Central Australia will benefit from significant infrastructure spending in this year's Budget, as well as from tax cuts, including the abolition of the HIH levy, Minister for Central Australia, Peter Toyne, announced yesterday.
Record infrastructure spending of $441 million "will provide a considerable boost to the local construction industry, as will the Government's continuing commitment to opening up residential land release in Alice Springs, evidenced by the $1 million for headworks at Mt Johns Valley," said Dr Toyne.
Dr Toyne said increased resources in health would see more beds and more health professionals in the Alice Springs Hospital and extra nurses in remote communities.
Local schools would benefit from a new small grants program and more money going into literacy and information technology.
"We are also putting money behind our commitment to getting extra police on the beat and putting resources behind community crime fighting initiatives," he said.
"Local business will benefit from payroll tax changes and specific industry boosts such as more than $500,000 for tourism destination marketing in the Centre.
Spending on tourism infrastructure, roads, and strategic development projects will be a welcome investment in the region, benefiting the tourism and construction industries, as well as the wider community.
¥ $38 million to upgrade the Mereenie Loop Road over three years.
¥ $25.6 million to build the Desert Knowledge Precinct over two years.
¥ $11 million for Alice Springs Hospital over the next four years to expand the Intensive Care/High Dependency Unit. The money will also help attract and retain specialists in the Centre.
¥ $1 million for headworks for Mt Johns Valley residential subdivision.
¥ $1.7 million to complete the upgrade of Traeger Park, including a new grandstand and
¥ $1 million for further upgrading and sealing of the Tanami Road.
¥ $1 million to upgrade bridges at Chinaman Creek and Salt Creek.
¥ $460,000 for Stuart Highway rehabilitation and widening.
¥ $900,000 for a fire safety upgrade at Alice Springs Hospital.
¥ $250,000 to complete an airconditioning upgrade at Gillen Primary School.
¥ $1 million for public housing in Alice Springs to meet increased demand.
¥ $410,000 to construct a new power station at Docker River.
¥ $400,000 for a new power station at Nyirripi.
¥ $360,000 for a new power generating set at Yuendumu.
¥ $220,000 to upgrade the police holding cell at Ti Tree.
¥ $270,000 for a Stage One project to drill and equip bores at Alcoota.
¥ $160,000 for a new power generating set at Hermannsburg.
¥ $150,000 to extend the power station at Imanpa.
Initiatives supporting local business include:
¥ $640,000 for CATIA to provide visitor information and market the region.
¥ $500,000 for additional marketing of destinations.
¥ $850,000 for monitoring, extension and advisory services to local land-holders.
¥ $220,000 to develop new table grape varieties.
¥ $150,000 for an arid zone pastoral research area at Owen Springs Station.
¥ $360,000 for mineral and petroleum exploration in the Amadeus Basin.
¥ $320,000 for the Territory Business Centre.
Jobs and training in the Centre get a boost with:
¥ $500,000 for Desert Knowledge.
¥ $1.05 million for tertiary programs at the Alice campuses of Charles Darwin University and Batchelor Institute.
¥ $580,000 for training for Indigenous people.
¥ $390,000 for Footprints Forward to improve employment opportunities for Indigenous people in Alice Springs.
¥ $50,000 for skills development and training for young people with disabilities.
To build safer communities, the Budget includes:
¥ $30.5 million for police, fire and emergency services in the Alice Springs region.
¥ $20.92 million for operations at Alice Springs Correctional Centre.
¥ $1.31 million for community corrections for adult and juvenile clients.
¥ $2.4 million for child protection services working with families at risk.
¥ $1.97 million for court services to regional and remote communities.
¥ $620,000 for a range of justice services in the region.
¥ $320,000 for a large fire fighting tanker for Alice Springs Fire Station.
¥ $38,000 for volunteer bush fire brigades in the region.
¥ $260,000 for the Community Harmony Strategy.
To support better education outcomes for Central Australia, the Budget is providing:
¥ $23.4 million to deliver primary and early childhood education in urban schools.
¥ $20.02 million for early childhood, primary and post primary education in remote schools.
¥ $19 million for non-government schools.
¥ $13.05 million for Government secondary schools in Alice Springs.
¥ $190,000 for the Accelerated Literacy Project at Gillen Primary and Anzac Hill High.
To support the great lifestyle in Central Australia, the Budget has allowed:
¥ $5.07 million to manage facilities and collections at the Araluen Centre, Museums of
Central Australia and the Strehlow Research Centre.
¥ $2.74 million to support the Alice Springs Desert Park.
¥ $800,000 to monitor the quality and quantity of the region's ground- and surfacewater.
¥ $1 million for bushfire mitigation, fire control operations and fire management.
¥ $500,000 for the Alice Springs Masters Games.
¥ $390,000 for weed management.
¥ $100,000 for the Alice Springs Desert Song festival.
¥ $30,000 for flood forecasting services for the Todd River.
JOBS WORTH THEIR WEIGHT IN GOLD. SPECIAL REPORT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Granites Mine in the Tanami Desert tackles Aboriginal employment like the myriad of risks in its business, gouging gold from nearly a kilometre under ground.
"I won't say the mining industry is dangerous because it is not," says Brian Fowler, Newmont Australia's environment and community relations manager.
"Mining is an industry that has risks which we manage."
He has the same undoubting approach to creating the first mainstream employment for Aboriginal people in Australia's most remote region, a task that has remained well beyond the capabilities of politicians, bureaucrats and activists.
And being 570 kilometres from the nearest town Ð Alice Springs Ð isn't making his job any easier.
Or is it?
The American company took over from Normandy Mining four years ago and now has 650 staff in its far flung Tanami interests.
They currently include two operating mines, and exploration over thousands of square kilometres.
All this is happening on Aboriginal owned land.
Ten per cent of the workforce is Aboriginal Ð 68 people, mostly men.
Two thirds of these are from Central Australia.
Eight are from "outlying communities", including Yuendumu and Lajamanu, targeted as the principal recruiting places for Newmont.
It's going to be a long haul Ð but that doesn't daunt Mr Fowler nor his second in charge, Bonita Liddle, a member of the large and influential Aboriginal Liddle family in Alice Springs.
Ms Liddle is the sister of the Northern Territory's Deputy to the Administrator, Pat Miller. (The Administrator is the Territory's equivalent to Governor.)
The company's immediate target is to have a staff that is 15 per cent Aboriginal, more later.
That Newmont is planning a school teaching the basic thee Rs, not to kids, but to adults keen to get a job, is a measure of the task's magnitude.
Education in the "bush" was in the too hard basket during 26 years of Country Liberal Party governments.
The NT's first Labor Government, now almost three years in power, has done little more than commissioning reports and now, presumably, reading them.
Newmont will start a pre-vocational mining course in the middle of the year, probably an eight or 10 week program, on site, with assistance from the NT Government.
"At the end of that we'll have jobs, either immediately or soon after the course," says Mr Fowler.
That's also a significant difference from the norm: many black students, even if they finish Year 12, have nowhere to go.
Unemployment on communities is often more than 80 per cent.
There is practically no employment outside local government, a smattering of Aboriginal organisations and the broadly discredited work for the dole, 15 hours a week.
A working week at the Granites is 84 hours.
In communities there will be a second tier program for people who want to work but need to first learn to read and write adequately.
Isn't that just basic primary school stuff?
"Absolutely," says Mr Fowler.
"For some people that's what it's going to be.
"They've slipped through the cracks."
The broader course will take about eight months.
There will be about 10 people at a time in each phase.
The skills are transferable: senior first aid, licences, skills in vehicle maintenance, heavy machinery operating licences, says Mr Fowler.
Aboriginal settlements, as they were previously called, are places of stultifying boredom, frequently racked by substance abuse, people on welfare, generation after generation.
Is that the kind of place you would want to get your workforce from?
You bet, says Mr Fowler, an ebullient mining veteran, including six years in Tennant Creek.
He always had a smile on his face and knew the first names of all the people we saw while I was in his company over two days "on site".
Mr Fowler typically plays down the obstacles and focuses on the opportunities.
These are significant.
Aboriginal people like working on their own land, roughly half the Territory's land mass, signed over to them in the land rights process that started in 1976.
They have no problem with the concept of mining, although initially they are daunted by it, says Mr Fowler.
Aborigines love machines and are very good with them. Despite the exterior appearance of their cars, they are incredibly resourceful bush mechanics.
And machines don't come much bigger than in mining.
Colin Liddle drives an articulated dump truck that costs $1.4m and hauls 50 tonnes from the bowels of the earth, up a corkscrew like tunnel with a one in seven incline.
"It's good, driving the truck underground," says Mr Liddle.
"You've got to be careful. It's tight as.
"Everybody's good out here. There's a good atmosphere.
"You meet a lot of people from down south.
"It's good being away from town, working out bush here."
He is employed under exactly the same conditions as any other dump truck driver.
He eats the same food in the same canteen, as does everybody, from the general manager down.
Mr Liddle drinks in the same pub Ð as much as he likes Ð so long his alcohol level is back to zero at the start of the next shift.
If it is not he's likely to get sprung in one of the many random breath tests "on site".
Like all staff he sleeps in a transportable building known as a "donga", air conditioned, some with and some without en-suite.
Like all dump truck drivers, Mr Liddle makes $1000 a week, works 12 hour shifts, 14 days straight, followed by a week off, for which he's flown home to Alice Springs at company expense.
As members of a specialised and highly paid team black mine workers receive absolutely equal treatment.
However, they seem to take this for granted, as none of the people I talked with made any special mention of it.
Most people I asked had been referred to Newmont by the Central Land Council (CLC), which negotiated the mining agreement under the Northern Territory Land Rights Act.
(The Act requires the company to pay to Aboriginal interests royalties amounting to 10 per cent of turnover. Mr Fowler says the CLC negotiated further royalties of about 2.5 per cent, and obtained assurances of employment opportunities.)
The stereotype of Aborigines being good workers but liable to go walkabout at the drop of a hat, is still widely accepted as fact by mainstream employers in Central Australia, resulting in black employment being concentrated in Aboriginal organisations funded from the public purse, or from mining and other royalties.
The Granites initiatives explode that myth no less dramatically than ammonium nitrate tears gold bearing ore from the face of the drive.
Average employment for Aboriginal workers at the mine is four years.
Many began well before Newmont took over.
Says Wayne "Batman" Bathern, as he slides tubes of explosives into the drill holes: "I started about eight years ago.
"I was working out bush with a brumby runner.
"We were driving past The Granites.
"We said we'll come back out here one day and we did.
"The land council helped us out a bit."
It's a good life but sometimes "it gets a bit lonely," says Mr Bathern.
Jamie Roman's bogger is also worth $1.4m and its bucket lifts 16 tonnes of ore into the dump truck with a single scoop.
"The money is good," he says.
"It's a challenge.
"It's good experience from where I come from, Alice Springs.
"I had a brother who worked here.
"He was an excavator operator in the open pits.
"There were jobs going underground and he got me interested in it.
"I've been here four years. It's good."
Gary Armstrong and his white mate are installing a polythene pipeline in the main tunnel, some 200 metres below sea level.
It's a half hour drive to the surface, if you're behind a dump truck and there's opposite traffic to which you need to give way.
The dirt floor is wet and you slosh in your rubber boots through puddles.
Outside it's a cool day, mainly blue sky, a typically beautiful winter day in the desert.
Down here it's humid and warm.
In summer it can be beastly under ground, says our guide, a young mining engineer.
On your belt is a breathing mask that can keep you alive for 15 minutes if you're running, 45 if you sit still.
You always look for the pointers to the rescue chambers in which 20 people can survive for 40 hours despite an inferno outside.
A cave-in is unlikely in the rocky ground, but a vehicle fire can happen.
For Mr Armstrong it's now all in a day's work: "I heard a lot about the Granites Mine, from people I know around Alice.
"I was interested because I'd done a lot of off-siding for exploration companies on drilling rigs.
"I also worked with surveyors up around north west Queensland."
How is the camp?
"Do you really want to know?" he laughs.
"You're away from home, you get your own room, three meals a day.
"All you need is cigarettes and drinks.
"I enjoy the work.
"People are out here for the money.
"Either you like it or you don't."
Steve Satour is a man of few words.
He's been there four years, also after being referred by the CLC.
"What do I like best? Probably the people I work with."
He is the only black person in the core sample shed.
Sample prepper Johnny Pepperill is from the TiTree area north of Alice Springs.
Like most Territory Aborigines he has "rellies" all over the NT and now spends a lot of time in Darwin.
Says Mr Fowler: "Johnny hasn't missed a day's work since January 2003, hasn't blown a shift, does exactly as he's asked to, day in, day out.
"He never complains, just happy to be working."
Mr Pepperill says he joined the work force after a two week mining course.
"You get a chance to learn what you don't know.
"You gain skills and knowledge," he says.
"You can get tickets for machinery.
"When you finish you can get a job anywhere else.
"That's really good. I enjoy it here.
"Other places are hard. It's good out here."
Warlpiri woman Patsy Cusak (five years on site Ð "you can get less for murder," she says) and her friend from the north of WA, Beverly Hubert (three years), both work in the laundry.
Says Ms Cusak: "I found the job myself because I know about the area.
"It's good living out here. You've got everything you need.
"My people are very happy I work on my land."
Says Ms Hubert: "I bumped into Patsy one day. We're friends.
"She told me about the job.
"Do I like the job? I haven't really thought about it.
"You have your days, I suppose."
A constant in the responses is the predicability of the life "on site".
Is that what mission life was like in what are now widely seen as the bad old days?
The order "on site" Ð although well short of the regimentation on some mining camps Ð must be bliss when compared to the chaotic and impoverished circumstances endured by many Aboriginal people in The Centre, in town as well as "out bush".
Newmont is clearly conscious of the need to make concessions to Aboriginal lifestyles while drawing the line short of allowing it to disrupt the main game.
For example, passers-by are resolutely discouraged from dropping into the camp, which is on the dirt road between Alice Springs and Broome. But Aboriginal visitors are welcome Ð to a point.
Says Ms Liddle: "Families are not allowed to stay in the rooms.
"That's for everybody, unless it's a pre-arranged and authorised visit.
"So we don't have the problem of families coming on site and disrupting workers.
"They understand that their sons or their husbands are here to work and they don't come and humbug them."
On the other hand the mine is exceedingly generous with its help for stranded motorists, usually between Lajamanu and Yuendumu, some 600 kilometres apart.
"We're affectionately called the Granites Garage because we're half way between the communities," says Mr Fowler.
"The motorcars break down or the people just drop in, we need some water, got no tucker.
"And we help them out.
"It's meant to be for emergencies but that's how we do it.
"The boys will help them as much as they possibly can."
In just four years, and with not much to build on, Newmont has made advances that have eluded the Ayers Rock Resort and its predecessors for two and a half decades.
Initially an NT Government project, the resort has about 1000 staff but not a single one from the Mutitjulu community at the base of The Rock where un- or underemployment is usually around 90 per cent.
A limited training program for teenagers is under way at the resort. Time will tell whether that is merely a token.
So how did Newmont get to where it is?
It set up a division with a staff of three and a budget of $500,000.
A good slice of this is spent on tangible help ranging from fixing cars to taking Aboriginal people back to their communities in the event of family dramas.
Mr Fowler: "Initially there was no trust with the local communities, including Yunedumu and Lajamanu.
"There was little trust with the CLC.
"We talked to the people.
"It was all about listening and talking to people and being prepared to have a conversation.
"We built up trust.
"The people now know us when we go to the communities," says Mr Fowler.
"We wear our company shirts and it's Ôyou mob, pleased to see you here. G'day. How yer goin?'
"We treated these people like people.
"You go to a meeting and someone would say, hey, I know somebody, he's going to work for you, and I want him to work on my country.
"And that's what we're starting to see more of.
"I want my people working on my country.
"It's part of that trust.
"Oh, that fellow works in the mine. Maybe it's not so bad after all.
"And they say, yep, we're happy with the Newmont mob, we know they do the right thing, they employ our people, we get benefits, so therefore we let them come and mine on our ground.
"They know that if we say we're going to do this, then we're going to do it.
"In the past there's been a lot of people saying, we're going to do these things, and nothing ever happened."
Ms Liddle says now the workers themselves are ambassadors for the company:
"They go back to their communities fully uniformed.
"They wear their ID tags around. And they come back fully dressed in their uniforms."
Mr Fowler says "it was very much us and them" with the CLC.
"Then we told them, every job we've got we'll tell you about and give you the opportunity to supply us with employees.
"That was one of the core changes.
"We also started to enforce with our contractors the target of 20 per cent Aboriginal employment set by the previous owner, Normandy."
Racist conduct gets jumped on from a great height, says Mr Fowler.
If that doesn't work, the message is: "You've just earned yourself a window seat, Sunshine" Ð on the aircraft out.
"Aboriginal people don't run into racism here, generally speaking.
"We don't tolerate any nonsense in the workplace.
"If there is a problem we deal with it.
"We don't back away from racism, or any of the things that go on.
"It's just dealt with straight away.
"And that's largely underpinned our success."
Now, says Mr Fowler, Newmont has "critical mass.
"It's not one black face in a sea of white faces.
"There's a group of Aboriginal people working with a group of white people.
"And they integrate.
"You won't see a table of whitefellers over one side and blackfellers over another side. You don't see that, not in the dining room nor in the bar."
What's in it for Newmont? Plenty.
The company motto says altruistic conduct is Newmont's "social licence to operate".
More tangibly, the fortnightly R&R repatriations cost a fortune.
At present many of the staff are from Perth.
But even that, in the grand scheme of things, is just small beer.
Says mine General Manager Leigh Taylor: "In the next 20 years, 90 per cent of our mining will be on Aboriginal land.
"It's necessary for us to be perceived as an opportunity for our local communities, not a threat.
"To have access to land is the key to having sustainability.
"We're using employment as the lever to achieve that goal."
YOUTH HANG ON FOR A HANG-OUT. Report by JULIA WINTERFLOOD.
It's almost two, Sunday morning.
About ten of us, lying in a circle on the grass.
It's so comfortable that we're almost tempted to do an all-nighter, but the thought of doonahs and pillows is just too much; we head home.
At least twice a month, pre or post party/gathering/movie, an eclectic group of teenagers end up in the same place.
It's quiet, secluded, and dark. A place where we can do anything. Hang out and relax, smoke and drink, catch up with friends and talk.
At the risk of extending an over-exposed Central Australian metaphor, it's a sacred site.
We hang out at this place, not only because it's fairly central and relaxed, but also because there just isn't anywhere else.
You knew I was going to say it, so here it is: there aren't many designated places where the youth of Alice Springs can go to simply hang out.
Or perhaps it's a case of there aren't many designated places that we ever fully utilise?
Two of the most prominent places, the Skate Park and the Alice Springs Youth Centre, have both had a definite decline in popularity.
"We used to go to the youth centre every single Friday night, but I haven't been for about a year now."
"It's too dangerous. There were fights every week, and my bike got stolen," said 13-year-old Michael Kershaw.
Lance Jabaltjarri (14) said "it's an age thing, you kind of grow out of the youth centre".
Grow out of and into what?
"We go to the skate park sometimes, but that's pretty dangerous too.
"There's older kids who'll bash you if you don't let them have a go on your bike, so we just end up riding around town instead."
"This usually ends up in getting hassled by the cops, because we stay in town pretty late, Ôtil one or two am sometimes," added Jackson Kershaw (15). This definitely wouldn't be supported by Murray Stewart, an aldermanic candidate in this month's local government elections.
If elected to council, Murray wants to instigate a curfew for those under 16, between 10pm and 6am every night, excluding those fulfilling occupational or educational pursuits.
According to Mr Stewart: "Most of the vandalism to businesses in this town occurs between midnight and three am, usually by 13, 14 and 15-year-olds.
"It's as much about the security of these businesses as the safety of young people.
"Our streets are not a safe place for them to be at this time of night."
If children were to break the curfew, he says, then the police would be involved. They would give the kids the choice of either being escorted home, or to a "safety house", a secure environment where they could stay until their parents collected them.
And how is it going to be funded?
"Funds would need to be redirected from current programs and systems that aren't working.
"Also, the Indigenous community would have to accept that some of their royalties may have to be utilised."
Mitch Nuegent, 13, practically exploded when he was made aware of the potential curfew.
"It's crap! They can't just do that.
"We're not little five-year-olds. What are we supposed to do at home? Play Monopoly or something?"
Mitch and his mates ride their bikes between the skate park, Hungry Jacks, the Mall and the Traeger Park sports complex most weekends, usually until about midnight.
He says there have been a few occasions when older teenagers have threatened them, but nothing has ever eventuated and he's "never done anything serious".
14-year-old Sally Norton, said her parents wouldn't be too keen on a youth curfew.
"I reckon my parents would go so crazy if I was home every night, they'd probably end up throwing me out of the house."
Bec Renwick (15) agreed: "You can't do that. 10pm is stupid. Maybe on weeknights but on weekends it's unfair.
"I'm in town Ôtil late on Fridays and Saturdays.
"I've never felt unsafe, or smashed anything up."
Teenagers hanging out in town during the day, primarily in Alice Plaza or Yeperenye is, like skaters in the Mall, an issue that has had significant coverage by local media in the past.
Yet the dispute between youth and authority continues.
"We mostly just hang around the Plaza or the Mall or in Yippies, on bikes or just walking, said Sam Williams (16).
"But we always get moved on by the cops or security guards.
"We don't know why though, we're not damaging anything or hurting anyone. "They must hate us or something, cause they never leave us alone."
12-year-old Harry Edwards and his mates "build lots of dirt jumps, mostly around the drains".
Petey Coitts, (13) said, "It takes ages, and everyone helps. When the jumps are finished, it's the best thing and we spend all afternoon there.
"But then some men from the council come and flatten them all out.
"It's really sad when that happens."
Is the destruction of homemade dirt jumps one of the "action-orientated" policies that Murray Stewart speaks of in his brochure, recently distributed to Alice households, and whose talk of a youth curfew incensed my younger brother and his friends?
If this is all the action on youth issues that potential new faces on Council are proposing, then the youth of this town may well continue to pose far more challenges than solutions for public policy-makers.
Where are the young people in the aged and weary line-up of "older, manic" hopefuls recently displayed in the local press? Maybe the answer is to get inside the Council Chamber if you're under 25, and not just hang around outside it.
DROP CATIA: MAYORAL CANDIDATE. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The option of monthly rate payments, surveillance cameras in antisocial behaviour hot spots, spreading the word about the town's multi-cultural make-up, and quitting CATIA while setting up the council's own tourist promotion are key planks in Joanna Jansen's council election platform.
She is standing for mayor and alderman.
Ms Jansen says current tourist promotion links the town too much with Ayers Rock.
Instead, the town as a whole, as well as its individual attractions, should be advertised in their own right.
Ms Jansen (pictured at left at her work place, Littlefish - Pangaea, which uses graphics to convey inormation) says the council could cancel its CATIA membership and entice other members to resign as well.
Subscription money saved in this way would start off a fund for a council managed promotion effort.
Ms Jansen claims even Tennant Creek is promoting itself better than Alice Springs.
"They're advertised on local TV and they also have quite a bit of exposure down south," says Ms Jansen. "I've stayed in a couple of motels and seen their advertising.
"Alice Springs is too linked with The Rock.
"Let's just separate ourselves a little bit, [each] as a destination in its own right."
The Dutch-born candidate, 25 years in Alice, has worked in the public service and in private enterprise.
She says a team of council officers, operating in a way similar to school police constables, should help the town's youth to "understand the opposite culture and foster public debate".
Ms Jansen says although this would be a new expenditure it would be worth-while.
Ms Jansen asks: "How much money are we going to spend to again make Alice Springs the best place to live? When I came here it was."
KILGARIFF WANTS OK FOR CIVIC CENTRE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
There were no sharp questions for council officers or the Mayor and Deputy Mayor when aldermanic candidates were briefed on "topical issues" last week.
Present were Robyn Lambley, Phillip Walker, Jane Mure, Joanna Jansen, Jane Ulrik, Hal Duell and Miguel Occiones.
Despite statements by a number of them that the call for tenders for the Civic Centre upgrade should be put on hold (see last week's issue), none asked why the council is insisting on its May 21 schedule for that next step.
Had one of them asked CEO Rex Mooney, leading the proceedings, he would no doubt have said, as he did to the Alice News, that this was a question for the elected members, as he only took up his post late in the process.
On all other aspects of the upgrade the CEO at the briefing argued the case, saying, for instance, that it is "far more" than an upgrade of the administration's offices, giving Alice Springs "the nearest thing" to a town hall.
In declining to comment on the timing of the tender call, is he trying to distance himself from what one candidate, Hal Duell, has described as "uncivil haste"?
Mayor Fran Kilgariff is, however, unapologetic over the timing.
"This council regards the Civic Centre upgrade as one of their accomplishments.
"The process has been going on for 12 years.
"It took this council four years to get it to this stage.
"If we stop now then the next council in four years' time would still be where we are now.
"The new council will have so much to do, including the budget and their strategic planning.
"I doubt that they would feel confident about tackling this issue for another year. That was the case with this council," says Ms Kilgariff.
The current council is nonetheless prepared to leave another tricky issue for the new council to handle: a decision on kerbside recycling.
They recently surveyed (and not for the first time) all rateable residential properties and received a decisive yes vote for recycling including glass (1837 to 1335).
However, once Joint Defence Facility and Housing Commission households are subtracted from the results (because these households don't represent "the general ratepaying public") the nays have it.
"You'll have to decide what all that means," the Mayor told candidates, with a laugh.
One candidate at the briefing, Mr Occiones, did ask a question about whether rates would be affected by the Civic Centre plans.
No, said Ian Maclay, council's finance director, because council is used to putting aside reserves that exceed the amount of the likely repayments.
"We don't foresee any effect on the delivery of services or a need to raise rates," said Mr Maclay.
The Alice News asked Mayor Kilgariif about the sums on this.
Council has reserves equalling $3m that they will put into the upgrade.
They have achieved this by setting aside $600,000 a year.
They want to take out a loan of $5m (they are at present in the process of getting the NT Government go ahead, which they expect "within weeks").
Annual repayments of that loan over 15 years are expected to be $520,000.
That leaves $80,000 out of the amount they are "used to" putting aside.
Is this enough to have in reserve, to cover unforeseen infrastructure costs?
Says Ms Kilgariff: "Until we know the conditions of the loan, we won't know how much we will be putting back into the reserves.
"But the loan has to be vetted by the Department of Local Government. There are strict requirements about your financial capabilities."
In other words, trust us.
Deputy Mayor Koch told the candidates that the current council has been "debt free" for three years, making it "probably a miracle council".
He said its proposed $5m loan was a "very conservative approach" financially.
There was clarification about what the now generally accepted $8m figure will cover: everything, including landscaping, carparking, furniture and fitout, but not public art.
"Public art hadn't gained prominence until the recent seminar," Mayor Kilgariff told the News, refrring to the March 29 forum at the Convention Centre.
Pubic art will be one of the subjects up for discussion at a public meeting scheduled for July 6. Library planning will be another.
There were no questions about why the council hadn't included the library in Stage One of its plans Ð one of the more persistent community concerns Ð but there was a new justification from Mr Mooney.
No one else would ever fund the construction of a new Civic Centre, he argued, but "because of Indigenous use" council is hopeful that the Federal Government will invest in a new library.
This was underlined by Ald Koch: "Indigenous use is showing patterns of improvement and growth, which gives us a realistically high possibility of getting external funds for the library."
Mr Mooney said council was "actively seeking" funding at present and estimated that a new library would be built in "three to seven years' time".
Meanwhile, council is recruiting "a security guard, no, a community liaison person with security guard registration", for a three month stint at the library, according to the Mayor.
She says council is looking for "someone who can talk to people but who'll also be able to move people on if necessary".
The person will be asked to conduct a survey of library patrons, asking them where they are from, why they are in town, and why they are using the library.
Mayor Kilgariff says library visitation has dropped off from its peak last summer of 1000 visitors a day to a more manageable 700.
"By the time next summer comes around there will be new air-conditioning, new chairs, and the cleaning regime will have doubled."
The library has also just been freshly painted and had new shelving installed.
DRY YEAR AND FEW FLOWERS, BUT NOW AN AUTUMN OF BUTTERFLIES. Report by MEG MOONEY.
After a dry year with few flowers, it seems like an autumn of butterflies.
Maybe they've come into gardens more, or they're just more obvious with the lack of flowers or perhaps they've appeared after that bit of rain in February.
I left my straggly orange daisies almost into winter for their visitors: large black velvet creatures, like gloved hands fluttering.
Each wing with three white spots jewelled with blue haloes.
This butterfly's name, the common eggfly, does not do it justice.
It's a beautiful creature which I first noticed around 2000, when it seemed to come with the big rains.
The female is not quite so glamorous, with red-brown and white patches on the upper wings.
Australian butterflies are from the families of whites, browns, blues and swallowtails, unbelievably sensible names.
Butterflies are simply the day-flying families of moths which rest with their wings upright, have clubbed antennae, meaning they have a lump on the end, and don't have a spine which couples their front and back wings together.
So most of the moths are moths (over 20,000 species in Australia) and some of them are butterflies (around 400 Australian species).
Caper whites, with a black edging, are common here.
They lay their eggs on plants in the caper family, like the wild passionfruit bush. The eggs hatch into green caterpillars which proceed to strip the bush of leaves, then they settle down into cocoons along the tips of the branches.
The white butterflies all emerge around the same time, you see clouds of them around passionfruit bushes, which are often along creek lines, for example near Glen Helen and on the Ross River road.
Like the caper white, many of the whites are plain on top, but when they close their wings you see fine traceries, often with yellow highlights.
The jezebels (a genus of whites) are particularly striking with red, yellow and black underwings.
The white species also include the yellows.
Lemon migrants- now there's a good name - were fluttering around the pale yellow balls of the melaleuca at my work.
When they fold their wings, they make dark lemon leaf shapes, the leaves moving as if there's a slight breeze.
The browns are often brown and black and like the yellows commonly have plain outlines, not too frilly.
I've had meadow argus, a species you find all over the world, around my daisies.
I first learnt this butterfly from the cards in cigarette packets when I was a child - we used to get these cards out of old packets from the gutters on the way home from school.
You see clouds of tiny, smoky blues around the base of mulga trees.
I'm glad I've planted some of these trees in my garden, for this and many other reasons.
Look for the larger Ogyris butterflies, a brilliant light blue, around mistletoe on mulga.
A sudden gust of wind, or the cat or I get too close and the butterflies zig-zag off wildly, disappear over the neighbour's fence.
They look like they can't control where they're going, but I suspect there's more purpose to this movement than it seems.
I look out for their return.
It cheers me, this autumn of butterflies, as if they are flowering and proof that something always will, even in a dry year.
REEL SEX AND VIOLENCE. Report by TYRONNE SWIFT.
Violence is more harmful in movies than sex; Alice Springs is more open minded than other communities: these are some of the views put forward by locals who took part in a focus group for the Office of Film and Literature Classification in Alice Springs over the weekend.
From Friday to Sunday a group of 20 panellists from Alice and the immediate surrounds were asked to view two unreleased movies and discuss the subject matter and possible classification.
These results will soon be researched by experts and compared to the rating (G, PG etc) given to the same movies by the Australian Board of Classifications.
The 20 panellists were of mixed age, gender, race, parental status and a quarter of the participants were Indigenous.
The programme is used to give the board a more accurate idea of what the general public thinks of elementsF such as violence and sex in movies and video games.
All participants agreed that classifying video games as well as movies is "absolutely necessary".
Another agreed point among the panellists who spoke to the Alice Springs News was that violence is more "harmful" in movies than sex.
As Andrew Thorn said, "sex is natural, violence is manmade".
Generally, Mr Thorn said that a person's attitude toward subject matter depends on the way they were brought up and the morals instilled in them at an early age.
Panellists thought classification was mainly helpful for guiding young people more than adults.
According to board director, Des Clark, research shows "more than 95 per cent of the public are aware of classifications and the majority follow them, particularly parents".
Tammy Petersen, speaking as a mother, agreed: "Classifications help people to decide what they can expose their kids to and what they can't."
The News asked the panellists if Alice Springs is different from other places when it comes to classifications.
In Tracey Knott's view, " people in Alice have more life experience", making them more open-minded about what they look at.
All panellists said that there should be no difference between what is available to people in Alice Springs and the rest of Australia.
Mr Clark said: "There are minor variations between Alice and other rural communities.
"The research will show what these are".
He said that there are some very sensitive issues that are exclusively local, particularly some issues relating to Indigenous people.
However, the Board cannot take these issues into account when classifying a movie; that's down to community education and the parental role.
CLP PINCHED MY LAKE IDEA, SAYS DES ROGERS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
"The CLP has lifted almost word for word my arguments about a lake for Alice Springs," says council candidate Des Rogers.
The CLP last week announced that a lake proposal should be put back on the table for community discussion and that a future CLP Government would fund an investigation into all aspects of its feasibility.
CLP Leader Terry Mills stated in a media release: "Alice Springs is a great town with facilities for almost any sports É Yet, for all its sporting facilities, it lacks one major facility Ð a large body of water for recreation.
"Over recent years, even as recent as a few weeks ago, community leaders, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, have articulated that Alice Springs needs a recreation lake.
"The recreational lake, in enhancing lifestyle issues, will encourage people to stay in Central Australia, which like the rest of the Territory has a declining population."
In the Alice News of April 28 Mr Rogers (pictured), prominent Indigenous member of the community and ATSIC regional chair, was quoted as saying, "Alice is a great town; the one thing it lacks is a large body of water and that can be overcome".
He went on to argue that a lake "would be a huge additional attraction for people to stay and for new people to think about coming here".
"Has somebody got hold of the newspaper and said, ÔHere's a good idea, let's make it CLP policy'?" asks Mr Rogers.
Stressing that he does not belong to any political party, Mr Rogers says he thought "the CLP had passed away".
"I haven't heard a word from them in the last three years," he says.
"A dozen feasibility studies were done into a recreation lake and/or flood mitigation dam while they were in power for almost three decades.
"So let's do a study of the feasibility studies already done, not spend more money on a new one."
He says traditional owners and native title holders, particularly through Lhere Artepe, have come a long way since the fight over the proposed dam at Junction Waterhole north of the Telegraph Station 10 years ago.
He says that site can never be reconsidered for important cultural reasons, but in relation to other sites traditional owners would have to be not only be consulted, but invited to participate in the economic opportunities that could flow from the creation of a lake.
On the question of where the water would come from, Mr Rogers say "nothing should be too far-fetched to put on the table", suggesting that there may be a possibility of pumping water into the Centre from the seasonally rain-drenched Top End.
Ann Cloke leaves: Eastside in mourning.
So this is my last column!
I'll miss not only writing it, but a lot of other wonderful things in The Centre.
Finke Fever is ready to hit Alice as it again gears up for the Tattersall's Finke Desert Race. This year David and I won't be here to see it.
When my niece Emma was at St Philip's she did a thesis on environmental studies. She'd enjoyed being a spectator out at the Finke for years, and a week or so after the finish of the 2001 event, she wanted to check out some of the track, and I had the four wheel drive so I drove us off the bitumen, out past Ewaninga on to the Finke track which follows the original old Ghan railway line.
The landscape is spectacular, rocky outcrops and cliffs, scrubby bushes, the rugged dirt track blending into the countryside.
The environmental damage we saw didn't have a lot to do with erosion or bent and broken shrubs. It was visual, piles of litter lying around.
Some people had simply packed up after their weekend in the bush and left their rubbish out there.
A week or so later, I bumped into a friend, Vicki, who, together with her husband Mac and family, has been an avid Finke spectator for many years.
She said that they'd spent the weekend with over 40 people and when the last of the vehicles headed back to town, no-one would have been any the wiser about where the camp-site was.
Isn't that the way it should be, people respecting the bush, taking only photos, leaving only footprints?
There are only two females riding motorbikes in Finke 2004, Emma, on her Honda 125cc, and her friend Natalie.
They're both first time Finke riders and equally determined.
It's tough on the body and like most intending competitors, they're in training, getting to know the track, the bikes' capabilities and their own, gearing up for the arduous 460 km round trip.
The common rule, ride south down the track before noon, and north after, isn't always observed, which is why, on one run, Emma found herself on a verge somewhere south of Deep Well watching a dust cloud closing in as a rider sped towards her.
She flagged him down and told him about the south/north code.
All any competitor wants to do is finish, body and bike intact. Emma's looking forward to saying "I've done it!"
I'll be trackside in spirit encouraging Rider No 454 across the line.
A couple of weeks ago David and I were invited out to Tony and Libby's, a luncheon celebration.
As we sat enjoying the last minutes of daylight, allowing lunch to well and truly settle, I happened to say that if we come back, I think I'd like to live on the south side of Heavitree Gap. The sunsets of the MacDonnells are stunningly different from those in town.
I was also reminded that after Tony's last big birthday affair, the skies opened up and the normally dry dusty Todd ran a banker for a couple of days. It was dramatic stuff, personifying the Alice and the Centre.
To those readers who've given me positive feedback and support over the years, thank you, and to others, breathing that deep sigh of relief, a promise. David and I will be back frequently for business and personal reasons, and it'll be exciting to revisit, catch up with friends and family and feel the Alice's pulse, and you won't be aware we've been back, unless you're in the know, because it won't be in the (A/S) News!
And who's to say that we might not actually shift back to this wonderful part of Oz some day?
Never say never.
Productivity is a fishbowl full of treacle. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Productivity is an interesting subject.
So fascinating that I could easily sit on my backside and watch it all day.
But productivity is surrounded by myths.
For example, I was brought up believing that the German economy is powered by an army of unstoppable, efficient and productive workers who never ever take a smoko until the job is done.
But then I read an interview with an Asian migrant to Germany, where she explained that the one distinguishing feature about her workplace colleagues was that they didn't work very hard.
I know this is only one example and it is wrong to generalise.
But it's also fun. Take Central Australia.
I have lost count of the number of people who have earnestly explained to me that being born in Alice Springs makes you unfit to work in the real economy.
It's like working in a goldfish bowl filled with treacle.
Nobody can move very fast, they say, and after a while they don't care anyway.
There's little competition, plenty of government subsidies for those lucky enough to get them and an endless demand for services from customers who are quite relaxed about them being sub-standard. Phew, not easy to take in, is it?
What's more, if you are a newcomer, so the story goes, don't stay for long because soon you will be rendered unproductive by the prevailing sloth.
Your tea breaks will elongate.
Every meeting you attend will start late and finish even later, being interrupted by dozens of pointless mobile phone calls, making any attempt at serious work futile.
Before I forget, the time that you set aside for getting out of town (otherwise known as recreation leave) will increase each year.
I take the point, every single time it is made to me, but let's get some perspective.
Otherwise Centralian modesty becomes, well, a bit pathetic.
How about consulting some statistics?
I don't get out much, so instead I read international statistical league tables of various kinds.
Not just soccer ones, but also comparisons of internet access, debt, commuting times, railway punctuality and all manner of other trivia.
The world would be poorer without them.
I saw a table the other day about productivity in different countries.
It showed that the United States has the highest productivity per worker in the world, beating the European Union and Australia by a long chalk.
No surprises there, but a study by Northwestern University put a third of the discrepancy down to the willingness of US workers not to take holidays.
The average amount of leave for American workers is just eight days per year, around the same level enjoyed by ancestors of mine around the turn of the 19th century.
People make choices about productivity and these boil down to leisure versus output.
What is acceptable is influenced by the prevailing work culture, the expectations of customers and a host of other social and historical factors.
For example, Britain is like the US; it is generally frowned upon for someone to be away from their work for too long.
In comparison, the work culture of our little slice of Australia (I don't know about the rest of it) seems more akin to Mediterranean Europe; people go to see family, shut down their activities and come back in a few weeks, especially when it gets hot. They are sorry for the inconvenience to customers, but not that sorry.
What is the truth about the work culture of Central Australia?
Something I can't uncover without an extensive (and government-subsidised) research study.
I can tell you that people are more laid back, service is sometimes less than timely and workers love their annual leave more than they love their mothers.
So it's not that different from other places.
It just seems that way.
SOCCER OUR SLEEPING GIANT. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The resurgence of soccer's senior competition is rapidly providing the already strong junior association with a pathway for their maturing players.
Sundays at Ross Park cater for those in their prime, for youngsters, their parents and for masters of the game.
Verdi secured the top position on the A-grade table after a convincing win over a fired-up S&R Vikings side on the main pitch.
The newcomers to the local league, Vikings kept in touch with Verdi early but succumbed in the second half to experience and superior teamwork.
Both teams had their chances on goal but Verdi were able to convert them and take the game 3-0.
S&R Vikings will no doubt improve as the season progresses.
In the TDC versus Federal game it was the former's domination in the second half that led to a 4-1 result over the reigning premiers.
Federal took an early lead with a penalty in the 16th minute and continued in a confident manner through the first half.
In the second half alas it was a different story.
Neata Glass Scorpions proved too strong for Central Falcons in a goal fest which saw the ball hit the back of the net no less than 12 times.
The Falcons were full of enthusiasm but faltered against their more experienced opponents eventually going down 9-3.
Although missing a penalty opportunity Federal G&S Scorers secured their first win for the season with a 2-0 result over an undermanned Dragons side.
It was a case of the Dragons working hard and creating opportunities only to be outnumbered by Federals.
Last year's B-grade champions Buckleys showed the benefit of pace and youth beating RSL13-0.
In the remaining B-grade game Stormbirds opened their account with a 5-0 win over TDC, starting strongly, scoring early and never letting TDC into the game.
The real celebration of Sunday soccer came with the commencement of a C-grade competition.
Gunnaz and Scorpions played the game in true C-grade spirit with the emphasis on attack.
Gunnaz converted their chances well showing the benefit of playing 7-a-side during the off-season.
They controlled the game and left the field winners by 5-0.
Stormbirds and Desert Spinach played out a 0-0 draw in a game lacking in skill but filled with enthusiasm.
C-grade is an ideal forum for the growth of soccer in Alice.
At last we have a competition that provides a place for those juniors rising from the Blatherskite Park competition; a chance for Masters to display their guile and cunning; and an opportunity for parents to join in making it a truly family and community oriented activity.
The CASA vice-president Jillian Joe says the committee has been astounded at the huge enthusiasm for this level of competition.
"I've already had many parents and beginning players express their gratitude that there is now a place for them to enjoy soccer at a social level.
"It's great to watch these games and hear the cheers from the crowds.
"There are still some vacancies on a couple of the teams and we would love to hear from anyone interested in having a go.
"There are still also a few B-grade teams looking for more players".
Anyone wanting to watch or join the competition should find their way down to Ross Park of a Sunday at at 12.30 pm.
LACK OF BALANCE JUST A BIG YAWN! COMMENT by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The major sports in town need to seek a more even local competition.
For example, in this season's netball, the Sundowners have recorded some cricket score wins.
Last Saturday they registered an 87-6 victory over the Giants, and in doing so were able to afford the luxury of having their goal scoring sensation, Lorna Walker, rest in the last quarter.
In other games played West romped home 55 to 23 over Memo Rovers and then the break away Panthers team defeated their former team mates, Federal 43 to 25.
In Rugby League's season to date, West are the dominating force.
Last Friday night they stamped their supremacy by notching up a 58 to 10 victory over the respected Vikings.
As a forerunner to West's performance Federal United secured a 50 to 36 victory over Central Memo.
Soccer results at the weekend included 4 -1 in favour of TDC and 3-0 to Verdi, after an avalanche result card in A-grade the week before.
At Traeger Park a stark situation revealed itself in Australian Rules when South defeated Federal by 145 points and then West downed the revered Pioneer by 82 points.
Generally one would expect that in sporting competitions the intrigue generated by close score lines would be a key factor in ensuring regular spectator support, hence the generation of off-field administrative strength at association and club levels and an increase in revenue.
A parallel can be immediately drawn, particularly in the football codes, between this lack of close competition and the challenges faced both on and off the field by clubs and associations.
It seems that without the few diehards, who are carrying the mantle, particularly in poorer performing clubs, the flicker of life required in local sport may be some day extinguished.
The ability to provide even competition may well have its roots in the junior ranks.
By encouraging and skilling young players and then retaining their services in sport throughout the critical late teenage years, a steady stream of talented recruits would be available at senior competition level.
To that end netball, Australian rules, rugby league and soccer are well placed, having vibrant competitions that establish a firm base for the future.
They have established junior competitions which would stand up pound for pound with junior sport anywhere in the country.
It is the retention of this pool of talent through to senior ranks that seems critical.
It may well be that less successful clubs need to concentrate on tapping into the junior base and nurturing their young recruits through the vital transition years.
Many of our teenagers leave town in their critical late teenage years and many others stay in town but bow out of their chosen childhood sport, often without their departure being noticed.
The retention of such players will contribute to all clubs being able to stand up and be counted, with more even competitions operating at the senior levels.
ROOS BOUNCE BACK AS EAGLES DIVE. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The reigning premiers South Football Club conquered Federal 30.10 (190) to 6.9 (45) on Saturday afternoon, quite a different story to their drubbing by Pioneer a week ago and their scoreless performance in the under-17 competition on Friday night.
In the other match, touted to be the litmus test for West against Pioneer, the Bloods came up trumps 20.11 (131) to 7.7 (49).
The Super Roos welcomed home Leo Jurrah, Sherman and Kasmin Spencer, Max Fejo and Clinton Ngalkin from duties at the Laramba communities carnival and the return of Calvin Chong and Allan Henderson gave South a new look and attitude.
In the Federal camp there was also an air of expectation as Fred Campbell was listed for the first time in over two seasons.
Campbell signed with Feds last season but didn't get to run over the white line.
The Roos got away impressively with six goals to two first term, two from Sherman Spencer and one each from Jurrah, Kasmin Spencer, Gilbert Fishook and Clayton Cruse.
The initial drive for Federal came by way of Darryl Ryder and Adrian McAdam.
Ryder's appearance in itself was quite intriguing.
Early in the year he travelled to Milner Road seeking a signing and then last week donned the Blues strip after being granted a clearance.
Lo and behold this week he returned to his beloved Federal, and indeed made a worthwhile contribution.
His presence however was of little effect in the second term when South blew their opposition away scoring 10 straight goals to a solitary behind, the score 16.3 (99) to 2.3 (15) at the long break.
South's flickering candle of hope raged to bushfire proportions thanks to a four goal term by Gilbert Fishook and further goals coming off the boots of each of the other forwards.
In the third term South maintained the momentum scoring a further 5.4 to 0.3, and saving their best for the run home when they slammed on 9.3 to 4.3, in what was the best quarter of the match.
In claiming a 145 point win, South's best player was Galvin Williams.
He set the game in motion time and again, as did the ever reliable Ali Satour running out of defence to feed the star-studded forward line.
Fishook led this sector and bagged nine goals for the game.
Sherman Spencer was a force scoring seven and Jurrah kicked six.
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