Superyacht mooring and zipline hit a snag as Brisbane bridge plans land

By Matt Dennien

Plans for a superyacht mooring site under Brisbane’s Kangaroo Point cliffs or a long-floated zipline over the river to the botanic gardens have hit a snag, with plans for the first of five new city green bridges before the council.

A development application lodged by Brisbane City Council this week outlined details of a 470 metre-long, 6.8 metre-wide pedestrian and cycle link, with a single 104 metre-tall mast on it taller than the Story Bridge.

The bridge was announced by lord mayor Adrian Schrinner before the 2020 council election under the $550 million council green bridge program. Construction on the Kangaroo Point bridge and another at Breakfast Creek was expected to start this year, and is expected to be finished by the end of 2023.

The final location and design of three others, including two out for consultation in West End, were still in limbo.

In March last year the state government announced a 12-month trial allowing superyachts to dock opposite the City Botanic Gardens would start in mid-2020. The council’s River’s Edge Strategy, announced in 2013, flagged investigation into a zipline from the cliffs to the gardens.

That strategy also raised the prospect of new bridges for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport — most of which now approaching fruition under the council’s green bridge program.

The bridge would extend south-east from the corner of Edward and Alice streets in the CBD at a slight incline before turning to the north and its single towering mast.

The bridge would extend south-east from the corner of Edward and Alice streets in the CBD at a slight incline before turning to the north and its single towering mast.Credit:PD Online/Brisbane City Council

Plans for the Kangaroo Point bridge, highlighted as a priority project in the 2014 City Centre Master Plan, show it linking into the turning circle at the corner of Edward and Alice streets in the CBD.

Further work at that site, including a signalised road crossing and dedicated cycle facilities, sits outside the bridge proposal.

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Innovative agricultural robots land $4.5 million in funding for start-up SwarmFarm

A Queensland couple’s decade-long push to lead the world in the production of agricultural robots has received a multi-million-dollar funding boost.

Andrew and Jocie Bate’s ambitious start-up SwarmFarm has partnered with ag-tech venture capital firm Tenacious Ventures to raise $4.5 million.

“We’ve bootstrapped to date, which means we’ve done it ourselves without raising funds to get to where we are,” Mr Bate said.

SwarmFarm’s 17 staff design and build robots on the Bates’ grain property at Gindie, near Emerald in Central Queensland.

“This money gives us a chance to build our team and scale up manufacturing so we can deliver robots quicker,” Mr Bate said.

Fourteen SwarmFarm robots are currently working in orchards, on cotton and grain properties, and at a turf farm.

Soon a vineyard in South Australia will also have one slashing grass, spraying weeds, and detecting and killing snails.

Mrs Bate said the robots were leased to farmers.

Queensland cotton grower Jamie Grant has two, which he operates via a smartphone or computer.

Mounted with cameras, a herbicide tank and a spray boom, the ag-bots, Tango and Victor, work days, nights and weekends, identifying and spraying weeds.

“I haven’t met a farmer yet who likes driving a camera spray; it’s a great thing when you first do it, but it gets boring,” Mr Grant said.

Mr Grant has cut his chemical use by nearly 80 per cent since he started using the robots.

His eyes can’t match the cameras that hone in on tiny weeds and prevent what he calls “big mongrel weeds” that use up precious soil moisture.

“This is good for the environment and good for the longevity of the chemicals because we’re taking out small weeds, and we’re not building resistance to chemicals,” he said.

Mr Grant discovered how advanced the Australian-built robots were when he attended an online international ag robotics conference in France late last year.

“I found there were plenty of people having a go at robots, but no-one has actually got them out in the field doing a real job. They’re still all just toys,” he said.

Mr Grant believes he’ll end up with five or six towing planters, air seeders and fertiliser spreaders.

“We’re just finding jobs for it all the time that we actually didn’t ever think we would use it for,” he said.

Mr Bate believes his low-budget start-up has nudged ahead of global agricultural machinery giants because his team worked closely with him to find solutions to soil compaction and weed-resistance problems on his grain property, Bendee.

One of the company’s software engineers, Andrew Lipscomb, said working in an office surrounded by grain paddocks helped staff focus on what farmers like Mr Bate actually needed.

“We’re very lucky to be out here to be able to run our robots test and continuously improve all of the software; we’re running in the realest environment we can get,” he said.

The robots kill weeds on a constant rotation on the property.

When they’re finished, they take themselves back to the shed and turn off.

The way robots can be used is only limited by what can be mounted on the frame.

“A robot with one use is a one-trick pony,” Mr Bate said.

Mr and Mrs Bate have just launched SwarmConnect, allowing third-party developers to make apps for their robots.

“It’s going to take hundreds if not thousands of developers around the world with the brightest minds thinking up solutions at a local level and delivering that through our robots,” Mr Bate said.

As well as offering the potential for new uses, Mrs Bate is confident the robots will increase the use of existing camera-weed-killing technology.

“[It’s] been around for a little while now and hasn’t been taken up as well as it probably should have been,” she said.

“You can actually see the weeds individually and spray, say 2 per cent of your paddock, instead of blanket spray — it’s exciting.

“This is not industrialised ag, this is actually digital-savvy new agriculture.”

Mr Bate always believed their small on-farm business could go global.

Watch this story on ABC TV’s Landline at 12:30pm on Sunday, or on iview.

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How council might ban future rural land sharing communities

Tweed Shire Council will this week consider a move to ban rural land sharing communities within the shire.

If it receives support, this could block future multiple occupancy communities from being established in the future.

One such community has been slated for the Mount Burrell area, but that proposal is in its early stages.

The council endorsed a “precautionary approach to additional housing in rural areas” when it adopted its Rural Land Strategy in May last year, planning staff said in a report to the council.

“Whilst the demand for rural landsharing communities (RLSC) is not high, more recent RLSC are increasingly taking a significantly larger form and scale, more akin to large lot residential development, and in areas where subdivision and additional housing may not currently be permitted”, the council’s staff said in the report.

“They are increasingly spanning over multiple lots, rather than a single lot.”

Rural land sharing communities could become impossible in the Tweed Shire.

The council’s staff said such communities “seem to be moving away from their former intent”.

“While appropriate in purpose and function when RLSC, or multiple occupancies, were first recognised a form of living in the early 1970s, personal and community attitudes have changed to the point now that the concept of shared living has given way to a focus on rural living and lifestyle opportunities,” they said in the report.

“There are concerns that this increase in form and scale is not in keeping with the intent of the RLSC provisions, are outside council’s local growth management and planning, may have an increased impact on the environmental quality and may cause problems with infrastructure and servicing now and into the future.

A development application proposing early works, related to a planned

A development application proposing early works, related to a planned “intentional community” in the Mount Burrell and Kunghur area, has been lodged with Tweed Shire Council.

“Due to the range of issues confronting RLSC and attempts to establish rural residential development through the RLSC pathway, the RLS proposes to ensure that no further RLSCs are possible.”

They said for existing legal rural land share communities, the council proposes to “support a change of tenure where possible to resolve some of the current issues confronting these communities”.

The council’s staff have proposed the Tweed Shire be removed from the State Environmental Planning Policy and allow for a “growth management and housing strategy to better define where housing might be appropriate in the shire and especially in rural areas”.

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Taungurung Aboriginal corporation’s Victorian land agreement in doubt after court ruling

A Victorian Aboriginal corporation is fighting to salvage its $34 million settlement with the government, after the Federal Court found significant legal errors occurred during the registration of the land deal which underpins it.

The finding has highlighted long-running tensions over the Taungurung people’s 20,210-square-kilometre Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA), which stretches across the central Victorian towns of Kilmore, Seymour and Alexandra, and up to Euroa and the Ovens Valley tourist town of Bright.

The ILUA formed part of the Victorian government’s 2018 traditional owner settlement with the Taungurung Land and Waters Council, which is worth around $34 million and includes joint management of several national parks and funds to generate economic opportunities.

The traditional owner settlement process was set up by the Victorian government in 2010 as an alternative means of recognising Aboriginal peoples’ connection to country to the federal native title process.

The Taungurung ILUA extinguished, with the Taungurung group’s consent and compensation, federal native title rights over five Crown properties in the area, which the government said totalled a few hectares.

It is also intended to preclude any future native title claims over the ILUA area.

A group of objectors are disputing the agreement in both the Supreme Court and the Federal Court, arguing the settlement interferes with their sovereign rights as Dhudhuroa, Waywurru and Ngurai Illum Wurrung people.

This month, Federal Court Justice Debra Mortimer found the Native Title Registrar delegate who registered the Taungurung ILUA did not fully consider reasonable concerns raised by the objectors during that process.

Among them was Vincent Peters, who said in his affidavit that his Ngurai Illum Wurrung ancestor Lizzie Davis (nee Hylett) had been incorrectly claimed as a Taungurung apical ancestor in the claim, when there was a body of evidence supporting the view that the Ngurai Illum Wurrung were a distinct people to the Taungurung and therefore should not be covered by the claim.

Justice Mortimer found the detailed points made by Mr Peters had not been considered by the delegate and if they had, she may have reached a different conclusion.

“It would have been readily open to her to have been persuaded that Aboriginal people such as Mr Peters were not the only ones who had qualified and informed views that the Taungurung and the Ngurai Illum Wurrung were properly seen as separate and distinct groups, and it may not be the case at all that it was reasonable to see them as holding common native title over the whole of the ILUA area,” her judgment said.

Justice Mortimer said there had been “material and significant errors of law” and therefore the registration decision could not be said to be a “lawful discharge of her function”.

Her finding upheld two of the applicants’ seven grounds on which they sought a judicial review of the agreement, which covers 8 per cent of the landmass of Victoria.

The court will now hear submissions on what should be done about the errors, with the Taungurung Land and Water Council’s lawyers arguing no substantive relief should be granted because the ILUA has already been registered.

Taungurung Land and Waters Council CEO Matt Burns said he was deeply disappointed by the decision, which could prevent his community from enjoying the full benefits of its agreement with the Victorian government.

He said that while there had been an adverse finding about the process leading to the registration, he was confident a closer look at the situation would only strengthen the Taungurung people’s case.

“We’d welcome that additional scrutiny and the opportunity for procedural fairness for us to respond to those affidavits that are in question,” he said.

Mr Burns said the corporation was considering submitting a request for the Federal Court to place a stay on deregistering the ILUA, to give the delegate the opportunity to examine the materials the court found she had not in making her original decision.

He also highlighted that the purpose of the Native Title Registrar was not to assess the validity of competing claims, but to assess whether the process for registration had been fairly carried out.

Mr Burns said the corporation had further material to support its claim that what he termed the Ngurai Illum Balug group belonged to the Taungurung nation.

“For us, the decision on whose country and the collective of the Taungurung nation has been long decided, and as a collective we’ve made a decision to go forward and to settle with the state,” he said.

Dhudhuroa Waywurru Nations Aboriginal Corporation chairperson Gary Murray, who was among the applicants challenging the ILUA, said the case may be the first time an ILUA had been so closely scrutinised by a Federal Court judge.

In addition to the concerns raised by the Ngurai Illum Wurrung, Mr Murray is concerned the claim area overlaps with Dhudhuroa land, including Mount Buffalo and the town of Bright, where the Dhudhuroa language has been taught in schools for several years.

“I think we need to hopefully try and renegotiate our concerns with the Taungurung group, but if that doesn’t happen then we look forward to the Supreme Court action because we reckon we can influence that decision by winning the Federal Court one,” he said.

In her judgment, Justice Mortimer noted primary Aboriginal sources on the issues at hand were limited “due to the dispossession and destruction of many of the landholding groups that existed at sovereignty, and the severe dislocation of generations of Aboriginal People in Victoria, including denial and suppression of their languages, their family structures, their oral histories, and their traditional law and customs”.

“Amongst themselves, contemporary Aboriginal opinions were mixed, in conflict and — on the evidence before the registrar — unevenly investigated and considered by First Nations Legal (the group which supported research for the Taungurung claim),” she said.

Mr Murray said more work was needed to map the 38-44 Aboriginal nations across Victoria, especially as the government and First Peoples’ Assembly move towards the negotiation of state-based treaties.

“We’ve got 230 years of evidence and we need to pull that all together and map every First Nations and clans, and ancestors and descendants and their territory, to make sure we’ve got the right people in the right country with the right language, doing the treaties,” he said.

The parties in the case have been asked to file final submissions by March 16.

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Olympics: Brisbane the frontrunner to land 2032 Games as talks with IOC start

IOC President Thomas Bach welcomes participants to the virtual International Olympic Committee Executive Board in Lausanne, Switzerland, February 24, 2021. Greg Martin/IOC/Handout via REUTERS

February 24, 2021

By Ian Ransom

BERLIN/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Brisbane took a major step towards being named 2032 Olympic hosts after the International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday that the Australian city had been picked as the preferred partner to start talks for the Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach said the IOC had approved a recommendation of the commission in charge of future hosts.

“This commission recommended to the IOC executive board to enter into a targeted dialogue with Brisbane 2032. The Executive Board has unanimously approved this recommendation,” Bach told a virtual news conference.

Several cities and countries had publicly expressed an interest in the 2032 Games including Brisbane, Indonesia, Budapest, China, Doha and Germany’s Ruhr valley among others.

Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates, also a vice president of the IOC, said the other candidate cities had been “parked for a future Games” by the IOC.

“It was a very mature decision by the IOC,” Coates told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.

“To take a decision when you’ve still got a few other cities there and say we’re going into targeted dialogue with one preferred city was a big call by them and that’s where they ended up.

“It’s a significant recognition of the way we’ve worked together, the three levels of government, the Paralympic Committee and the Australian Olympic Committee in presenting this bid together.”

Brisbane earned bonus points for its high percentage of existing venues, a good masterplan, experience in organising major events and its favourable weather among other things.

The state of Queensland hosted the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The IOC has overhauled its bidding rules in 2019 to reduce costs and make the process easier for cities. There are no official candidate cities campaigning ahead of the vote as has been the case in the past.

Instead the IOC puts the preferred host to the vote at its session following another review by the commission.

Kristin Kloster Aasen, who heads the Future Host Commission, said it was not yet clear when the IOC vote would be held, as it all depended on the targeted dialogue with Brisbane which would start right away.

“They are a very advanced project, a number of criteria that sit very well with us. It has been moulded for a number of years, good legacy plans, good venue plan,” she said.

“There are many, many things that made us put this forward,” she added.

Coates said Australia hoped to conclude its work on the bid by early May and the vote could come in Tokyo, where the IOC have a meeting before the July 23-Aug. 8 Olympics in the Japanese capital.

Australia hosted the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Melbourne in 1956.

(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Berlin; editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)

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SA hits out at anti-vaxxers as doses land

South Australia’s first batch of COVID-19 vaccines has touched down in Adelaide as the state government rails against anti-vaxxer “propaganda”.

The precious cargo of 4000 Pfizer doses arrived at Adelaide Airport on Sunday afternoon before being placed in cold storage at Royal Adelaide Hospital.

It comes after several hundred protesters gathered on the steps of SA Parliament on Saturday in opposition to “enforced COVID-19 vaccinations”.

Health Minister Stephen Wade urged South Australians not to listen to demonstrators, reinforcing the message that the Pfizer jab is crucial to moving past coronavirus.

“The propaganda being put out by the anti-vaxxers yesterday that this vaccine is mandatory is just not true,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“This is an opportunity that the Commonwealth and the state are working together to deliver to South Australians because we believe that a safe and effective vaccine is the doorway out of this pandemic.”

Acting Chief Medical Officer Mike Cusack noted 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered worldwide.

“That number is increasing very quickly,” he said.

“Of that, we’ve seen very little in the way of adverse effects and the serious allergy numbers are very, very low indeed. So we know it’s a safe vaccine.”

Workers at the state’s medi-hotels housing COVID-19 infected guests will be among the first South Australians to receive the jab as part of Monday’s nationwide rollout.

A woman in her 30s and a child in hotel quarantine became the state’s latest confirmed cases on Sunday and Dr Cusack said it was a timely reminder of the risk returned travellers pose to staff.

“That’s why it’s so important that those people involved in the quarantine program and the medi-hotels are vaccinated at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

“There’s always that risk, as we’ve seen in other states, that it can break out of the hotel system.”

Frontline health workers and aged care residents also head up the state’s priority list to initially receive the vaccine, with 12,000 Pfizer doses allocated to SA over the first three weeks of the program.

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Land Train Rides

Choo choo all aboard the Broadwater express. Grab the
kids and explore the park on one of our free scenic rides.

Date:         Saturday 27 February
Location:    The Great Lawn
Time:         10am – 2pm


From: 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM,
Saturday, 27 February 2021


Broadwater Parklands






Krystal McMillan


City of Gold Coast


07 5581 1615



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Minister in second clash with Indigenous Land and Sea board

Mr Morrison told the Herald and The Age he was unaware of Mr Wyatt’s objections, he was confident he had the support of the board, and that throughout the appointment process “I have ensured transparent and full disclosures of relevant matters”.


When the board appointed Mr Morrison, Mr Wyatt responded angrily, saying in a letter on December 7 that the action had demonstrated a “complete disregard for the appointment process set out in the cabinet handbook”.

“The ILSC CEO is considered a significant appointment under the cabinet handbook and is also subject to consideration and approval by me, the Prime Minister and possibly the cabinet, prior to the board taking any appointment action,” Mr Wyatt told Mr Fry.

On December 18, Mr Fry wrote back to the minister, saying he’d personally abstained from voting on the appointment because of a “conflict of interest” – he and Mr Morrison are cousins.

He said the appointment was “welcomed” because of “Mr Morrison’s substantial standing in the Indigenous community and in ministerial circles”, and that as an “independent statutory body” the corporation was “authorised” to appoint the chief executive.

Mr Morrison is a well-known figure in Indigenous affairs, having served on a number of boards and executive positions over his 30-year career. He has a BA in land management and an honorary doctorate from the University of New South Wales for contributions to Indigenous land and sea management.

He left a five-year post as CEO of another federal statutory body, the Northern Land Council, in late 2018 amid acrimony and misconduct allegations levelled at him by some members of the council. At the time he denied any allegations of impropriety.

His period of service at the council was not mentioned in the corporation’s December 4 press release announcing his appointment. Instead it referred to his work in northern Australia with the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, governments, industry, unspecified “land councils”, and the Northern Australia Indigenous Reference Group.

The press release also highlighted his “extensive experience in water management”, including “sitting on the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy with the Prime Minister”. This was incorrect, as the 14-nation panel comprises serving world leaders from countries including Japan, Australia and Canada.

His actual role had been to sit on an expert panel “webinar” on December 3 – the day before his new corporation role was announced – to help launch the panel’s new oceans policy.

The corporation said the discrepancy in the press release was a “genuine mistake” that would be corrected.

Since starting work with the corporation in January Mr Morrison said he had not witnessed board dysfunction and that he expected the organisation to “continue the high performance of the last two years”.

Asked how he reconciled his continuing directorship of his co-owned private consultancy Six Seasons Pty Ltd with his new role, Mr Morrison said it had been disclosed and he was “currently finalising my removal from any of its uncompleted work”.

The caustic correspondence between Mr Wyatt and Mr Fry highlights the deteriorating relationship between the government and the corporation chair, and illustrates the political difficulties of striking a balance between accountability and the broader goal of greater self-determination.

The corporation receives more than $60 million a year in government funding, most of it from a $2 billion land acquisition fund. It generates an additional $187 million from activities including tourism and agribusiness.

Throughout most of last year there was internal warfare on the board, with Mr Wyatt finally declaring in December he had lost confidence in Mr Fry’s ability to chair the corporation. Last August an independent assessor, Dr Vivienne Thom, warned that the long-term viability of the organisation was at risk without “urgent action”.

Mr Wyatt reconfirmed his lack of confidence in Mr Fry as chairman of the corporation in a statement to the Herald and The Age last Friday.

In the past three years the corporation has had four chief executives, including two who acted in the role.

Mr Morrison’s appointment was supported by three of the corporation’s then six directors. Of the remaining directors, one was absent, one voted for another candidate and Mr Fry abstained.

The board is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, with Mr Morrison in attendance.

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New land deal to realise major phase of 7,000 new home development in Cardiff

A major phase of the 7,000 home Plasdwr development on the outskirts of Cardiff has been confirmed with housebuilder Redrow acquiring a key land site.

It comes as the Flintshire headquartered firm has extended its original agreement with the Plymouth Estate at Plasdwr.

The latest deal relates to by far the largest component part (426 gross acres) of the development with a third, smaller section to follow.

It means Redrow will create up to 2,600 homes a Plasdwr and retain responsibility for leading the masterplanning of the entire £2bn garden city project.

The value of the land deal with Plymouth Estate has not been disclosed.

Plasdwr is taking shape across 900 acres of countryside in the north west of the capital.

A 20 year project, when completed,  it will  comprise up to 7,000 homes – up to 30% of which will be affordable  –  four primary schools, a secondary school, retail, health, leisure and community facilities set across five distinct neighbourhoods.

Its development will create over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Redrow is already lead developer on the first parts of Plasdwr, bordering the existing neighbouring communities of Radyr, Danescourt, Fairwater, Pentrebane and St Fagans.

Some 250 residents are already living at the scheme.

The first primary school is expected to open in 2023, and two other housebuilders have also begun developing sites.

The next phase will see Redrow committing £87m of additional investment in new infrastructure, including roads, utilities and services, drainage and landscaping. Redrow expects to deliver the first homes under this new arrangement in 2023.

Redrow project director Wayne Rees said: “Being proudly headquartered in Wales, we feel particularly privileged to be selected to remain at the forefront of Plasdwr, using our placemaking approach to lead the masterplanning team as well as creating around half the homes in such a significant new place for our capital and its future.

“For the same reason, we’re especially delighted to be part of creating thousands of Welsh jobs over a sustained period, both directly and via our supply chain.”

Mike Lawley, chairman of Cooke & Arkwright, the landowner’s representative, said: “The Plymouth Estate has been focused on delivering an exemplar scheme at Plasdwr and leaving a legacy it can be proud of.

“It is incredibly important to the Plymouth Estate to have a reliable and committed lead developer to assist in bringing this complex scheme forward, and Redrow has proved to be first rate at working collaboratively with the landowners and Cardiff County Council.

“The landowners fully support the strategic approach being taken to the delivery of Plasdwr and the considered masterplanning and placemaking approach of the entire expert team of professionals, led by Redrow.”

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Uluru, beating heart of our land

 Uluru is the red heart of Australia. The first sight of it never fails to stop me dead in my tracks.

It rises in a lump from the flat desert of the Red Centre, seeming to pump energy through the continent.

Uluru is a tangible connection between ancient and modern versions of Australians. We can all feel its power, just as we always have. It is the continent’s ultimate natural talisman.

And, for just a few days, this year, it is less than a three-hour direct flight from Perth.

For Holidays of Australia took a punt, chartered a 95-seat plane, and took its first group of Western Australian travellers out to Uluru last weekend, me among them.

We leave Perth’s T2 at 7am on Friday, arriving just over three hours later.

Now armed with boxed lunches, we are met at the airport by two AAT Kings air-conditioned coaches and taken to Uluru — straight to the rock — to drive around the base, walk in to the Mutitjulu Waterhole, and hear the traditional stories.

It is hot. But then, it is the Red Centre, and it is summer — and the warm desert wind fans some of the flies off.

We arrive at Sails in the Desert, part of Ayers Rock Resort, in the mid-to-late afternoon — some heading to their rooms to rest and nap and cool off; others to the bar; a fair few to the big swimming pool.

The package, sold under Holidays of Australia’s NT Now brand, includes two nights, with breakfast. And those who had added it on go out that evening to the Sound of Silence dinner, first watching sunset, drink in hand, on a deck overlooking Uluru, before settling in to a fine dinner in the dunes.

Saturday is left free for guests to make their own arrangements. There are free activities around the resort (bush yarns, bush food explained, a didgeridoo workshop, a guided garden walk), but many set off back to the rock — some on foot, some on Uluru Segway Tours ($159 for four hours, including transfers), some on helicopter or light plane scenic flights.

Some hire a car (Hertz, Thrifty or Avis) and others booked AAT Kings or SEIT Outback Australia tours.

I get going early, to walk around the rock. On hot days, walk paths around the rock and at Kata Tjutu (which some still call “the Olgas”) may be closed at 2pm; on very hot days at 11am.

Holidays of Australia had included a $25, three-day pass for the Uluru-Kata-Tjutu National Park.

At 9.15pm on Saturday evening, despite the rain that had already come, we are picked up by coach and taken to artist Bruce Munro’s Field of Light — a fantasy garden of 50,000 colour-changing spindles of light.

It rains more in the night, and I hastily arrange a car, to drive back out to Uluru and Kata Tjuta on Sunday morning, before leaving Sails at 2.30pm for the flight home, which arrives in Perth an hour late, after 6pm.

It had rained 16.3mm, enough to streak down the rock in the early morning light, as it sat under a frown of cloud.

What an extraordinary weekend adventure … made better by the excitement of it raining on the rock.

A learning cave is explained at Uluru.
Camera IconA learning cave is explained at Uluru. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

NEW DEPARTURE easter weekend

On Monday, Holidays of Australia’s NT Now announced a new departure, for the Easter weekend, leaving Perth on April 2.

It is the same itinerary, with a direct charter flight between Perth and Yulara, two nights at Sails in the Desert with breakfast, Uluru touring with lunch on the day of arrival, Field of Light Experience, all accompanied by a tour host. The package is going to be $2199 per person — but is on sale for $1999 per person until February 28.

The inaugural trip, last weekend, and a second in February, sold out quickly.

Book online now at or email

Or phone 1800 854 897 from 6.30am on Monday (Holidays of Australia is based in Adelaide, which is 2½ hours ahead of WA).

Phone during South Australia office hours, Monday to Friday.

The mesmerising Field of Light, Yulara.
Camera IconThe mesmerising Field of Light, Yulara. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

COMMENT Ground-breaking weekend

It was a weekend for pioneers …

First, for pioneering Holidays of Australia, under managing director Ben Mead, which had come up with the plan for the weekend, and then backed themselves to pull it off. New departures are priced from $1999 per person — and that’s good value for the flight, two nights with breakfast at Sails and the inclusions.

This first trip had challenges for the organisers — it was a “first”, for the charter flight, and for the resort, which has been COVID-closed for six months. Ayers Rock Resort is usually populated by up to 5000 mostly international guests. Just now, there are few. So, the weekend trip also helped to reignite the resort, and employ its staff.

The charter plane and crew stayed all weekend.

Holidays of Australia had four staff at the resort, helping guests.

Holidays of Australia will work to smooth out any logistical issues that arose.

The unexpected rain added other challenges — but I commend the Holidays of Australia staff on the way they met those challenges.

Second, the other pioneers were the travellers themselves. They crossed the line, took up the adventure; mixed, chatted, shared stories, embraced the place and the experience.

And, in this shutdown world, it was truly liberating.


For the Anangu people local to Uluru, life revolves around tjukurpa (sometimes incorrectly called Dreamtime). For them, this is when the world was being formed, and at Uluru, Kuniya (a woma python) and Liru (a poisonous snake) are among the important ancestors. The python came to Uluru from way east, and lived in the rocks there, where she fought the poisonous snakes, Liri.

Geologists tell us Uluru is composed of arkose, a coarse sandstone. It originally eroded from granite mountains and settled in the shallow sea of the Amadeus Basin depression. About 500 million years ago the water receded and, later, the floor lifted and folded in what is called the Alice Springs Orogeny (a rock band name, surely). The vertical layers we see in Uluru today are horizontal layers of that seabed, canted over to about 90 degrees.

The composition of nearby Kata Tjuta (formerly the Olgas) is different. These are conglomerate — pebbles, cobbles and boulders cemented by sand and mud.

If Kata Tjuta is a fruit cake, Uluru is a sponge cake.

Doing the Base Walk at Uluru.
Camera IconDoing the Base Walk at Uluru. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian


… all aspects of this most remarkable place are in my mind as I set off on Uluru’s 12km Base Walk.

I had left the hotel at Yulara at 4.30am on the Uluru Hop On Hop Off ($49 return), which first stops at a lookout for sunrise, then drops us off at the rock, picking us up again at 10.30am.

It’s more than enough time to amble the 12km Base Walk. I’ve taken a few snacks and a little water, and the 41C seems to complement the endeavour and complete the picture. This is the Great Central Desert of Australia. This is summer, after all.

I chose to set off and get picked up from Mutitjulu Waterhole, just passed Mutitjulu Cave — a “teaching cave” where practical and cultural knowledge was passed on to children.

Mutitjulu is on the south side of Uluru and, by doing this, and walking anti-clockwise (“up the east side, down the west”), I’m still in a fair bit of shade in the later morning.

As the rock heats, air is sucked in, and wind roars into the gulleys, rattling the mulga trees.

Rainbow bee-eaters wheel in the wind, flashing their wings against the blue sky, zebra finches meep in the morning, and I spin when I hear the chatter of budgerigars, to see a flock flying high.

Ducks in a row overtake (helmeted humans on Segways) and a couple with two young children smile away the complaints (“this is a moment to focus, Abbie”).

Personally, I’m lost in some gentle odyssey, with plenty of time and background purpose — just perambulating, cogitating; lost in geology, spirituality and the bliss of just being, in the heart of Australia.


There’s a blue-grey line up Uluru, eroded by footfall, where once there was a chain and people used to climb the rock. That stopped in October 2019, out of respect for Anangu law and culture.

But today, this thin line still hints at the base colour of Uluru.

For fresh arkose is a grey colour. The red of the rock is caused by the rusting of the iron in that arkose.

The rock’s colour changes, from dawn to high sun to dusk, a result of the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere on the incoming sun rays.

Dust particles and water vapour filter out blue light more at some angles, allowing the redder light through.

In the morning and evening, when the sun is low, its rays travel through more of the Earth’s atmosphere and the light reaching the rock surface is mainly from the red end of the spectrum. Its reflection from the rock adds to the colour seen.

When the sun is overhead at midday, rays pass through a smaller thickness of atmosphere, minimising the filtering affect.

Drinks before the Sound of Silence dinner, with Uluru in the distance.
Camera IconDrinks before the Sound of Silence dinner, with Uluru in the distance. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian


Rain hammered on the roof on Saturday night in the Red Centre of Australia near Uluru.

And there I am, lying in comfort at Sails in the Desert, part of Ayers Rock Resort at Yulara.

I’m filled with excitement and anticipation.

It’s raining on the rock.

It had rained during the evening, but in the early hours it came down, dropping a total of 16.3mm.

It was enough to streak down the rock in the early morning light, as it sat under a frown of cloud.

Along with 94 other people from WA, I had flown on Holidays of Australia’s direct charter from Perth to Yulara on Friday morning. A tour around the base of Uluru and lunch was included. As part of the package, there were two nights’ accommodation at Sails in the Desert resort, with breakfast, a visit to the Field of Light, and tour host.

What an extraordinary weekend adventure … made better by the excitement of it raining on the rock.


Walking at Kata Tjuta, less than 50km away, is a different experience, as visitors penetrate the site itself, walking up Walpa Gorge and then Valley of the Winds. I headed out there on Sunday, and walked Walpa with spits of rain. It is a moderate “there back walk” — about an hour for the 2.6km. The Valley of the Winds walk is brilliant, but rated moderate to difficult. It is 7.4km return, and Parks Australia recommends taking four hours.

Kata Tjuta is sacred to Anangu men.

Thank you for stopping by and reading this news update on Australian holidays called “Uluru, beating heart of our land”. This article was shared by My Local Pages Australia as part of our national holiday news services.

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