By ERWIN CHLANDA
Cranking up tourism by starting, developing and attracting major sporting and social events, and giving his kids a reason for staying in town, being part of its growth: That’s the aim of council candidate Jamie deBrenni (pictured), a builder.
Standing for council is “the perfect opportunity of giving back to the town what it’s given to me,” says the third generation local.
The motor sport fanatic, who has strong links with Chief Minister Adam Giles, says he would need to find his feet if elected to local government: Not having access to the discussions in the confidential parts of the council meetings “it’s hard to know the full story about what’s going on, where they are at with different things”.
He is wary of, but accepts as inevitable, “procedures and protocols” that may stand in the way of the council’s dealing with higher forms of government, unlike in “the old days when we could get things done quickly.
“I know it frustrates a lot of people. It frustrates me as well.”
He quotes as an example Cr Chansey Paech’s current efforts in improving services for young people.
NEWS: Couldn’t the council simply communicate a request or a demand to the government?
deBRENNI: My understanding is the council does communicate with the government. But it would be lovely if you could say, this is what we want, bang, bang, bang. The whole world would be perfect. But everyone’s got to work together. Maybe, once I’m in there, there may be ways to change those procedures.
NEWS: What are the most important initiatives you would like the council to pursue?
deBRENNI: Events that bring people to Alice Springs, and bring economic rewards. The council supports events but I am not yet clear to what extent, how they can be involved more. That’s what I’d like to work on. I’m the vice-president of Motorsports NT. The Australian speedway titles, the Australian quad titles on the motocross track, NT karting titles are some examples. The Red CentreNATS drags will get stronger and stronger. We estimate we will double the number of entrants next year. We already have 73 more than we had in this inaugural year. We’re getting interest from overseas. The council may be able to lighten the load on the steering committees. As an ongoing event, the economic benefits of the NATS will be second to none.
NEWS: What would be your other objectives on council?
deBRENNI: Encourage the ongoing beautification of the town. First impressions for people coming through The Gap or the northern hills, are always the biggest thing for a tourists. Once visitors get to know people they love the town, but we’ve got to give them that first impression. The council does a great job but it can be improved on.
NEWS: What else?
deBRENNI: Sporting infrastructure across the whole town. Growing up here I’ve been involved in every sport you can play here. Let’s give our kids the same opportunity.
NEWS: Given that the council can be a conduit to the NT Government for the people of the town, what has the current government done for it so far?
deBRENNI: Government is accessible by the people direct but they can go through the council. The government has done a lot, both governments, in the last 15 years. The development of the town is ongoing. But we’re not running for NT government, we’re running for local government.
NEWS: The council, whose nine members are all elected by locals, could make its points very forcefully. The government would be be foolish not to take seriously demands from the council.
deBRENNI: The job of the council is to work with the governments of the day, Federal and state. They, in turn, need to engage with local government which is the first step for community engagement. And it should be. The people of Alice Springs should have the confidence to go to the council, ask the questions and have the council to follow them up.
NEWS: What should the council be saying to the government right now?
deBRENNI: They should say thank you for getting behind the town with events that are bringing tourism to town – including the NATS, Truckies’ Hall of Fame, writers’ festival, Desert Mob and so on. There’s a lot of in-kind work, and work behind the scenes.
NEWS: What about big picture issues? For example, we have road trains carrying cattle going south and returning empty. We have road trains carrying general cargo going north and returning empty. We no longer have an abattoir. Moving freight by rail is four times more fuel efficient than moving freight on the highway.
Is there a place for council to research, promote, advise, encourage – and regulate, if necessary?
deBRENNI: It’s about viability, location, cattle prices and so on. In a perfect world I’d like Alice Springs to be the central hub of all industry in Australia. And why wouldn’t you? It’s the middle, especially with modern technology. Pine Gap had the foresight. We’ve got the clearest days. The perfect place for an online shopping distribution hub is the middle.
NEWS: Some people say a council should be all about roads, rates and rubbish.
deBRENNI: I think the council is looking beyond that, looking into the future, with developing events and supporting them. Tourism has always been our number one income source. People will not come just for our [natural] attractions. They will take in Ormiston Gorge once they’ve come for one of our events. It’s a flow-on benefit. The council is doing a fantastic job with the sporting facilities they maintain.
NEWS: Does the council have close enough connections with other lobbies such as the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Central Australia, Congress and ALEC?
deBRENNI: I think they do but I have access only to council business not dealt with in confidential session. The very diverse group of people who are the council’s elected members also gives it access to those organisations.
NEWS: Which of the sitting councillors would you be most comfortable dealing with?
deBRENNI: All of them. When it comes to this town, that is my priority. It is a democratic system. You need five of nine votes to get a decision.
NEWS: Should there be party politics in council?
NEWS: Are you Alice Springs born and bred?
deBRENNI: I was conceived in Alice Springs, born in Adelaide. I spent three days out of town, to be honest with you.
The 49-year-old is the third generation of deBrennis in Alice, and he is working on the fourth: One daughter is a business graduate, the second a journalism student (recently doing intern work with the Alice Springs News Online), and a son in highschool.
“I want to somehow play a hand in giving these kids a reason for staying in Alice Springs and giving me my grandchildren,” says Mr deBrenni.
Aiming for an events led tourism recovery
By ERWIN CHLANDA