NATS: Petrol heads rule


p2574 NATS drag winner 1

Luke Matthews, 1966 Ford Cortina Sedan (nearest to camera), pro winner in the Drag Racing. PHOTO above and of the parade courtesy of Red Centre NATS.

The good news about the Red Centre NATS is that they provide a superb weekend for motoring enthusiasts who surely make up an exceptionally high proportion of the town’s population.
The skills, the man-hours and not in the least, the cash that locals put into their startling creations, many beginning from no more than a rusty shell decades old, is amazing.
And Saturday’s parade had a huge crowd lining the route around the CBD – sitting in deckchairs, lounges on the backs of trucks, tailgates and beanbags watching – according to the organisers – “over 500 hot rods, street cars and vintage classics from all over Australia cruise a 14 km loop”.
The not so good news is that the massive injection of taxpayers’ money for a weekend – $1.3m on last year’s estimate, presumably not counting the public servants working for the NT Government’s Major Events  –  is not matched by the transparency needed to gauge the benefit for the town’s economy.
The six year commitment by CLP Chief Minister Adam Giles made with the Canberra-based Summer NATS is long on hype and short on facts.
This fourth local NATS is now over but we still cannot get crucial information from the extensive management personnel on the ground, ranging from the Major Events unit, Summer NATS people from Canberra and at least one interstate PR organisation.
p2574 NATS parade 1We asked for the following information:–

• The number of competition cars this year, broken up into [a] from Alice Springs and [b] from outside Alice Springs.
• Number of admission tickets sold this year.
• Total cost to the public purse of the events in 2015, 16, 17 & 18, respectively.

From the beginning of the local NATS the government has been evading the question: How many people attended?
The stock answer is how many came “through the gate”. As each ticket allows the holder to go through gates to several events over the total program, this number is not indicative of the number of persons attending. However, that is what media are clearly encouraged to conclude, and some do.
We raised this issue with Chief Minister Michael Gunner on September 30 last year when he promised to provide answers. He still has not done so.
p2574 NATS # 317This pea and thimble trick is now apparently extended to the number of vehicles: We were told “our entrant numbers will be released at the Podium Party tonight.”
True enough, a summary sheet was handed out: “Over 800 entrants from across Australia participated in the fourth inaugural Red CentreNATS”.
But there is a snag: For example, Graham Barker entered his silver FX ute # 344 (pictured) into the Top Undercarriage / Driveline section, as well as into the Top Bodywork section. Two entrants? Two entries?
We requested the entrants’ list so we could get details for some of our photos showing stunning four-wheeled exhibits  in the two showgrounds pavilions. This list was denied to us for reasons which anyone we mentioned it to regarded as the height of absurdity: It would “breach privacy”. These exhibitors spend years to create something they want to proudly show off!
(It’s worth bearing in mind that this comes from the government that is aspiring to bring us the National Aboriginal Art Gallery: Will it be full of artworks without names and titles?)
p2574 NATS textOf course, that list would have shown the actual number of cars and where they came from – information we still haven’t got but we may expect “post event,” we’re told.
All the same, while we still can, and until our runaway public debt puts a big red line through extravaganzas of this kind, the town will enjoy the gleaming machines and the roar of turbocharged V8 engines.
Some of the traffic management around the parade was poor.
p2574 NATS parade 2Northbound traffic on the Stuart Highway near the Desert Knowledge precinct were still warned on Sunday about traffic delays caused by the parade on Saturday.
Hours before the parade started, southbound motorists on Telegraph Terrace near Billygoat Hill were advised to perform a U-turn to avoid delays ahead of up to one hour.
The South Stuart Highway was turned into a 60 km/h zone both ways between the turn-off to the drags and well south of the rail overpass. Why the southbound lane?
And even the northbound one could have started on top of the overpass. Both changes would have been welcomed especially by road train drivers.
Just north of the T-intersection of the highway and the airport road a 100 km/m section (going north) and a 60 km/h section (going south) happily co-existed and assisted the traffic flow.
p2574 NATS # 617
Peter Hondow, 33 Coupe, Top 10 Elite winner.
p2574 NATS # 1B
Layton Crambrook, HQ Coupe, People’s and kids’ choice, Top exhibition, Top 10 Elite # 7.
p2574 NATS # 406
Ross Mayes, 32 Tudor Burnt1, Top 10 Elite # 9.


  1. This is a great and very unique event for our town, just like Finke. We need to encourage and support events like this.

  2. Awesome! Great for Alice Springs!
    As the manager of taxis we would like to apologize to our visitors as many customers were ringing for taxis. It was great and we did our best to keep up with the demand.
    Well done again for an awesome event. Loved it. Thank you to all the interstate visitors doing the trip to our town to make this an event to remember.

  3. I wish to comment on your remark: “But there is a snag: For example, Graham Barker entered his silver FX ute # 344 (pictured) into the Top Undercarriage / Driveline section, as well as into the Top Bodywork section. Two entrants? Two entries?”
    This is not two entries it is one – you register your vehicle and then choose which activities / events you wish to participate in. Some people did however have two or more vehicles registered and that would account for additional entries.
    Every vehicle entrant had a unique entrant number and that would give you the final number of vehicle entrants.
    This event is great for our town in every aspect – let it grow.

  4. Hi Alana: To give us the number of cars entered would have been a computer click for the organisers versus hours of searching for us to find the car with the highest number. Why the secrecy?
    We still don’t know how many cars were from Alice and how many from outside.
    We still don’t know how many tickets were sold. Again, why the secrecy?
    That’s the kind of research a diligent journalist undertakes when $1.3m – best guess – of taxpayers’ money is spent on a weekend of entertainment.
    If it brings money into the town then let’s have the facts to substantiate and quantify that.
    Let it grow? Absolutely. Many of our 19,000 plus readers are spread across the nation and the world. We cover most of the great events in The Centre. We report on a myriad of economic opportunities. Many of our 18,000 plus comment writers (so far) contribute to that vital discussion.
    But our readers want us to tell the whole story, and they know we will.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

  5. Hi Erwin,
    Good article – cheers, Mate.
    Just wondering if you have had any success in getting the accurate figures about the event yet?
    We are a motoring group from Broome WA and are getting to the point of building a pad and hopefully a track etc ready for an event like RCN on the Pearl Coast but want to be able to quantify the spectator and cash inflow etc so we can garner public and private support for our plans.
    We dont seem to be able to get a proper cost benefit analysis, or even a multiplier ratio / factor to be able to get some idea of what the expected returns may be.
    Can you let us know if this info ever comes to light as it would be invaluable to our efforts.
    Keep up the good work.
    Secretary, Kimberley Motorheads Inc.
    [ED – Hi Loz, so far the Government is declining to respond but the Independent Member for Araluen, Robyn Lambley, has put a question on notice – how many tickets have been sold – and that, under Parliamentary rules, must be answered within 30 days. I’ll drop you a line when I gat the answer from Ms Lambley.]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here