Spying on park visitors: nothing to see here?



The NT Government department responsible for parks, wildlife and heritage is unaware that a semi-concealed camera, permanently mounted, is reportedly used by Pine Gap security for surveillance of people visiting a public reserve.


The media manager for the Department of Tourism, Sport and Culture, Lauren Crawley, says in response to an enquiry from the Alice Springs News: “Are the semi-concealed cameras on the reserve? If so, please provide location details and I’ll let the rangers know to go and assess the situation.”


The camera was mentioned by film maker and long-time local Chris Tangey in one of the 15 readers’ comments posted with our original report about spying on visitors to Kuyunba, located to the east of the US/Australian spy base.


Other comment writers also refer to the camera.


Although we drew Ms Crawley’s attention to the readers’ comments we published, mostly critical of the privacy invasion, she says: “The department has not received any formal complaints about the issues you mentioned. If visitors are concerned, they need to report it to a ranger to investigate the issue.


“If visitors are concerned or have been approached, they can report it to our rangers or police with details. Unless there is something formal to go off, I’m not sure what you would like me to send a comment on?


“All we can ask is that if people are concerned, to contact the parks office on 89518250 with details so the incident can be looked into. Complaints will be taken seriously, however they need to be reported.”


The sources we quoted in our original report, as well the majority of the other comments, suggested that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is and has been for some time carrying out routine surveillance of the visiting public in the park.


The AFP responded by claiming it had not been involved in an encounter with a group of tourists on July 10. It appears that Ms Crawley interprets the AFP’s response as meaning it is never involved in the surveillance of people in the reserve.


She states: “You have received a comment from AFP saying it didn’t happen, so unless we receive some more information with details from the concerned visitors, the best Parks could do is ask unknown persons from Pine Gap to stop doing something they have stated in writing they didn’t do.”


Neither the AFP nor Ms Crawley have responded to our requests for comment on the use of a surveillance drone as reported.

IMAGE from a photographic equipment website.


  1. I can confirm that I recorded the date of one of the occasions I visited Kuyunba, when I was approached within the reserve car park by 2 AFP officers for details as described in an earlier post, and yes, I felt it was intrusive on their part.
    It was 10/5/2014.

  2. It is standard operating procedure. Known of by everyone who’s visited, and assented to by government, I thought.
    I’ve visited the reserve about four times (last time late February).
    Each time two AFP officers appeared after a short time and questioned me on my purpose in being there. If I go today I am sure the same will happen.
    It’s not a comfortable situation and it does add discouragement to going there.

  3. I have never been to the reserve, but I am sure that if any part of the park that contains: car parking, walking trails, park facilities etc anywhere either near the entrance to Pine Gap, or within say 5km of the boundary fence, then I would not be surprised that surveillance has been going on for years.
    I bet there are more than the one surveillance camera. There are no doubt multiple hidden cameras (every so many hundreds of meters) or within close proximity to the entire perimeter fence looking into the reserve.
    No cameras should however be installed on the park reserve’s land without the NTG’s approval. Regardless of whether or not it is necessary I would think Pine Gap have every right to have cameras along their fence perimeter or within their compound looking into the park reserve. However I would think some kind of signage should also be placed on the fence that stipulates that cameras may be present / operating in the area.
    I also bet there must be a guideline in place at Pine Gap that originates from the US government that states if a civilian is found anywhere within (say a 2km radius) of pine gap then they should be questioned, regardless of what they may be obviously doing.
    All of the above may also be the case for Area 51 in Nevada or any other major US base of significance.
    It may be that the AFP be subject to have this same right to question civilians and that they may not be obliged to talk to the media with admitting what they do without first talking with someone higher up in command.
    I also bet that a higher up personnel may not necessarily answer or waste time to frivolous scenarios unless someone had actually attempted to either cause a major protest or break into the facility etc.

  4. I now can’t find the post you’re talking about Erwin, but to give my point of view context, I noted in that post that my dealings with the AFP were professional and that I thought the camera placement was “fair enough”.

  5. I was very aware of a camera’s presence last time I was out there. And AFP have approached in the past when I have driven into the Kuyunba Reserve area. I haven’t been out for a while. I can’t really see the need for AFP to approach people who are simply visiting Kuyunba, and have not gone past the “Turn Back” sign. With the camera (or cameras as others have probably rightly suggested) AFP staff could easily keep an eye on any suspicious activity, without making life uncomfortable for people who are out to enjoy nature.

  6. I feel like if you go anywhere near a military base of any sort you should expect to be watched. Seems pretty normal to me?
    I’m neither hear nor there about the base, it provides a lot of income for the town when it comes to property, shops and attractions.
    Considering no doubt plenty of women go down the “male only” track it’s not respected as its meant to be anyway.
    But go figure you visit the place you’ll probably end up with your details noted whether you give them over or not.
    But I agree with the others comments you really shouldn’t go there and not expect to be scrutinised.
    Sure it’s a “public” park but next to a defence facility, should expect nothing less.
    Maybe the drone visit saves them coming out to speak to you face to face. Just let them do what they need to do and protect us from the stupidity of terrorism.
    You’d be kidding yourself to think they don’t protect Australia.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here