ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
May 24, 2000

COUNCIL IS THE VOICE OF ALICE. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

Many candidates for Saturday's council elections want more action and less talk from local government.Most take the view that the council should go well beyond "rates, roads and rubbish", and be a powerful lobby for the town, dealing with the other tiers of government.Public disorder and alcohol abuse, the state of verges and parks, finanacial management and the Todd River – both as an amenity and a threat – are uppermost in the minds of the men and women wanting to be mayor or an alderman.The Alice Springs News asked all candidates to nominate three practical projects or areas they would work on if elected to council.On the question of the "big picture" or "back to basics", all candidates say it's a matter of getting the balance right, but there are some differences in just how they see that balance.We present their views in reverse alphabetical order.Three candidates out of the total field of 18 did not respond to the Alice News' invitation: Edward Taylor, incumbent alderman David Koch, and Raelene Beale.Jeff Tubbenhauer says council has an important role in big picture issues because of "the poor service offered by our local MLAs".He says: "Things like mandatory sentencing and alcohol issues really belong to the next tier of government but they are not doing their job properly."If we were getting proper representation, then local government could concentrate on things like rubbish, roads and libraries."Mr Tubbenhauer would work to see more support for youth services. The Youth Centre in Wills Terrace, for instance, needs a lot of work done to it.Revisiting flood mitigation is another priority. The council needs a Todd River Advisory Committee and to act to prevent millions of dollars worth of damage the next time we have a one in 100 flood.
Improved parking and toilet facilities in the CBD would also get his attention. Annette Smith says council should develop a priority action plan on conservation and planning issues, such as management of the Todd, town drainage, improved sewerage treatment, and recycling. An upgrade of the present civic centre should also look at the provision of a community transit centre for travellers who are not only tourists but people from the region who need to come to town to access services. "I'm aware of people from remote areas arriving in town in the middle of the night, with nowhere to go," says Ms Smith.The transit centre would need a comfortable lounge area and appropriate ablution facilities. Ms Smith says local people need to have more say in town planning, and council should lobby the Territory Government to make sure they do.
"The community sees council as the level of government closest to them and so council should have a bigger role in expressing community needs to other levels of government. "There obviously needs to be good management of council's core business, but council shouldn't get bogged down there."Len Robinson sees team-building between the aldermen and staff as his top priority. "If they can't work together, they can't offer the services required by the community," says Mr Robinson, a former council employee. Lines of communication from "the grass roots" all the way to the Territory and Federal tiers of government need to be improved. That way, council will be able to be an effective lobbyist on big picture issues, such as social justice, youth, and the environment, having clearly established what the community wants in these areas. Council needs to be more accountable for what it is doing with ratepayers' money. The number of consultancies let by council needs to be carefully scrutinised.
Incumbent alderman and mayoral candidate Russell Naismith will promote tourism as a top priority. The town has enormous potential in this regard, it is no longer in the shadow of Ayers Rock – "we are a tourism mecca in our own right" – and most people realise the economic role that tourism plays. Ald Naismith says now that Alice is past the time when we were developing fast-growing residential areas, council needs a maintenance program to keep roads, footpaths and council furniture "up to scratch". He is confident that we are going to see improvement in the management of the landfill over the next few years. He says the community is calling for more environmentally friendly waste management options, and "council, business and the community need to work together to develop a sustainable waste management program." While council's main role is to provide the highest level of services necessary for community amenity, it also has an important role to play in the growth and development of the town: "To this end I will vigorously pursue a healthy, cooperative and harmonious relationship between council and the NT Government, which should stimulate economic growth in Central Australia." Jenny Mostran, also a mayoral candidate, says council must make sure the people of Alice Springs get the best services possible, and "from that base build on the bigger picture", making sure Alice Springs gets its fair share from the Territory and Federal Governments. Her top priority would be to ensure "best practice" in financial management, management systems and the implementation of policy. Anti-social behaviour needs to be resolved. Local organisations that have a contribution to make in this area should be supported by council, and existing laws need to be enforced. council should work to see Aboriginal people more involved in education and employment. Mrs Mostran wants a more responsive council: "Most ratepayers are not getting a quick enough response to their concerns, and some aren't getting any response at all!
"council has to get back to being user friendly and relevant to the community. "When we are lobbying we need to know that we are really representing the community's wishes." Mayoral candidate and retiring alderman Geoff Miers says council's role in the big picture is largely one of a facilitator of community discussion, while providing vision and leadership. It should provide well-researched argument to the other tiers of government for increased funding to address, for instance, the problems of youth and anti-social behaviour. "If we achieve excellence in our main areas of responsibility then we will be better able to make a contribution in the wider areas," says Ald Miers. His priority projects for action are Todd River management and "best practice" at the town dump, which would include achieving waste reduction and recycling at no extra cost to the ratepayers.He says council should work to provide two large Araluen-style parks in the areas of greatest need, and support community involvement in the development of small neighbourhood parks by putting resources into planning, appropriate landscaping and providing shade over play equipment. Mayoral and aldermanic candidate Carl Marcic says his campaign has "put a bee in his bonnet" about public drinking and it is an issue he will pursue whether he gets onto council or not. He says council should consult with all stakeholders in the tourism industry to see how their job could be made easier, and at the same time work to make Alice Springs a more attractive destination to interstate and international tourists.He also wants to see sand-mining in the Todd as a flood mitigation measure, with the sand used to rehabilitate the old CSR quarry. "council has only one role, and that is to improve the life of the town's citizens," says Mr Marcic."Everything else falls under that banner, and we must do whatever it takes." Door-knocking across many areas of the town during her campaign has opened Helen Joraslafsky's eyes to a wider problem of litter and untidiness than she was aware of, and this needs to be effectively dealt with. Recycling is an interrelated issue on which she believes there has been some progress by council, and that progress has to be continued.
She is keen to see the results of the alcohol survey recently commissioned by council. The town needs action on alcohol, but getting all the facts is important for being able to make an informed decision. Flood mitigation needs revisiting: "It's time for doing, not just talking." Cooperation and liaison with other tiers of government is essential for council to be able to lobby on the issues that it hasn't the money or resources to deal with. Equally council must listen to the ratepayers in the formulation of policy. Michael Jones continues to stress improved parking for the Central Business District. He says quite a few people have told him they agree it's an important issue, they're sick of being charged parking fines while they are supporting local businesses. He would also like council to explore the options for a combined bus and train station: "We have to be able to offer tourists a better welcome than is currently the case" says Mr Jones, describing the footpaths in Gregory Terrace as "disgusting", lamenting the lack of showers and lockers, and the difficult transport access to the CBD from the railway station. An attractive, comfortable terminus could also be a place for displaying tourist information.He says council could do something for the town's school children by building shelters where they wait for their bus or their parents to pick them up. Council should get its infrastructure in place and up to standard before getting involved in bigger picture issues. "Some issues the current council has become involved in are not what the ratepayers elected then to talk about, such as mandatory sentencing. It's fine for councillors to express their opinions but they should concentrate on the business of local government," says Mr Jones. Incumbent alderman Susan Jefford says there would be little point in having elected officers on council if they did not attend to issues that will progress the town. Ensuring basics is vital but it shouldn't take up "70 to 90 per cent of our time, which is often what happens".Ald Jefford says her experience has shown her that it's important to focus your energy on one or two areas if you want to achieve something, and that she will maintain her focus on recycling, hoping to support a whole range of activities for the town. "We have a big opportunity to do things differently with the new landfill contract, but I'm also in favour of bringing things down to an individual level. "I'd like to look at piloting mini-projects in streets or neighbourhoods, to encourage composting and using our precious water to make our gardens and nature strip planting more productive. "Why not have communal vegie gardens and fruit trees on our streets?" Ald Jefford also wants to pursue compulsory fencing of swimming pools, "unfinished business" from her previous term on council. "I don't like leaving things unfinished which is why I'd like to go back on council." Samih Habib's top priority is to improve the look of our streets, in particular by paving and cleaning up the footpaths.He would like to see the Todd River Management Plan revived and acted upon, the banks beautified, and the casino causeway replaced by a proper bridge. He says there should be no delay in developing improved management of the town's sewerage, in particular to reduce mosquito breeding. He personally favours the creation of a lake and stocking it with fish, maintaining the area as a wetlands especially attractive to bird watchers. Anti-social behaviour on Todd Mall equally requires council's attention, says Mr Habib. Matthew Fowler will work with council to make it easier for the community to talk to them, especially by making use of the latest available technology. He would like to see customer service training for aldermen and staff, and review staff's job satisfaction: "Happier staff will make for a better council." Boredom and loneliness of residents, in particular youth and the elderly, need attention – "a town like Alice" should be a great place to live for everyone. One idea is for council to sponsor mentoring programs, matching, for example, a stressed young person with a lonely elder. Mr Fowler says the National Mental Health Strategy has revealed that in 2020 depression will overtake other illnesses as a major cause of death in Australia, and that council needs to act in this area for the well-being of its citizens. If people are under less stress and pressure, they will be better able to sort out the challenges which face our community." He says the council should closely review the budget, looking for savings so that it can have an effective role in practical community development while maintaining core services. For Fran Erlich, incumbent alderman and mayoral candidate, work on the Todd River tops her list of priorities, "bearing in mind that all council decisions are made by a majority of aldermen and the mayor". She wants to see removal of non-native grasses and revegetation of the river, the development of parks along the banks, a new bridge where the casino causeway is now, the concreting of causeways (to better withstand flooding ) and council should revisit flood mitigation. Lobbying the Liquor Commission to implement the recommendations arising from the alcohol survey is another priority, as is restructuring of the Youth Advisory Committee. "There has been a core of young people who worked very hard on this committee, but we feel that sections of the youth community are not represented." The provision and maintenance of basic infrastructure and services is of paramount importance, but council also has a responsibility to provide leadership on local issues, such as anti-social behaviour, racial harmony, waste management, and flood mitigation. Bob Corby has campaigned on a "back to basics" platform but that is not to say he sees no role for council as a lobbyist on big picture issues. But he believes council must act in concert: "Each person has some form of expertise to contribute, we must combine to have a common focus, and set our priorities as a group." He would work to ensure a better appearance for the town – more carefully tended verges and parks. He wants to make the Todd "the heart of the town": resolve the demarcation issues and develop a plan of action for the health of the river, so that it can benefit the whole town. Another priority is responsible financial management and improved personnel and management systems which would lead to a better standard of customer service. Geoffrey Bell, a public service accountant, says his first practical project on council "would have to be to look at the books". "There should be a better return for the money we invest in council." The poor state of many neighbourhood parks is evidence of a failure by council to give value for money, says Mr Bell. Improving the parks would be a project he would work for. He would also like to see council revisit the idea of a ward system for local government. "It would make aldermen more accountable for the area they live in, and should there be a resignation by an alderman, there would be no need to call the entire town out for a by-election." Mr Bell feels strongly too that council should play a role in looking after the town's young people. "We need to find out from them what they want and work to provide it," he says. He wants his young granddaughter, whose mother died in a car accident on New Year's Eve, to have something to look forward to in the town she'll grow up in. Council should first get its own house in order, then once it is a "viable and vibrant body", it should lobby for the development of the town, says Mr Bell.

MacDONNELL ELECTORATE BIG WINNER IN BUDGET. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.

An end to the high cost of residential land, a fresh direction for planning the urban growth of The Alice, fruit blocks for $60 per hectare, a new national park – it's all on the cards with the government's purchase of Owen Springs station, says MacDonnell MLA John Elferink (pictured).The first-term Member, who wrested the seat from Labor in 1998, says his constituents are The Centre's biggest winners in last week's Territory Budget.Not only will the government spend $3.6m to buy the cattle station from the estate of Lizzy Milnes, but also $6m for the sealing of one third of the Mereenie Loop Road – a vital tourism asset.Mr Elferink says a further major win was the allocation of $1m for an interpreter service (additional to the Commonwealth's contribution), a boon for his largely Aboriginal electorate: "I feel vindicated," he says."Quite a few people in government were opposed to funding such a service."The spending in MacDonnell outshines funding for other new capital works in The Centre: $16m has been allocated as part of a $30m upgrade of the Alice hospital, but this is an amount pledged in several previous Budgets.Mr Elferink says the initiatives will counteract his loss of several rural residential areas with a high concentration of CLP voters in the wake of the redistribution of electoral boundaries.He says he intends standing for MacDonnell again at the next election, but does not rule out seeking preselection for the blue-ribbon CLP seat of Araluen, to be vacated by Eric Poole.Mr Elferink says the purchase of Owen Springs will bring almost immediate relief to an impasse with the Western MacDonnell National Park: at present the pastoral lease protrudes into the park.Ellery Big Hole, part of the park, is currently surrounded by Owen Springs land, frustrating the construction of the Larapinta walking trail in the vicinity.BIGGER PARK Mr Elferink says the acquisition will now allow a realignment of the park boundary. He says the 3744 square kilometre station – nearly 12 times the size of the municipality of Alice Springs – abuts the park on its south-western side.Mr Elferink says the purchase of the lease, proposed by him earlier this year following the death of Mrs Milnes, is a "pioneering decision".He says: "Now we have to decide what to do with it. I would hope land developers will show an interest," although it would be important not to "flood the market" with low-priced land.One use may be five hectare farmlets, similar to those proposed in the Emily Hills area where storm water drainage has turned out to be a problem. As ground water is plentiful, another possible use for Owen Springs could be Ti Tree style fruit plantations.Mr Elferink says if the Government decides to apply the existing scheme of land sales for horticultural purposes, currently proposed on about 800 square kilometers, this is how it would work:- Intending growers would present a business plan to the Department of Lands (together with a $1000 fee).If the plan is considered viable, the department will begin a "process of freeholding".The grower's performance and establishment of infrastructure is monitored for three to four years.Caveats – land use requirements – are lifted all along the way, and in the end the applicant is entitled to buy the land for $60 per hectare.At the same time, the NT and the Federal governments will buy out native title rights, contributing 25 per cent and 75 per cent respectively of the necessary funds.Mr Elferink says the $6m allocation for the Mereenie road will mean that its entire sealing will be completed in just three years, if similar allocations are made in the next two budgets.He says work is likely to start at the King's Canyon end, and the first section will take the seal to the "jump-up", some 30 km to the north.Mr Elferink says the interpreter service is especially important in view of the NT's mandatory sentencing legislation."I don't believe injustices occur in the courts frequently," he says."But I like to be reassured that the process leading up to a conviction is a fair one."After all, we're sending people to gaol."

WILL NEW COUNCIL WIN ON TOWN PLANNING? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Most candidates in Saturday's local government elections consider town planning to be a major issue, according to a survey by the Arid Lands Environment Centre.The new Mayor and aldermen may well be getting their teeth into a fresh campaign to make town planning a council function.Although this is the case in most other Australian jurisdictions, the CLP government has consistently held on to that power in the Territory.A range of community organisations have highlighted the inadequate way that power is being exercised, and a new example surfaced last week: a real estate agent advertised for auction three NT Portions that don't even exist.The firm was acting for wine maker Denis Hornsby.The authorities had raised no objection, but the agent said he would amend the advertisement after the Alice News had contacted him.Despite making several cosmetic changes to the legislation in the recent past, the NT government has maintained an arbitrary and secretive system, denying the public rights enjoyed in most other democracies.Most notably, there is still no appeal right for objectors to planning decisions: only developers get a second chance if they don't like what the Development Consent Authority or the Minister, who has absolute power over the process, are handing down.The exorbitant cost of land, hodgepodge developments, pocket handkerchief size blocks and the general appearance of this supposed outback desert town are ample evidence of the ineptness of town planning here.Among the more graphic examples are the land dealings by Mr Hornsby in the rural Rangeview Estate area.(As a resident in the area, and an objector to several of the schemes, the writer of this article has detailed knowledge of them.)It all started with former Lands Minister Max Ortmann, who has since left politics after being shown on national television wrapping and tightening a microphone cord around the neck of a reporter.In the early ‘nineties Mr Ortmann gave Mr Hornsby permission to develop smaller blocks of land in an area where the zoning required a two hectare minimum size.Mr Ortmann was acting contrary to the wishes of a large number of locals; objectors greatly outnumbered supporters of Mr Hornsby's application.Soon after Mr Hornsby obtained permission for another subdivision, again including a block smaller that two hectares.In 1996 he applied to have his vineyard subdivided into three blocks, again one smaller than two hectares.There were several written objections, as previously, mostly claiming that smaller blocks would be to the detriment of the semi-rural area's character and lifestyle.Some of the objectors requested to give spoken evidence at the hearing of the Planning Authority, as it was called then.Although the authority was made aware that most of the objectors would be out of town during January, it set down the hearing for January 14, 1997 – and promptly approved the application.The authority's regard for the public was illustrated by the reason it gave for declining to postpone the hearing: "No further benefit would have been accrued, or any further issues identified, as a result of delaying determination of the matter."In other words, the authority took the view that whatever the objectors had to say, could not possibly be of relevance to the decision. The Rural Areas Association Inc told the Lands Minister at the time, Mike Reed, now Deputy Chief Minister, that the authority was acting illegally: it may or may not, under the Act, invite objectors to its hearings, but it has no right to assume what their case may be, the association argued. Mr Reed didn't bother to respond.Late last year Mr Hornsby applied to have the vineyard carved up into four lots, all of them smaller than two hectares.Objectors at that time were told by the Lands Department that the approval he had been given previously (for the three blocks) had expired. Mr Hornsby's newest application was rejected by the Planning Consent Authority, under chairman Fred Finch, and locals now assumed that the five and a half hectare block was now back to square one. Not so. Unbeknownst to the public the authority had granted Mr Hornsby two extensions for his "three block" application, one to January, 2000 and another to November, 2001.This was done without advice to objectors or other nearby residents, without advertising, and despite the controversial way in which the approval had been given in the first place.Nevertheless, there's a big difference between having consent to create a subdivision, and having a subdivision.The Alice News checked with the The Professionals real estate agency which recently advertised an auction of Chateau Hornsby in this way:-"Lot 1 – The Winery, Bush Restaurant. "Lot 2 – 2 HA of Vineyards NT Portion. "Lot 3 – 2 HA of Vineyard NT Portion." In fact, all three are still one NT Portion, number 3951. It was all just a misunderstanding, The Professionals told us, the property would soon be advertised in a different way.Stand by for more!

RIVER MAY BE WINNER IN COUNCIL POLL.

The Todd River could be the big winner in the forthcoming council elections.Of the 12 candidates responding to questions on the local environment put to them by the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC), 10 gave priority to management and beautification of the Todd. This concern was underlined when the Alice Springs News asked candidates to prioritise three practical projects or areas they would work on if they were elected to council. Eight out of 15 candidates nominated the Todd River among their top three interests. ALEC coordinator, Glenn Marshall, said it was very encouraging to see a strong focus by candidates on the Todd and Charles Rivers. "The mechanism was recently put in place to allow substantial work in the rivers corridor via significant funding by the NT Government of the Alice in Ten Todd and Charles Rivers Project," said Mr Marshall."Aldermen will have a great opportunity to contribute to the project and drive long-term benefits for the rivers, the townspeople and traditional owners." Mr Marshall said that quality management of the landfill and recycling activities is in sight but will require the active, ongoing support of the new Council. "The next 12 months are critical as contractual procedures are finalised for landfill management, the charging system agreed to, illegal dumping discouraged and business supported to develop waste reduction opportunities. "The Town Council will ultimately control how good our landfill is." Mr Marshall said ALEC "does not endorse candidates but aims to provide voters with information they can assess at face value". However, ALEC does commend mayoral candidate Geoff Miers "as a long term advocate of the Todd and Charles Rivers who has contributed significantly to weed management over many years", and for his long-term advocacy of better solid waste management and his lobbying of the Department of Transport and Works to revise their tropical-style landscaping plan for the North Stuart Highway. ALEC also recognises the contribution of Alderman Susan Jefford in establishing the Waste Minimisation Advisory Committee, and of mayoral candidate Fran Erlich in heritage conservation, in particular with the saving of the Old Gaol and rating relief for heritage properties. Mr Marshall expressed ALEC's "extreme disappointment" that some candidates, including incumbent aldermen, had not responded to their questionnaire: they were Raelene Beale, Ald David Koch, Ald Russell Naismith (also a mayoral candidate), Leonard Robinson, Edward Taylor, and Jeffrey Tubbenhauer. On the other hand, ALEC was "encouraged" by the demonstrated interest in environmental and planning issues of the other candidates. Samih Habib told ALEC that the water table in the Todd River and salt levels should be monitored and controlled; beautification and preservation of the trees along the banks of the Todd need more attention; and the Todd Management Plan should be revived with wider community involvement. Helen Joraslafsky said our water courses should be returned to their original state, which should also go a long way towards addressing the perennial problem of flood mitigation. Fran Erlich nominated the Todd as Alice Springs' most important environmental issue. She is concerned about the proliferation of feral grasses such as couch and buffel, the corresponding risk of fire destroying the old river gums, and the build up of sand due to the grasses. Ald Erlich said she does not believe in sand mining the river for flood mitigation. She said it would be ineffective and damaging. Carl Marcic (also a mayoral candidate) said he is in favour of sand-mining the Todd as a flood mitigation measure, but that mining should not occur in proximity of the river gums. Mr Marcic said care would also have to be taken to prevent the distribution of pest weeds, such as the Mexican Poppy. Annette Smith supports the establishment of a Todd River Advisory Committee, so that council could to draw on expertise within the town about the river. Bob Corby wants to make the Todd River "the heart of the town". Geoff Miers said the Todd and Charles Rivers are threatened by lack of planning and inadequate design of causeways. He also said the town's drainage system could be improved: most drains lack stabilising features such as rock armour walls, vegetated terraces and adequate silt traps; after every major rain, the drains carry and deposit tonnes of silt into the river, effectively top-dressing and expanding the couch grass islands in the river. Jenny Mostran (also a mayoral candidate) said the Todd should be a major icon of the town, it should be litter free and well managed, and we should be acting on the "River Management Plan". Matthew Fowler also wants a plan of management developed and implemented for the Todd, along with other significant areas in and around Alice. Geoffrey Bell wants to see efforts made to capture water when the Todd has a big flow ("Millions of litres flow out into nowhere!"), and also wants to see the river cleared of couch and buffel grass and weeds like Mexican Poppy.He wants to see flood mitigation measures introduced, and suggest sand-mining of the riverbed may be one way of achieving this. Another issue on which candidates are keen to see action is recycling. Ten out of eleven respondents to ALEC's questionnaire raised recycling issues. Three candidates responding to the Alice News' "top three" question talked about recycling. Ms Joraslafsky told ALEC "it can't be that difficult". Mr Marcic said "the dump should operate full recycling facilities as other dumps around Australia do (and quite profitably in some cases)". Ald Jefford called for "appropriate management of the town dump with a greater emphasis on recycling", and for "encouraging all households to compost". Ald Miers said landfill management must facilitate waste reduction and recycling initiatives. He said on the advice of the Waste Management Advisory Committee, Council has taken over management of the landfill in the short term, and will be seeking expressions of interest in the near future for the recovery of various components within the waste stream.He said, "Responsible management of waste should not cost the community more but it will create additional jobs".Mrs Mostran said the Council should research the opportunities for small business to run the recycling aspect of waste management, and that the dump must be run under a "best practice management" contract. Ald Erlich is concerned about the lack of recycling facilities and waste management in our isolated and arid environment. She said: "Council's Waste Management Advisory Committee is working to look at new options and I will support their recommendations on reducing waste to the landfill and managing the dump more efficiently". Mr Fowler said Council should encourage neighbourhoods with incentives such as a reduction in their rates to look at solutions for recycling, among other local environment issues, in their area. Ms Smith and Mr Corby support effective waste management and minimisation by recycling. Eight of ALEC's respondents were concerned about the dump; eight were also concerned about the control of weeds in both the river and on the nature strips around town. Seven respondents nominated town planning as an environmental issue. Mr Marcic said he would want to be a member of the planning committee. Ald Jefford called for planning and development that recognises, protects and enhances our natural environment, "that is, no developments up against hills and rocky outcrops". Mr Habib believes our man-made structures should blend in with our surrounding environment, and is concerned about the height of buildings and the colour of roofs and fences. Ald Erlich said she would continue to work for greater autonomy in planning for Alice Springs. She said each neighbourhood should be mapped and the identifying features of its unique environment catalogued so that more explicit planning controls, for developments sympathetic to their surroundings, can be issued. Mr Corby said he would work with Government for improved long term land use objectives. Mrs Mostran said planning and development needs to reflect and preserve the lifestyles people enjoy and must blend in with the character of Alice Springs. Mr Fowler said he would seek "to relieve" the NT Government of "crucial Alice Springs town planning". Ald Miers said Council should sign off and action Kyoto Agreement, Local Agenda 21, an international local government agreement that works towards the development and implementation of a local, sustainable environmental management plan involving the whole community. Other environmental concerns put to ALEC were: water conservation (four candidates nominated this issue); recycling of sewage (two); litter control (three); open spaces and parks (three); native planting on streets and in parks (four); protecting heritage buildings (two); and the Ilparpa Valley and Landcare (three). On this last, Michael Jones told ALEC he supports the Ilparpa Valley Landcare Group and the NT Government's decision to erect a fence in the Ilparpa Claypans area "to hopefully ensure the claypans can once again be returned to their natural state". The Ilparpa wetlands were one of the areas Mr Fowler said he would like to see a plan of management for.

A SCHOOL FOR THOSE WHO DON'T WANT TO GO THERE!

Around 40 secondary school aged young people who had dropped out of mainstream education are now involved in a learning project called Alice Outcomes. Minister for Central Australia, Loraine Braham, last week handed over a government-owned house for use as an administrative base as well as a learning and drop-in centre for staff and students. Manager of the project and educator Paul Fitzsimons says the philosophy of "Alice in Ten" combined with the shocking revelation by the 1996 census that some 300 school aged young people were not enrolled at a school, inspired the development of Alice Outcomes. It is not a school as commonly understood. Rather, it is a number of ways of learning pitched at individual students' needs. The project got underway with funding from the Commonwealth's Full Service Schools program late last year, allowing teacher Jenny Buckley to track students who had dropped out of government schools. Ms Buckley had direct contact with 130 young people, many of whom knew of others in similar circumstances. Mr Fitzsimons then liaised with other agencies offering youth programs and support, to put Alice Outcomes in place. Around 40 young people are being catered for "until we've found our feet," says Mr Fitzsimons. Nine are studying through the NT Open Education Centre, under the guidance of Ms Buckley and Margaret McCartin, based at the Gap Youth Centre (GYC). They are assisted by Aboriginal teacher aide, Shannon Clark, who, Mr Fitzsimons says, has been influential in getting young people to go along, picking them up each morning in the GYC bus. The students are aged from 14 to 20, and some of them are young mothers. Mr Fitzsimons says the GYC has been "very, very supportive" of the project. Former youth worker at Alice Springs Youth Accommodation Support Service (ASYASS), Bernie Shakeshaft, will now come across to Alice Outcomes to work as an educator catering for the needs of young people being supported by ASYASS. Although Mr Shakeshaft is not a trained teacher, Mr Fitzsimons says he was hand picked as a "dynamic person who knows a hell of a lot of young and homeless people in town". He says one of the hopes of Alice Outcomes is to develop a more positive relationship between NT Government departments and ASYASS. "In this town we should be able to network to tackle our problems," says Mr Fitzsimons. "We've all been trying to run things on our own for years but if we work together we should be able to be much more effective." Alice Outcomes is also liaising with Centrelink, by, for instance, providing some teacher support for the literacy and numeracy program which some young people must undertake in a contractual agreement concerning their social security payments. Until now the programs have been delivered by correspondence. Mr Fitzsimons says Alice Outcomes has also become aware of a large number of young people who are not claiming the social security benefits that they are entitled to. "We will endeavour to improve their lot by helping them to enlist for Youth Allowance. "We see our job as providing a pastoral service and being a broker for the wealth of services that are available in town if you know how to access them." Mr Fitzsimons says the NT Government's support through the provision of teachers and the administrative base has been very welcome and hopes that the project will continue to be sustained through this source. He says by the end of the year the project hopes to see, as well as the administrative base at 54 Milner Road and the learning centre at GYC, better accommodation for ASYASS and the involvement of Tangentyere Council in the project, through their after school and vacation care initiatives. However, there are some young people in town who do not access any existing services. Mr Fitzsimons says they sit at home watching television. At present, a teacher is visiting up to 30 such young people, taking learning materials to them. "Most are doing the work," says Mr Fitzsimons. "Others really need first to develop a sense of themselves as a member of the community. "There is a huge variation in where people are at. We are trying to tackle the situation of each individual according to their needs. Some young people have just needed some suggestions about work experience or a course they could do, and then they may come back to us before their next step. "The project is not just about education, it's about attitudes and an approach to life. "For this reason it's essential that other services are involved – health, welfare, and in particular, I would like to see Correctional Services involved. "There are a lot of opportunities for us to tackle anti-social behaviour. "We are not just dealing with Aboriginal youth. About 30 per cent of the people we see are non-Aboriginal, but let's face it, in Alice Springs if you're 16 and non-Aboriginal, you can usually get a job, but if you're 16 and Aboriginal, it is immeasurably harder, so we are inevitably going to have more Aboriginal clients."

BAKSHEESH FOR CATIA? ROW OVER 'INCENTIVES'.

In the Middle East it's called Baksheesh, in Nigeria, Dash, and German speakers call it Schmiergeld - greasing money: It's likely to be on the wrong side of overt commissions and incentives in commercial dealings.The issue is especially critical when the receiver of under the table largess is a government agency or an organisation pledged to serve, without fear or favour, a broad membership. It's in this context that questions are being asked about a practice now apparently wide spread in the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association (CATIA). Its functions include selling tours for many of its 200 plus members. In order to avoid preferential treatment – or even the perception of preferential treatment – a uniform commission rate of 10 per cent of sales has been set down. However, CATIA is doing better than that, at least from some clients: AAT Kings, for example, which is part of a global conglomerate of tourism businesses, provides an additional "incentive program" based on reaching sales targets. These payments are usually in the form of tour tickets, says local manager Peter Kavanagh, which CATIA then can sell in its own right. He says the arrangement, from the point of view of AAT Kings, isn't different from deals done with other agents. He would not disclose details of the arrangements, but one source says one ticket is provided for every 10 sold, which would bump up the commission to almost double the basic 10 per cent. Mr Kavanagh says all the extra money goes into CATIA's coffers and will ultimately benefit the whole membership. EXTRAS However, the question is, should CATIA accept these "extras". It shouldn't, says one member, Ren Kelly. He says his company, the VIP group, belongs also to the Darwin tourist promotion association which at no circumstances accepts additional commissions. CATIA's conduct is "a most obvious and glaring breach of the rules," says Mr Kelly. "It allows a large company to walk all over the other members. "We can do what we like, that seems to be their motto. "It's affecting the direction the association should be travelling in. "CATIA must be impartial and must be seen to be impartial." CATIA vice chairman Bruce Hall denies that the organisation is giving preferential treatment to some members but admits that CATIA staff, from time to time, get taken out to lunch, receive the free use of hire cars or camper vans, and bottles of wine are sometimes dropped off at the office. However, counter staff are usually unaware of the donors' identity, says Mr Hall, and are not influenced by any gifts or privileges in the advice they give to tour buyers.

Is the council reflecting the community's offence over public drunkenness? COMMENT by Mayoral candidate JENNY MOSTRAN.

Ratepayers should be receiving better service and value for their rates. The dump has recently been taken back over and run by the council. The previous contractor had tried to negotiate with the council but could not get a answer on what was to happen with the existing contract, then at the last minute was asked to extend the contract for three months while they found someone else. How much is it now costing the council to run the dump? Is it being run using best practice Management ? The dump certainly appears to be messier. The consultancy for our parks and open spaces. This is the consultancy that is supposed to be the master plan for all of our parks and has been the excuse why we don't have shade at the Frank McAllister Park in Araluen. Why was it sent back to the consultants and when will the public and the aldermen have access to it? What is the date set for completion of this consultancy? Why is it that the deficit of some $300,000 was so unexpected and explained by some report system problems ? Why is it only this year that depreciation has been allowed for in the balance sheet? Why is it that the council has expanded its management and administration department over the last three years when government and business have streamlined their administration systems and used the money saved used for infrastructure and service? Is this the reason there is no money for footpaths and shade in our parks? The River Management Report is vitally important due to the problems with floods and the threat of fire with weed growth in the Todd. This report was received by the council engineer on Friday May 5. When will the council be informed and the public have access to the report to discuss it?I want to have an open and user friendly council that answers community groups correspondence and doesn't let five weeks go by without even an acknowledgement that the letters have been received. I want a council that when it does correspond with residents, does not use an answer from Sir Humphrey out of Yes Minister. Why is it that not all services are tendered for? Legal services are not currently tendered for. I want a council that educates the public on the best type of trees to plant on verges, and whose maintenance program for pruning has proper guidelines, not those of Edward Scissorhand. Is the council reflecting the community's offence over public drunkenness and the problem behaviour that it attracts? I want a council that truly reflects the whole community and can effectively lobby the NT Government to help fund programs to stop this problem. The new council must have a business and professional approach to work and guide council staff into achieving the services that the community deserves. Council must have leadership that can unite and build a team with a "can do" attitude and have the ability to make decisions.

GIRLS IN TOUGH DRAMA!

In what he says has been his most "risk-taking" enterprise to date, Bryn Williams has cast young girls aged six to 13 years in a stage version of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies". Mr Williams says Golding himself thought that girls would not behave in the same way as the male characters in his novel, which saw a group of school boys stranded on an island and over a few months descending into chaos and violence."After my experience with this production, I would say that young girls are just as capable of violence as young boys."I believe none of us are born violent but circumstances will make us so, and that's what happens when you take away the rules." Mr Williams says he has been careful to "debrief" the girls after rehearsal, so that they cut off from the roles they have been playing and return to their normal lives. The debriefing – "we call it chilling out" – has mostly involved relaxation and meditation techniques. "The whole experience has been greatly empowering for this group, who haven't worked on their own production for some time. "It has been incredibly challenging, especially the memorising of a two hour script when many of the girls are still in the process of learning to read." He says the older girls come voluntarily every night over the last three weeks to perfect their lines."That shows their commitment!" Mr Williams advises that the play will not be suitable for young children. So, why cast young children in the roles?He says all of the cast have had some exposure to acting before and that, with the process of staging the play, creates some distance from it. "Not being supposed to do it is an adult concept. Not one of the girls have thought that themselves. "But for children coming in cold to watch the play, it may be quite harrowing. "You are going to see some outstanding performances. "If we pull it off, it will be incredible! "But I don't think I'll ever do anything like it again!" Presented by Centre Stage Theatre, "Lord of the Flies" will be staged at Araluen this Friday and Saturday at 8pm.

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