Why do we not think BIG about tourism?


Steve Brown comment I attended another token forum recently which had the publicised intention of gathering local ideas on future development, facilitating infrastructure for the Central Australian Region.
I was once again disheartened not only by the tokenistic pretense at listening to local ideas, that was so much part of the now departed Labor Government’s operational style, but most of all I was struck by the lack of imagination, adventure, forward thinking or just plain guts that was on display in that thinking.
Take for instance one of the ideas that some of us have been pushing for some time as a possible add-on to the attractions of Alice Springs as a tourist destination. That Idea revolves around the development of a Mount Gillen walking trail.
The local regional development group put forward a concept of properly constructing a walking route up and along the mountain, with the possible addition of mountain bike tracks.
Very nice, I’m sure, but is that going to attract tourists? Does it really qualify as Regional Infrastructure Development? Does it add anything with “dash” to our product? The answer is clearly NO!
What’s wrong with the concept? After all, Mt Gillen clearly offers a world class opportunity! But are we going to be able to get to that place with a few added pathways? I don’t think so. We simply have to go the whole hog. That means not only a straight up and down pathway, but an access that is available to everyone, including the elderly.
We already have a sealed roadway to the top of Heavitree Range; we already have ugly and unsightly buildings and towers up there. So why then can’t we bring ourselves to building a world class visitor centre, restaurant, cultural and art centre up there?
It could be a beautiful building that would blend into its surrounds far better than the existing infrastructure, while providing an astounding 24 hour a day, world class attraction to our visitors.
Access for everyone could be provided quite cheaply by a cable car up the existing road and perhaps complemented by a sky train from the wildlife park below. What a wonderful entrepreneurial opportunity for a local investment group to create an ongoing employment intensive region boosting iconic attraction, one that would serve as a dollar generating investment from now until eternity.
If we want to build up the Centre of Australia, if we want to compete with the rest of the nation for the tourist dollar, we need to think BIG. Nobody pays a fortune in travel costs to arrive in the nation’s most remote location simply to view mediocrity.
The same goes for the development of our national parks. The West Macs offer fantastic potential – all that is required to kickstart that potential is land for long term lease in multiple locations and access to it. We need sealed loop roads and gravel access roads, to multiple points of attraction.
That is the kind of region boosting Infrastructure that government needs to provide. Roads, roads and more roads! Put that road development together with a complete review of Territory Parks and Wildlife, turfing out the present regime of ownership, removing the current bureaucracy and its lock up and lock out mentality, and reintroduce the sort of thinking that led to the long defunct slogan “Parks are for People”.
This, together with the attraction development, will kick off sustained and sustainable growth in our tourist industry as the quality of our product meets visitor expectation for the first time in 30 years. It’s time, Territory Government, that Central Australia saw some real guts some real imagination and some bloody solid and consistent determination to get this region moving!
By the way Adam, exactly what has happened to the Mereenie Loop Road? Wasn’t that one of your pet passions when in Opposition? Time we saw some movement, don’t you think?


  1. I’m spending a good amount of time here (30 days). I was expecting to be in a place blessed with wide expanses of land and beautiful, multiple trails up the ranges.
    What I found instead is the most fenced off area that I visited in Australia. Everywhere I look there’s a fence. I cannot reach the ranges, I cannot walk in a riverbed, I cannot just stop the car and wander off a bit without finding a fence.
    It feels like being in a boring amusement park where you are forced to follow a path.
    Do you want to do good for Alice Springs? Buy up some stations and remove the damn fences.

  2. Steve, you say that you have been disheartened by the government’s tokenistic pretense at listening to local ideas … and … lack of imagination, adventure, forward thinking or just plain guts that was on display in that thinking.
    But reading your extravagant, inevitably loss making proposals I find I have some sympathy for the government’s lack of appreciation of local ideas.

  3. @ Observer: People without guts, imagination and the energy and enthusiasm to be in any way entrepreneurial are by nature negative.
    Their inability to see opportunity even when it smacks them in the face generally leaves them sitting around making nasty cynical remarks about the efforts of others while achieving squat themselves.
    Your comment is exactly what I would expect from you! Tell me, did you make it in your own time or are the taxpayers subsidizing your rather lame and unproductive comments?

  4. Steve. Your proposals are:
    (1) Build a world class visitor centre, restaurant, cultural and art centre on the top of Heavitree Rang offering 24 hour a day service.
    (2) Access for everyone to be provided by a cable car.
    I rest my case.

  5. When NT Government / NT Tourism ensures budget airline flights into Alice Springs then private enterprise will create – as profitability allows.

  6. Steve, mate you’ve got buckets of GUTS. But let’s go the full hog and build a ski slope down the other side.
    To those negative carpers who would predictably whinge about a lack of snow, I say you don’t have an imaginative bone in your body. The hospital would do a roaring trade and Alice would become a world centre for the treatment of spinal injuries.

  7. Steve, have you a business plan for this chair lift, restaurant and associated infrastructure?
    I recently took a chair lift in France. It took me to Europe’s highest railway, a converted mine rail line that wound around the mountains and offered two hours of excitement and wonder. At its end their was a low key restaurant.
    This lift:
    – operated as a ski lift in winter which subsidised its summer operation
    – serviced a major tourist attraction, which was then serviced by a restaurant
    An Alice lift would service nothing but a view of Alice … which, though WE Alisonians love Alice, is not intrinsically lovable.
    You can already get a view of Alice from Anzac hill – for nothing. You could build a restaurant atop ANZAC hill, but it would take decades to pay down the original investment … if it were a good restaurant.
    Tourists come to Alice for its main attraction: Aboriginal culture, Steve. Australia has no museum of Aboriginal Art, Alice would be the perfect place to build it. It would then attract people who would spend on our struggling Aboriginal Art outlets.
    These outlets are struggling partly due to the GFC but also because of the shortsighted, internationally high profile campaign some people fought that drew attention to the symptoms of Aboriginal distress in this town.
    That campaign achieved nothing other than getting certain people elected to ASTC and nailing a coffin in the tourism industry in this town.
    Building a chair lift would take guts … but not wisdom.

  8. If anyone was ever in any doubt about why Alice has floundered somewhat over the last few decades you only have to view the comments below to understand why. We are apparently full up and loaded down with small minded negative thinking arm chair experts who can’t see the woods for the trees. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by the lack of progress, should we?
    @ Jeff you don’t create a Tourist Industry by sitting back waiting for the Airlines to start dropping Tourists in the Alice on the off chance we’ll provide something for them to look at! You get off your lazy proverbial, you get out there, create and market the attractions that will bring them! You have to believe and yes you have to gamble! “Build it and they will come”!
    @ Les You’ve obviously never climbed Mt Gillen and sat there at Sunset. Then again I guess it wouldn’t matter if you had, your rather bleak and blinkered attitude would leave you unimpressed wherever you were, I suspect. Fortunately for Tourism everywhere, the rest of the World doesn’t view what they see in such a grey fashion. Tell me Les what do you imagine was there in France before the Railway and low class Restaurant you visited? Could it have been a Mountain with nothing on it perhaps?
    While you’re enlightening us why not give us a bit of a run down on what you did during the law and order crisis that saw our Town and its Tourist Industry ripped apart, did you cry out for something to be done? Did you warn visitors that they could expect to be bashed robbed raped or did you hide under the bed and hope it would all go away? After all it was somebody else being robbed, somebody else’s daughters being raped, and why should visitors stop coming just because of that stuff anyway, didn’t they know that you were prepared to give them an especially lacklustre experience in mediocrity! Those that sat back said nothing, did nothing, while our children, both black and white, were subjected to brutality, are cowards and they disgust me.
    As for being Elected as a Councillor that is a civic duty and privilege granted me by the people of Alice Springs. You don’t just walk into the role. People have to believe in the message you are spruiking and choose to support that message. Why not give it a go yourself Les, see how you go. I’m sure there are many out there just waiting to support you rather bleak and negative views. Aboriginal Culture is certainly an important part of our Tourist Product and gaining the National Cultural Centre would also be a fabulous addition to what we have to offer. Enlighten us all Les do you think we should conceive and construct a Cultural Centre that is Unique, Spectacular, above and beyond anything else on offer anywhere or should we knock up a Tin Shed maybe put in the Industrial Area somewhere? After all visitors want to see it, they’ll find it won’t they?? Something for you to contemplate Les, “Aim high, fall high. Aim low, fall lower”!

  9. Always good to have a look at the Alice News website to catch up on what the Browns are up to – Steve in good form here, he loves a good bout of argie-bargie! And responds well to criticism.
    As for his proposal: “Access for everyone could be provided quite cheaply by a cable car up the existing road and perhaps complemented by a sky train from the wildlife park below. What a wonderful entrepreneurial opportunity for a local investment group.” Quite cheaply?
    Remember the Sadadeen Waterslide fiasco? That was a “wonderful entrepreneurial opportunity” too, just one without a thought-out business plan. As for the “local investment group” I can think of lots of locals who would just LOVE to shove their hard-earned savings into your proposal Steve, I reckon you’d be oversubscribed in no time. Give it a go, see how you get on. Talk’s cheap, let’s see you put your thought-bubble into action. Lead by example.

  10. @ Ian: It never ceases to astound me that some in our community are actually threatened by ideas! Some kind of weird twist on the politics of envy I suspect.
    If we aren’t brave enough to think big, to dare to dream, how do we ever end up with projects of enormous scale an beauty like the Opera House?
    The answer quite obviously being that we don’t, or wont if we choose to think in that manner. There is presently a huge opportunity, its there for the taking, a National Aboriginal Cultural Centre!
    The competition is already on, many communities already eyeing off the opportunity, to win it we need to offer something very special. If we are brave enough we could create a cultural centre that no other Australian town or city could surpass.
    Our natural surrounds provide unequalled opportunity to do something really spectacular at comparatively low cost.
    We could with a partnership of business, government and Aboriginal interests create something of immense pride to all Australians especially Aboriginal Australians while at the same time gaining the world wide attention of travellers as a must see!
    Such a project could achieve for our community on many different fronts bringing about an uplifting sense of pride and inclusion to Aboriginal Australians and great economic benefit to the rest.
    Or we could as I said before, just build a tin shed and achieve somewhere around nothing for anyone at all. When they designed and built the Louvre I’m sure there were plenty that stood by with the same sarcastic leer. Please don’t be threatened Ian and others of like mind, nobodies asking you to put your pension on the line!
    And thanks for the business advice, Ian, coming from such a experienced source, it is of course immensely valued.

  11. Steve, you are squirming away from your local investment group’s entrepreneurial opportunity to build the restaurant on the top of the range, now you are putting up a partnership with government idea, i.e. taxpayers dollars.
    Go back to your original proposal in your “Sting” column, do you still stand by it? If so, entrepreneur away! Good luck. And leave us taxpayers alone, please.

  12. Steve, you flatter yourself to claim to be astounded that some in our community are actually threatened by ideas. Your projects of enormous scale such as perching an opera house like facility on the top of the range is far too amusing to be threatening. But I grant that your column is always entertaining and you do defend well, or at least as well as your ideas could be defended. Looking forward to your next column.

  13. Hi Steve, I often disagree with you because you are an extremist who has some pretty radical fanatical economic ideologies, but I’m very pleased to say I agree with you on this one! I’m not sure about the viability of the restaurant, but your general idea is correct. We should be thinking BIG!
    In fact, if you could use your political influence to put in a good word for my Giant Emu Footprint Initiative I’d be greatly appreciative. I’ve been trying to get it on the agenda for ages!

  14. Love the giant emu footprint pointing to Uluru, our town’s nemesis when it comes to tourism. Sadly the footprint would quickly be overgrown with buffel and become invisible. That would put Steve in a quandary, leave the useful weed or save the tourist attraction?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here