October 28, 1998


Tourism Minister Shane Stone has ordered the closure of the NT Tourist Commission's office in Tokyo without talking to the top industry body in Central Australia.The move last week, likely to cause serious damage to the industry here, came as a surprise even to the senior staff of the commission in Alice Springs.Mike Gunn, the CEO of the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association (CATIA), when asked what consultation with CATIA had preceded the move, said: "None. My sources tell me there wasn't a great deal of consultation with the industry at all."CATIA doesn't have much to do with the Japanese market, but perhaps they should have spoken to the likes of the Ayers Rock Resort Company, VIP Tours, Northern Gateway and AAT Kings."Ren Kelly, chairman of VIP Tours, says Japan may be in an economic slump but "I can't understand the stupidity of turning our backs on Japan when the chips are down."We're seen to be fair weather friends to a market that's so important to the growth and the health of the NT tourism industry."However, Grant Hunt, the CEO of the Ayers Rock Resort Management Company, says he has personally considered setting up an office in Tokyo but has found the costs to be "horrendous".Mr Hunt says the company is "getting more bang for their buck" by keeping their product before the Japanese public through magazine "spreads", and by liaising with the Japanese tour wholesalers' offices in Sydney.Mr Hunt says he supports the NTTC's decision.The commission says it has hired a tour company executive, Richard Doyle, to run the NT promotion in Japan from Sydney, with the objective of "building Japanese business".Japanese tourism here is far more important than in the Top End: the commission claims that of the 44,000 Japanese visiting the NT, only 2000 travelled to destinations other than Ayers Rock.Mr Kelly doubts this figure, saying that his company alone took nearly 1000 Japanese to the Top End in the past 12 months."There is no other market that spends like the Japanese," says Mr Kelly whose company has nearly 100 employees and some 70 vehicles ranging from stretched limousines to 40-seat coaches, operating throughout the NT.He says the Territory gets about 50,000 visitors from Japan, spending an estimated $1200 to $1500 each - a total of about $88m. Mr Kelly says at his own request he had discussions with Mr Stone, strongly advising him against the closure of the Tokyo bureau, but "the level of consultation from the Minister or the commission has been very limited."Mr Kelly says at this time of the year, all the brochures are being prepared in Japan and the marketing budgets are being finalised."It's fine on paper to say we're going to use a part time consultant out of the Sydney, but even if that person was a Japanese national, if they spoke Japanese, even if they understood the Japanese business culture, even then it would take them five years to build up the contacts, the network that we currently have in the NTTC office in Tokyo."Mr Kelly, who travels himself or sends a representative to Japan about five times a year, says: "I find it unrealistic that an Australian who has no network in Japan, nor any contacts with senior management or the presidents of the major companies, and who operates out of Sydney, [be considered] equal to professional people who've been there for so many years."It's only because VIP has built up the network of contacts that we have the business we have now."It takes years and years to do it."He says the current head of the NTTC Tokyo office, Japanese national Seine Abe-Weatherhead, "has worked for the tourist commission since she was a girl", first in Alice Springs and Darwin, and then in Japan."She is the most respected representative of any state in Australia."Mr Kelly says the budget of the Tokyo office - understood to be $2m, including advertising, less than 10 per cent of the commission's $26.5m budget - is similar to the expenditure for the commission's offices Singapore, Los Angeles, the UK and in Europe.While some of the offices are producing "more numbers", the "spend power of those people is far less," says Mr Kelly."The market out of the UK is a backpacker or budget market."North America currently is very budget conscious, usually coming in group tours prepackaged and paid for overseas."Mr Kelly says most "by far" of the Japanese tourists come to The Centre but there has been a "pleasing growth result in the Top End in the past 12 months".VIP has been through a four year development phase in the Top End where - together with three other operators - the Japanese trade has increased sharply.For example, this September has seen a 24 per cent increase over last year."Over the next two or three years, the work that's been done now would have impacted in the year 2000 and 2001."Now we're saying to the Japanese market, sorry fellows, we're not going to stick with this any longer, we've been there for 10 years and it hasn't produced anything for the Top End."It's producing results for The Centre, but that's only a secondary consideration."The Berrimah mentality says, if we don't see Japanese visitors in Darwin and in Kakadu in big numbers, we're out of there."They will say, listen guys, there are other markets, not only within Australia, but internationally that we can use and send visitors to, at the same cost and with far less trouble than we're getting from you fellows," says Mr Kelly."Those markets are Hawaii, North America and Europe." Mr Gunn says there was need for a change in the Japan bureau but "if it had been my call I would not have pulled representation out of Japan completely."I still believe we need a presence on the ground there on a permanent basis."The Japanese, the way they think and work, may see this as a lack of confidence in the market, and they may decide to send their people elsewhere," says Mr Gunn."My concern is that Japan is a tough market. It takes a long time to crack it."If you make one wrong move you can offend them and it takes a long time to recover."To run the representation entirely out of Sydney is not the way to go."Mr Gunn says he knows Mr Doyle, who has looked after the Japanese market for the past five or six year for Australian Pacific Tours, and has some established contacts with Japanese operators.


The embattled Centre Stage theatre group may yet survive despite the ongoing refusal of Arts Minister Daryl Manzie to provide funding - and his failure to explain why.Local identity Gerry Baddock, 78, is planning to produce a pantomime in December to raise funds for the group.She says this will be "the kind of show to which grandmothers can take their grandchildren" - and she will invite Mr Manzie to publicly hand over a government cheque to Centre Stage at the end of the performance.Mrs Baddock, who until recently owned dog and cat kennels at Mt Nancy, is well known for her assertive and outspoken stance on many public issues, and has become known as the contemporary Olive Pink.She produced three pantomimes in 1967 to raise money for an orphanage in South Vietnam."Now it's time to help the children of Alice Springs," she says.The group's Bryn Williams has agreed to direct the show.This follows a "triple bill" last week when many of the 100 Centre Stage members - most of them aged under 18 - performed in Fame, Babe and Streetcar Named Desire.Meanwhile, the group's financial plight is being raised in the Alice Town Council by Ald. Geoff Harris, and several figures in the local art world have spoken out in support of the group.The prospect of the imminent demise of Centre Stage was described as "distressing" by Patricia Van Dijk, the chairman of the Araluen Advisory Committee and president of the Alice Springs Arts Foundation, which runs the Alice Prize.Saying that she's commenting in her own right as she had not sufficient time to speak with the members of her committees, Mrs Van Dijk - a drama teacher for most of her life - says: "I realise the importance of drama for children."The thought that an established drama group such as Centre Stage is fading into oblivion is quite distressing."I found even the kids who didn't succeed very well at school were quite brilliant sometimes in the field of drama, and that was their confidence building activity."There's nothing else [like this] in the town for young people. As a person interested in the arts I fully endorse Centre Stage's efforts in providing opportunities for kids to get up there onto the stage."She says all arts organisations could provide moral support for Centre Stage, or even provide financial help.Mrs Van Dijk says she does not know why the NT Government is refusing funding to Centre Stage.The Art Foundation's grant from the NT Government this year has been reduced from $7500 to $5000.The president of the Friends of Araluen, Lance Robinson, says if asked he would "certainly provide a letter of support" for Centre Stage.Mr Robinson says: "Most of our committee have seen the work Bryn does and we think he does a good job."Centre Stage should not be allowed to fold."There is nothing of that nature south of the Berrimah Line," Mr Robinson says.Meanwhile Mr Manzie continues to be intransigent about his refusal to fund Centre Stage.He was quoted in the Centralian Advocate on October 2 as saying that "everyone has to follow certain procedures. It's public money and it has to be accountable."However, he would explain neither to Centre Stage nor to the Alice News in what way the group may have failed to follow the procedures he requires.Mr Williams says the group has its books audited each year, and has "acquitted" all of the grants received in the past from Mr Manzie's department.Mr Williams has shown to the Alice News a letter from the auditor, P J Hill, of Howarth NT, stating that "the accounts do present fairly the receipts and payments recorded in the Association's records and cash balances of Centre Stage Theatre Inc for the year ended 31st December 1997 and at that date."Mr Williams says the rules for sponsorship applicants laid down by Mr Manzie's department state that "if an applicant has outstanding acquittals the application will not be considered".The most recent grant was for Hamlet, says Mr Williams.Centre Stage received a letter from Elizabeth O'Shea, director Cultural Development Division, Department of Arts and Museums, on July 23.The letter said: "The appropriate documentation has been received to financially and artistically acquit the 1997-98 Project Sponsorship of $3500 administered to stage Hamlet."This now enables us to fully acquit this sponsorship."Mr Williams says the department's past actions contradict its latest justification for refusing further grants.The department has told the group: "This is primarily due to concerns that your organisation appears to be in a position of trading beyond its means, and that the staging of a production could be considered financially ambitious at this stage."As applications for arts sponsorship are competitive, funding is not provided in instances where the applicant has outstanding deficits in any areas of operation. Nor is funding provided to clear those deficits."Yet all three past grants to Centre Stage were given at times when the group owed money, according to Mr Williams: "The first grant, for Romeo and Juliet, was to pay off a debt of $6700," he says.Meanwhile Mr Manzie says in a letter to a member of the group that he has "enjoyed many of the Centre Stage productions in Alice Springs and [I] believe that they should continue".He was replying to a letter from 10-year-old Jacqueline Chlanda, who acted in Babe on the weekend, and complained to Mr Manzie about the denial of funding. The letter was also signed by most members of the Babe cast.Mr Manzie says in his reply the department has been unable to recommend approval for funding because Centre Stage has not met the rules."Perhaps the people who run Centre Stage may be able to explain to you why they have not been able to follow these rules."Mr Williams says the department, Mr Manzie and local Members of the Assembly have been asked repeatedly exactly which rules have been breached, but have not given a specific response.[The Alice News faxed Mr Manzie last week, asking in part: "What procedures exactly has Centre Stage failed to follow and in what way has it failed to be accountable?" We have not received a reply.]In the letter to Miss Chlanda Mr Manzie claims that the NT Government has given a "lot of support to Centre Stage over the years" - namely a total of $51,535 over the last five years.Mr Williams says that includes $30,835 for the group's nationally acclaimed production of Requiem shown in Canberra in November, 1994.That would leave $20,700 during the past four years - or an average of $5175 a year.This compares extremely poorly with NT Government funding given annually to the Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre, the Darwin-based counterpart of Centre Stage, which in 1996-97 alone received $164,025 from the NT Government.Mr Williams says Mr Manzie is $6000 out in his calculations: in fact, Centre Stage received only $14,700 in the past four years, or an average of $3675 a year.The all-volunteer Centre Stage, with a membership of 100 - three-quarters aged under 18 - has staged 250 productions - roughly one a month, a record not even remotely matched by any other group - and 300 performances in the five years of its existence. During this time it has paid $80,000 to the government-owned Araluen Arts Centre and $30,000 to the Alice Springs Youth Centre.Mr Williams says the group has been able to reduce its debt by fund raising activities - especially the highly successful Full Monty staged at Lasseter's Casino - and now owes $7000 to the Youth Centre.Mr Williams says the centre has reneged on an agreement to lower the debt by $1000 in exchange for a variety of duties performed by Centre Stage, such as locking up, looking after the office, admitting other users, and collecting of money and face painting on May Day.Mr Williams says: "There has always been a good give and take relationship with the Youth Centre prior to the present administration."The centre's recently elected president, Marie Petery, declined an invitation from the Alice News to comment.


Sorting through my bills recently, I came across my rates notice from the Alice Springs Town Council. As I was about to place it in my accounts paid file, I became aware of the silhouette of the council coat-of-arms, almost like a watermark, on the paper. Symbols and logos have become so much part of our everyday life that we take them for granted and often forget how much thought and consideration is given to their design. Our town council coat-of-arms was designed by Judy Robinson from Adelaide, in consultation with the alderman who were on council during the early ‘eighties. Discussion of relevant images was taken most seriously. One idea considered, but not included, was the depiction of a wagon wheel (for its contribution to the settlement and development of the Alice). The wheel is also the heraldic symbol of progress. An eagle, which is a traditional symbol of far-seeing, uplifting power, was also discussed, but it too was discarded. So, what exactly is the meaning of the coat-of-arms which now appears on our council's stationery? An upright horse and bull are shown either side of a central shield. The horse was chosen for the important part it played in opening up the Centre, and the bull was chosen to represent the surrounding pastoral industry. The shield is divided into four segments, as is often the case in heraldic tradition, and has a red heart at its centre. Within the four quarters are: a camel depicting our pioneer days; Mt. Gillen which has always been very popular as a local symbol; a telegraph line symbolising the overland telegraph; and a traditional Aboriginal drawing which I am told represents two men at a waterhole. The rising sun as a crest at the top of the shield depicts The Alice as a place "under the sun", and the scroll at the base carries the words "In Medio Stat Virtus" meaning "In the centre is strength". The scroll is complemented with the Sturt Desert Rose, which was adopted as the floral emblem of the Northern Territory in 1974. The small bushy plant with its Hibiscus-like flowers is often seen growing in Central Australia's arid zone. Most of us today would associate coats-of-arms with the stories of the knights of King Arthur, and the warfare of earlier history. However, I have discovered that even in the very early days, coats-of-arms were used by merchants, churches, the arts and agriculture in other ways. The most popular use was as seals, but they were also used as motifs in decoration and as a means of identifying book plates, stationery, cutlery and other items of personal property. It could be said, therefore, that our town council was carrying on an old tradition when it commissioned the production of a number of items such as ties, badges, spoons and key rings which proudly carried our new coat-of arms. With the modern trend towards more simple logos it will be interesting to see how long the present coat-of-arms continues to be used by the Council as an emblem to officially identify the town. All of which brings me to current activities of our town council members or, more correctly I should say, lack of activity by some of our elected representatives. There is no doubt that being a member of town council and holding down a full time job, plus finding time for family and other commitments is a difficult task. However, the poor attendance by some alderman at council meetings and other functions does need to be challenged. The running of our town relies considerably, not only on the goodwill, but also the attentiveness and involvement of our elected members. And finally, a reminder that this Saturday sees another seminar organised by the Women and Politics Sub-Committee of the NT Women's Advisory Council. The day's topic is Leadership Styles and is the third in a series which has become increasingly popular. An impressive line-up of five speakers will cover a variety of aspects about leadership. They are Pat Miller, Director of the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service; Cathy Day, Mission Director of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap; Wendy Hills, Manager of the NT Tourist Commission in town; Beverley Ellis, who is the current President of the Zonta Club of Alice Springs; and Joyce Bowden, Manager of the Alice Springs Hospital and a recent well-deserved recipient of the Order of Australia Medal. If you are interested in attending, further details are available from the Women's Information Centre on 8951 5880.


Travelling in Central Australia during the summer months can be hazardous if you don't go prepared.Ever considered what the temperature of the road is in summer?If it's 40 degrees Celsius in the shade, road temperature could be as high as 60 degrees Celsius! Ever tried to walk on a black bitumen road in bare feet in this weather? Now you know what your tyres have to put up with. I won't bore you with details on tyre construction versus heat dissipation but the fact is that tyre pressure increases with temperature. Now this is all relative to the contact patch on the ground. The lower the tyre pressure the greater the contact patch. Chances of a blow out will increase because the tyre flexes more with lower pressure and with heat build up the rubber becomes soft and less resilient.A rule of thumb when checking what initial pressure to run in 4WD tyres is the "four pound" rule. Example: set your tyres at 30lb/square when cold and after travelling on a normal road for an hour or so, check the pressure. It should have increased to 34lb/square (PSI). If it's 36 PSI, increase your initial pressure by approximately two PSI. If the increase in tyre pressure is only two PSI, you can afford to run the initial pressure or less if you choose.To do this test, you need a good tyre gauge, preferably a chiat type.But it's not only tyres that get hot. What about the increase in engine temperature? If you run an air-conditioner, when the diff gets hot the oil cooler and radiator are not always good enough. Using the right lubricant and coolant in these areas is paramount.If you are contemplating a weekend out bush at your favourite water hole or wherever, here are some further things to consider: • If you blow a radiator hose or lose coolant for one reason or another, how much water does it take to fill the cooling system? Approximately 12 - 20 litres.
• How much water does one person use in this weather? In winter it's about five litres per person per day. So in summer count on 10 litres per person per day. For two people for two days plus spare for the car, take 40 litres of water. And, don't drink too much alcohol, use a water bag.
• Have you ever considered the implication of the colour of your vehicle in hot weather? The difference in cabin temperature between white and dark coloured cars can be enormous.
• Consider also the type of clothes you wear. Light coloured clothing with a collar and sleeves is recommended. That's why cricketers wear white.
• Hats are much better than baseball caps, they protect your neck and ears, and when you are buying, once again, choose the colour carefully.
Sunstroke can be awful, I've had it bad and never want to have it again. Keep your head and the back of your neck out of direct sun and drink plenty of water. When you're out in real 4WD country, in sandhills and creek beds, remember hot sand can get you bogged very quickly. Deflating tyres in these conditions is the best way to get through, but you have to reinflate them when you are back on hard ground. Hand pumps are good, but 12 volt compressors are better. There are plenty to choose from and the price reflects the quality.Outback roads in summer can be lonely. Because of this always tell someone where you are going, when you are going to be back and when they should come looking for you. HF radios are good insurance in these circumstances and with the RFDS and VKS737 4WD network, they can have you covered. You can purchase second hand HF radios from $800.One of the most spectacular times to travel around central Australia is after decent rain. It's a great sight to see all the rivers and creeks running. If for some reason you get interrupted by a flowing creek, never be too careful. The creeks around here run very quickly and can do two things: wash away the causeway (if there is one) or parts of it, or if the water is any more than knee deep, it can wash you off the edge. Also when crossing running water, watch the other side bank or you can follow the water off the road!The sand in the water way area can have quicksand tendencies when wet. It's advisable to stick to tracks and maybe contend with the water instead of going around.This type of sand has no bottom and it takes a lot of work to get out.This advice is also good for water lying on road surfaces. You are often much safer going down the middle of the road slowly, than going bush around the water.If you're trapped on a dirt road when it's wet, it's wise to stop when possible. Enormous damage can be done to the road if used when soft and wet, and it costs a lot to grade them again.Here are a few "ifs and buts" about whether to travel by day or night:By day your vision is better, animals sleep, the roadhouses are open, and you don't need good lights, but there is a risk of driver fatigue because of heat and sun, extreme heat is radiated off the road and is all around from the sun and air, and your fuel consumption will increase.By night, you need good lights because animals can wander onto the road, but the air temperature is much cooler, the road temperature is cooler, your fuel consumption is less, children sleep better, and Mother sleeps better too!Driver fatigue is a real issue and everyone should know about it. Statistics tell us it's a real killer. How can you combat fatigue? Here are some things that have helped me:
• Don't travel too fast as it takes a lot more concentration to do so.
• Stop regularly at wayside stops or roadhouses. Air-conditioning can dehydrate you so drink plenty of fluid (not alcohol).
• Have someone talk to you, instigate a continuous story with the family.
• Play music with a bit of beat.
• Take a break and have small nap.
• But, the best way I've found to keep going is to have a really good audio book - a good thriller will keep you awake for hours. They are available at good audio shops, bookshops and the library.


Alice Springs-based CSIRO researcher Margaret Friedel is among the prime movers of an innovative approach to land use planning in the Western Australian North East Goldfields region [see last week's issue].As part of the Alice News' ongoing series on making the most of our intellectual capital, we ask Dr Friedel what an Alice-based scientist has that WA needs?Partly a matter of chance, and partly being part of the right team, is her modest reply:"I had ideas at a time when they were right for people working there. I've also been able to harness other skills from the group here. For instance, Vanessa Chewings has wonderful skills in developing geographic information systems (GIS), which underpin the project."And Janine Kinloch has been absolutely crucial in patiently adjusting all the data that we get, so that it can be put into the GIS."Dr Friedel will also use software developed by Canberra-based CSIRO scientist, John Ive, to help plan land uses on the basis of resources, such as water, animal populations, types of geology, Aboriginal sites, European heritage sites. "These are all things that can be mapped," says Dr Friedel. "You can use the software to take people's statements about what they want for the different parts of the country and put them out as maps."Then, instead of having people standing off, polarised from one another, they can get down to negotiating. Each group can see what their own desires for a patch of country look like on a map and there's a process of putting the maps together. "All of a sudden they see that they don't disagree on about 90 per cent of issues. There's only a small area where they do, and so they look at the tradeoffs. "It takes away the need of each group to try and grab everything for themselves which is what tends to happen otherwise."If, on the other hand, government makes decisions simply on the basis of what is environmentally good or economically good for an area, people will resist." The richness of the WA project is the involvement of the broad range of stake holders, including policy-makers, but also extending to people outside the community, the "different thinkers"."Very often people who live in an area tend to talk about the status quo," says Dr Friedel."They may not be adverse to new ideas, but they're a bit constrained by their own experience."Is there any pressure from vested interests to rule out certain discussions?"No, the important thing is to include the vested interests, or there's a risk that they will white ant the process."Some people have been very critical but you can't afford to exclude your critics."Other people will wait to see how it works with the tools that we're going to give them. "I wouldn't expect it to be otherwise."Can all communities afford this sort of planning process?Dr Friedel says a lot of the information collected in WA is transferable: "It's not critically linked to a physical area."There are huge rural readjustment schemes and development strategies which have tens of millions of dollars to spend, but in some cases they don't have the tools to decide how best to proceed, or they would like better ones."If you are spending tens of millions of dollars, what is say, half a million dollars in the planning stage?"Wouldn't you want to spend that money in order to spend the rest more effectively?"


Could we soon see the Alice Town Council being forced to subsidise its police presence, as other Central Australian councils do?Last week both the Territory Government and the Jawoyn Association in Katherine were criticised over a deal where native title and land rights were traded for a kidney machine and a detoxification shelter. Top End ATSIC Commissioner Josie Crawshaw, the Australian Medical Association and the Human Rights Commission questioned whether communities should be forced to make trades for provision of basic services.Already most Central Australian communities with an Aboriginal Community Police Officer (ACPO) stationed there, pay for a substantial part of the service. The subsidy usually takes the form of having to buy a police four wheel drive vehicle and provide an office and housing for the ACPO. The NT Government covers pay and training.However, despite having two ACPOs stationed in Alice Springs, the Alice Springs Town Council does not contribute to the costs. There is concern in Santa Teresa, an hour's drive from town, that their ACPO who is part of the Alice Springs Police Division, is required to spend a lot of time on police duties in Alice while the Santa Teresa council pay for his police vehicle. This money could be used to support other council initiatives such as its sobering up shelter. Most ACPOs receive on-going training in the urban centres. However there is no replacement police officer assigned to the community while they are away.ACPOs grew out of the Aboriginal Aides scheme started almost 20 years ago. A 1995 police recruiting booklet says: "They are full members of the NT Police, who are given progressive training, powers and responsibilities. "They have proved a vital role in enhancing mutual understanding, balancing the cultural sensitivities of their communities with the sometimes arcane demands of Western law, and providing a culturally sensitive service to their own communities." Some ACPOs have also gone on to join the mainstream police service. Superintendent Mick van Heythuysen who is in charge of the scheme says the trade off for communities providing a police vehicle, and often housing, is that they get to have a say in selecting their ACPO, although it is the Police who hire and fire them.Despite the cost, there are many more communities, desperate to have a police presence, who would pay but the NT government has frozen the numbers of ACPOs. As a result something resembling a bidding war has broken out between communities trying to attract a permanent police service.Urapuntja or Utopia, northeast of Alice Springs, is eager to have an ACPO as it is about two hour's drive from the nearest police stations at Ti Tree and Harts Range. As a stop gap measure and to show its commitment to support an ACPO, Urapuntja has employed a man and equipped him with a vehicle to carry out as many community policing functions as possible while not being recognised by the police force.Further east on the Queensland border, Lake Nash community is proposing to spend $80,000 on police accommodation and a holding cell to attract a police presence. The money has largely come from unpaid wages from the community's ‘work for the dole' Community Development Employment Program.Stuart MLA Peter Toyne says a community in his electorate is having trouble coming up with money for a new four wheel drive for its ACPO. The rear cage on the old vehicle has broken loose exposing passengers to sharp metal edges as they travel on bumpy bush roads.Mr Toyne says there is huge unmet demand for regular police services out bush. Despite the NT receiving Commonwealth funding at five times the average per capita rate in other states, he says its spending on services out bush is only at about three times the national rate. The under resourcing has a direct impact on Alice Springs: "People in the bush are concerned about their security and police protection."The less secure they feel in their communities the more likely they are to come into town for safety."

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