ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
May 30, 2001.


HOUSING DEVELOPMENT HITS STORM WATER SNAG. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Residential development of land in Head Street released by the NT Government with great fanfare is likely to falter because of problems with storm water. The town council has advised potential bidders for the land at the auction this Friday to seek advice about the costs of works necessary to cope with water gushing down Dixon Road during heavy downpours. A local civil engineer, Will Cormack, says he has prepared a report for the Department of Lands on the issue, but neither Lands Minister Tim Baldwin nor Minister for Central Australia Richard Lim would release any details despite repeated requests for information from the Alice News. But the CLP candidate for Braitling, Peter Harvey, says the land has been released by the government "for all the right reasons" and all parties should now work together to solve the difficulties. One major local developer says the storm water problems could add $2m to the infrastructure cost of the 15 blocks. Seven of these would be set aside for first home buyers and must be sold back to the government for $48,000 each including GST. The town council's Roger Bottrall says the land "acts as part of the overflow retardation area" for storm water. He says there are "ways and means [of] allowing the natural overflow area to continue" through covenants relating to back yards in the proposed development. As no drainage plans have been submitted as yet, it is not clear whether there will be a problem, says Mr Bottrall, and if the developer comes up "with an appropriate design, then the council doesn't have an issue".Even now nearby residents say they have to sandbag their homes during heavy rains to keep out water running off the elevated sections of Dixon Road. Mr Bottrall says existing storm water pipes are "probably" undersize to cope with the flow from the 150 hectare catchment area. The council says the Dixon Road subdivision was built about 15 years ago by the NT Government, and before local government received responsibility for approving storm water designs. Mr Bottrall says the block to be offered for sale on Friday is part of the drainage system which also includes vacant sections of the adjoining Seventh Day Church land, Braitling School and Rhonda Diano Oval. Mr Harvey says the government's Quick Start scheme, under which first home buyers get $5000, has been extended to include all the new blocks in Head Street which may also qualify for housing grants from the Commonwealth. He says only two blocks have been sold in Alice Springs under the Quick Start scheme since its introduction: there is a dramatic shortage of land because of the still unresolved negotiations with Aboriginal native title holders. Mr Harvey (pictured at right on the site) says the commercial viability of the Head Street development is in question because of "alleged drainage problems". He says he is disappointed that there seem to be no meaningful negotiations: "I don't know who is talking to whom because I'm not a member of the government, but Minister Baldwin has acted quickly and decisively for all the right reasons. Now it's up to the various interest groups, including the council and developers, to work hand in hand to solve the problems with lateral thinking. Why hasn't the town council done anything about this problem prior to this development being announced." Meanwhile Peter Toyne, the Member for Stuart and a resident of the lower part of Dixon Road, says: "Even now I and my neighbours have to sandbag our homes to prevent them from getting flooded. "We have also had to stand out on the road to turn back or slow down cars whose bow-waves would wash across the protective barriers we had put up."Dr Toyne says the additional paving of the Head Street block for house slabs, access road and driveways would further reduce the local areas which can soak up water, and replace them with a greater catchment area for floodwaters. He also says the loss of the undeveloped space will have a " significant impact on the children and teenagers who use the area for BMX riding" which may lead to "inappropriate use of the Braitling school grounds, Rotprac Park and the Head Street oval".



SUN AND THUNDER - CLIMATE CHANGES IN THE CENTRE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

The small population of Central Australia facing even greater heat and more savage storms can make a difference to global warming by managing well their vast region.And planning buildings and infrastructure now to deal with the climate change of tomorrow, is becoming more urgent. So says research program leader at Alice Springs' CSIRO laboratory, Mark Stafford Smith. The Alice Springs News asked Dr Stafford Smith to give a Central Australian perspective on the latest climate change projections for Australia, published by CSIRO earlier this month. In the best of all scenarios with greenhouse emissions immediately and significantly reduced and scientists getting their projections mostly right the earth is in for an average warming of at least one degree by 2070 because of the greenhouse conditions already generated in the past 50 years. If little is done to reduce emissions, the average warming could be as great as six degrees. If that doesn't sound like much to worry about, remember that the average global temperatures that produced the last ice age were only four to five degrees cooler than those of the twentieth century! For Australia, in line with global results, predictions are for a slightly greater warming than expected five years ago. Dr Stafford Smith says this is mainly due to improvements in the climate modelling being used, and to an improved understanding of the role of sulphur that gets into the atmosphere from power stations and other smoke emissions. Sulphur contributes to greater cloud cover and so has a cooling effect on climate. But it's also a nasty pollutant a significant factor in the acid rains afflicting northern hemisphere forests. A lot of work has been done to reduce its levels in the atmosphere, detracting from its cooling effect, but nonetheless a better result for the environment. Carbon dioxide emissions, in their sheer volume, remain the cause of greatest concern in the greenhouse debate. They are also the biggest factor in the range of uncertainty in the global and Australian projections. What people will decide to do about them largely accounts for the five degree range in the projections for inland Australia. Dr Stafford Smith says Central Australians in 2070 will probably get very few days that are absolutely hotter that those we occasionally experience now, but plenty more of them."That has all sorts of implications," he says. "Unless people change their behaviour a lot", they'll be using more air conditioning, and therefore more energy and more water.There will also be potentially more people suffering from heat stress problems, putting a greater burden on health services. On the positive side, warmer winters will mean less energy used for heating, and will possibly reduce health impacts related to cold weather. "Not everything is negative," says Dr Stafford Smith. "The question is where the balance lies and how we deal with it most effectively." For the first time, in this year's projections, CSIRO has also tried to say what's likely to happen seasonally to rainfall, region by region. One of the main findings has been that northern Australia, including the Centre, is likely to get slight increases in average rainfall, more than was previously expected. But, "because we'll have a higher energy climate," says Dr Stafford Smith, "the rain is likely to come in bigger gulps." In terms of recharging water tables, that may well be good for example, it's probably quite important for remote Aboriginal communities as most of them run on bore water. Will the landscape also become more productive? As the climate will be warmer, evaporation rates will also be greater, so the net effect, in terms of available soil moisture for plants, is likely to be fairly neutral. However, greater carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a fertilising effect on plants: their growth is more efficient per unit of water used. But for this effect to come into play there have to be enough nutrients in the soil. The Centre's least fertile areas, like the spinifex sandplains, are likely to be slightly disadvantaged because of increased evaporation. "The net effects in terms of straight productivity, are hard to call," says Dr Stafford Smith. "We simply don't know enough yet, but, if anything, they are probably neutral to slightly positive in areas which are fertile, and negative in areas which are infertile." Greater average rainfall and more flooding won't, however, eliminate droughts: land managers will still be confronted by some extremely dry periods.
NEXT WEEK: Alice will get more floods, more mozzies and more weeds.

LABOR PROMISES 'DIRECT ACCESS' INSTEAD OF A MINISTER FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA.

Labor will replace the current Ministry for Central Australia and Chief Minister's Office with a more powerful ministerial presence in Alice Springs, if they win the next Territory elections. MLA for Stuart Peter Toyne says: "The new arrangement will offer people in Central Australia direct access to all government ministers without the need to go to Darwin, and represents a major attack on the Berrimah Line."
He says an Office of Central Australia will be created from within existing resources by taking the following steps:- Each of the seven Ministers will have a dedicated staff position based in Alice Springs, using resources currently attached to the Chief Minister's office and other Ministerial offices. Video conferencing facilities will be established in the Alice Springs office and in Parliament House to allow face to face meetings with Ministers in Darwin.
Cabinet meetings will be held regularly in Alice Springs at least six based in the new office and supported by local Ministerial staff to ensure that Central Australian priorities are strongly considered. The office will play a strategic role coordinating the development and delivery of policies relevant to Central Australia, says Dr Toyne.
"By contrast, the Chief Minister's Office has become a haven for CLP political candidates and few people in Central Australia would be able to name one substantial achievement of the various CLP Ministers for Central Australia," says Dr Toyne. "The establishment of the office will be tangible proof of Labor's intention to get rid of the Berrimah Line so that people in Central Australia get equal access to their government."

What half a million a day could do for us. COMMENT by CLARE MARTIN, N.T. OPPOSITION LEADER.

By the time you read this article, the CLP Government will have delivered its 23rd budget that the Chief Minister had already foreshadowed will contain an increase in debt.Taking on yet more debt should be of concern to every Territorian, and especially the people of Alice Springs. At a time when every other Australian jurisdiction is either reducing debt, or maintaining modest levels of debt, the CLP are intent on putting more and more expenditure on the Bankcard.The Northern Territory is saddled with the highest debt per head of population of any State or Territory. Gross debt of the NT is now over $2.2 billion and set to go even higher. That is over $11,000 for every one of us accumulated in just 23 years since Self-Government. That is by far and away the highest of any other State or Territory.That debt costs over $500,000 a day to service in interest payments.To put this in perspective, you could run the Alice Springs Hospital, the Alice Springs Gaol, every government high school and remote area school in the Territory, and still have change from $500,000 a day.Even national Treasurer Peter Costello referred in his federal budget speech last week to the need "to get the debt monkey off our backs".The CLP want you to believe that the debt was acquired to put in place necessary infrastructure. Why then can every other State reduce or stabilise their debt levels while still providing schools, hospitals, roads and water and sewerage? NSW was able to stage the Olympic Games, with all of the infrastructure that entailed, while still reducing debt.No, the real reason our debt is so high, and climbing higher, is that the CLP Government have completely failed to live within their means in nearly every year since 1978. In 2000-01, the CLP brought down a budget with a predicted deficit of $45 million. Barely six months later, this was revised up to $146 million.Part of the revision reflects the purchase of "Porky's Power Line" between Katherine and Darwin for $43 million. A line we no longer need, and paid way too much for.But what about the rest of the increase?
The people of Alice Springs need to understand what they are sacrificing when it comes to servicing the Territory's debt. There is no money to boost incentives for business to locate in the Territory, or to reduce the payroll tax on those that are here. Business investment and jobs growth are stalled as a result.
Education and health are being squeezed. Just $28,000 a day would employ another 100 teachers and 100 nurses, but the CLP can't find the money.
The Ilparpa Swamp remains a festering breeding ground for exotic weeds and mosquitoes awaiting an appropriate long term environmental and ecological solution.
The Tanami Road remains badly substandard despite being essential for the gold mines in the region. It would take just 12 days worth of interest payments to bring that road up to an all weather standard, guaranteeing year-round jobs for the people of Alice Springs.
One of the largest impacts of high debt for the people of Alice Springs is that funds have been pulled from remote communities, eroding the provision of proper health, education and housing services, and diminishing the opportunities for economic development and employment. This in turn forces more people into towns like Alice Springs seeking a better life as communities are burdened with growing social dysfunction.Labor's plan to build a better Territory will stop the extravagant spending of the CLP to ensure that we get value for money for the services we provide and the infrastructure we build right across the Territory. Labor will ensure that towns like Alice Springs and the surrounding regions get the funding they deserve to deliver an improvement in services and lifestyle.

ELECTION ISSUES SHAPING SLOWLY. CLP candidate Jodeen Carney speaks with ERWIN CHLANDA.

Jodeen Carney could be excused for wondering why she didn't stand for council instead of the Assembly seat of Araluen. She says "85 to 90 per cent" of issues raised in her door knocking are municipal matters such as street lighting in Willshire Street and beautification in Ashwin Street. "Council seems to work even more slowly than government," says the CLP candidate, who spends much of her campaign time passing on demands from the public to local government, and monitoring what's being done about them. But she says of those people in the blue ribbon CLP seat 69 per cent of the vote in the last election who do comment on Territory government issues, 90 per cent are in favour of mandatory sentencing, and overwhelmingly concerned with issues of law and order and "itinerants". Says Ms Carney: "I wouldn't have expected people at this stage to even talk about mandatory sentencing. "A couple of doors I've knocked on, people have asked, are you the party that supports mandatory sentencing, because if you are I'm voting for you. "A guy spoke to me about his endless frustration over young kids breaking into houses. "As a lawyer I told him there's a difficulty because unless you catch people in the act the police have very little to work with. "He was also concerned, as were other people, about the enforcement of the two kilometre law." Says Ms Carney: "It is not enforced as vigorously as it should be and I will make it an absolute priority to ensure that it is. "I don't know why it is apparently so difficult. "It's the law. We enforce the law almost everywhere else. "I live in The Gap, not far away from the Gapview Hotel. And I see people drinking [in public]." Ms Carney says proposed alcohol supply restrictions currently before the Liquor Commission are "worth a go if the overwhelming evidence is that [the restrictions] will assist problems in town. "However, I'd like to see ideas to make the problem go away proposed by community leaders." She says the alcohol issue, at least the way it's portrayed by the media, is "driven by white community leaders". "If you accept that problem drinkers in this town are 300 Aboriginal people, I'm wondering where are the Aboriginal community leaders, those dynamic, respected elders whom everybody Indigenous and non-Indigenous listens to? What are they saying? What are their proposals to fix the problem?" Ms Carney's views that not all remedies should come from the government apply equally to youth crime and education. "To some extent things are not within the government's control. "For instance, about those people who constantly commit crime, the question has to be asked, what can government do? "I think you need to go back to the other end and say, what can those community groups do for Aboriginal people who commit crime? "Why are they committing crime? Why aren't some of those Aboriginal organisations assisting these people to break out of their mould? "Government need to respond but they can't cure. "I see education as the key. I don't mean Rhodes Scholars. I mean people who can read and write and survive in our contemporary world. "Government can encourage, facilitate and assist getting Aboriginal kids to school, as indeed they can with white kids. "But parents need to take responsibility, in the same way my parents did with four kids. "Even if there was a law to pick up children and drop them in school grounds, each child would need to have a supportive family around to encourage the child to stay there. "Children need to see the benefit in education. "Parents need to say, go to school. "It's not something that should be up for debate. Can government force parents who are saying, well, I don't really care that my kid doesn't go to school? I'm not sure that they can." Ms Carney says the Community Welfare Act "does not enable Welfare or Family and Children's Service to take children away just because they are not going to school". "The Act provides that where a child is being neglected, where a parent is unable or unwilling to maintain that child, where the child has been subjected to various forms of abuse, or where a child is mistreated causing serious impairment, then Welfare can intervene and take a child away." Ms Carney says Welfare can't act unilaterally: "It must go before a court. The parents, the child and the Minister are invariably represented." Wagging school "should not be the domain of the Community Welfare Act which is designed essentially for the protection of children from abuse or neglect". Ms Carney says governments are funding many programs to " encourage the parents to be healthy, not to be consumed by alcohol ... to be sober, sensible parents". "They can then turn their minds to the needs of their children. "However, a government can't just pluck a program out of the air and make it work. "It needs to be done with the cooperation and advice of Aboriginal organisations. "There needs to be a working relationship." Ms Carney says her door knocking has revealed outrage by nearby residents over "classic anti social behaviour" in the Cawood Court public housing complex. She says she is "appalled" at the state of the flats and is lobbying "ferociously" Housing Minister Richard Lim. "High density housing has served it purpose," says Ms Carney. "The Cawood Court flats are not even all occupied. "Their state is so dreadful that many of the residents there would much more enjoy living somewhere else." She says the government should "partially demolish these units, space them out, and beautify the area".

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