By ERWIN CHLANDA
A spinning turbo charger is music to a motoring enthusiast’s ears, but the information spin surrounding the second Red Centre NATS is well over the red line.
It leaves in a cloud of rubber smoke the financial support for other Territory sports which have to jump through hoops to get their money.
While the taxpayer coughed up $1.3m for two days of petrolhead fun, the NT government-paid organisers have learned nothing from the first NATS: They are seeking to justify the splurge under the same pretexts that didn’t stand up to scrutiny last year.
One claim is that some 14,000 people attending the fixture pumped more than $12m into the Alice Springs economy. That figure was also touted for 2015 when the claim was made that “more than 13,000 people” attended.
By comparison, a report commissioned by the Australian Capital Territory found that the Summer NATS in 2015, which had a reported crowd of 108,000, including 30,000 from interstate, had “a net impact of $20.7 million on the ACT economy, including $18.4 million in overnight visitor expenditure”.
That means the revheads in Canberra spent an average of $192 each, compared to the $857 for their Alice Springs counterparts that the NT Major Events spin doctors would have us believe.
NT Major Events and their interstate hired media managers kept repeating last year’s misleading claim: “Over 13,000 people attended the event in its inaugural year in 2015.”
In fact, as our investigation has shown, there were over 13,000 admissions at various times and venues for an undisclosed number of people.
We put this to both (the now former) Chief Minister Adam Giles and Major Events and neither denied it.
We said to Mr Giles during an interview, in his office, on August 23: “If I walked through this door five times, does that make me five different people?”
Mr Giles replied: “Depends what you’re wearing, what you look like. I’m only joking.”
He might have been but he declined to answer further questions on the issue. A lot of people interested in other sports in The Centre may find it hard to see the humour in this.
If all individuals went to – say – five different venues then the combined attendance may have been 13,000 but the number of individuals would have been a mere 2600.
And in order to lend credence to the claim that the event is pumping vast amounts of money into the town it needs to be established how many of these people were from outside Alice Springs.
Yet this is another question to which Major Events is not giving a clear answer. Says General Manager Andrew Hopper: “We have close to 700 entrants here this weekend and many of them are from interstate.”
How many? No answer.
We put this to Mr Hopper: “Financial benefits for the town come in the main from people travelling here for the event from elsewhere. Locals enjoying the event don’t spend any additional money, except for admission charges.”
Mr Hopper was happy to state the figure of $12m but did not answer our request to explain how it was calculated.
It seems Mr Giles has put commitments in place for the event to run for six years (although this, too, did not get a clear answer).
What is the split-up, in broad categories, of the spend of the $1.3m per event the NT Government contributes? No answer.
The fistful of dollars approach to the two-day NATS is in stark contrast to the way other sports are funded.
Peak Sporting Body Funding Program Guidelines (2016-18) go to 14 pages containing 4374 words.
A “Tier 1” sport such as Rugby League, which has 2500 members in the NT, including more than 300 in Alice Springs, and operates from March to September, can claim $185,000 a year for “base funding”.
Basketball in Alice Springs, with 600 players, gets no subsidy and had to let go its development manager because it doesn’t have money for the position.
The list goes on.
UPDATE September 12:
A spokeswoman for SummerNATS in Canberra, upon request from the Alice Springs News Online, has clarified attendance figures for the 2015 fixture.
She said the figure of 108,000 was “cumulative numbers of attendance through the gates … over the 3 ½ days of operation”.
She said some patrons had bought season tickets for all events, some for single events only. She would not disclose how many of each ticket were sold.
Meanwhile a spokesman for the Red Centre NATS in Alice Springs said today attendance details for the second fixture here would be disclosed when Major Events NT had completed its calculations.
He said SummerNATS and Red Centre NATS, which is owned by Major Events NT, had been running in conjunction. Advice had been given given to Red Centre NTAS by SummerNATS.