Second hand Santa



There is nothing new on the wish list that Alice Springs is handing to Santa each year, and we still haven’t figured out why the bag is always empty: try poor leadership, the public’s readiness to be a doormat, and remote control of our affairs from the Top End.

Don’t be fooled by Canberra pumping COVID billions into the NT, or providing guarantees for mind boggling borrowings run up by the Gunner Government: It’s going to be an awful hangover when that binge is over.

Alice Springs is still no closer to solid economic foundations with tourism struggling, major mining projects still looking for start-up cash and welfare probably the biggest industry here.

Yet the region has more solar power potential than the Arabs have oil. We’re 1500 kms from the ocean and are clear of big cyclones. We’re 600 metres above sea level and will never fall victim to a Tsunami.

We have more than 300 sunny days a year. We have practically no pollution. We’re second only to Canberra, per capita, in holders of tertiary education.

Yes, the Centre is truly wonderful yet the town remains incapable of managing its most basic needs.

Local flooding is still a massive risk to life and to parts of the town. There are ready engineering solutions – a dam or a tunnel – but we don’t have leaders able to reach diplomatic solutions to problems of life and death.

We’re still disposing sewage by wasting billions of litres of water, in the driest part of the world’s driest continent, and using a two square kilometre site that could become an IT village or a dry climate university.

In the past couple of weeks we have stood by passively as our iconic Mt Gillen, the heart of our municipality, has been wrested from the public by a mere handful of people.

The ravines of that mountain, as close as 10 minutes’ walk from Alice’s tourism precinct, rival King’s Canyon in beauty and until a few days ago was prime tourism asset.

The Alice still makes no use of our location – similar to Denver, Colorado – as a distribution hub for road, rail and air freight handling.

But our problem isn’t the lack of opportunity, it’s failure to grab it with both hands.

Here are the fundamental obstacles: We are always Number Two. The Chief Minister usually is from the Top End. If we’re lucky we get the deputy in The Centre.

Professional and trade organisations are headquartered in Darwin where the president resides. We might have the vice-president.

Until recently the Murdoch Advocate (now shut down) took its orders from Darwin.

The all important and highly funded Tourism NT pretended to be moving to Alice Springs but this was soon reversed.

For eons Parks was run from The Centre – which is where most of the parks are, after all. No longer.

This year half the town council, including Mayor Damien Ryan, nominated for Legislative Assembly seats. Clearly they fancied sitting in the Parliament in Darwin over meeting in the Alice Town Council chambers and representing the people who elected them. All four missed out. Three of them were first termers.

Major Events running Parrtjima is Darwin based. And so on.

Now add the major government departments, police and corrections and the detrimental extent of the problem becomes clear.

That is not an issue of economies of scale. In the contrary, that is an issue of foisting Top End control on issues that have mostly nothing to do with the Top End.

Not only would that be likely to cause a bad result, it may knock the project on the head altogether.

It is putting people in charge of issues which they don’t understand. The immediate consequence of this is that these initiatives are likely to collapse or will fail to thrive.

The fundamental problem of this is that Top End and Centre issues, aspirations and objectives are utterly unlike one-another. We are different.

The current Top-Down structure of organisations not only fails to do justice to key initiatives, it is likely to be to their detriment.

Put that into Santa’s bag!

Photo Wish Facebook.


  1. Erwin, you hit the nail on the head “but our problem isn’t the lack of opportunity, it’s failure to grab it with both hands”.
    This is a metaphor for poor leadership and lack of planning, both current and future.
    Whilst I have reservations about the efficiency of solar (total costs including manufacture to disposal including the costs of aluminium production), the government could at least lead with it.
    Unfortunately, the powers to be, are more interested in personal gain than the betterment of the NT and especially Alice Springs.
    Perhaps at the next election, we could all refrain from voting and perhaps send a clear and concise message that “we” want to be listened to.

  2. Though I’m from Tassie, the Centre will always hold a special place in my heart, having spent some time there.
    Well said Erwin – Alice has opportunities taken away before, and even after, they are offered.
    Post COVID would be a great opportunity to really evolve the Centre and set an opportunity for others to envy.
    Erwin, you raise many issues – please may your words NOT fall on deaf ears.
    Come on NT Government please look at the valuable asset that is “the Alice” and do something proactive.
    Please put ego aside and really look at the bigger picture! The Northern Territory is a big place and should have big achievable plans as a place to be proud of for all.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here