The festival of lights that keeps the public in the dark



The NT Government’s Major Event group is marking the wrap of Parrtjima 2020 by progressing from telling porkies about attendance figures to giving no answers about them at all.

“Recording and reporting on attendances is a standard methodology for the events industry,” namely quoting attendances when a single person could perform several.

“Please note we will not be providing a further analysis,” says a spokesperson.

Last time the organisation tried this on it came a cropper: Independent Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley made the truth come out in Parliament, revealing that the announced 16,468 “attendances” at the 2019 Summer NATS were actually from just 6100 people buying tickets.

This year the Murdoch NT News obliged by reporting “more than 17,000 people visited Parrtjima — A Festival of Light in Alice Springs over its 10 day duration”.

Wrong. The announcement was about 17,000 attendances with the same people most likely “attending” several times.

The spin doesn’t stop there: The Alice Springs News spoke with people who were at Parrtjima on Saturday.

They commented that on arrival the access was COVID regulated with distancing.

But on the way home they were in a bus jam-packed, with all seats taken and people standing up cheek by jowl. No distancing at all. Please comment, we asked Major Events.

The reply was the Major Events company “along with event delivery partner AGB Events, developed a COVID-19 Safety Plan for Parrtjima.

“This plan was approved by the Northern Territory Government Department of Health.

“As part of the COVID-19 Safety Plan, event attendees were required to register their attendance to help manage the flow of people, reduce queueing and support physical distancing guidelines.

“COVID-19 Champions were also contracted to assist with physical distancing and hygiene guidelines at the event.”

So what does that mean? The safety plan had no trouble with people being jammed into a bus?

Or no-one made sure it wasn’t going to happen?

And so the questions are piling up: On April 17 last year CEO Tim Watsford said it will take at least a month for Major Events to analyse the visitor numbers (local vs interstate and international visitors). We still haven’t got the answer.

Neither have we received the 2018 attendance figures we have also asked for – that’s the number of actual human beings, not some “through the gate” number. What did we get? Attendances.

“Last year’s cost estimate for 2020 was $5m,” we put to the organisers this time.

What was the cost in fact? No reply.

Image supplied: Traditional dancers at the opening ceremony.


  1. So the safety plan ended at the gate along with the ability to count. Then the spin, moving from the Mall was COVID related. Treating us like mushrooms is becoming an art form.


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