom being the smallest indivisible particle of matter, the only indivisible elements are sound and light.
These two came first before any physical manifestations.
"That thread has been running through human experience forever. We're just coming back into a period when it is being used quite intensely." To find out what colour or colours to use in a treatment, Dian uses an amethyst pendulum: "I put myself aside, and open up to what that person needs at the moment, so that there's a flow of energy, mental contact if you like. Having dowsed the colours, I'll pick the instrument, which is most times the violin but my 50 other instruments can have things to offer."
Often there is a strong connection between a colour and a particular note of the scale.
For Dian the relationship is not rigid but many people believe that, for instance, red equals the note C, orange equals D, yellow equals E and so on. Dian says she has had success in treating in this way skin problems such as herpes and eczema, stomach ulcers, even the malignancy of small cancerous moles; however, she mostly sees people who are in some kind of emotional or spiritual crisis, including some who seek her assistance in preparation for dying, where, she says, sound and colour are enormously helpful.
She says her healing work is in harmony with her music and artistic interests: "I don't see too much of a difference. True art has always been healing in its nature."
Indeed, improvising music in response to paintings and sculpture in some important galleries in Britain led Dian to make another connection in her healing work: via the work of landscape artists, it opened the door to integrating natural elements in the healing process.
This was the path that finally brought Dian home: "I realised that I needed to come back to Australia and live in this landscape and be in contact with Aboriginal people who had that approach to healing.
"I also felt I needed to offer sound as as a reconciliation device. Sound is an ideal tool because it cuts right across language and is enormously simple in essence."
Through Aboriginal songwriter and educator Bob Randall, Dian has received approval from Aboriginal people for her work and has been given permission to use some Aboriginal-owned healing land.
This response, as well as the support she receives from the enthusiastic committee of the Alice Springs Strings Group - "an amount of support that I've never had for any venture in my life," she says - combines to make Dian feel very much at home in Alice Springs.
"Finding my home has been a lifetime journey," she says.

Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.