Town under pressure from visitor boom


Above: Ilparpa claypans after rain. People illegally camping there are having an impact on enjoyment of the beauty spot and its wildlife, says Cr Jimmy Cocking. Photo from our archive ( February 2015).

Alice Springs is full, at least for people travelling with caravans and mobile homes, and the industry is expecting this double-edged boom to hit a new high in the next school holidays.
On the up side, all the economic benefits that flow from the influx, but there are some downsides which were discussed at last night’s Town Council meeting.
Councillor Jimmy Cocking raised the problem of “illegal camping” at the Ilparpa playpens (above), where apparently people were told they could go when the local caravan parks were fully booked.
Increased traffic on Ilparpa Road had also resulted in increased road kill, he said: a local resident had told him that eight kangaroos had been hit in recent weeks.
Cr Marli Banks, who lives in the area, had also observed that the carcasses had been torched.
As well, she had noticed people camping at the old quarry site on Ilparpa Road and she had been contacted by a visitor, travelling in a caravan with a sick child, who couldn’t afford to pay $70 for room. The showgrounds were not an option during the lead-up and wind-down from Show weekend.
The increase of visitors was great, said Cr Banks, especially as tourism is the biggest (private sector) contributor to the economy, but the numbers are testing the town’s capacity.
Anecdotally the influx is due to the anticipated closure of the Uluru climb in October, which is why a further rush is expected in the September holidays.
Mayor Damien Ryan reported a comment from a meeting of Tourism Central Australia, that the holidays we have just had were “a dress rehearsal” for September.
Outgoing CEO Rex Mooney said he would raise the issue today with the regional director of the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Lands.
Cr Banks said the government has known that the closing of the Rock climb would put pressure on infrastructure in the Centre but how to manage that hadn’t been addressed.
Cr Glen Auricht  noted that the Red Centre Nats, coming up in four weeks, would add further pressure in town.
Cr Cocking suggested exploring the possibility of a shuttle bus running continuously from the  caravan parks into town, to reduce the impact on car parking in the town centre.
Cr Jamie de Brenni said NT Major Events and the Red Centre Nats organisers should be involved in the discussions.
Cr Banks said tourism businesses should also be contacted, to see what they think their needs are.
Cr Banks wants council to think about its role in relation to “youth crime”.
She was  “blown away” during a recent visit to Todd Mall by the numbers of youths “moving in large blocks” – what would be “perceived as gangs” – and being “herded along” by police.
On another occasion she saw a group of young people on Gregory Terrace, running full tilt, with an attack dog in full pursuit and “gnashing jaws”. This was about 9pm on a week night. As a member of the public she found the sight “pretty full on”.
“It’s pretty distressing to see a big dog chasing young kids,” she said.
She thought it would be important for council to engage with other tiers of government on the issues, through the Chief Minister’s Department and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
She noted the recent announcement by the NT Government of the final piece in their seven step Breaking the Cycle plan for Alice Springs.
This is an Aboriginal-led Youth Outreach Service, called “Looking After the Kids – Walking Together with Young People” and will be operated by Tangentyere Council.
Cr Banks noted that council’s committee for liaison with  Tangentyere Council has yet to have a meeting and asked “at a minimum” for the CEO to contact Tangentyere, to get those meetings to happen.
Mr Mooney will follow up.
No-one in council has yet had a briefing from government on the implementation of their seven-step plan.
Self-drive at record numbers, but there are risks


  1. Great that visitors numbers are up for this year but I worry that once to Rock climb is closed in October visitor numbers will be much lower next year and every year after.

  2. Uluru climb must remain forever, or goodbye Central Oz tourism and Alice Springs employment.

  3. More empty words from Councillor Banks.
    Why doesn’t she put her effort into getting Ilparpa footpath finished instead of putting up stupid motions which unnecessarily delayed that project?
    In fact she has stopped work continuing since March this year.
    Prior to that, the lads were doing a stirling job.
    There are no sacred sites impeding this pathway apart from the trees which have previously been reported on by AAPA to allow for the optic fibre cable along Ilparpa Road.
    Rightly, the lads have left all other corkwoods etc standing. No trees have been removed.
    RESOLUTION: I move that council stop bullshitting around and resume the job immediately.

  4. Cannot the people responsible for the running of the park see what a draw the climb has always been in the past?
    Well, the do gooders have got their way and the climb will be closed. But guess what.
    Not too far in the future the climb will be opened again and this time besides paying for every person to enter the park, you will be required to pay to climb.

  5. Great that tourist numbers are up now. After the Rock climb closes in October then I think that tourism to the Rock will down spiral.
    Ohh … didn’t I hear the government say it was upgrading the airport there?
    Seems a bit odd since tourism there will go down. And probably flow onto Alice also.
    After all, why go here if you can’t climb the Rock? Enjoy it while we can. Tough times ahead?

  6. Visitors from other countries come and climb all over our sacred site but just imagine if we went to their sites and did the same.
    Bondi Beach does not hold the same significance to everyone who enjoys it to the way we owners of the land regard what Uluru means to us.
    There is no comparison, plain and simple.

  7. The National Road Transport Hall of Fame holds its reunion at the end of August and generally there isn’t a room in town to be had when this is on.
    Accomodation is a huge problem for this town when these events happen.
    We need more solutions to this ongoing problem to promote the town and to cater for the influx.
    Look out for 2020 when the RTHF has its 20 year reunion!

  8. Don’t stress people.
    The Sherpas want their Himalaya back.
    Power to the people.
    Interact, forget a FiFo weekend, immerse in the real culture and meet and talk with them.
    Give something back for the experience.
    Ask yourself this: Would you run a schedule so tight that you would need to defecate in an inappropriate place during a visit to the Vatican?
    Or are you too selfish to see this?
    Over 20 years a Territorian, around two years of that at Mutijulu, and Yulara.

  9. Travelling up and down the track to Darwin and beyond, it’s not hard to pick up when facilities are over-used. The smell of sewerage tells of too many visitors in one place at the same time.
    Perhaps road houses, caravan parks and the like need to take this into account and think about updating such facilities to cope with visitor numbers.


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