ALDERMEN CALL FOR PROBE INTO CIVIC CENTRE. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Alderman Samih Habib wants the town council to hold an enquiry into
the botched $300,000 tender, which went to an Adelaide firm, for
furniture for the new civic centre, opened last Saturday.
Ald Habib says Ald David Koch will second his motion to come before the meeting on Monday.
Ald Habib says after much soul-searching he had decided to support the construction of the $11m building “to create jobs in the town.
“We got shafted, we were undermined with the furniture tender,” says Ald Habib whose vote enabled the civic centre to go ahead against strong opposition within the council.
“I know [the centre] was too expensive but I changed my mind and bit the bullet” for the sake of the town’s flagging economy at the time, he says.
“The furniture tender is in breach of council policy” which requires that local businesses get the first option of supplying goods to the council.
The Alice Springs News revealed last week that the tender period in September last year was only seven working days.
“Governments give a month,” says Ald Habib, “so what’s going on?”
And Alice traders said the specifications were so restrictive that they could not be met by local businesses.
Neither the company in charge of the tender process, GH&D, nor Mayor Fran Kilgariff - a keen supporter of the new building in preference to the much cheaper option of buying the Greatorex Building in Parsons Street from the NT Government - would answer questions.
The News emailed the following questions to her on Thursday last week:
Why was the tendering process for the civic centre furniture not done in-house but farmed out to GH&D?
How much were they paid for it?
What exactly were the council’s instructions regarding using local businesses?
Please email me the relevant text of the communication from the council to GH&D.
Why was there such an unreasonably short period to prepare the tender, seven working days, for a job that most people I spoke to said would take a month?
What flexibility was there in the specifications so that local businesses are able to supply?
Ms Kilgariff did not reply.
Meanwhile the Alice News has learned that the building still does not have an energy rating.
The building’s cost - three time the square meter rate of a dwelling’s - is frequently explained by the cost of its energy efficient air conditioning.
At the council meeting in November last year CEO Rex Mooney “thanked Council for its support since the commencement of the Civic Centre redevelopment advising that when finished the centre will be a major establishment for Alice Springs,” according to the minutes.
“The building will boast a five star energy rating.”
SMELLY PRELUDE TO OPENING. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
As council staff and a bevy of invited guests were getting ready for
Saturday’s gala opening of the new civic centre, volunteer rubbish
collector David Chewings and a friend, Tony, who lives on a town camp,
dumped a bag of garbage outside.
It was an act of utter frustration by the pair who - by Mr Chewing’s estimate - have collected 300 tonnes of rubbish around The Alice.
The reward from the council: a dozen or so litter fines, most of them still unpaid and likely to land the pair in court and maybe, jail.
It looks like they’d be the first behind bars for littering in this region: Council CEO Rex Mooney says he can’t think of anyone else.
Mr Chewings says he will not be paying any fine he might get for his action last week, and Mr Mooney says Mr Chewings “will get fined for Saturday morning”.
He says Mr Chewings will have the options of paying the fine, asking for it to be dealt with by a court; ignoring it, in which case the matter will go to a government fine recovery unit; or to appeal to the council to waive the fine, giving reasons.
Mr Chewings says some of the millions spent on the civic centre should have been used to make the town tidier but his “mission is not anti-council. It is pro-Alice.
“There have been volunteer efforts before in this town like the ‘orange army’ of a few years ago.
“Their efforts came to nought.
“Our little group have proven ourselves over the years but there is so much work to do.
“Most of our support is from Indigenous people without whom we could achieve little indeed,” says Mr Chewings.
He’s been leaving orange garbags, filled with litter he and Tony collected, along Bradshaw Drive as an encouragement to locals and the council to do more about the rampant litter problem in town, especially along drains and around its bushland periphery, albeit still in the municipal area.
The bags are meant to be collected by the council.
Mr Mooney says the council supports Mr Chewings’ campaign, and allows him free dumping at the landfill, and Mayor Fran Kilgariff has offered “to publicize work he’s doing, in the local media and the council quarterly newsapaper.
“But we ask Mr Chewings to obey the law, as everyone else is asked to do,” and that means no orange bags in Bradshaw Drive.
There is no room for compromise, says Mr Mooney.
Mr Chewings, a taxi driver and family man, says his job gives him good opportunities to spot litter.
His and Tony’s aim is to get the litter they collected to a total of 500 tonnes by 2008.
IS ALICE IGNORING DRUGS PROBLEM? Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD
There could be 1000 people in Alice Springs using illicit drugs according to police, but the town continues to fail to provide an adequate rehabilitation service, says the president of a local drug support charity.
Addicts are offered a 10 day detox program at the Drug and Alcohol Services Association and if needed, prescription medication to wean them off heroin or other opiates is arranged through the government health care agency, the Alcohol Drug Service Central Australia.
Currently only 26 people are receiving methadone or bupranorphine, which are opiate replacements.
Alison Lillis, the president of Green Gates, says a more extensive strategy needs to be adopted.
“The agencies in town are working to capacity with waiting lists.
“And it’s a lot to expect someone to be treated for 10 days and then say ‘you’re better now’, especially long term users.
“They need to be further supported while relearning basic living skills.
“There are several forms of residential treatment in Darwin but surely we should have something in Alice Springs so people don’t have to leave family and support.”
Green Gates has been fundraising and campaigning for six years and is currently preparing another submission to government for funding a residential treatment centre in Alice Springs.
“We really hope it comes off,” says Ms Lillis.
“A residential centre will help people regain skills to enable them to return to their families and community and to obtain jobs.”
Six years ago Ms Lillis and the charity set up a refuge house for addicts, run solely by volunteers including including nurses, a doctor and psychiatrists, but it was closed down after four months because a neighbour living near the house objected.
Ms Lillis is positive about Green Gates’ latest proposal.
“It is much-needed to enable recovery after people have been through the initial detox and withdrawal through the present medical agencies in town.”
Meanwhile, police say there has been a shift over the last two years in the type of drugs being used in Alice Springs, with opiates being replaced by amphetamines (speed).
Detective Sargent Clinton Sims is the officer in charge of the NT Police’s Drug and Intelligence Unit which carries out raids and acts on information on drugs received by the public.
“There are no cocaine or heroin dealers in Alice Springs at the present time,” says Det Sgt Sims, one of six detectives employed with the unit which covers the geographical area between the South Australian, West Australian and Queensland boarders up to Tennant Creek.
“We see small amounts of cocaine or heroin from time to time but they are insignificant amounts, just the amount a single user would take.
“There has been no significant cocaine or heroin raids for the last four years.”
Raids carried out in the last month included two seizures of one ounce of amphetamines.
“The majority of drugs we seize are cannabis and amphetamines and in the last two years we’ve noticed increases in the amount of ecstasy here (a drug with properties similar to speed).
“In May we caught a man in Bojangles with over 100 ecstasy tablets.”
Det Sgt Sims says ecstasy is mostly taken on licensed premises, whereas speed and cannabis are more likely to be consumed at people’s homes.
“There hasn’t been a change in the amount of drugs coming into Alice Springs over the past five years but there is more public awareness and as a result more information being given to the police.”
Det Sgt Sims says the majority of drugs are coming from Adelaide, transported here by cars or trucks and through the mail or by freight.
His unit has been strengthened by the Substance Abuse Intelligence Desk staffed by NT police officers to tighten cross border security and drug abuse in remote communities.
“Petrol sniffing is the most significant form of substance abuse in remote communities but a percentage of the population are taking other recreational drugs like amphetamines or cannabis,” says Sgt Sims.
He says the drug market doesn’t follow a pattern: some weeks the police carry out five raids, other weeks none at all.
Last Friday saw Stuart Johnson found guilty of possession of five pounds of cannabis: one pound sells for $3,600 in Alice Springs.
He is due to be sentenced this week.
DRAGS, FINKE MAY SHARE TROUBLES. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Drag racing is a high speed, short duration motor sport but the Central Australian Drag Racing Association (CADRA) are finding that getting their local drag strip up and running is something of a marathon.
The hold up has arisen because the site for the strip is directly above the aquifer used for Alice’s drinking water supply. CADRA does not dispute the importance of that supply being protected but argue that the goalposts seem to be different for different users and are constantly shifting.
According to CADRA’s project manager, Peter Campbell, a risk analysis of the site commissioned by the Power and Water Corporation has found that the toilet facilities, those at the Finke start/finish line, certified by Territory Health three years ago, are inadequate.
The analysis also identifies concerns about fuel spillage, in particular the use of a track bite product containing a high proportion of toluene.
Mr Campbell says CADRA have since found an alternative product using far less toluene and, working with the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment Protection Agency, have come up with a number of engineering solutions to contain contamination.
The track bite product will only be applied to 100 metres of the 400m strip, and concrete barriers preventing its runoff will run for 200 metres.
Drains on either side of the barriers will capture any materials coming off the strip and will empty into interceptors, basically a “better brand of oil separator able to handle small particle and more volatile fuels”.
All of this is well in excess of the original concept for the strip which counted on any spillage being mopped up by association members (a safety requirement before racing is allowed to continue) and the use of an on-site oil separator used by the Finke race.
Mr Campbell says this oil separator, “quite an expensive item”, has been inadequately designed and will need to be given a gravel base with bitumen seal to meet safety standards.
He says the association is also being told they will need an on-site environmental manager during racing and for the reporting that is required in the event of any spillage or septic tank pumpout.
The association proposed that members fulfill this role but that has been denied.
“A qualified consultant is supposed to do the reporting and soil sampling.
“The association hadn’t factored that into their costs.
“They were planning a development costing $800,000. They’re now looking at $1.6m!”
CADRA vice-president and drag racer Ray Baney suggests that the environmental protection steps the association has had to implement “will be forced onto the Finke Desert Race”.
“If the Finke start/finish line and prologue tracks have to be rebuilt to meet the same requirements as the drag strip, costs for it will reach into the millions of dollars. I don’t see how the Finke committee can afford this.”
Mr Baney argues that the environmental measures are unnecessarily restrictive.
“Drag racers are concerned about environmental protection, we drink the same water, breathe the same air as everyone else.
“Our sport is designed to limit any chemical spills from race vehicles; any spill on the track surface will cause the race to stop. The spills or drips are cleaned up immediately and never reach the soil around the road surface.
“And the dreaded track bite will not run off the track in any case. It is in liquid form when applied, but dries to a glue-like substance in seconds and cannot be removed from the track. It won’t wash off with water, or anything that I have found. I spilled some on my concrete garage floor, and when dry, I had to scrape it off with a chisel and knife. It won’t end up running off the track, or into the soil.
“Track bite seems to be the big concern with Power and Water and others, but it is the least likely to get into the environment. Any toluene in the compound evaporates into the air instantly, so the compound can dry and become sticky for the race car tires.
“Our race vehicles carry small amounts of fuel, and no bulk storage exists at the site.
“In 13 years of drag racing at the airport, we had no accidents causing spillage. We consider drag racing is the safest motorsport.
“An engineering study done in 2004 by the then NT Department of Infrastructure, Planning, and Environment (DIPE) showed that even a large spill of pollutants, such as petrol, if left untouched, would take thousands of years to reach the town water supply.
“Even then, the parts per million (ppm) of any such pollutant would be far below the current standard for drinking water, virtually undetectable.”
Mr Baney also asks why other entities using the land over the water aquifer are not required to meet the same stringent expectations.
“Imagine the risk posed by the South Stuart Highway to the water aquifer?
“There is unlimited public access to the highway by thousands of cars, trucks, road trains, buses, etc, on a 24 hour basis.
“Some of these road transports carry tens of thousands of litres of fuel or toxic chemicals.
“There are no crash barriers where the Stuart Highway passes throught the water aquifer area.
“There are no drains or oil/water seperators to collect spilled fuel or oil that comes off the highway.
“There are no legions of persons standing by the highway, waiting to clean up messes left by the cars and trucks that pass by. The same goes for the ANR line.
“And, interestingly, Power and Water has a Roe Creek bore pump station where fuel is stored for generators. I have not seen any protection measures at the Power and Water site on top of the aquifer.”
Power and Water confirm that a risk audit for the entire water catchment area for Alice Springs will deliver “a comparative risk analysis of all existing and currently known proposed landuses within the Roe Creek catchment that have the potential to affect the potable water supply quality”.
A spokesperson says: “A range of recommended management interventions have been provided that will reduce or mitigate any adverse risk outcomes.
“The current known landuses within the Alice Springs borefield include the rail and road corridors, the airport, the cattle sales yards and the Finke start line and proposed drag strip.
“Power and Water has provided its comments relating to the proposed drag strip site to the Development Consent Authority and has also complied with all required timelines and information requests from the DCA.
“The Central Australian Drag Racing Association has been consulted at all stages of the risk assessment, and to date Power and Water has provided CADRA copies of its advice to the DCA as a courtesy on each occasion.”
Mr Baney says CADRA investigated setting up the drag strip at the Brewer Estate.
“We drew up plans at our own expense, so that we could race where there is no potential impact to the environment. We were turned down, because the NT government wants us to share the Finke site infrastructure already in place.”
Minister for Sport and Recreation Delia Lawrie remains adamant that the drag strip will be built at the Finke site and shows no sign of helping CADRA out with the increased cost it is facing.
'CARE, CONTROL, MANAGEMENT' NOW MEAN DOING SOMETHING. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Gerry Baddock knows better than to hold her breath but it looks like there may be some action at last on illegal camping in the Charles River in front of her home.
Minister for Local Government Elliot McAdam has written to Mayor Fran Kilgariff of his belief that that it is “incumbent” on the council, as Trustee of the Charles River Reserve, “to restrict illegal access to the reserve”.
Mrs Baddock had complained directly to him and the minister suggests to council that access to the reserve can be blocked “as has been requested” by Mrs Baddock.
The issue was raised at the last meeting of council by Deputy Mayor Robyn Lambley. She said the Minister’s letter made clear that it was council’s responsibility to do something.
Ms Kilgariff replied that the situation “is not as clearcut as the Minister would think”.
CEO Rex Mooney explained that council does indeed have “care, control and management” responsibilities for the reserve but there was “an issue about what ‘care, control and management’ means”.
“I don’t like buck passing but I have to be sure of what council’s responsibilities are,” he said, also expressing concern that rocks placed across the river “could impede the flow of water”.
The Alice News was quite sure that Mrs Baddock’s sights were set on blocking access not to the riverbed but to the track that has been made on the banks by illegal off-road driving.
The News confirmed this with the tireless campaigner, who is now of the view that the best solution to blocking the track would be to use the trunks of the 11 trees in the river that have been illegally burnt since December 12 last year.
Mrs Baddock’s plan has the support of Lhere Artepe who visited the site last week.
Lhere Artepe’s Esther Pearce says the “devastation of the land” had shocked their delegation, which included chairman Brian Stirling.
“At least the vehicular access has got to be stopped,” she says.
Now it seems that council is coming around. Mr Mooney says an on-site meeting will be organised and that “moving the tree trunks is an alternative which we are pleased to investigate”.
Ald Lambley welcomes the apparent breakthrough: “The illegal camping in the creek has been discussed and debated every month since I have been on council. The arrangement with the police, Tangentyere and the council waxes and wanes and for all intents and purposes is ineffective.
“A campaign of zero tolerance needs to be implemented: no camping, no fires and no unauthorised vehicles in the creek. And actions always speak louder than words!!”
BROUGH WINS SOME, LOSES SOME. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
It’s three steps forward and two back for Aboriginal Affairs
By lifting the dead hand of the Central Land Council (CLC) Mr Brough may be ushering in a golden age for commercial opportunities on Aboriginal freehold land - half of Central Australia.
For a generation, incompetence or a deliberate policy to maintain the pathetic status quo have denied people in the bush most fundamental opportunities: The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006, after its third reading, is now due to go to the Senate where it is bound to pass, given the government’s control over that house.
If the Bill is passed, then indigenous entrepreneurs and their partners will no longer be compelled to get their land councils’ consent for business ventures on their land, including leasing it.
That will raise Aboriginal communities from an entrepreneurial stone age when the CLC’s inept but all pervasive bureaucracy presided over collective ownership, overt hostility toward business enterprise and a singular inability to realize the broad opportunities in tourism and rural production.
The result is perpetuated wretched poverty, alcoholism and brutality.
But Mr Brough keeps saying he will make the CLC the de-facto owner of Central Australia’s major public asset, its national parks.
He’s flying in the face of clear evidence that public ownership of national icons has some powerful defenders out there in voter land: All he needs to do is look at the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
But first Mr Brough’s good news.
Canberra has removed the land councils’ exclusive power over commercial dealings in Aboriginal freehold land. You can’t buy it but you can lease it for up to 99 years.
That’s not new but now you can do it without the land council being involved.
For most people living on the communities the change is of little practical value. The fewest would have enough money to buy a house.
The collateral value of a block on a squalid settlement is unlikely to be substantial when you talk to the bank.
Would you build an investment home at Papunya?
Would you lease the store, and the land it’s on, for 99 years, and run it as a business free from standover tactics by corrupt community heavies?
Yet Canberra’s move has a great symbolic significance: Land use decisions can now be made by the people who own it rather than the hundreds, even thousands of people who are members of a land trust, guided by a land council bureaucracy which has put its incompetence as commercial managers and advisors beyond any doubt during the last three decades.
Similarly symbolic are Mr Brough’s propositions for town lease areas, making them “just another suburb”.
It will be nice to see an end to the current apartheid regime.
But what will be the benefit of replacing the inadequate services from Tangentyere Council with those from a reluctant Town Council? We’ll see.
People in the town camps who now get their housing by way of handout from a Federal agency, I guess, will then get homes by way of handout from a Northern Territory agency.
What incentive will that give them to change their lifestyle and grasp the plentiful job and social opportunities in a town so proudly touting its multiracial character?
Mr Brough and his colleagues in employment, education and health are clearly on the right track with their “mutual obligation” strategies, taking their cues from progressive indigenous thinkers such as North Queensland lawyer Noel Pearson and international development specialist Gregory Andrews, recently working at Mutitjulu: “Sit down money” is - slowly - on its way out.
HEATED TOWN POOL: HUGE TAB FOR COUNCIL?
The town council could be left picking up the tab for a tidy $12m
the proposed indoor swimming pool: and ratepayers could be stung for
of dollars a year for maintenance costs.
Alderman Jane Clark says that the $8m the NT Government has promised won’t even pay for half the facility.
“$8m can’t provide an indoor pool, a hydrotherapy pool and a fun park.
“Looking at the cost of similar facilities around Australia, a more realistic cost is $20m.
“And then you have to look at the running costs. The town pool has always run at a loss and the council has to top up the deficit.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve been promised this money but when you’re given a gift like this from the Territory government you have to be careful of accepting it. We’ve been given a poisoned chalice in a way.
“We’ve accepted the cheque and banked it. But if you were in business you wouldn’t accept something like this until you’d considered the nuts and bolts of it.
“I would prefer it if council was more business-minded.”
A feasibility study into an indoor facility was carried out in 2004, commissioned by the town council. Ald Clark was unable to reveal the cost of the pool predicted by the study “because it is a confidential document”.
But she says she’s at a loss to know where the government has plucked the $8m figure from.
“I’ve asked the town council but we haven’t been able to establish where that figure has come from,” she says.
Ald Clark says the council have now been given a further $100,000 by the NT government to carry out a second feasibility study to see if the same facilities can be squeezed out for less than half the cost of similar facilities in other towns.
“The Territory government didn’t make the decision whether to go ahead with the heated pool uninformed.
“They are fully aware of the genuine cost.
“They’ve offered us $8m and told us we have to do a study for a facility which costs that much.
“They’ve kept us in the dark about the whole thing. I’ve put questions to the chief minister’s office and was promised a written reply. That was a couple of months ago and I still haven’t heard back.”
The second study will commence “as soon as possible”, says Ald Clark, with council officers in the process of hiring an engineering consultancy to carry out the study.
“I’m really concerned. The government make an election promise and say they’re giving something to the town but they’re not really putting into place anything.
“It’s a vote buying exercise which rate payers have to support.”
The council’s temporary director of finance Ed Wlodarczyk has budgeted $105,300 for topping up the cost of running the town pool for this financial year. Ald Clark predicts it will cost the council double that for a heated pool every year.
Ald Clark has been involved in lobbying for an indoor pool for 10 years.
“It’s exciting that we’ve been offered an indoor pool.
“The town really needs one for rehabilitation purposes: there are many people in town who have chronic long-term illness which can only be helped by swimming.”
A massage therapist, Ald Clark has had personal as well as professional experience of the need for a rehab pool.
“My son broke his back in a car accident in July two years ago. When he had recovered enough for rehabilitation, the only thing the doctor said he could do was swim. But because the town pool was closed he had to wait and it put his recovery back five months.”
She says the desperate need of the town for the pool makes the NT government’s false promise even more disappointing.
“The town council has a lot of competing issues for money and we can’t keep maintaining them all. There is nothing to protect us from increasing rates again the future.
“We’ve already started on the financial back foot this year. The federal government gave us a smaller financial assistance grant this year and we’re being expected to continue to pay for the cost of services like the library, which is hugely expensive and a service you would expect the state or federal government to look after.”
BEANIE FEST X 3. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Eric Knight, Glen Ewers and Olivier Prudhomme won’t let anyone pull
the wool over their eyes at the Beanie Festival which this year
attracted three times as many people than ever before.
Beanie-hungry shoppers numbered 3,500 through the Beanie Central marketplace on Saturday, with 1800 attending the opening festivities on Friday night, cementing it as Araluen’s most popular event.
“It’s become huge, our numbers have tripled since the very first Beanie Festival 10 years ago,” says organiser Jo Nixon, delighted with the turnout.
Beanie Central was a colourful beanie explosion, with woollen and felted hats suspended from the ceiling and filling tables upon tables. And even more creations were being whipped up during the series of workshops that were held across the weekend.
Emily Hunt (pictured) bought two beanies at her second festival.
“There’s even more of a culture surrounding the festival this year with the cookbooks and mugs and other merchandise,” she says.
“Last year I bought a beanie for my cousin who’d just adopted a baby from Ethiopia.
“It’s exciting that it’s a national event now: perhaps it will be the first time people have heard that it’s cold enough in Alice Springs to need beanies, and not hot all the time!”
The Colours of the Country 10th anniversary exhibition was stunning: a real showpiece of the development of the festival, full of pieces carefully crafted from a variety of yarns (including hand-spun wools), felts, ribbons, pom poms, mirrors, shells and feathers.
It displayed this year’s winning beanies as well as a selection of beanies acquired over the festival’s 10 years.
Among the most striking is Debbie Swanwick-Howarth’s Carnivale, a headress of parrot and peacock feathers stitched to a beanie, with an embroidered centrepiece. Aiko Takahashi’s Sumou is a peach coloured knitted sumo wrestler complete with angry expression.
Other impressive pieces were Jo Nixon’s The Magic Faraway Tree, depicting characters from the Enid Blyton novel, and Bhoomi Redpath’s Black Cat: a beanie which had been stretched into a long black feline shape, depicting a silky coat and slinky tail.
From Tasmania, Redpath was one of a number of interstate artists who have contributed, like Penny O’Neil from Melbourne, whose piece Feral Fire has also been acquired by the festival. It is a beacon of orange and red yarns, crocheted into a pinnacle, with the wool resembling flames licking at the hat.
Jude Mapleson’s A Colourful Bloke was another eye-popping design, a sculptural piece based on a cartoon by illustrator Michael Leunig, and is featured in Colours of the Country, the book launched to celebrate the festival’s birthday.
LARD UP BIG TIME AT THE SHOW . COLUMN by ADAM CONNELLY.
Would it alarm you if I told you that there is a place where
toothless old men lure kids to engage in games by the promise of
stuffed animals? What if I told you that the parents of these children
pay for the privilege while gorging themselves on fat-soaked meat off
cuts, fried cheese and full strength beer? What if I was to say that
once their helpless children survive that ordeal they are thrown into a
small metal cage and spun, thrown and shaken until they are sick?
No, it’s not another episode of the 7.30 Report, it’s another fun-filled day at the Alice Springs Show.
I am an unashamed fan of shows. I grew up in Sydney and every March or April Mum and Dad would pack my sister and me into the Kingswood and drive to the Royal Easter Show, listening to the Everley Brothers. You could smell the excitement in the air, the thrilling anticipation of fighting 100,000 other people in the show bag pavilion.
As a kid from suburban Sydney, the show was the only opportunity I had to see where milk really came from. It was the first place I realised that pigs don’t actually say “oink”. Most importantly it was where I first discovered that one should not consume Pluto Pups directly before riding the Gravitron.
Later on, in another incarnation I traveled regional New South Wales performing magical feats at shows from Quirindi to Condobolin, Wagga Wagga to Orange, loving every minute of the perfectly Australian carnival atmosphere that only a show can conjure.
The Alice Springs Show is no exception. In fact, in a town that is so completely different to any other I have visited, the Alice Springs Show is an event that connects the Alice to our regional cousins across the country.
This show will only be my second Alice Show. The first experience was fantastic.
Blatherskite Park bathed in winter sunshine. All the colour and movement of the rides mixed with all the agricultural smells. Why is it that when one smells cow slop at the show, it smells delightful? Anywhere else we’d be checking our shoes and blaming the bloke next to us.
The beauty of the show is that there are several events that are only socially acceptable at the show. It is OK to eat food you wouldn’t normally touch without hazmat chemical suits.
Anywhere else deep fried fat and chocolate covered cholesterol is a social no no. But the show is a licence to lard up like there is no tomorrow.
If you were to lose a child or children in a shopping centre, society might deem you a bad parent.
At the show it’s the order of the day to lose a kid or two. Somehow we know we’ll find them by sundown.
Normally staid and conservative couples, who, outside the showground enjoy a romantic DVD and a calming glass of mellow red of an evening, are given the liberty to transform into yahoos and ride the most ridiculous amusement contraptions with names like “The Devil’s Tornado” and “The Vomit Express”.
The show is your pass to have the sort of fun you had when you were a kid. So my advice to you is embrace it.
You don’t get to do it too often. If anyone looks at you with disdain, send them over to me. I’ll be the one covered in fairy floss on the “Chuck-o-scope”!
LETTER: GAME, SET AND MATCH .
Sir,– The front-page article (May 4) on the proposal to develop new tennis courts high-lighted the impressive increase in the number of players, particularly juniors, in the past five years.
One only has to drive past the courts to see the action and energy exerted by the players.
However, while acknowledging the success of the collaboration between the Tennis Association and contracted Red Centre Tennis Academy, it would be wrong to assume that everything to do with tennis began five years ago.
Statements to the effect that there were only three junior players at the beginning of this collaboration are plainly incorrect when the association had at least 60 juniors supported by a junior sub-committee of parents.
This junior sub-committee had also made full contribution to the Council Sports Facility Fund (over $2000 in that year).
It had also accumulated a resource fund of approximately $10,000 which was transferred to the ASTA and which can be assumed to have been used to support junior players of the new arrangement
The current 10 courts and clubhouse did not create themselves. Ratepayers, councils, the NT Government and, particularly, former players and committee members have developed and maintained the facility as it now stands.
The contribution of these former participants should not be glossed over. A visit to the club would show the extensive range of trophies competed for over the years with very significant players honoured on same. Max Horton still lives locally and is an icon of voluntary involvement in tennis for years.
More recently (at the risk of leaving out important contributors), names such as Bailey, Baxters, Farmer, Hood, Price, Johannsens, Stirks, Roberts, Robinsons, Crawford, Connors, Horsfall, Ettridges, Wiltshires, Whites, Rowes, Collitts and Pearson were all busy contributors to the development of tennis in Alice Springs. The contribution of these and other unheralded workers should be acknowledged.
Given the numbers of juniors playing in 1998 and the high level of achievement of junior players at the time (including Bonita Bittner, the current Level 2 Coach; NTIS scholarship holders, Nicholas Bent, James Hood and Joel Ettridge, the last two later in Tennis SA squad; and Luke Horsfall who joined the others at ITF tournaments), and the high level of fund-raising, it may be questioned if the club “was in decline”, at least in the junior ranks.
The senior members’ sub-committee may have been struggling.
While it is proposed, in the submission to council, to have one venue, not “split venues”, this proposal should offer the opportunity to think further outside the box.
If the stated rate of growth continues, and the rhetoric suggests that this is a possibility, even 16 courts would be insufficient.
Why not look at alternative models? Why not look at running tennis as other sports are run?
Have an association overseeing the running of the sport and have, say, four clubs in competition with each other, each providing training, etc.
I’m sure there are four clubs who would love to be involved as they are in cricket, basketball and netball. This is only one of the possible models that could be investigated.
Whatever the end result, given the ever-changing nature of interest and population, it would be beneficial to use all the expertise of people who know local sports, and tennis in particular, before decisions are made.
ED – The News offered right of reply:
Sir,- On Behalf of the Alice Springs Tennis Association and Red Centre Tennis Academy we would like to extend our warmest thanks to Alice News for a positive, well presented and factual, article about the club and its members.
We have had a tremendous response to the article, with many people commenting on, how nice it was in the midst of all the storm and controversy the town has been receiving of late.
To see a newspaper headlining something so positive and uplifting about our great town for a change. It has been very helpful in getting our case for a new centre heard in many places.
Tennis has a long and proud association with many people in this town, as do all sports.
Our outstanding recent success is in fact the summation of many ideas and efforts over the years, and hope to maintain that association into the future.
ATSA and the RCTA are always open to new ideas and opportunities, if you are out there, and feel you have something positive to contribute to our club we want to hear from you. Come join the fun. Help us grow!
Red Centre Tennis Academy
Sir,- Nobody denies that many people have contributed to the tennis club in the past, most of them having a positive effect on the club.
However ATSA is looking to the future while being mindful of its past, not looking at history and hoping for a future.
As to the idea of split venues or teams, research shows that it doesn’t work and is not viable.
There are very few tennis clubs that are not envious of our management model, our programs and our success.
Alice Springs Tennis Association
Return to Alice Springs