Rodeo organiser Tony Innes fears the camping ban will dissuade patrons from attending. (Supplied: Spokz Photography)
A camping ban looks set to be enforced by the NT Government at this year’s Noonamah Rodeo, “dumbfounding” organisers who believe it will elevate the risk of patrons drink driving.
According to event organiser Tony Innes, the NT Government has recently enforced the camping ban on crown land at Noonamah — more than 40 kilometres from Darwin.
Noonamah Tourist Park offers the only other accommodation at the highway town, but it was already fully booked for the first competition in 10 days time.
The 200-300 people that usually rolled out a swag and camped after the event would now have no other option but to leave.
Although the rodeo runs free shuttle buses, Mr Innes said there would not be enough to accommodate everyone, particularly as the Government had refused requests to help with transport.
He feared people may opt to drive themselves home, even if they were over the blood alcohol limit.
Given the road toll for 2018 is already at 20, when this time last year it was at 11, Mr Innes called for a more proactive road safety approach.
“What worries me is that there’s going to be an increase in drink driving,” he said.
“The Department of Infrastructure and Planning is encouraging irresponsible behaviour. It defies logic.”
He believed the move was particularly unfair on competitors and patrons who had travelled from Katherine, Mataranka and isolated stations for the event, and the people who had horses to look after.
“Horse people have horses on board — what are they expected to do, pack up at 1.30am in the morning and drive back to Katherine?” Mr Innes said.
Given the opening event in May and closing event in September tended to attract about 3,500 people, and the two events in between brought 2,700 – 3,000, Mr Innes thought the NT Government should have been clambering to support a viable tourism enterprise.
Instead, he believed its actions would see people driven away.
“There could be anywhere from 300-500 people that just say ‘oh it’s too hard, I’m not going to go if I’m not allowed to camp there’,” he said.
A camping ban at the Noonamah Rodeo will be particularly hard on competitors that travelled a long way to take part, Tony Innes said. (Supplied: Spokz Photography)
Department cites safety concerns
The Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics did not confirm or rule out the ban, but said it held safety concerns about the event, particularly its close proximity to the Stuart Highway.
In the past, despite attracting upwards of 3,500 people and 1,200 cars, it said the Noonamah Rodeo had been “unmanaged” with camping and parking occurring in the road reserve.
“Of particular concern is people sleeping amongst cars,” a statement said.
It was also worried about people and cars crossing the highway, including people who had been drinking alcohol.
It encouraged patrons to “have a Sober Bob” and the event organisers to provide safe transport for attendees.
Mr Innes said in his conversations with the department, he had offered solutions to all of these concerns.
He also said he had submitted a traffic management plan this year, to deal with concerns about parking.
“It almost seems like they’re trying to shut us down to be honest,” he said.
While the NT Police said it acknowledged some improvements in the planning of this year’s event, it said it shared the concerns of the department regarding camping and parking arrangements.
“In particular, we have cause for real concerns around the potential for injury or worse for patrons arriving at and/or leaving the event, including those camping in public places after the event,” a spokesperson said.
“Additional risk applies to unrelated road users and patrons who cross and converge on the National Highway, a main arterial road in very close proximity to the event when going to and from their cars.”
It also pointed out there was no excuse for drunk driving.
“Driving under the influence of alcohol is not an option,” the spokesperson said.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to organise a designated driver so they can get home safely.”