Tourism smaller but better, pollies must talk to the people


As pre-election interest in tourism revival moves up a notch with the Territory Alliance pre-selection of prominent industry figure Dale McIver, veteran operator Charlie Carter predicts the visitors business will get smaller but better.


And former Tennant Creek businessman and public figure Gavin Carpenter, now living in Alice Springs, is sure rebuilding communication with communities is the only way for any government to succeed.


Charlie Carter


Whatever the actions of the next government, they will be in light of the virus that has affected every corner of the globe. I believe this will be a chance for the NT and Central Australia to reset and focus on what is achievable and realistic.


In my view, growth in the NT — particularly in Central Australia which is an economy built on services — is unsustainable.


I find this to be particularly true of the tourism industry, an industry I have 20 years of experience in.


In a post COVID world, air travel is likely to be down as we realise that we need it less, it is less and less environmentally suitable, and much of the industry could fail to rebound.


Anyone who thinks continued growth for tourism in the NT is a viable way forward is short sighted.


All of this is not to say there is no place for tourism here, just one that is built on fewer people coming here but experiencing more. 


For this to be achieved this industry will have to turn to its strengths: natural and cultural beauty. Indigenous involvement will be key for this to succeed. I understand that this is happening, but it must begin to be on a far grander scale.


This change should begin with education, something the Territory has struggled with for a long time.


Successive governments have spent countless dollars with little reward, but I believe that instead of sending first year out teachers to remote locations, they should be sending out the best and most experienced. Sure it’s going to cost more money, but the return is going to be manyfold.


Lastly, the fracking gas industry is going to be a stranded asset.


This has come home with a bang at the moment and I do not see any possible future for that industry here in the Territory.


Renewable energy is becoming cheaper and cheaper as the day goes on, and the arse has absolutely fallen out of the fossil fuel market. Governments pouring taxpayers money into fossil fuel is an absolute abomination and must end.


We have the ability and resources to be creating massive amounts of solar energy that can be sent off to energy thirsty nations in south-east Asia and we should be capitalising on it.


Gavin Carpenter


For a start, communication must improve.


I lived in Tenant Creek for 33 years before moving to Alice Springs, so I have been in the area for a long time.


Politicians of old would at least get back to you; these days they are hidden behind a screen of bureaucrats and public service workers full of spin.


If any political party is to succeed in Alice, they’re going to have to listen to the community and encourage those that are here — those that love to live here – to stay.


There is no encouragement for the elderly community to stay here. Instead the constant focus on growth and change pushes us away.


Just look at the obsession with the gallery down at Anzac Oval for an example. 


The Territory will never get out of debt if the government continues on the trajectory they are now on, no matter what party is in charge. On this trajectory I believe at some point the Federal government will be forced to step in.


What I would like to see is work towards a fully equipped senior’s village here in Alice Springs that can support the aged population who wants to stay but cannot continue to live in the situations they currently do. 


A secure, safe place where elderly people can live happily and not have to worry about managing an entire house and garden would give people looking to move into the next stage of their lives the option of staying local.



  1. What a joy to read such sensible comments from two experienced Old Timers.
    In August the NT has the opportunity to elect an effective, hard-working government, for we will be living in a very different world post Corona. Thus, we need to have “the facts” enunciated for us in well-motivated but apolitical terms, as Charlie and Gavin have done here.
    Well done Erwin, Kieran and Julius Dennis.
    There are many other wise Elders out there, in splendid isolation in these crazy times “just waiting to be asked”.

  2. All the retirees now live on the Sunshine Coast, and if tourism diminishes every time someone catches a cold, it will soon be dead and buried too.

  3. Charlie is correct, but no one bothers to ask the tourists themselves what they expect to see here: It is invariably Indigenous, or walking trails.
    I spent a lot of time talking to visitors on Anzac Hill and at the Welcome Rock.
    We don’t look around at our competition. Winton has a dinosaur theme, Mclaren Vale has its wine -both portray them very well and just like the fast food outlets, use ease of vehicle access as a drawcard.
    We don’t have a theme and demonstrate it, and our theme should be the cultural side of the Indigenous people.
    As Charlie points out it should be education which puts the proposed Cultural centre at Yirara as another School of the Air for both tourism and the Indigenous kids there to participate in and demonstrate their own culture.
    I watched Catalyst on ABC TV last week to see the bush foods project and constantly ask myself why is it not on display here?
    Then we have bush tomato developed at a SA country high school, the Tanami apple with its medicinal properties developing in Qld, spinifex, with its super strength cellulose nano fibres, developing also in Queensland, our Acacias being developed for both human and animal food in India and Africa, Camelicious in Dubai to mention just a few that should have happened here to make the place unique again.
    Even the two storey facades in town have gone!
    But we got politically expedient houses, just the same as everywhere else.
    A few years ago there was a document “Towards 2030” put out by Government.
    There was one contribution advocating solar powering the NS railway and distributing the electricity in the eastern states.
    It was pooh-poohed. Now it’s happening, but to Singapore.
    Our planners often don’t see past the end of the left nostril.
    We have a surplus of gas in Australia and the USA can hardly give it away.
    We don’t need new gas fields.
    It is 400km shorter to feed gas from WA to the eastern states market via Brewer than through Moomba – a fact not lost on Mac bank.
    Hence their interest in our local company, and the pipeline. There are two wells here, high in helium which is much more lucrative than natural gas but the government does not seem to notice, or encourage.
    Adelaide is about to start producing hydrogen, the fuel of the future.
    Their justification is the quality of their sunlight in hydrolising water. No one ever invited them here to test our sunlight, to my knowledge.
    Harvey Norman interests have the second largest cucumber factory in the world, factory farming, but no one invited them to look here.
    The Costa family with tomatoes – same story, so we really can’t complain.
    The Old Man Plains research station does not even have a sign post so I am told.
    Brewer with its unique three cross country highways, rail and air all co-incidental, is the obvious place to promote the economic development that we all need but seemingly ignore.
    I am reminded of the inscription on the tomb of king Ramasees 11 of Egypt: “I am Ozymandius, King of Kings. If anyone wishes to know how mighty I am and where I lie, let him surpass my works.”(Apologies to Shelley.)
    Here that should be relatively easy.

  4. Mr Carpenter made a very good point which may well become the case: “The Territory will never get out of debt if the government continues on the trajectory the are now on, no matter what party is in charge. On this trajectory I believe at some point the Federal government will be forced to step in.”
    The amount of debt the Northern Territory has accumulated, with a shrinking population and Governments that cannot control Indigenous industry waste of billions of dollars.
    It is only a matter of time before the Northern Territory is expropriated by surrounding states. Canberra is discussing this matter and with the current economic conditions and only 245,000 people it would not be politically difficult to achieve.
    It is however imperative the NT does not pull Australia’s debt into an irredeemable state.

  5. Tourism has been a good spinner but really who will be able to come to the NT from overseas until Corona has a vaccine
    Even then it only takes one infected person from Asia, Africa, South America who are backpacking to dare I say it, wipe out an Aboriginal community.
    The truth is Aboriginal communities and people are most vulnerable and it is only by the grace of God and geography that there has not been a Corona breakout in Aboriginal Australia.
    It is Aboriginal communities and people who will stop tourism simply by their way of life and the flu season is now upon us – winter.
    Therefore, how does government start up a tourism industry from even here in Eastern Australia, let alone overseas where the chances of spreading Corona are real as shown in Darwin with the Defence Force personnel with Coronavirus reported and now in hospital.
    As Mr Gunner said “I am not even thinking about opening the borders” and Alice Springs is not trusted by Darwin or Canberra by prohibiting camping in biosecurity areas?
    I would think there are biosecurity areas all over the NT including Darwin?
    Stinks of the Berrimah line mentality to me.
    Truth is tourism is still a maybe and Central Australia is not trusted by Darwin.


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