By ERWIN CHLANDA
The NT Government is continuing to provide attendance figures for events it sponsors that are likely to be misconstrued in its favour.
The government’s Major Events company says there had been 16,468 “attendances” at this year’s Red CentreNATS.
This figures is meaningless because each person can perform several “attendances” – going to various events at the festival.
A similar misleading statement by Major Events last year claimed that “15,297 people came through the gates” – omitting to say that each individual is likely to have come through the gates several times.
The ruse was uncovered when Independent Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley, in response to questions from the Alice Springs News, asked a question in the Assembly about how many tickets had been sold.
The answer was 6100.
This year Major Events changed “through the gates” to “attendances” which is equally meaningless.
We wrote to the company on September 1 that we are not interested in “attendances” because they are as meaningless as “through the gate” and we asked for the number of individuals at the NATS: “The number of tickets sold will fine, split into locals and non-locals,” we wrote.
That information was not provided. What we were given was “16,468 attendances which was made up of entrants, three-day Chrome Pass holders and spectators from across the Northern Territory and Australia.”
We will ask Ms Lambley again to get the the number of tickets sold, plus the number of entrants, separated as locals and people from outside Alice Springs.
Last year the NT News – swallowing the government’s line – reported that “around 14,000 rev heads from all corners of the country [were] enticed to the red centre by the promise of burning rubber”.
The taxpayer funded the event to the tune of $1.4m last year. We have asked for this year’s figure.
Tourism Minister Lauren Moss claimed in a media release that there were 861 entries from across Australia in this year’s Red CentreNATS.
A Major Events spokesperson claims “this year saw an increase on 2018 attendance figures, with the economic impact for Alice Springs estimated to be greater than last year’s $4.2m direct visitor expenditure”.
No details were given about this claim.
Major Events CEO Tim Watsford declined to be interviewed about Parrtjima, the lights on the hill, co-managed by a Sydney based company.
Government funding for that festival was increased from $2m to $5m in this year’s NT Budget.
That is two and a half times as much as Minister Dale Wakefield estimates was spent by visitors from out of town. She said in a release on August 2, also using the word “attendances”: “From 5 to 14 April, Parrtjima Festival attracted over 25,000 attendances, a 24% increase on 2018 attendances, with interstate visitation contributing over $1.8m to the Alice Springs economy through the unique Red Centre event.”
Mr Watsford is not giving the News an opportunity of raising these issues with him.