By ERWIN CHLANDA
When the Finke Desert Race gets under way this weekend fans can look forward to top-class off-road racing, but the event’s future at present depends on good will. Two Members of Parliament have an answer.
Chansey Paech and Scott McConnell, representing the two bush seats in The Centre have teamed up to turn the 229 kilometres of the track into land with recreational land tenure.
At the moment the track crosses several pastoral leases, and while there are no signs of access permissions being at risk, it will be good to have certainty, says Mr Paech (at left), the Labor Member for Namatjira, the electorate in which the national event takes place.
He is collaborating with Mr McConnell (at right), the now Independent Member for Stuart – a sure sign that love for motor sport outweighs any political differences.
Mr McConnell has researched a similar project in Moab, Utah, USA (see photos).
The two MLAs are getting the ball rolling to have other parcels of land around the Territory as well set aside for bush driving and camping.
Mr Paech says a more structured arrangement has major advantages.
It will discourage and reduce illegal use of land, and avoid possible legal action.
Also, it could solve possible problems with insurance.
Rangers could be employed to look after environmental issues, ensuring long-time viability of the parks: “I believe we can continue to grow our outdoor recreation options by providing legal access to land for motor sport enthusiasts,” says Mr Paech.
“Myself and others are certainly not advocating for our national parks or endangered habitats to be over-run or damaged by the impacts of motorsport.”
He says he and Mr McConnell are in conversation with interested people to develop the concept further, and the feedback is unanimously positive: “Current activities are actually permitted by the good graces of people.
“We need to provide certainty for our locals, for interstate visitors.
“I’m going to continue to push and advocate for this to be something that the Parliament and government can look into further.
“This would also allow for small tourism businesses to start and market the unique opportunity.
“At this point it is a concept and it has a way to go before it’s firmed up as a proposal we can take to stakeholders and the Government but I’m looking forward to getting out and talking to people about the idea.”