NT government fails to secure land use consent from traditional owners for Red Centre Adventure ride: ABC News

ABC Alice Springs / By Stewart BrashEmma Haskin, and Myles Houlbrook-Walk

  • In short:  The $12 million Red Centre Adventure Ride has stalled and its funding has been redistributed.
  • The project announced in 2018 has failed due to a breakdown in negotiations between the NT government and traditional owners from the Tjorita/West MacDonnell National Park.
  • What’s next? The NT government says it is committed to building the track when it reaches consent and agreement with traditional owners.

A multi-million dollar mountain bike ride has been labelled a “dead duck” by a tourism industry peak body after six years of failed land negotiations with traditional owners.

The Northern Territory government in 2018 announced that the Red Centre Adventure Ride would be allocated $12 million and was set to be a world class 200-kilometre mountain bike trail. 

The ride was set to be completed in 2019 and run from the Alice Springs Desert Park to the picturesque Glen Helen Gorge in the heart of the Tjoritja/West MacDonnell ranges.

Reddish rock on either side of darkish water
The trail would have arrived at Glen Helen Gorge.(ABC Alice Springs: Samantha Jonscher)

But the failed land use agreement combined with the redistribution of the money to existing tourist operations in the region has left local business owner Nick Bitar doubtful that the trail will ever be built.

“It’s disappointing,” he said. 

“We were looking forward to investing in Alice Springs around this project.”

Close up of man with big moustache
Nick Bitar is a small business owner in Alice Springs.(Supplied: Nick Bitar)

Mr Bitar said despite the NT government’s commitment to the project, it was unrealistic that the trail could go ahead without economic backing.

“Without the allocated money, the project will lose momentum but I do hope the Northern Territory government will prove me wrong,” he said.

The money earmarked for the trail would be redistributed to the Alice Springs Desert Park, Alice Springs Telegraph Station, Tennant Creek’s Battery Hill, the National Road Transport Hall of Fame and to address water security issues in the West MacDonnell National Park.

Mr Bitar welcomed any investment in the region but said he would prefer to see new projects supported.

“A coat of paint on our existing products isn’t going to bring positive attention to Alice Springs,” he said.

“The Alice Springs Telegraph station and the Road Transport Hall of Fame are both amazing facilities but I would like to see something new in Alice Springs, whether it is a cycling product or not.”

He said the region needed to focus on adventure tourism. 

The Larapinta Trail has been so successful for the region that it is heartbreaking that we can’t create a companion mountain bike experience,” Mr Bitar said.

“As a small business owner I see tourists coming to Alice Springs to experience the town’s mountain bike trails and we need to capitalise on that.”

Project a ‘dead duck’

Tourism Central Australia chief executive Danial Rochford said the NT government should have done more to negotiate with traditional owners to get consent.

“Without that it’s a dead duck,” he said.

A man wearing glasses with blue and white checked shirt leaning against a wall.
Tourism Central Australia’s Danial Rochford wants commitment ahead of the NT election.(Supplied: Danial Rochford)

Mr Rochford has urged NT Minister for Parks and Rangers and Homelands Selena Uibo to become more involved in discussions.

“I understand she has recently met with them, which is good. That needs to be pursued vigorously,” he said.

Riders at the 2016 Redback mountain bike event, Alice Springs.
Riders at a past mountain bike event in Alice Springs.(ABC News: Tom Maddocks)

With the NT election in August, Mr Rochford said he wanted to see a commitment to the trail.

“We would love to hear further public commitment by both the government and opposition to make sure that this project is not lost forever,” he said.

Consent more important than funds

The Northern Territory government confirmed that money originally earmarked for the trail would be spent elsewhere.

A teenager with a helmet and visor on rides a mountain bike with protective gear on.
Mountain bike trials have boosted tourism in other parts of the country.(Supplied: Beau Hood)

Deputy Chief Minister Chansey Paech said as soon as consent issues were resolved, the government would find money for the bike trail.

“When we do reach a position of consent and agreement around the Red Centre Adventure Ride, then we will work to fund that,” he said.

Mr Rochford argued the funding issues were less significant than permissions from traditional owners.

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