ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
September 29, 1999

PLANNING VETO ONLY AT BALLOT BOX: MINISTER. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Lands Minister Tim Baldwin says if people are unhappy with town planning decisions, or the planning system generally, they can "appeal" at the ballot box.Although a draft for new planning legislation is still up for public comment, Mr Baldwin has ruled out "third party appeals", recommended in a government commissioned review by Earl James last year (Alice News, Sept 22), and consistently demanded by a range of community organisations.He says the present scheme, where developers dissatisfied with a ruling have access to an appeals tribunal, but members of the public do not, will continue.Mr Baldwin has also hit out at local government, which is campaigning vigorously to be put in charge of planning issues, saying town councils "may be the best to deal with matters of garbage, dogs, and all the rest of it", but planning powers should stay with the government.Mr Baldwin, in an interview with the Alice News last week, says the government is "not entertaining third party appeal rights at this stage."He says: "If you’re looking at the other jurisdictions, some don't have them, some have them in a very, very limited form, some have them open slather and some have them limited to the effects on the environment."Some [jurisdictions] don't have any local government involvement, by the way."It's a philosophy of government. "We will keep [the policy on denying third party appeals] as it is. "It's been working very successfully, and people, at the end of the day, if they want to appeal against an issue of planning or issues of great importance to do with planning, will do it through the ballot box. "So there is your appeal, at the end of the day."Mr Baldwin says: "Government has always made decisions on land use planning. That's a role for government. That is the same in every state."Where the difference comes between us and some jurisdictions is that there is sometimes more local government involvement in planning matters at the application for development stage."What we are saying, and that is why local government is very upset, is that there should not be a majority of local government members on [the Development Consent Authority, DCA]. Perhaps the wider community should have a direct say in those development applications."At present, local planning authorities consist of a chairman and a deputy chairman, both appointed by the Minister, and three members the Minister must select from five nominations by the respective town council.Under the scheme proposed by Mr Baldwin, the council would get just one representative on the DCA, and the Minister would appoint the other two from the "wider community".Mr Baldwin says at present, the councils are meant to nominate at least one non-alderman, but that is rarely the case."Councils are supposed to do that. "They do go and advertise, but then they say we haven't found anyone good enough, so here's five aldermen."Usually what happens is that they put up five aldermen, and there hasn't been a community representation."Asked if that's a major bug bear in the present system, Mr Baldwin said: "Absolutely."There should be direct representation. Everybody's got a share in planning. Planning is a balance for everybody."I think there are other stake holders in planning, and that's the difference in philosophy. "I'll wait until I see the submissions from community groups. "I've had meetings with local residents' groups who've said to me, does this mean we can have a representative on the DCA?"I said if they have the right qualifications and experience and they fit the criteria, absolutely."Asked whether aldermen should be regarded as community representatives, Mr Baldwin says: "That's [the councils'] view."They say they are the best on planning matters, representing the community. "I'm not predetermining that. "What I'm saying in this new proposal is that perhaps the community would like a direct input and that there are some very skilled people out there who would like to have a say and a direct membership on the DCA."Where does the council's mandate come from to say that they are the best representatives of the community on matters of planning?"They may be the best to deal with matters of garbage, dogs, and all the rest of it, but on matters of planning, are they the only people who can have the say?"I'm saying, let the community have a say. Let the community have a view on this."We [the government] have put the discussion draft out there. We are responsible at the end of the day for planning in the Northern Territory."Mr Baldwin says the Bill will be introduced in the October sittings for debate in November.He says the review by Mr James is just "one aspect of getting a community view".The aim of the new draft legislation is "consistency across the NT"."Rather than having 50 control plans there would be one, with some provision for local input", and there would be "a lot wider range of community input directly" to the new DCA.If the draft is adopted, all matters "from land use planning objectives right through to development applications" would have to be advertised, says Mr Baldwin.

ALICE WINERY MAY GO IF CONTROVERSIAL SUBDIVISION PROPOSAL SUCCEEDS.

The Chateau Hornsby winery may close if its owner, Denis Hornsby, succeeds in subdividing the vineyard into four lots.It is at least Mr Hornsby's fourth bid to create blocks of land smaller than the size stipulated by the town plan, two hectares, an issue that has created much controversy in recent years, with successive Ministers of Land coming under fire for granting approvals despite opposition from nearby residents.Mr Hornsby declined to comment on his application which came to light in a submission to the Lands Department by Brian Blakeman Surveys. The deadline for public comment is this Friday, October 1.The subdivision plans coincide with reported plans by the winery to stage an elaborate New Year's Day celebration and the world's first vintage in the new millennium.Blakeman's submission states that the sale of previously approved blocks on the same land has been unsuccessful.The firm states in part: "This application seeks to supersede previously granted application that allows for the subdivision of [the portion] into three lots. Attempts to secure sales for any of the lots as proposed by the previous permit have been unsuccessful either as individual parcels or as a whole. "The combined vineyard and restaurant complex is a very specialised land use, and prospective purchasers have expressed reservations at their ability to manage the diverse aspects of the business as it exists. "The size, shape and orientation of the lots as approved have proven unsuitable as a marketable commodity."It is proposed to subdivide the remaining vineyard area into three parcels with boundaries running east / west rather than north / south, providing two 1.5 hectare and one one hectare lot. "These are a more appropriate size to suit market needs, and the proposed orientation allows for improved positioning of dwellings and access to road frontage. "This orientation would also allow purchasers to site a dwelling to leave a greater number of existing vines in tact should they choose."The separate sale of the proposed lots may potentially mark the end of the vineyard, and accordingly the winery. "The future of the winery may lie in a number of directions. "Obviously it can continue as a function centre, but possibilities exist for its conversion to a garden nursery, craft centre, community centre or even as a home."For neighbouring lots, the potential loss of the pleasant vistas of the vineyard will obviously be detrimental. However, the possibility exists for a line of vines to remain, and with the inclusion of attractive homes and gardens, the amenity of the area should not suffer."Objections, including those from departmental planners, will arise because the size of the lots is below two hectares as defined by RL2 zoning."

MINISTER LORAINE BRAHAM GIVES VIEWS ON STATEHOOD.

The forthcoming referendum on the Republic should underline to Territorians why the move to Statehood is so necessary.The issue is, in a word, "inequality". That is, inequality with their fellow Australians over matters which affect the whole of Australia, including the Territory.Yes, Territorians will be able to vote in the referendum. But, no, their votes won't be counted in the same way as other Australians living in the States.Territory voters will contribute to the overall numbers voting either Yes or No, but the Territory result will not be included in the crucial test of whether a majority of States have voted for or against the referendum.This reinforces the status of Territorians as "different" Australians. We simply do not have the same standing as our fellow Australians living in the States.Many people may not pay much attention to this because it is not an issue that affects them on a day-to-day basis. But Territorians should be aware that significant issues do arise from time to time which make a difference to how we live our lives.The forthcoming referendum is one such example where Territorians' views about the future constitutional status of our country will not carry the same weight as those of other Australians.Another recent example was the over-turning of the Territory's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act by the Federal Parliament. This was only possible because the Territory did not have the constitutional standing of the States.We still don't have that constitutional standing – and we won't have it until the Territory achieves Statehood. Until that occurs, Territory laws and decisions will continue to be subject to interference from the self-appointed "great minds" of Federal Parliament who believe they know better than Territorians what the Territory needs.We already have the spectacle of Greens Senator Bob Brown moving to disallow the Territory's mandatory sentencing regime for juveniles. Senator Brown comes from Tasmania – about as far from the Territory in physical and economic terms as it is possible to get while still being in Australia!Our Self-Government Act which is the Territory's de facto constitution is exactly what its name says – an Act of Federal Parliament. This means it can be amended byFederal Parliament. And it has a clause that allows for any law of the Territory to be disallowed by the Governor General within six months of coming into force.A few years ago, anyone suggesting the Federal Parliament would intervene in such matters would have been howled down as an alarmist. But the Rights of the Terminally III Act has taught us all that the Federal politicians will indeed use the power of Federal Parliament get involved in Territory affairs when it suits their agendas.Labor MLA Peter Toyne has referred in this newspaper to the result of the Statehood Referendum as "letting the genie of democracy out of the bottle". Very poetic, but not very accurate. And rather hypocritical for a man who has been challenged over promoting the No case to bush voters when his party was committed to the Yes case.The reality is that Territorians already live in a democratic system. They all have the right to vote and all votes count equally, regardless of racial or socio-economic factors.The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act was passed by a Territory Parliament comprised of politicians who were democratically elected by Territorians. It was overturned on the basis of votes by Federal Parliamentarians who did not live in or represent the Territory. This fact will not change, regardless of the result of public debates and referenda on the recommendations of the Territory's Statehood Committee.I think Mr Toyne and his Labor colleagues need to leave their fantasy land in which they regard any decision they don't agree with as non-democratic. They have an unfortunate track record of failing to hear the majority views of Territorians on a wide range of issues.The debate over Statehood really comes down to a single fundamental question: "Do we want the same rights and protections as our fellow Australians living in the States?"There are many issues to be debated and decided along the way. But let's not lose sight of this primary objective.I believe it is essential that the Territory should not face the prospect of Federal interference in Territory affairs as we enter the new millennium.Voting for Statehood is not about taking away land or people's rights or making political mileage. It is about enhancing and strengthening our place in our own country as well as:
• giving freedom to govern for all Territorians;
• being considered equal partners in Australia's future;
• being accepted as Australian citizens with full rights no matter where we live;
• and ensuring the Territory's future is in the hands of Territorians.
Considered in that light, it's difficult to see how anyone who genuinely had the welfare of Territorians at heart could bring themselves to vote against Statehood.

PLANNED CONVENTION CENTRE MAY BE A DUD.

Most casino executives blanch at the thought of a card sharp, but Lasseter's Peter Bridge actually flew one in last week to entertain at the opening of the $5m extensions to the gaming house.Ace McDermott, at the party in the new Limerick's Bar outdoor area, stacked decks with baffling skills and, even with his sleeves rolled up, never failed to manoeuvre a king-high poker into his opponent's hands, while he himself had all the aces. Being a winner – albeit by fair means – is very much what the Malaysian owned Lasseter's is all about, proudly claimed by Mr Bridge to be "central" to the town's entertainment.However, cards isn't the main game any longer: the vastly increased "pokies" area brings in 70 per cent of the profit (the NT Government gets eight per cent).Mr Bridge says the casino's web based gaming now now turns over $1m a week – equal to the takings at the "land based" table gambling.Gaming Minister Tim Baldwin observed that the money coming in from the "net" games – 10,000 registered players in 148 countries – is almost entirely "import dollars".The casino's annual wages bill for 220 staff is $8m.Mr Baldwin said at the opening that the NT Government is now seeking expressions of interest for a convention centre as "our next step in positioning Alice Springs to capture a pretty unique market, one we've done a lot of research on"."We believe that Alice Springs is well situated to take full advantage of the convention and meeting market, not only just in Australia, but internationally," said Mr Baldwin.He also hinted that "Lasseter's are well placed to have at least a reasonable chance - and that's as far as I can go."However, although Lasseter's already has town planning approval for a convention centre, this is a gamble the casino isn't at all sure about yet.Mr Bridge says the government's plan for a 750 to 1000 delegate centre may be "a bit ambitious".He says most of Australia's convention centres are running at a loss, while the benefits go to the restaurant, accommodation and entertainment industries nearby.Taking this into account, if Lasseter's – with currently just 70 rooms – were to build a convention centre, the main benefits would flow to its rivals, the Rydges Plaza and the Vista, with 235 and 140 rooms, respectively.Nevertheless, says Mr Bridge, the centre should be in the Barrett Drive or Gap areas where half of the town's 600 tourist beds are located.Mr Bridge doesn't rule out an initiative by Lasseter's but says a "sweetener" from the government would be nice – for example, a rebate on the $480,000 the casino pays in payroll tax each year.

WOMEN ADVISING THE CHIEF MINISTER: ONE STEP AT A TIME.

The Women's Advisory Council "can't change the world" but it can "take small steps", says recently appointed WAC convenor, Jodeen Carney.Ms Carney, an Alice Springs lawyer, has been a WAC member since 1997. She says the body is an important channel of information to and from government: "The Chief Minister and the bureaucracy are not in the community in the same way as the rest of us are."So, as community representatives we can tell them what we see, observe, hear. We can say we think this is an issue, can you do something about it?"However, as WAC only meets four times a year, has 15 members plus the convenor, most of them with full time jobs, it is necessarily limited."For instance, it can't undertake issues requiring high degrees of expertise," says Ms Carney. The Office of Women's Policy (OWP, attached to the Office of the Chief Minister) is better equipped to do that. As convenor Ms Carney has the particular goal of further developing WAC's relationship with the OWP. "I want to ensure that council members understand what policy is, how it is made, what OWP does."We need to continue to work with them and assist with the implementation of policies which we support."However, WAC should not support government policy where no support is warranted. We should put our hands up if we disagree with a particular policy. I think that the Chief Minister and women expect nothing less."How serious is the Territory Government's commitment to women?Ms Carney: "The Chief Minister wouldn't have this organisation if he didn't want us to seriously assess and analyse government policy." She says the NT's domestic violence strategy is "recognised as one of the best in Australia"."Domestic violence has been an important issue for successive chief ministers." She says too that the funding of WAC as an independent body makes it the envy of other women's advisory councils around Australia."We run our own budget, have our own office. We are a stand alone organisation. Some people might be surprised that the CLP Government is a great supporter of WAC and has been since it was set up in 1983." What are some examples of WAC's "small steps"?WAC's work on the ground is carried out by its sub-committees. The Women and Politics Reference Group has been one of the most active, both in Darwin and Alice Springs.It aims to encourage and assist Territory women to be more actively involved in the processes of government at every level, from school councils to trade unions, from local government to the legislative assembly.Within the last 12 months the group has run leadership workshops, a mock preselection campaign, and a workshop on dealing with the media.Next up in Alice Springs will be a public speaking workshop, which has been highlighted as a need by women attending past events. There is still only one woman in the Territory Government, so how successful has WAC really been?Ms Carney: "All of us can highlight problems and issues, but when it comes to answers, we don't necessarily have them. The Women and Politics Reference Group is the best we have come up with to assist women to get into politics."The feedback we have is very positive. We have good attendances, both in Darwin and Alice. "Sometimes you don't see the result of things for months, if not years, but certainly we're assisting women to become skilled in the area of promoting themselves to participate more."Is WAC reaching women at every level in Territory society?Ms Carney: "There is a perception among some people that WAC is predominantly white and middle class. It's an issue that WAC has to be very mindful of."However, there's a limit to how much we can do, other than publicise who we are and what we do as widely as we can. We can't drag women in, kicking and screaming."There is a particular cluster of women we appeal to, but while we have a stable core audience of about 30 per cent at all our forums, each time different women come along. They may well be from that same general group, but the audience is changing."To become a member of WAC, women need to apply in writing. They are then interviewed and assessed by the OWP and a former WAC convenor. Achieving a council with broad representation is important in their considerations.The convenor is appointed by the Chief Minister, while the deputy convenor is elected by the members. That position is currently held by a trade union representative, Judith Cooper."That's great," says Ms Carney. "It adds to WAC's strength and credibility."There is one Aboriginal woman on council, Theodora Nandu, from Port Keats. There is also a woman from a non-English speaking background. Ages range from 25 to 65. "So, we have got some key elements of broad representation," says Ms Carney.How proactive is WAC about getting Aboriginal women involved? One out of 15 members does not reflect their proportion in the population.Ms Carney says it's "difficult". "I said to Theodora at the last meeting that in a sense we need her more than she needs us, but once again we can't drag Aboriginal women in, kicking and screaming."WAC does make an effort to get its literature translated into Aboriginal languages and distributed in Aboriginal communities. The organisation is mindful of getting out into the regions for consultations and forums.As well, there is a Remote Women and Indigenous Issues sub-committee, which this year will focus on bilingual education, youth offenders, unemployment, and safe secure working environments.Meanwhile, Ms Carney urges as many Territory women as possible to respond to the OWP's current survey. Its results will be used to formulate a proposal for new strategic directions for women from the year 2000, to be put to the Territory Government.The survey form can be obtained from the Chief Minister's Office (diagonally opposite Pizza Hut).

WOMEN PIONEERS AND THEIR MEN: TWO NEW BOOKS (Part One).

Local author Judy Robinson's Bushman of the Red Heart, published earlier this year, has sold out its entire print run, while delighted publisher David Myers of Central Queensland University Press waits on a new run of 1500 copies to fill back orders.Rose Coppock's Bush Tracks and Desert Horizons, published at the same time, has also been well received. Professor Myers expects it too to sell its entire print run during the forthcoming Christmas rush. Says Prof Myers: "The challenge with these outback books is to transcend the local patriotism that the author and the book's subject often enjoy and to prove to bookshops and buyers in other regions and states that the subject matter is of interest to all Australians who want to know about their history and heritage." This week KIERAN FINNANE reviews both titles:
"It was not so much the success of a venture that mattered, but the journey and discovery along the way. "In light of that, it seemed there could be no real failure as the outer world might interpret it, so long as intention was sound, honesty (of sorts) maintained and friends were true." Thus writes Rose Coppock in Bush Tracks and Desert Horizons. The heroes in her book, and in Judy Robinson's Bushman of the Red Heart, are not heroes of success.Ben Nicker, portrayed in Bushman ..., died a cruelly unnecessary death at just 33, before the full potential of his contribution to Cental Australia could be realised.Tom Rawlins and his friend and sometime partner Jimmy Wickham, whose stories are told by Tom's daughter, Mrs Coppock, had long lives of almost unimaginable toil yet never really got past the early stages of viable pastoral enterprise, their ostensible goal.Ben Nicker had been married just six weeks before he was separated from his wife Jane, to fight with the Australian Army in Greece, where he died. Their thwarted marriage forms a sad backdrop to the book, dedicated to Jane, with whom Mrs Robinson, Ben's niece, corresponds to this day.Tom Rawlins had a long and loving marriage with his wife Dorothy, yet he was never able to establish the secure and comfortable hearth which would have suited her refined inclinations. Dorothy did not thrill to the back-breaking, at times death-defying labour of their lives, as her husband did and later her daughter would. Her unswerving fidelity in circumstances of extreme hardship and isolation is evidence of a rock-like character, but not of deep happiness. Between the lines of Mrs Coppock's account, Dorothy's certain frustration and disillusion are apparent.So, what is it that is paid tribute to and that so moves the reader in the pages of these two books?In both instances the central characters and many around them are shown to live their lives with a tremendous application of will, supported by native intelligence and a remarkable adaptability.These qualities appear to be a genetic gift in the case of Ben Nicker. His parents Sam and Liz left Queensland and failed marriages to seek a new beginning with each other in a place where the slate could not be wiped cleaner, the Arltunga goldfield.Indeed, the story of this couple is almost as alluring as that of their son, and – a little unexpectedly, given the titular focus of the book on Ben – it dominates the first 70 of its 120 pages.Arriving at Arltunga in 1903, they made their living from serving the struggling population of miners, Sam carting water, Liz establishing a market garden and delivering their second child, Eugene. Their first, Claude had been born during their two year journey to The Centre.)By the time Ben was born on a stormy night in 1908, the family had moved north of Arltunga, again establishing a market garden on the banks of the Hale River. With a better water supply, this one flourished and became known as "The Garden".They were joined there by Billy and Clara , a "wrong skin" Arrernte couple who sought refuge with the family, staying with them for decades. They became responsible for laying the foundations of the children's and in particular Ben's remarkable bush knowledge.Liz was on her way to Alice Springs when she again gave birth, this time in a hurriedly erected tent, to a daughter, Margaret, Mrs Robinson's mother.Mrs Robinson, a trained painter, has an eye for the detail that brings a story alive. A lovely example marks the occasion of the birth of the Nicker's fourth child, Margaret (Mrs Robinson's mother): "It was the eleventh of June, 1910, a night made memorable as the earth passed through the tail of Halley's Comet. The comet that year brilliantly lit the heavens and to many in the outback, without access to newspapers, it was a startling and even frightening event. "There were reports of a glowing night made more dramatic by occasional drifts of microscopic particles of light. "One most unimaginative bushman was heard to suggest either he had drunk too much or had stumbled into fairyland. Another was camped with cattle and told a tale of a silence ‘as if everything had forgotten to breathe'."Hers is also an eye educated in the environment she writes about. Earlier, she evokes the Nicker family's lonely passage through a hewn pass known as Devil's Gate, on their way to Arltunga: "Above them, occasional boulders were split open like eggshells revealing smooth white-lined caves which beckoned the wind and played mournful, abstract dirges. When you are the only people in a landscape every sound seems personally directed at you and the effect in these hills did not seem friendly."Later, as the family spend a second night on their new cattle station at Ryan's Well, Mrs Robinson settles them in from an owl's point of view: "A night owl whoo-whoo-ed inquiringly at all the unaccustomed activity ... swivelling his head now and then towards new sounds."Passages like this provide delight throughout the book, while making it a rather hybrid creature: not a novel but often treated with a novelist's touch; a history, from which the personal involvement of the narrator is rigorously excluded, yet without footnotes and as a result arousing the reader's curiosity on more than one occasion as to the source of the author's knowledge.The early development of "the lovable rogue" streak in Ben's character is deftly sketched with a few anecdotes that must have survived in the family lore.These include "baby-sitting" his little sister by tying her to a shady tree with some spare water, and trying to recreate the effect of Halley's Comet by lighting an oily rag attached to a captive crow by a length of string. After his first visit to a city, at the age of eight, he is remembered to have commented: "Adelaide strangled my mind."This is one of very few pieces of direct speech ascribed to Ben.The "I" of his person is not present in the book till Mrs Robinson is able to quote from his letters home from Europe in the last year of his life.When the reader suddenly hears his voice, it has the effect of supplying some missing pieces to a jigsaw puzzle, which must however remain incomplete. This only increases the sense of loss we feel for a man of proven survival ingenuity, who dies so prematurely and of a wound from which he should have recovered but which turned gangrenous through lack of medical attention.
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