A PIPELINE TO WHERE? Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
There is as yet no firm deal between the Power and Water Corporation and their "preferred end user" of treated effluent piped from the sewerage ponds.
This is despite a $2.3m expenditure on the pipeline – near completion – and the letting of a further contract worth $700,000 for an above ground water storage facility at the commonage.
The end user, horticulturalist John Biggs, trading as Matilda Maid, says he is still waiting for relevant government clearances, addressing the project's environmental, Aboriginal sacred site, planning, and health impacts.
"We will start as soon as all the clearances have been obtained," he says.
The Office of Environment and Heritage, within the Department of Lands, Planning and Environment (DIPE), is only now on the point of advertising its terms of reference for the public environment report (PER) on Power and Water's plans for the water reuse.
These involve aquifer recharge (put simply, underground storage of the treated effluent) and irrigation of crops on land at the Arid Zone Research Institute on the Stuart Highway.
Why is the PER only being done now? Potentially couldn't it put paid to the reuse plans?
Paul Heaton, Darwin-based manager of water facilities for Power and Water, says the corporation's hand was forced by their licence agreement to eliminate dry weather overflows into the Ilparpa Swamp by December 2005.
He says a pipeline to get effluent out of the ponds was a common and non-controversial component of all solutions to dry weather overflows that Power and Water examined.
He says if the reuse project at the AZRI site does not get approval there are other potential users of the water along the Stuart Highway, noting that diversity of use is a good thing for any reuse scheme.A less desirable option, in terms of requiring immediate additional significant expenditure, would be a horticulture development further south, possibly on airport land. Other clearances still not received for the AZRI site plans are from the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA), and the Health Department.
The approach to the AAPA was made "quite a while ago", a number of meetings have occurred, and it is thought the traditional owners toured the site to identify areas of significance last week.
The Health Department has given in principle support to the proposed effluent treatment and reuse but require amore formally developed scheme, with all other approvals in place, before they give their final go ahead.
On the planning front, Mr Heaton says Power and Water have been talking to the Development Consent Authority about individual components of the scheme and the approvals required, if any.
Another critical issue that has still not been finalised is how much Power and Water will charge for the water.
Matilda Maid "believe that the price will reflect the additional cost of using recycled water over normal irrigation water, that is, frequent water analysis, removal of unwanted material, human health and safety precautions".
Glen Marshall of the Centre for Sustainable Arid Towns (CSAT) says the risk for taxpayers is that Power and Water will be selling "the high-value water" too cheaply.
He says the December 2005 deadline to stop sewage overflow into the swamp has the authority "over a barrel" in terms of negotiating an appropriate price for the resource.
Although the provisions of the recent inter-governmental agreement on a National Water Initiative (NWI) are less stringent for rural areas than for metropolitan centres (defined as more than 50,000 connections), Mr Marshall argues that appropriate pricing should be part of the water management strategy for Alice Springs.
For metropolitan centres the NWI stipulates "the development of pricing policies for recycled water and storm water that arecongruent with pricing policies for potable water, and stimulate efficient water use no matter what the source by 2006".
For rural areas the NWI provisions are more general. Governments should move towards "full cost recovery for all rural surface and groundwater based systems, recognizing that there will be some small community services that will never be economically viable but need to be maintained to meet social and public health obligations".
Mr Heaton says Power and Water want to recoup "some of their substantial costs" but they are definitely not "shooting for the same price as potable [drinking] water".
By way of comparison, he says non-potable water from the town basin in Alice Springs is sold at 10 cents a kilolitre less than the price for potable water.
He says the price horticulturalists pay for recycled water anywhere else in rural Australia is far less than the price paid by urban users.
If all goes well, planting at the AZRI site could go ahead in the spring of 2005.
"That would be desirable but not crucial" to Power and Water's plans, says Mr Heaton.
Mr Biggs says grapes are the likely crop.
"They can better withstand the salt levels that are common in recycled water," he says."Citrus is another option, although it is more sensitive to high chloride levels and will need to be tested using the recycled water on site."
Matilda Maid has table grapes, citrus and vegetable enterprises in Buronga (NSW), near Mildura, and in Cunnamulla (Qld), west of Brisbane, but no current horticultural enterprises in the NT. However, Mr Biggs' father Eric was involved with establishing Territory Grapes at Ti-Tree.
On present indications, Mr Biggs says he would hope "after a few years" to employ six people full time on the Alice venture.
It would also require "up to 40 or 50 seasonal positions during peak periods such as pruning, bunch trimming and harvest".
He says: "This number would increase as the size of the enterprise increases."
The area of land available for cropping is still unknown, pending the PER and other approvals.
Mr Heaton says the area with suitable soils is far in excess of 200 hectares. The AZRI site covers about 700 hectares.
On the project's commercial viability, Mr Biggs says horticulture is a competitive industry, "particularly against the South Africas and Chiles of the world who have such low labour costs".
"However, we believe that we have the technical skills and knowledge, the new varieties, and the marketing experience to maintain a competitive advantage over other producers," says Mr Biggs.
Meanwhile, the impact of the reuse project on conserving Alice Springs potable water resources is "neutral".
The project, as but one component of the Urban Water Management Strategy launched four years ago, has taken Power and Water's main focus.
Mr Marshall says there should at least be a public debate about bringing the reuse scheme through the Gap for town use, to displace use of our precious potable water supply.
Mr Heaton says the corporation will concentrate on the other components of the strategy once the reuse project at the AZRI site has been "successfully implemented".
For now, a demand management strategy paper, by the Institute of Sustainable Futures (University of Technology, Sydney) is under review by Power and Water and DIPE.
We all know that William Gosse was the first white man to lay eyes on Ayers Rock, on July 19, 1873.
But few acknowledge the guy who got him there, and saw the monolith at the very same moment.
His name was Kamran, the Afghan lead cameleer, who later joined Gosse climbing the Rock.
It's connections like this with Central Australia that Mahmoud Saikal (pictured), Afghanistan's ambassador to Australia, and his family, commemorated when they visited The Centre last weekend.
Mr Saikal even brought with him the Aghanistan Cup and presented it at the Lions Camel Races.
In fact Alice Springs – then called Stuart – was built with "construction materials delivered by the Afghan cameleers," says Mr Saikal.
An engineer and long time resident of Australia, he was recently in the running for Mayor of Kabul.
Mr Saikal says the Camel Cup is "heavily associated with the Afghans" and Alice locals have a keen interest in them.
"Nobody talks to me about the dramatic events in Afghanistan over the past 26 years," says Mr Saikal.
"They continue to talk about the friendship that existed between the Afghan cameleers and try to promote that further.
"There is a good level of sympathy in this town for the recovery of Afghanistan.
"When I met the Mayor she was kind enough to talk about that."
Does he feel welcome here more so than in the rest of Australia?
"Naturally, because people know more about the Afghans here.
"This is the capital of the outback and the capital of the early Afghan activities in Australia.
"The early Afghans were not active in Melbourne and Sydney, but they were highly active in this area.
"People easily mix with us, we talk to them.
"They ask me about Islam, I talk to them.
"Islam's rough and tough image which is portrayed in the media naturally is one thing, but I clarify to the people I speak with that that's not the case.
"Islam is a religion of tolerance, it has coexisted with the rest of the world for 14 centuries, and it will continue to coexist."
HOW BRIGHT IS BUSHLIGHT? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
One of the organizations biting its nails with the demise of its principal funder, ATSIC, is the Alice Springs based Bushlight whose bureaucracy has reached truly fantastic proportions.
Bushlight, according to its web site, is providing "financial, social and cultural benefits for people in up to 200 remote communities over and beyond the four-year life of the project."That's up to 10,000 people.
When the program was announced two years ago it appeared they all would get renewable energy.
"It means providing advice to people about energy services," explains to Bushlight operations manager Grant Behrendorff.
"This can range in assistance with appliance selection to determining the most appropriate energy source for the community."
He says 90 to 100 communities of 15 people or less will actually get solar units.
That's no more than 1500 people.
That, too, may not eventuate because money for the hardware isn't yet guaranteed.
The project, attached to the Centre for Appropriate Technology, is getting "operational funding" of $8.4m over four years, from the Australian Greenhouse Office.
Bushlight has 23 staff in offices in Alice, Cairns, Darwin, Derby and Perth.
Each location has a manager who is in charge of an average of just 20 domestic installations – five a year, maybe fewer.
The five people in Perth are testing available solar equipment and have come up with the startling discovery that expensive equipment lasts longer than cheap.
None of these people actually build or install renewable energy systems.
That has a separate budget.
It was initially projected to be $16m.
Now it's more likely to be $10m, maybe less if Canberra knocks on the head the final year of the program.
All the while the "operational" funds will remain the same.
The now defunct ATSIC / ATSIS has been dribbling out money for the hardware little by little, providing funds for a new phase once the preceding one had been completed.
Mr Behrendorff says so far 30 systems are "installed or under way" and ATSIS to date has kicked in about $3m.
What the Federal Government, having transferred ATSIC and ATSIS functions to "mainstream" agencies, will do now with Bushlight is not fully clear.
Mr Behrendorff says he's confident the 2004/05 budget – capital works funding for the solar systems – will be approved, which would bring the total systems installed to 60: "I am not nervous," he says.
However, the final 30 to 40 systems, for the fourth year, are "still subject to discussion".
Having dumped ATSIC Canberra is considering itself obliged to provide continued funding for Aboriginal programs – so long as they make economic and social sense.
Bushlight funding is now in the hands of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS).
The "operational" staff's objective – presumably apart from managing itself – is to identify Aboriginal people who want renewable energy systems, live in the dwelling to be fitted with the gear at least 65 per cent of the time, and are considered capable able of looking after it.
The latter isn't hard: you don't overload the system with appliances, and make sure the solar panels are clean.
Keeping an old Holden on the road is a lot more challenging – yet fully within the skills of many bush Aborigines.
Many of the Bushlight team are recent arrivals: Of the 10 Alice staff, six have no prior experience in Central Australia.
Could their organisational tasks have been more easily performed by the multitude of long-established services, closer to, and more familiar with, the clients?
Most likely, yes.
TAFE colleges, outstation support organisations such as Ingkerreke in Alice Springs, land councils, local experienced contractors, local governments and – of course – ATSIC itself could surely have done the work at little or no extra cost.
The units are currently built in Cairns and installed by contractors.
A new national tender for equipment has been advertised on the weekend.
The web site tells us Bushlight's objective is to create systems that are "affordable, consistent and reliable".
The technology is now ancient: solar panels on the roof charging a bank of 24 volt batteries which drive 240 volt appliances via an inverter.
Most of the components used in the Bushlight gear have been around for more than 10 years.
That leaves the question of how affordable is the system.
If Bushlight spends its intended budget of $18.4m on 100 systems then their average cost will be $184,000.
My neighbour Trevor Hyman ingeniously cobbled together a plant doing the same job for around $10,000, one eighteenth of that.
Commercially sold units cost around $60,000.
A diesel generator putting out double the power costs $12,000 to buy: if properly maintained it lasts eight years running 10 hours a day, and burning 15 litres of diesel a day.
That puts its total cost over eight years at around $65,000, at today's diesel prices.
Mr Behrendorff says diesel power is noisy, polluting, the fuel has to be obtained at considerable freight cost from a population centre, and is subject to price fluctuations.
He says Bushlight has installed 11 solar systems since last November and all of them are still working.
By contrast, he says a survey when Bushlight kicked off revealed that 45 per cent of commercially installed units weren't working.
Mike Farrell, of Alice Springs based Ecoenergy, qualifies this.
He says the main causes for failure weren't design deficiencies but poor maintenance, misuse and vandalism – problems that may emerge once the support by Bushlight cuts out in two years' time.
Besides, 55 per cent still working isn't as bad as it sounds, says Mr Farrell: "How many bush Toyotas still work after 10 years?"
According to the now defunct Australian Cooperative for Renewable Energy, the survey covered sites in WA, SA, NT and Queensland.
Mr Farrell says the survey did not point out that in Central Australia the performance and reliability of the systems were much better.
Mr Behrendorff says Bushlight's strategy is to provide ongoing support through organisations such as Ingkerreke and Titjikala resource services.
But that raises the question of why these organisations did not take the initiative from the beginning.
Mr Behrendorff says the thorough technical training of the solar plants' recipients would ensure the prolonged survival of the systems.
However, that fails to take into account the high mobility of Aboriginal people, and the need to vacate – at least for some time – premises in which a death has occurred.
According to anecdotal evidence from cattle station owners, bush travellers and this writer's own observations as a pilot, many of the recently built outstations in Central Australia are deserted or have never been occupied.
Although ATSIC is dead its regional chairmen remain on the scene for another year, to advise the Federal Government on during the changeover period.
Des Rogers, the chairman of the Alice Springs ATSIC Regional Council, says Bushlight has done a good job installing plants near Yambah Station, about 50km north of Alice Springs.
Six houses, built by the NT Government in a deal about the railway corridor, were equipped with solar generating plants, and these are welcome by the community.
"They've done an excellent job at Morris Dam," says Mr Rogers.
"It's far better than diesel generation."
He says Bushlight staff had been "engaging with residents" and had put in place trouble shooting strategies.
However, Mr Rogers isn't clear about the financial aspects of Bushlight and the true cost of the equipment.
Mr Behrendorff says in the small communities targeted by the program, often just a single family, destructive influences such as substance abuse and violence are less common, and the authority of elders largely intact.
In such an environment appropriate care for the equipment seems more likely.
And if all goes wrong, the gear is transportable, the dust proof boxes housing the main components even have slots for fork lifts, and it can all be carted away.
STREET KIDS MOVE NEEDS STREAMLINING: MINISTER. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne wants to streamline the way a string of government and non-government agencies are dealing with street kids.
He says: "The response is still not quick enough, it's still too cumbersome.
"There are still too many voices, too many reference points to be dealt with before a decision is made.
"What we're looking for is a more powerful and compact decision-making structure, more personal responsibility being taken for individual kids, and action being taken more quickly.
"These situations are fairly critical usually.
"Two weeks from now isn't good enough."
Dr Toyne says the government won't be returning to incarceration of young people, except in extreme circumstances, and will continue its Safe Families program.
"The only reason you'd lock up a kid is if they've done something very dire to someone else, turning really violent.
"These kids are doing minor property crime, but the main thing they are doing is destroying their own health."
He say the Aranda House approach isn't working: "They were picking up the same kids every night, take them into Aranda House, tuning them out the next morning, and picking them up again that night.
"This was really not leading anywhere in terms of dealing with the underlying problems the kids were having."
Two years ago Dr Toyne staked his political survival on the success of the Safe Families approach.
He says about a year ago some 30 kids were successfully placed with families at Yambah outstations about 50 km north of town.
The remainder were placed into a "group house" in an undisclosed location in Alice Springs.
"They seemed to be so damaged in terms of child abuse and sexual assaults as to make them too difficult for a normal household to deal with," says Dr Toyne.
He says a new outbreak of trouble with 40 to 50 street kids started earlier this year, emanating mainly from the Keith Lawrie flats on Bloomfield Street, with a lot of kids sniffing petrol and other inhalants.
Dr Toyne says the "response was tardy, in retrospect".
"We were aware of the problem before any action was taken.
"It was at a similar scale to the original problem.
"I wasn't very happy with one aspect.
"We had a lot of organisations that were part of the Safe Families arrangement that didn't seem to be focussed on engaging those new group of kids, and pulling them out one by one.
"Reconnect and the police were picking them up, trying to get them out of harm's way as best they could.
"But they don't have any capacity of taking the kids into ongoing care.
"Antoinette at the Gap Youth Centre [Reconnect] deserves a sainthood as far as I am concerned.
"She was actually rounding up kids every night in a Troop Carrier and taking them into some sort of care."
But as a comprehensive response failed to emerge Dr Toyne ordered a meeting two months ago of all involved groups.
"The aim was to say it's all very well to have great models and good theories but now just go out there and engage those kids."
Removal of spray cans "quietened down the chroming fairly significantly".
"But what I am not satisfied with at the moment is that the good will and the general principles everyone's agreed on are not translating into immediate action when a problem does arise.
"There is no guarantee for anyone that you're not going to have further outbreaks.
"This is just going to be an ongoing thing in the town.
"We're surrounded by communities that have petrol sniffing.
"There's lots of dysfunction, families where there is heavy drinking, where parents are either dead or ill.
"It's not a case of just fixing it and it's all gone.
"It's a matter of having an ongoing structure that is capable of responding to each new outbreak as it comes up."
TOYNE WANTS TOUGH 'LEARN OR EARN' WELFARE REFORMS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The current welfare system should be curtailed drastically and be largely replaced by an uncompromising "earn or learn" approach involving governments and private enterprise.
This call comes from Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne who says he's speaking from "personal conviction rather than an official Government position".
He says: "In the case of the Territory you're talking about a quarter of our population that are currently not contributing significantly to the economy.
"If we can turn that ‘round into creating an additional productive part of our population, it would be an enormous step forward for the Territory.
"I can't think of a greater vision we could have for a government agenda than to achieve that."
DOLEDr Toyne says in Opposition the Labor Party has acknowledged "that you can't talk about a 4.5 per cent unemployment rate if you ignore that about 6000 people are on the jobs for the dole program, CDEP.
"But whether they are counted or not isn't the key question for me.
"The key question is how long can we continue on with what is a pretty dysfunctional arrangement about unemployment or work for the dole schemes, and their impact on the communities – urban and remote – or the entire welfare system.
"What I would like to see more than anything else in the world would be for governments to commit to a series of reviews and reforms of the welfare system, to the point where we pick up on Latham's catchcry, earn or learn," says Dr Toyne.
"What I would like to see instead of welfare payments is an actual bankable pledge from governments that we would have [as the only options] either training or work, and that the safety net is only for people genuinely incapable of working.
"Unless we get to that sort of radical position, arguing whether CDEP is or isn't genuine employment is really just shifting the deckchairs around the Titanic.
"The overall welfare arrangements, including CDEP, are not serving Indigenous people very well, and I don't think they are serving unemployed people generally around the community very well at all.
"We have to start rethinking in a radical sort of way, in a joint effort by all the governments.
"The first step is to set an ideal, for every person of working age around the country to have guaranteed access to a job, or to a process by which they can upgrade their skills or level of education."
How would he do that in Central Australian Aboriginal communities where unemployment has been endemic for decades?
Says Dr Toyne: "You would do it by shifting a lot of the resources currently put into welfare payments into supporting employment and training.
"When you think about the amount of money that's going out to recipients a lot of employment and training could be sustained.
"And you'd also be harnessing the private sector capacity as well to that process.
"By taking away the current safety net of welfare payments you're creating a system where the government and the private sector jointly provide employment opportunities."
Dr Toyne says he visited Yaralin, in the Victoria River district, last week, where 10 young men had been recruited into Norforce.
"They were proud of their membership of Norforce and the skills they've picked up."
Dr Toyne says senior people in the armed forces are desperate to get sufficient numbers of people for all three services.
COMMIT"It seems to me that would be one example to which the Federal Government could commit strongly.
"Instead of welfare payments let's extend the involvement in the armed forces as a way of soaking up some of the unemployed, and skilling them up so they become more employable in other areas as well."
Dr Toyne says the armed forces are not the only option to stem the massive flow of welfare payments from all governments.
"We're short of everything, for Christ's sake.
"We need to upgrade everyone up the tree.
"We're short of nurses, for example, so why don't we upgrade health workers into areas currently occupied by nurses, and then recruit fresh health workers?
"Taking away the safety net, or reducing it down to the level of people who are genuinely very, very difficult to employ, would be an enormous step for this country to take.
REG SMITH: VALE TO A GREAT CITIZEN OF ALICE.
Reginald George Smith -13th August 1926 – 26th June 2004.
This is an edited version of the eulogy read by his friend George Scott Brown at Reg's funeral, based on information prepared by Reg's wife Pat.
I knew Reg for over 50 years and he has had a great influence on my life, particularly in Rotary and through his considerable input into the Alice Springs community.
One of the pioneers of tourism in Central Australia, he also gave us the madcap dry river regatta, Henley on Todd, which has attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists to the Alice over the past 43 years.
Reginald George Smith was born on August 13, 1926 at Oakleigh, Victoria.
He had two sisters, Muriel and Flora (both deceased) and a younger brother, Norman.
During the Second World War, he served with the Airforce, transferring into the RAAF's Meteorological Services as the war ended.
At the age of 20, he came to Alice Springs as an observer with the Meteorological Bureau.
In 1949, Reg was selected by Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions to join that year's expedition to Heard Island as a weather observer.
Needless to say, they had none of the comforts that the more recent annual expeditions enjoy.
During the following year, Reg compiled and published the very first tourism brochure, complete with a map of all outlying tourist attractions, which went on sale for a small fee at Rice's Newsagency, Todd Street.
In December, he married Pat, then a PMG telephonist.
Their wedding, despite a beer shortage and the flowers and food being on the wrong side of the flooded Todd River, was celebrated in the small Catholic church on Hartley Street.
Reg was allocated the big Met Bureau bungalow at 86 Hartley Street.
This was a first home for both of them in Alice, as Pat lived in the government hostel, now rebuilt as Melanka, and Reg lived at the Civil Aviation quarters at the aerodrome.
With the house came a big, lovable hound owned by the previous weather observer.
The Smiths spent eight happy years in this now heritage-listed house next to the Salvation Army.
In 1953, their daughter Lynn was born and proved to be a constant source of pride to Reg throughout his life.
Five years later, because he was due for transfer and did not want to leave his beloved Alice Springs, Reg took a position with WS Manson Sales, a wholesale grocery agency (later IGA) run by friend Wally, who pioneered the first fresh milk into town.
Prior to that, limited supply was available to individuals through Brown's Dairy.
Reg was appointed manager in 1960 and held in high regard by staff, local retailers, tourist roadhouse proprietors and station owners alike.
He was always willing to help, even outside working hours and at weekends.
From 1958 to 1960, he was President of the Alice Springs Theatre Group and in the following three years, President of the Memorial Club, having served on the committee since the early ‘fifties.
He was subsequently offered Life Membership, but didn't consider it warranted, continuing as a paying member.
In 1962, he was invited to join Rotary, where he passed on his ideas for the madcap Henley-on-Todd Regatta, which had sprung from an idea for a land yacht at the infrequently used airstrip in the early days.
Reg was elected founding President of the newly-formed Tourist Promotion Association two years later and also President of the Alice Springs Rotary Club from 1965 to 1966, in the latter year being elected to the Town Management Board.
A year later he was selected for the Town Flood Relief Committee. In the ‘seventies, Reg became a founding member of the brand new licensed Federal Sports club, having been a Federal Football Club supporter since the ‘fifties.
He was also appointed to the NT Town Planning Board and elected alderman to the Alice Springs Municipal Council and chairman of the Town Council Works Committee, gaining a reputation as a common sense thinker and practical problem solver.
In 1984, he resigned from the council and the Planning Authority due to pressure of work at the warehouse.
He was awarded Rotary's highest accolade– a Paul Harris Fellow– for service to the community.
Two years later, he suffered a stroke on the job due to the heavy workload of planning the almost completed new warehouse in Coulthard Court and was invalided out of IGA.
Reg was devastated.
Gone was the vibrant personality, the rich, pleasant speaking voice, the solid eye contact and the riveting smile – he was a shadow of his former self.
In 1989, he resigned from Rotary and was awarded a commemorative picture with brass plate, drawn and painted by George Brown, acknowledging Reg as founding father of the annual Henley-on-Todd, an event which has raised thousands of dollars for Alice Springs charities and attained international fame. Two years ago, at the 40th Henley, he was presented with another plaque from the NT Government.
Reg was a most popular man, admired for his leadership qualities and sincere dedication to everything he tackled.
As nature's gentleman, he was a caring husband and father who will be irreplaceable. He was a quiet and unassuming achiever for his home-town, a good, honest man.
LETTER: BUFFEL GRASS 'A MIRACLE PLANT'.
Sir,- I am replying to the article in the Alice News of June 23 regarding buffel grass as a pasture species and the application of some members of the community to have it declared a noxious weed.
I am enclosing four photos of this country taken in the early 1960s. [All of the photos show denuded country in the Simpson's Gap area. The Alice News is showing only two photos supplied by Mr Brown and today's equivalents.]
It is incomprehensible to me that any person who saw the country in this condition, which was typical of the whole of Central Australia at that time, could actually advocate the return of the country to that condition.
Peter Latz may go down on his knees weeding out buffel grass plants on his block at present, but in those days, we went down on our knees searching for just one green plant.I ran a dairy farm at White Gums for 25 years, and my cows grazed over what is now Mr Latz's block for most days of those years. As a result of my daily inspection of his land I know exactly what native plants grew on it before the advent of buffel.
Winter rains brought up bindiis, and if he has successfully removed buffel from his block today, then I will bet he has an excellent crop of bindiis now. Come spring they will certainly keep him off his knees.
Mr Latz has made many wild statements in the article – firstly in regard to the feed value of buffel and its palatability. He is completely wrong.
There are many different types of buffel, most of which have been tried out in this area.
The large tropical varieties are unpalatable but they have not been a success in this area fortunately. There are a few of these plants left around but the buffel that has taken over here, is a very palatable and nutritious variety and it is so at all stages of its growth.
Mr Latz is also wrong when he says that it will end up destroying our native trees and shrubs. The one and only sensible way of controlling the fire hazard that can be created by buffel is to graze it.
White Gums Station is now heavily grazed by cattle, keeping the buffel fuel down to levels that allow the elimination of a major fire hazard. I defy anyone to show anywhere a better stand of trees and shrubs than that which exists on White Gums. Cattle grazing buffel grass are not interested in top feed and therefore do no damage to them.Any property, be it land or buildings, must be well managed if they are to retain their value and remain in a pristine condition. National parks are no exception to this rule, there is only one proven way to return them to their pristine condition and prevent bush fire from destroying them. This way is by the controlled use of cattle. There is no other way of preserving this country than by the marriage of the cattle and the tourist industries. The tourist industry and national parks can profit from the presence of cattle.
That kind of management means physical work, not theoretical work. One of these days we hope that the multitude of theorists that work in government departments are replaced by people – as in the old days – who got out into the field with practical experiments and did enormous work to reclaim the devastation that is demonstrated in the pictures, which was the normal landscape of the ‘sixties.
Those people were faced with utter devastation of large tracts of Central Australia but they attacked the problem head on – yes, there were many disappointments and heartbreaks.
Trying to reclaim the land in the midst of a drought would break most people. The only tool that they had to hand was buffel grass, there was nothing else in existence with which they could work and they persisted with it.
It was not until some 15 years later that their work was fulfilled. They changed the landscape from hopeless poverty to promised prosperity. It is a terrible thing today to find people in our midst, who would undo all of their work and return the country to poverty.
There is much publicity being put out at present about the development of desert knowledge.
What these people must do to start with is to go into the files and old boxes in the CSIRO and Arid Zone Centre and dig out the many photos that they have preserved there of this country at its worst, to show the world how far we have come since those days: showing the world where our desert knowledge begins.
Now I know people look at these pictures and say, "How terrible drought is, but we can't stop droughts". That is, of course, a big mistake. The conditions shown in those pictures were not just the product of drought. They were the product of neglect and exploitive management.
When white man occupied this country he brought with him his influence on the environment in many different forms.
The first and most devastating of all was rabbits. Rabbits had destroyed in this area most palatable perennial grasses prior to the drought, leaving only annuals and top feed to supply the pasture needs of the cattle industry.
Annuals have to come away from seed after a rain so that in their early stage of growth they were very vulnerable to rabbits. If there was a follow on rain or a big rain, then some would succeed and we got pasture that would support cattle.
Seedling trees and shrubs had no chance whatsoever. Acacia bush never got beyond a foot high before the rabbits chewed off the bark and killed them. In the twenty years of my occupation of White Gums before 1966 there were only two trees of acacia victoria on the property. Widgety bushes and mulga were the main fodder trees, but new plants of these species had no chance of getting beyond the seedling stage. This led another noted botanist to declare that the country could never recover from the effects of the drought.
Myxomatosis killed off the rabbits before the drought began but the country had no time to recover before the drought set in. So the devastation shown in these pictures was brought about in the first instance by overgrazing.
You, no doubt are inclined to say, "But rabbits have gone so this will never happen again". Wrong again, it is happening now. From Alice Springs to the West Australian coast roam some half million camels who are repeating the rabbit experience. They are relentlessly chewing away at the trees and shrubs of the desert regions that hold the stability of the sand dunes.
Yes, there've been good seasons out there too. Will they last forever? Not likely: drought will hit one day just as it did after the rabbit plague. The results will be the same, devastation on a national scale. Exactly the same process that created the Sahara desert, and by the same animals.
The trouble is, as was shown up in our own experience, when the land dries out, it seems to repel rain. You would think that when soil dries out that it would absorb all of the water you poured onto it, but that is not necessarily the case.
The run off is much greater in drought times than in good times. In the drought years ten millimeters of rain would bring the creek down. Water just did not get past the surface seal on the top of the soil.
In May 1961 my dairy herd was dwindling due to deaths from starvation, then we had a big storm that came up one night and dropped three inches of rain.
It all ran off in the biggest creek run ever, absolutely nothing grew from that rain. Within six weeks most of my cows were dead. Compare that rain with the rain we had in May this year. Within a week we had edible buffel grass, within three weeks we had sufficient grass to tide us over till the end of winter when the buffel will again come good after the frosts have finished.
In the meantime there is the best germination of winter herbage that I have seen for the last 20 years. This is because the buffel has increased the fertility level of the soil to the extent that there is very little run off, allowing rain to enter the soil were its presence grows grass and trees and shrubs.
I think that the article's figures on the relative merits of the cattle industry and the tourist industry are a little rubbery.
The actual turnover of the cattle industry is well documented every year so the figures are easy to assess. But the actual turnovers of the tourist industry are very diverse. How do they arrive at those figures in regard to our district?
If the tourist industry is such a lucrative business then why does the government have to spend such large sums on its promotion and also such large sums on the provision of national parks upon which the tourist industry is based?
The answer is that the tourist industry is a vital part of the economy of the Northern Territory, but so too is the cattle industry and it is just as vital that they should work together for the benefit of all Territorians and it is quite wrong and unnecessary to even consider the reduction of the cattle industry in order to support tourism.
The Federal Government is making Alice Springs the centre for the development and the spread of desert knowledge because we are the physical centre of an area of about 1,500,000 square miles of low rainfall zone, that is, outside the cereal belt.
If we are to be the focus point of this area we need to have people with sufficient vision to see the enormous potential of this zone.
About 50 years ago there was a man who headed the CSIRO whose name was Mr Christian. He gave a lecture to ANZAAS science conference in Adelaide. He said:–
"The Rajasthan desert in India has a population of about 3,000,000 people. Yet that desert in India is about the same size as the Alice Springs district of Central Australia –140,000 square miles."Its rainfall ranges from five to 14 inches, that of the Alice Springs district ranges from six to 14 inches."The distribution of that rainfall throughout the years is about the same.In the Rajasthan desert there are 12 million cattle, seven million sheep and eight million goats. Alice Springs district has 300,000 cattle, 30,000 sheep and 4,500 goats."The standard of living in the two places could not be compared. Some other factors such as reliability of season or availability of water for stock could account in part for the astronomical difference in productivity."Even so there is a lot of explaining needed to account for the difference in calories and proteins produced from apparently similar areas."Mr Christian was obviously wondering if Australia hadn't set her sights a little low in estimating the potential of the arid Centre.And what of the rest of the 1,500,000 square miles? Its total population does not even equal the population of the Rajasthan desert. Most of this area is pastureland and has not as yet been touched by pasture improvement.
On my small property of White Gums the introduction of a pasture improvement program based on buffel grass has increased the cattle production by 500 per cent.
A 500 per cent productivity increase over the rest of the cattle country in the Alice Springs district would be a tremendous boost to the Territory's income.
This can be achieved by the large-scale introduction of buffel grass pasture.
It is theoretically possible to get a similar achievement over much of the rest of this 1,500,000 square miles. That means real wealth and the putting of theory into practice.
Is it possible for desert knowledge to do that? I think it can, because we have a miracle plant that can bring this about, it is called buffel grass.
White Gums Station
[ED - The cattle industry statistics we quoted in our edition of June 23 were from ABARE and the tourism fugures from CATIA.]
POSSUM FOR ARALUEN.
Araluen is set to host the Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri retrospective exhibition, curated by Vivien Johnson for the Art Gallery of South Australia.
After some doubt about Araluen's ability to take the show, it is now expected to open here in December and run though to March next year, having toured from Adelaide to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
"We are delighted that this important exhibition will be coming to the artist's own country," Araluen's director, Suzette Watkins, told the Alice Springs News.
It is the first comprehensive retrospective of Clifford Possum's art and, astonishingly, the only one to date accorded to a Papunya Tula artist by a major institution.
In the introduction to her book that accompanies the exhibition, curator Johnson sums up the artist's achievements thus:
"Clifford Possum's unique experiments in the late 1970s in mapping out the geography of his entire Dreaming country set him apart from other artists of the movement.
"So did his services as an ambassador for Aboriginal art around the world, which exceeded those of any other artist of his generation.
"His personal journey showed the world that an Aboriginal artist could be a cosmopolitan world traveller and still maintain his identity as a painter of his Dreamings and a man of his culture."In a social climate which was in its own way as discriminatory and difficult as that faced by Namatjira before him, he never lost his will to ‘carry on'.
"This proud and fiercely independent man overcame vast cultural barriers, doing things his own deeply religious way in accordance with the values of the Anmatyerre people in which he was raised.
"He held fast to the original vision of the Papunya Tula painters of communicating to the world the custodianship of the Western desert peoples over their Dreaming narratives and places."
Clifford Possum died on June 21, 2002, the very day he was to be appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia.
Johnson states that "we shall not see his like again" and concludes her book with his own words, as "a more fitting epitaph than all the superlatives which art historians might apply":
"You know what? I like so people can understand. Because they gotta carry on. They can grow up and say, ‘This man, he was proper really man and painter'."
Two works from Araluen's collections have been included in the exhibition: Ringalintjita Worm Dreaming (1986) and Mulga Seed Dreaming, which won the Alice Prize in 1983, the first time a work by an Aboriginal artist had done so.
Illustrated here is the mural design Clifford Possum was commissioned to paint for the then new Araluen in 1985.
It depicts men's and women's ground and body designs for a series of Dreaming sites around Mount Allan and Mount Wedge. The simplicity of its designs is in contrast with the artist's more complex canvasses of the period, no doubt with the scaling-up process by the muralists in mind.
AUSSIE RULES: DEMONS RISE FROM DEAD. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The Federal Demons defeated Pioneers 14.8 (92) to 12.13 (85) on Saturday to make a great comeback, having recently defeated reigning premiers South.
Accurate kicking for goal played a significant part, but more importantly it was their new-found desire to gain possession and deliver effectively that paved the way for success.
Feds jumped Pioneer in the first quarter with Liam Petrick planting two goals and singles coming from Kelvin Neil and Murray Liddle.
Their 4.4 for the quarter was answered by a mere 1.2 from the Eagles.
The Pioneer goal came off the boot of Jethro Campbell. Pioneer found their feet in the second quarter and burst back into the game.
They added 5.3 for the term compared to a still determined Federal's 4.4.
The intriguing Abdula Kamara, who has only recently taken up the game, scored two of the Eagles goals while Ryan Mallard, Gerald Wickham and Campbell added the others.
In the Federal forward line, Petrick maintained his venom with a goal and Neil also contributed with two goals while young Patrick Ah Kitt was responsible for a major.
Games of football are generally won and lost in the third quarter and it seemed that Pioneer were on track when they rallied 5.6 as opposed to 2.1 in this term.
In snatching an 11-point lead, the Eagles were led by Jeremiah Webb, Aaron Kopp and Clinton Pepperill.
The last quarter however proved the worth of Federal as they came home with a wet sail.
The dynamic Darrel Lowe displayed his range of talent guiding Federal into attack.
Darryl Ryder added zing to the Feds ground play and as such Federal careered to the line scoring 4.3 to 1.3, taking the game.
Petrick, with four goals, has certainly proven to be a find for Federal. The signing of Lowe from West has already paid dividends, and Neil, Sheldon Palmer and Bradley Turner will be remembered for their contribution.
In the Eagles camp there will no doubt be a rethinking of plans for the finals.
West toppled Pioneer at their last outing, which didn't raise many eyebrows, but to have Federal record a seven-point win over the CAFL legends will certainly have the administration of the club asking questions.
In the late game South defeated Rovers 30.22 (202) to 4.2 (26).
In this game the Roos opened up with a six-goal volley in the first term, followed by a further nine in the second quarter.
In response Rovers could only manage two goals to half time, both scored in the second quarter.
In the second half South repeated the dose with five goals and a run home in the last quarter that netted 10 goals.
The Blues misery meanwhile continued with only two more goals.
The Roos were ably serviced by Clinton Ngalkin and in front of the big sticks, Bradley Braun and Malcolm Kenny made the most of their opportunities with six goals each, while Sherman Spencer bagged five.
Other notable players for South were Ali Satour, Clayton Cruise, Charlie Maher, Ben Abbott and Curtis Haines.
Rovers have a huge road to hoe, but did have a team of triers on the park.
Jeremy Watkins, Karl, Cliffy Tommy, Shane Frearson, Glen Swain and Augustine Campbell all wore their colours with pride.
The Pioneer loss and West's bye has stretched the latter's hold on the premiership by another game.
South and Federal are now real contenders for Grand Final consideration, while Rovers, sitting at the bottom of the ladder must lift themselves.
In the country competition, the Ngurratjuta Cup, Western Aranda continued their march towards another final, beating Southern AP.
The Southerners were competitive but could not match the skills of CAFL regulars, Charlie Maher, Clinton Ngalkin, and Daryl Ryder.
Liam Petrick and Richard Kantawarra each scored four goals in Western Aranda's 16.7(103) to 11.6 (72) win.
McDonnell Districts also signalled big things downing the inaccurate Ltyentye Apurte 11.10 (76) to 8.13 (61).
McDonnell's Bevan Malbunka in scoring four goals was best on ground.
ONCE INVINCIBLE VERDI COP SECOND DEFEAT. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The Verdi Club, who looked invincible a fortnight ago, suffered their second successive defeat 3-2 at Ross Park on the weekend to Federal Strikers.
Federal's brilliant opening surge saw Chris Hatzimihail register their first goal in the third minute of play.
Scored in controversial circumstances, the goal gave the Strikers confidence and Neil Rutland netted the Strikers second goal in the 22nd minute.
Adding more fuel to the fire was Yanni Hatzimihail who in the 38th minute fired home a third goal, giving his side a mortgage on the match.
In the second half Verdi found their feet with a goal from Robin Yak in the 65th minute.
Further saving face, Mark Vonblanckensee planted the final goal of the day 10 minutes from full-time.
The other A-grade match resulted in a 2-1 victory to the S&R Vikings over Neata Glass Scorpions.
In this game two late goals off the boot of Zac Neck saw Vikings snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Vikings started strongly but were unable to convert and so the game was locked at nil all in the first half.
Then in the 61st minute Ruben Stepin found the net for the Scorpions.
For the final 20 minutes, the match was intense.
A confidence-boosting goal from Neck in the 79th minute was only surpassed by his ability to score again two minutes later, giving Vikings the win.
In B-grade the Federal Scorers impressed with a 7-2 display against the Dragons who again went into the match undermanned and paid the penalty.
Particularly noteworthy for the Scorers was the four-goal haul by Nat McGill.
Buckleys, who missed last week due to a forfeit, recorded a 2-0 win over RSL with Jack Tudor and Tom Clements registering a goal each.
The game was far from one-sided with Tanya Dyer producing vintage form as goalkeeper and ensuring RSL always had a chance.
After last week's barnstorming victory, Central Falcons had to settle for a one-all draw with Neata Glass Scorpions.
Dave Miller played a great game to give Scorpions every chance of victory.
The other scheduled game saw Stormbirds win by forfeit over TDC.
In C-grade however the points did not go Stormbirds' way.
Faced with a powerful opposition in the Scorpions, they could only find the net once through Mike Reilly.
Rhys Constable netted two goals for Scorpions, thus establishing the win.
Desert Spinach and the Gunnaz fought out a two-all draw on the back pitch.
By half time the game was tied up nil-all.
Then in the opening minutes of the second half, a Desert Spinach sortie paid off with Allan Bethune opening the Spinach's score wiith a Gunnaz own goal later.
In the 68th minute Declan Furber Gillick opened the Gunnaz account and two minutes later Peter Hammond scored the equaliser.
In the bus lane to heaven. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Don't know about you, but I recently became older. It was nothing to do with my birthday. Instead, I woke up one day to the realisation that I now have children with opinions, the impending twentieth anniversary of meeting my wife and a mortgage bigger than the proceeds of most major bank heists.
These used to be characteristics of people much older than me who had managed to squeeze all the unbridled spontaneity and freedom out of their lives. I used to think that they were losers with plans but no passion. Now the same characteristics belong to me.
Look, I'm not complaining. After all, this should be a happy situation. Getting older might mean unfulfilled dreams, losing old friends and an increasing need to shave your ears, but it's not all bad. The onset of maturity can also be rewarding, especially if you can muster up some knowledge of yourself.
In fact, ageing has become hip as the difference between successive generations becomes ever fuzzier. The gap between my generation and the one before was vast. The number of subjects that I could discuss with my parents and claim genuine common experience could be numbered on the fingers of one hand. For example, they had never shared a house with someone, they only listened to music in which you could hear the lyrics, they didn't live with their girlfriends, they went nowhere near denim and they thought that all foreigners were incomprehensible. Not only that, but they enjoyed tinned fruit.For my part, I hadn't endured wartime food rationing, I didn't value the extended family, my knowledge of manners was under-evolved and I didn't know my place in the world. In a nutshell, I hadn't suffered the same hard knocks and had little chance of knowing what was really important in life. The generation gap was more like a canyon.I might not be able to relate to modern teenagers, but at least my generation has some shared experience with the one that follows. We can watch music videos without feeling like dinosaurs. We can, selectively, wear sports clothing in public and not look like the dork that would have been my father. In a few years, we might actually end up sharing houses with each other, having enjoyed it in our twenties. Getting older no longer leads to a long list of activities that you fear even attempting. Anything might be possible providing the retirement age doesn't get pushed back any further.
I read a book that illustrated this point perfectly. Tired of travelogues about hairy adventure cyclists with thighs like tree trunks, I decided to come down to my own level. So I read one by a middle-aged woman who went around the United States on a bus. Ah, the pleasures of public transport; vinyl seats, comfort breaks, Styrofoam cups in fluorescent-lit roadside stops. This was more like it.
The book was called "The Great American Bus Ride" by Irma Kurtz. Among the many insights she offered from the calm and comfort of the bus, Irma explained how nobody notices a mature woman. Her appearance had changed in the space of a few years and so she had become invisible. Instead of people giving her the eye they barely gave her the time of day. This was a little sad but also liberating. Now she could pass through bus stations, malls and cafes without suffering any interference at all. And to be free from harassment in inner-city bus stations is a benefit indeed.
I plan to do this myself one day. I'll buy one of those open bus tickets and head off from the best-known country town in Australia to visit all the others with names that I know but cannot place on the map.
Then I'll come back to Alice Springs, put on my sports clothing and watch MTV. It'll be the bus lane to heaven.
Alice's users and its used. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
There is no better place to be than Alice at this time of year. With our endless blue skies and warm winter sunshine, life could not be better. Why would you want to be anywhere else?
The town is buzzing with activity.
We've had the Show and the Camel Cup and are in the middle of the Beanie Festival.
There are interstate 4WDs everywhere you go and no parking.
There is energy and money flowing.
We are getting stuck into our gardens and enjoying the great outdoors.
The gods are smiling on us again, especially the god of tourism.
Like rain in drought, the tourist invasion brings much needed relief to an oasis whose economy greatly benefits from its trade.
We sometimes forget the importance of tourists to the prosperity of our town and why they choose Central Australia as a destination.
Tourists come for two reasons, to see our rocks and to experience Aboriginal culture, as local shop-owner Bev Ellis pointed out to me the other day.
Our economy is dependant on the tourists and the tourists want to see the landscape, the ranges and the mountains and to discover the history, culture and art of the peoples Indigenous to this area.
Apart from our closest friends and family, people do not visit the centre to see us, the non-Indigenous people of the Centre, or how we live.
It is the culture of the people who seem to make our little paradise less perfect that most of our visitors come to learn about.
We would cope without the tourists but we would not be as well off, financially or culturally.
Not only do they provide a connection with the outside world and bring in fresh money, they also remind us of the value of the beauty all around us and the richness of Aboriginal culture.
There is a symbiotic relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people of Alice Springs.
It is not only a matter of co-existence but co-dependency.
This is not necessarily obvious or easy to accept for either party.
We like to think of ourselves as strong and self sufficient, not needing anybody else or owing anything to anyone but ourselves.
We like to think that we deserve to be treated well, own land and have a good standard of living.
If we acknowledge that people we don't even know play a vital role in our well-being, we have to change the way we see them.
We might have to feel gratitude, humility.
Interacting and communicating with others is always complicated.
It can be hard to see the value or the reasons why one should bother.
Ultimately we will all benefit from this relationship. We already are.
There is still work to be done but maybe if we start by recognising the immediate financial benefits we are already enjoying, we can come to terms with the social challenges we still face.
Sometimes it may seem unbalanced like the relationship between a mistletoe plant and its host tree – one using and one being used.
But consider for a moment who is the mistletoe and who is the tree.
Maybe we take turns and the mistletoe-bird is the tourist getting a feed.
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