ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
July 7, 1999

NEW LAND USE PLAN BASED ON SLOW GROWTH FORECAST. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

A new plan for land use in Alice Springs is based on projections that the town's population will increase by just one per cent a year, and can be absorbed for the next 30 years without expanding the urban area.The Draft Land Use Structure Plan 1999, which is up for public comment until August 13, seeks to limit government spending on new infrastructure.The document, drawn up by a committee of public servants and a private consultant, says an additional 4000 people can be accommodated principally in the Mt Johns Valley (east of the Vista Hotel), and at Larapinta, both previously unavailable because of native title claims; as well as by "infill" – fitting more dwellings into already developed areas.The draft also proposes prescriptions for new developments in flood prone areas.The draft contains few surprises: it says when an expansion of the town ultimately becomes necessary, Undoolya will be the preferred site.Urban dwellings will remain mainly north of the MacDonnell Range.Rural living on larger blocks should remain south of The Gap although the draft pointedly seeks comment on a proposal, by developer Ron Sterry, for a mix of urban and rural blocks at his Emily Hills property, between the ranges and Ragonesi Road (Alice News, March 31, 1999).The draft proposes a motor sports complex and some industrial development in the Blatherskite Valley, near the present facilities of the gun and motor cycle clubs (as foreshadowed by MacDonnell MLA John Elferink, Alice News, June 2).The alignment of the Darwin railway corridor through the middle of the town is accepted as unchangeable, but the draft raises the possibility of relocating the marshalling yards, freeing up land near the CBD.The document makes no recommendation to move or improve the sewerage plant, presently taking up some two square kilometres of prime land in the Ilparpa Valley, despite public criticism for many years that the facility is outdated, is a health hazard because mosquitoes breed around it, emits foul smells and spills effluent into the adjacent swamp during heavy rains.The draft repeatedly stresses the need for water conservation without dealing with the fact that the current sewerage plant, relying on evaporation, wastes an estimated two billion litres of water annually.Mr Elferink says he finds it curious that "we, as a government, encourage people to save water and then we basically evaporate between one and a half and two billion litres of water off the sewerage farm every year."I'd certainly like to se it used for better purposes."Mr Elferink says he's written to the former Minister for Essential services, Barry Coulter about sewage treatment plants he saw in a recent trip to South Africa."I would like the department to have a look at it because the technology I've seen can deal with sewerage water as well as with desalination."A major advantage of this technology is that it doesn't need pretreatment. It's very impressive."Mr Coulter, who has resigned from the Front Bench and will soon leave politics, had replied to him, says Mr Elferink, expressing doubt that the plant was suitable.He says one current use for the water is for the firewood plantation inside the sewerage reserve. It is also used to irrigate parts of Blatherskite Park.The draft says the dump should also stay where it is, with "appropriate buffers ... to the adjoining [Aboriginal] community living area, the railway and the Stuart Highway ... to minimise adverse impacts (visual, dust, noise, odours, etc)" – although how than can be accomplished is not explained.The draft wants to shift out of the main town area potentially dangerous industries, especially fuel depots.However, the Ron Goodin power station will stay where it is – noise and other pollution within a stone's throw of homes notwithstanding.However, further electricity generation will be at the Brewer Estate, well to the south of the town, where a privately owned plant is already in operation.The draft pays frequent lip service to the "unique natural environment" and the need for "a built environment which complements and reinforces the values and features of the region's natural environment; and an attractive and diverse range of residential accommodation and lifestyle opportunities to attract and retain new residents".Yet the draft is silent about initiatives the government itself could be taking to further these objectives, mainly by providing cheaper and bigger blocks in a town which, like few others, is surrounded by vast open spaces.While land prices have increased over the past few years to be on par with Sydney, partly because of native title, the draft observes glibly that "there has been a trend towards smaller lot sizes and medium density dwellings" – as though this had been the result of buyer preference rather than a shortage of land.The draft says: "With ... recent trends to smaller allotment sizes, it is premature to contemplate large public infrastructure investment" .This is one of the many references to the need to save money: the urban development objectives are "to create and foster quality residential development which is cost effective to the consumer and the community"; and minimising residential development south of The Gap "would defer any need to duplicate the Stuart Highway, thereby making significant savings in capital expenditure".The planners make it clear that they will be looking to more of the same to cope with a good slice of the population growth: "Infill development in existing urban areas will provide new capacity for up to 1500 people."There's room for 2500 more in "nearby rural areas" – only 20 per cent of which is developed at present.The bulk of the growth will be directed to Larapinta (1000 people) and Mt Johns Valley (4000), both affected by native title.The draft is circumspect in its description of how the government will deal with the Native Title Act which "initially created uncertainty in respect of Crown and pastoral leasehold land, but subsequent amendments ... have resulted in different processes with more certainty, the underlying assumption being that the current native title claim over Crown land areas within Alice Springs will be resolved in a manner that allows development".The drafts then says land under Aboriginal claim will be obtained by "Government initiatives to compulsorily acquire native title interests".For new developments, the draft puts the onus for minimising damage from a flooding Todd squarely on the developer.On blocks near the river, within the one-in-a-hundred-years flood area, developers should use "site build up", place buildings on piers, and in the case of two storey houses, have "wet areas" such as garages and recreation rooms at the lower level.Developers should "exclude flood waters ... complete flood proofing" or "resist deterioration during inundation, thereby limiting flood damage costs", as well as use materials "basically unaffected by submersion".The NT Government has done practically nothing about flood mitigation since the Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister at the time, Robert Tickner, disallowed the construction of a dam upstream from the Telegraph Station, nearly 10 years ago, on the grounds that Aboriginal sacred sites would be destroyed.However, the current NT Budget contains allocations of $1.3m for the construction of retention basins in Abattoir Valley (to protect the Western Precinct), and $600,000 for retention basins in the Bloomfield and Bradshaw catchments.

PLANNING APPEAL RIGHT FOR PUBLIC RULED OUT AGAIN

Lands Minister Tim Baldwin told the Alice News last week that third party appeals – common in most other Australian jurisdictions – will not be introduced when changes to the town planning laws come before the Legislative Assembly in August.This means applicants – developers – unhappy with a decision by the Planning Authority or the Minister will continue to be able to put their grievances before an appeals tribunal, but objectors – the public – will continue to be deprived of that opportunity.This is despite a strong recommendation by Earl James that at least limited third party appeals should be allowed.Mr James was commissioned by the NT Government to review planning legislation in the NT (see the Alice News web site).His report has been on the Lands Minister's desk for more than a year. Yet Mr Baldwin could or would not say last week which of Mr James' many other recommendations, designed to make the planning process more open and democratic, will be adopted.According to Mr Baldwin, there will either be "severe amendments" to the Act, or there "could be an all new Act".The planning process is full of posturing about public consultation while in fact the Minister has always retained the ultimate decision making power, and there's nothing to suggest that this will change. The newest Alice Springs Land Use Structure Plan, launched in draft form last week, is a case in point.In its introduction the document says the Minister and the consent authority will be required to "consider" the Land Use Objectives, once adopted, when making planning decisions.Trouble is, the Act doesn't define what "considers" means. The document even spells out how inconsequential the objectives and the Town Plan really are: They "do not imply any right or otherwise to use of developed land".How meaningless the Structure Plan is was found out by rural residents in the notorious "Hornsby case", when subdivision of a rural block into allotments much smaller than the area's minimum five acres was allowed.The developer obtained approval for a scheme not only in flagrant violation of the Structure Plan, but also despite opposition by an overwhelming majority of people commenting to the Planning Authority.When the Act was changed in 1994, a requirement was brought in for amendments to be introduced in the event of inconsistencies with declared Land Use Objectives. With the Government having a two-thirds majority in the Assembly, that's hardly an obstacle to a developer with the right connections.

ARANDA HOUSE: NEW FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES? Letters to the Editor.

Sir,- I would like to clarify a few points in your issue of June 23, whereby you state that officers of the Commonwealth and Territory Government had been assigned to sort out the Aranda House crisis, while I was on leave. This in fact is not true.Two committee members and myself were in attendance at that meeting, called for by mutual consent of all parties. The "mapping exercise" you mention was welcomed by us as this enabled funding agencies to identify where their responsibilities lay.The meeting proved that there is a great need for the Aranda House facility and all agencies supported the service provided. A more positive outlook resulted from this combined meeting with new funding opportunities becoming available in the new financial year.The meeting did recognise that ATSIC was the appropriate funding body regarding Aranda House operations, as per the "Deaths in Custody" recommendations numbers 62 and 235, these referring particularly to funding by ATSIC to Aboriginal Child Care Agencies. Our organisation has been trying for months to remind ATSIC of this responsibility. Unfortunately, Mr Cochrane was never up to date with his information.The resolution to draw up a business plan is a long overdue step. The question to be asked here is why wasn't this done before when funding, over a period of four years, was between $350,000 - $480,000, during a time when some current ATSIC councillors were either committee members or senior management at CAACCA?Further, the 1998/99 funding level of $196,000 from ATSIC was to cover a 24 hour service which included 3 x 7.5 hours shifts, seven days a week, plus penalties and other associated costs. How could payments to a consultant to draw up a business plan possibly occur without additional funding from ATSIC? You see, we approached ATSIC for funding to do this but we were refused by them. They suggested that we should make allowance from our current operational budget.NT Health and the Office of Aboriginal Development have offered support for future funding applications, which is very much appreciated. As I have dealt with these funding agencies on a separate basis, it was advantageous having them all in attendance at this meeting showing their concern and working towards overcoming the non-funding proposal from ATSIC in 1999/00 for Aranda House.Since we are now not under any obligation to ATSIC to not to go to the press, I am happy to discuss any aspect of this report with you.
Allen Furber,
Director, CAACCA
and Aranda House
Alice Springs

Sir,– As a member of the general public I would like to comment on the Aranda House stories that have been appearing in your newspaper.It appears to me, that although the Aranda House Committee do not wish to comment on the situation, they seem to have overlooked the fact that the general public – you know, those people who pay taxes so that funding bodies can supply funds to organisations like theirs – have a right to know the truth.The credibility of Aranda House and in particular staff has been questioned publicly. Why aren't the committee, who ultimately control Aranda House, publicly supporting their organisation and staff?Do they think the children that they care for cannot read? They too have been subjected to this barrage of criticism. Imagine what this publicity is doing to them. Maybe this fact has escaped the minds of the committee as well as Mr Cochrane and the other disgruntled ex staff members. Who are you all thinking about, the children? I would say not.It has been mentioned to me by many non Aboriginal people that they to would like to hear some answers but fear that they will be labelled racists if they dare to question the internals of an Aboriginal organisation. Many non Aboriginal people support this organisation, but cannot understand much about what has happened and in particular how a person who was no longer required as a staff member, was allowed to be a committee member and then dismissed from the committee. A committee member, it would appear, who is hell bent on destructing Aranda House. Because really, that is exactly what seems to be happening.Committee members, let the general public – among whom you have many supporters – put you on notice: your silence and obvious attitude of "it will go away" has not helped this situation. So pull you heads out of the sand and get advice before this escalates further out of your control. Remember that the credibility of each and everyone of yourselves is also questioned.Lynette J Furber
Alice Springs

[ED - We couldn't agree more that the general public has a right to know the truth! In order to get details about public money being spent, we sent a fax to ATSIC on June 18, including the following questions:• Which services – if any – of Aranda House are curtailed, and how are they curtailed?• Not including the places used by Territory Health and Correctional Services, what has been the average weekly occupancy of Aranda House this year up to today, expressed in the number of overnight residential admissions or sessions of counselling?• How many staff and workers, in any form of employment relationship, have resigned or have been sacked this year?• What were the reasons for the dismissal of committee member Ray Cochrane?• With respect to how many former staff members or workers – if any – are there currently disputes involving their unions, courts or industrial relations authorities?• What is the cost (lease or rent, furniture, fitting out, equipment, etc) of the new office in Hartley Street and from which sources are these funds coming?• What is the state of funding negotiations with ATSIC as well as Commonwealth and Territory instrumentalities? What has been agreed upon? What is yet to be decided?• Which deficiencies pointed out by the Bunning Report have been fixed, and how?We still don't have a response.The Alice News is please to receive a partial response from Mr Furber, and we'll be contacting him to get the rest of the story.

FIGHT AGAINST CRIME: WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN'T. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

"Arrests of juveniles for minor offences cause them to become more delinquent in the future than if police exercise discretion to merely warn them or use other alternatives to formal charging."So says an independent review of crime prevention programs funded by the US Department of Justice, conducted by the University of Maryland's Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.The review, reported to the US Congress in 1997, establishes four lists of programs – those which work, don't work, are promising and are unknown – according to a rigorous methodology for ranking them in terms of a demonstrated impact on the reduction of crime and delinquency.In all the lists there are some programs of which elements appear comparable to strategies used and under discussion in the Territory. The "don't work" list includes the following:• Shock probation, shock parole, and split sentences, in which offenders are incarcerated for a short period of time at the beginning of the sentence and then supervised in the community, do not reduce repeat offending compared to the placement of similar offenders only under community supervision, and increase crime rates for some groups.• In schools, individual counselling and peer counselling of students fail to reduce substance abuse or delinquency and can increase delinquency.• Instructional programs focussing on information dissemination, fear arousal, moral appeal, self-esteem, and affective education fail to reduce substance abuse.• School-based leisure-time enrichment programs, including supervised homework and self-esteem exercises, fail to reduce delinquency risk factors or drug abuse.• Summer job or subsidised work programs for at-risk youth fail to reduce crime or arrests.• Short-term, non-residential training programs for at-risk youth ... fail to reduce crime.• Neighbourhood watch programs organised with police fail to reduce burglary or other target crimes, especially in higher crime areas where voluntary participation often fails.• Arrests of unemployed suspects for domestic assault cause higher rates of repeat offending over the long term than non-arrest alternatives. (The results for employed suspects are different.)• Police newsletters with local crime information failed to reduce victimisation rates in Newark, New Jersey, and Houston, Texas.The "do work" list (qualified by the researchers as "reasonably likely, but not guaranteed, to be effective in preventing some form of crime or drug abuse") includes the following:• Extra police patrols in high-crime hot spots reduce crime in those places.• Rehabilitation programs for adult and juvenile offenders using treatments appropriate to their risk factors reduces their repeat offending rates.• Drug treatment in prison in therapeutic community programs reduces repeat offending after release from prison.• Building school capacity to initiate and sustain innovation through the use of school teams or other organisational development strategies reduces crime and delinquency.• In schools, clarifying and communicating norms about behaviour through rules, reinforcement of positive behaviour, and schoolwide initiatives (such as anti-bullying campaigns) reduces crime and delinquency.• Social competency skills curriculums ... which teach over a long period of time such skills as stress management, problem-solving, self-control, and emotional intelligence, reduce delinquency and substance abuse.• Training or coaching in thinking skills for high-risk youth using behaviour modification techniques or rewards and punishments reduces substance abuse.• Frequent home visits to infants aged 0-2 by trained nurses and other helpers reduce child abuse and other injuries to infants.• Preschool and weekly home visits by teachers to children under five substantially reduce arrests at least through age 15.• Family therapy and parent training about delinquent and at-risk preadolescents reduce risk factors for delinquency such as aggression and hyperactivity.The above-mentioned lists are regularly updated on the University of Maryland website, http://www.preventingcrime.orgMore than 20,000 copies of the full Maryland report have been downloaded from the internet, and the United Kingdom has relied heavily on it in drafting its new national strategy for reducing crime.

ART FUNDING: IS IT FAIR? First of a two-part series by KIERAN FINNANE.

Last week's production of the pantomime Cinderella by Centre Stage – Alice Springs' only permanent youth theatre company – grew out of the crisis the company entered late last year, when it vacated its premises at the Youth Centre with an outstanding debt of $5000.Whatever one's view of events that led to that crisis and subsequent imminent closure, the company deserves acknowledgment for the valiant turnaround it has since staged, with two productions and a substantial involvement in a third to its credit (see last week's Alice News), all with no "home" and no government assistance. According to director, Bryn Williams, takings from Cinderella and a fund-raiser later in the year should clear Centre Stage of debt, after which they will again be in a position to apply for government funding. When Arts Minister Peter Adamson was recently in Alice to take part in Araluen's 15th birthday celebrations, News editor, Erwin Chlanda, asked him about his department's attitude to Centre Stage now.Mr Adamson: We want to keep working with Centre Stage. We've given them about $50,000 odd in the ‘nineties. One of the concerns though at the moment is that they appear to be in debt to a reasonable amount. What we want to do and what we are doing with a lot of like organisations is trying to go through a peak body. What we have with youth arts these days down here is a representative group of all those organisations ...We don't want anyone to lose their identity, but if we can work a bit closely together it makes it easier for us, if we have a bit of a strategic focus on what we are doing ... The secretarial support is provided through the department, each organisation has a representative on this body.The News reminded Mr Adamson of the perceived discrepancy between his government's support of the Darwin-based Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre (CIYT), which included $100,000 rental paid in advance for a period of 10 years, and its relatively minimal support of Centre Stage.Mr Adamson: I think it's unfair to look at it like that. Things do change from year to year.News: Things have been pretty constantly like that, haven't they?Mr Adamson: Not really. Just this one particular group if you compare, say to Corrugated Iron, in terms of the amount of productions, people involved and performances, $50,000 has gone into the group you're talking about – from about 1992 to the year before last – that's pretty significant stuff.News: But in that time you would have spent far more on CIYT.Mr Adamson: And would have spent far more down here on other youth type activities as well. The thing is when you add it up over all. You can always pick out one or two organisations but overall. One of the concerns we have is when an organisation is sailing a bit close to the wind, as I said I have a few concerns in terms of finances – you can talk those through and you can work those out. Until those things are sorted out, or at least you are assured that they are in a process like that, giving extra finance can be a danger in making things even worse. News: Once they have paid off their debt they can expect equity?Mr Adamson: I wouldn't say it was equity with elsewhere. Because they are only one of a number of groups down here ... no doubt at times that will mean one group will get more than another group ... This umbrella group ... will also set those priorities as to who gets what.News: And the intention being that there is some kind of equity between Darwin and Alice Springs?Mr Adamson: If you looked at the per capita at the moment in terms of dollars spent, there is no doubt that the equity is down here.News: Is it really?Mr Adamson: Absolutely! Then if you add that to what's happening here with the museums, it's streets ahead at the moment.The News asked Mr Adamson to supply some figures to support his statement, specifying: Does the department's calculation include monies from the Regional Arts Fund? If the Regional Arts Fund is removed from the calculations, how is Alice Springs faring? In a letter Mr Adamson replied: "Arts and Museums support on a per capita basis for Alice Springs region is currently $112.20 compared to $84.63 for the Darwin region. These figures include monies from the Regional Arts Fund."(These figures also include asset maintenance and capital works expenditure, but exclude the Centenary of Federation's $2.5m for extensions to Araluen.)Mr Adamson added: "The Regional Arts Fund (RAF) has operated on a matched contribution arrangement between the Territory ($0.5m) and the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council ($0.5m) over 1997/98 – 1998/99.It is notable that the Territory's initial $0.5m commitment over two years (along with a similar commitment by both parties for a further two years) can be measured in specific arts funding outcomes ..."Of RAF arts sponsorship funding approved in 1998/99, $147,543 can be identified as supporting arts activity and development in the Alice Springs region. This accounts for 43 separate projects, an increase over 35 projects in 1997/98, where $156,965 was allocated for RAF arts sponsorships in the region."Not all arts sponsorships in Alice Springs are met from the RAF, and some strategic arts related activities, such as the facilitation of meetings of the Aboriginal arts industry, and the subsidised use of government-owned facilities, are met from outside the sponsorship budget.NEXT WEEK: Has the department's administrative support of the arts in Alice Springs increased since 1995-96?

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