ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
February 11, 2010. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Boxed in council supports rezoning
south of the Gap. By KIERAN
The message is “loud and clear” that the Town Council supports
“development anywhere” in order to get more accommodation into town.
This was the frustrated comment of Deputy Mayor John Rawnsley after a
protracted debate around amendments to the planning scheme that would
allow for urban-style development south of the Gap.
Ald Rawnsley had wanted council to refrain from making a decision on
the AZRI subdivision option as a protest over council’s lack of
information on the proposal, such as an existing traffic management
His motion, which called for elected members to instead make individual
submissions on the AZRI proposal but also for increased control and
decision-making authority for council on planning issues, was carried,
with only Ald Murray Stewart opposing (he supports planning powers for
council but wanted aldermen to take a collective position on AZRI).
A later motion, endorsing “in principle” rezoning south of the Gap, as
is being proposed by the NT Government, was also carried, with only Ald
Jane Clark opposing.
This position, which will be taken formally to the Development Consent
Authority, will give council “standing” in the process.
The public gallery was packed, mainly with rural area residents, and at
least one real estate agent, David Forrest, was present.
In public question time aldermen heard from both sides of the debate.
Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, Julie Ross, asked whether council was
aware “that economic development is stifled in Alice Springs”?
“There is no land available for industrial greenfield development, and
no affordable land available for residential development,” said Mrs
Ross, deploring the “chronic skills shortage” that has arisen because
of lack of accommodation.
“Consider this – if we do nothing about land development south of the
Gap, and businesses fail to grow, or worse still, close because of lack
of staff, it could take two to three times longer to get a plumber out
to fix your blocked toilet (at an exorbitant price), buildings will
fall further into disrepair because of neglect due to lack of trades
people, tourism ventures will close because there is not sufficient
staff and the list goes on!”
Architect Domenico Pecorari asked the council to request the Minister
for Planning to defer any decision on the planing scheme amendments
until “a more comprehensive professional analysis” of the consequences
could be made, one which would investigate “alternative, more viable,
sustainable solutions” to better accommodate the town’s growth.
In the debate Aldermen Brendan Heenan, Liz Martin, Samih Habib and
Murray Stewart all expressed strong support for the AZRI subdivision,
though in the context of having”no option”, given the housing crisis.
Ald Clark, concerned about the way the AZRI option might isolate people
in a satellite development and make them car-dependent, wanted a big
picture analysis by a “qualified town planner”.
Ald Sandy Taylor could see some merit on both sides of the debate, but
was worried that the AZRI option is “a knee-jerk reaction” to the
She said the town needs a debate on whether we “go up or go out”
– high-rise or sprawl.
workers’ camp on the fast track. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Alice Springs developers Graeme and Carol Bernie, and Tony Smith, seem
to be in the front running for a multi million dollar “short stay
workers village” in Alice Springs – and possibly one in Darwin.
In conflict with the recent practice of not putting up for public
comment major development proposals during Christmas and January, for
obvious reasons, and despite the NT Government usually taking its time
when it comes to land use decisions, this one positively leapt off the
The government’s requirements were first advertised in newspapers just
one week before Christmas.
On January 18, Mr and Mrs Bernie signed an authorization for Darwin
consultants Master Plan to act as the applicant for a “Development
Permit at Lot 288 Ross Highway”, and Mr Smith did so the following day,
on behalf of the Green Ant Property Trust.
Two days later Master Plan had a 34 page submission ready for the
government to put on public display for a fortnight.
It was taken off display – ending the opportunity for public comment –
on February 5, as locals were still trickling back into town from their
rellie rally or elsewhere, hardly of a mind to immediately deal with
serious matters of public interest.
There was much concern in the past that sharp operators pushed
unpopular development projects through over the summer break, and so
the government quarantined that period from seeking comment.
The minder for Lands Minister Gerry McCarthy said this when The News
asked her why this useful convention was dispensed with on this
occasion: “The Department of Lands and Planning chooses not to exhibit
applications over the Christmas and New Year period to ensure people
have the opportunity to comment.
“This application went on display on 22 January after the holiday
Master Plan doesn’t actually mention “Short Stay - Workers Village” in
its report, but alludes to “Request for Proposals Documentation” from
the NT Government, and then goes all out to demonstrate how well its
clients’ plans fit the government’s requirements, to wit: “The Short
Stay Accommodation Village should provide good quality flexible
accommodation choices for between 200 to 250 people at its peak in
Darwin, and for up to 100 people at its peak in Alice Springs.
“The Northern Territory Government has identified a parcel of Crown
land in Darwin which can be made available for lease, or proponents can
use their own land.
“In Alice Springs, proponents will need to utilise their own land as no
government site has been earmarked.”
As it turns out, Mr and Mrs Bernie and Mr Smith, between them, have
both land (between Ross Highway and Ragonesi Road) and apparently lots
of dongas: Mr Smith had a contract to provide accommodation for workers
building the Alice to Darwin railway line.
There are no details other than what’s contained in the application,
Master Plan manager Brad Cunnington told the News.
The value of works – “caravan park and short-stay accommodation” – not
including the land (four hectares zoned Tourist Commercial), is quoted
The plan is for “single persons accommodation” in 88 beds placed in 22
buildings (apparently dongas and not self contained); six self
contained cabins (12 beds) and 10 powered caravan sites.
There will be an office and shop, communal cooking and dining facility
seating 60, recreation room “complete with television”, two laundries,
an ablution block and pool, and initially a 92-place car park.
This seems to be a long shot from the description announced by Chief
Minister Paul Henderson in December, saying the facilities in Darwin
and Alice Springs would be “for workers needing accommodation for up to
He said: “It’s envisaged they will be true mini villages and include
amenities such as ensuite accommodation, eating facilities, a
store/newsagent and banking facilities. Different sorts of workers will
be able to stay at the villages – such as teachers, nurses,
construction workers and tradies.”
Future stages of the Alice proposal provide for an additional “150 to
A spokeswoman for Mr Henderson said this week: “In making a submission
for these workers villages, developers are required to provide details
including how the villages will be developed and operated.
“The Government does not have a commitment or agreement with any party
related to the workers village in either Alice Springs or Darwin.
“Submissions related to the two workers villages will be reviewed
after the submission period closes tomorrow.
Proposals for these closed on Tuesday (after the deadline for this
edition, but The News will endeavor to report on further developments
as breaking news in its online edition).
on the bottom of the heap. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
In the town’s housing fiasco Kathleen Kahane and Stephanie Mammana are
at the very bottom of the heap.
For months they have been living in a tiny caravan, made available to
them upon resolute intervention from Alderman Murray Stewart and a few
of his friends.
Kathleen has a string of disabilities. Stephanie is her carer and
The lack of space and the ongoing frustrations have taken their toll:
both are on edge, quarrel a lot.
They have no income other than welfare. They qualify for welfare
For months last year they fought in vain to get onto the priority
Now they are on it – but there are no houses.
On December 3 Housing Minister Rob Knight wrote to them: “I am advised
that on the 18 November 2009 the Priority Housing Panel deferred your
application and have requested that you provide additional supporting
The Minister gave them advice instead of a house: “Territory Housing
will be able to provide you with a list of services that provide
emergency and/or crisis accommodation given your urgent need to
All the while, there is lots of anecdotal evidence that public houses
are subjected to wanton vandalism, and stand empty for long periods –
with no-one being brought to book.
Empty words are the government’s way of dealing with the housing drama.
The News chased the two women’s story for our last 2009 edition,
clearly explaining our deadlines to spokeswoman Christa Murphy.
She blew the deadline.
We emailed her on December 16:
“I’m most disappointed, yet again, that I was let down with a request
for information, this time about Kathleen Kahane and Stephanie Mammana.
“You supplied none of the information promised for yesterday. Nothing
of what I needed was on the website you nominated.
“Our final edition for 2009 is now printed, but be sure that the story
will be in our line-up for the first 2010 edition on February 4.
“The questions, for now, will be:-
“Why have they been rejected twice?
“How does that tally with your statement that ‘their application has
not been denied’? (After all, the Minister himself said they had been
“Are they on the priority list or not?
“How many people are on that list?
“What is the waiting time?
“What is the average time for dwellings that have been damaged to be
Ms Murphy responded: “I will make sure you have a response to these
questions for your February 2010 edition.”
Our February 4 edition appeared a week ago. We still don’t have Ms
crisis in the vastness of Alice: What is the problem? COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Are we a democracy? Of course.
That means the government must do what we tell it to?
Naturally. Well then, let’s do some telling.
The southern half of the Alice Springs municipality – that’s the part
south of The Gap – is about 100 square kilometers.
Fewer than 2000 people live there, a population density most
administrations around the world can only dream of.
The NT Government gets nearly five times as much money (per head of
population) as the average of the other Australian states. Nearly five
We have oodles of space and an ocean of money.
So, when it comes to providing residential land, what is the problem?
Why do people feel powerless and fearful rather than bullish and
optimistic about the AZRI issue?
Why does the town not put democracy to the test and instruct the
government as follows:
• We need cheap land and we need it now. We want you to develop the
AZRI land, which we the people own, and sell the blocks for the cost of
That is what Canberra did before we embarked on our hapless experiment
of self government.
A block would then go for around $60,000 – not $300,000.
Should there be a government land bank?
The Town Council’s Manager Developments Mark Pierson has floated the
The trigger for land release would not be the interests of parasitic
speculators, but first home buyers, young people, people wanting to
move to our beautiful town, workers taking jobs with the businesses
driven to the edge of extinction by the housing crisis, housing for the
people who can and want to make this town grow.
• Public housing at AZRI: Don’t even think abut it.
First your bureaucracy must demonstrate, over a substantial time span,
and beyond any doubt, that it can manage public housing; stop over
crowding of homes; stamp out vandalism; recover from tenants every cent
spent on damage beyond reasonable wear and tear; and that a rigorous
test is in place that prospective tenants must pass, proving they are
capable of caring for houses owned by the public.
• Ensure the integrity of the rural living enclaves including Heffernan
Road, Rangeview Estate, Ilparpa, Ross Highway. People there have, from
their own resources, carved out a lifestyle on two hectare blocks or
bigger. They must be afforded the peace of mind that none of that is
under threat. For example, there is now a 1.5 kilometer buffer between
AZRI and the western edge of the Heffernan Road rural subdivision.
There is no reason why that shouldn’t stay.
We should make provisions for more such areas in case there is demand
There’s plenty of land on the airport block. We’ve got the space, and
we’ve got the money.
• To the well meaning souls, mostly comfortably housed and employed,
who urge another eternity of consultation, reporting, planning,
examination and deliberation, we should say that Blind Freddy could
see, after the planning forum nearly two years ago, that AZRI was going
to be the next cab off the rank. If there are problems with the AZRI
locality, there has been plenty of time to raise them.
Now we’ve reached tipping point. Chamber of Commerce head Julie Ross
says we’re poised to become a welfare town. Do we want that?
Ring your local politician. Tell him or her to get on with it –
blocks for $150,000? By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Small, green-street style housing blocks, around 400 square metres,
would go on the market for $140,000 to $150,000 from the Coolibah
Its owner, Ron Sterry, says this would happen if the government permits
small, urban style residential land south of The Gap.
A planning scheme amendment that would allow the rezoning is before the
Development Consent Authority.
Mr Sterry (pictured in Kempeana Estate) says he would sell blocks of
around 800 square metres for about $200,000 to $250,000.
There would be no public housing on his land, and blocks would be
turned off in six to eight months’ time, “depending on finance”.
Mr Sterry has endured ups and downs in his decade-long quest to open up
the 150 hectare property between the range and Ragonesi Road. His
battle with the Town Council over drainage is ongoing.
He now has sewerage on a large part of the land, “about $1m worth”, and
water and power “can be easily installed”.
Mr Sterry says his sale prices to first home buyers would be subject to
covenants – most likely with re-selling subject to a two year
moratorium, and the requirement of building a house on the land.
At present the town plan limits him to an average block size of 4000
square metres – 250 blocks on 250 acres of the land suitable for
residential development – “out of the way and very scenic”.
Mr Sterry says: “The first stage will include an over-50 lifestyle
“It can go ahead quicker than the AZRI site because the infrastructure
– sewer, power and water – are available, with upgrades.
“The NT Government don’t have to pay a cent, whereas the AZRI site will
cost the taxpayer $31m to $60m.”
committee-driven quick fixes.
By KIERAN FINNANE
After 22 years in business in Alice Springs and, with husband Bryan
Gill, seeing two children through school and on their way into adult
life, veterinarian Debbie Osborne has put her hand up to be a mentor,
one of 28, in the Alice Springs Desert Leadership Program, an
initiative of Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA).
An energetic, practical woman who runs her veterinary practice with a
staff of 25, she sees the program as offering a real alternative to the
typical “quick fix” of committee-style responses to the town’s issues.
The 18 participants will likely be in their late twenties to late
thirties, will have already demonstrated some leadership capability and
half of them will come from Aboriginal backgrounds.
The program will give them the opportunity to get to know one another
in “an inter-cultural environment” over an 18 month period and get some
structured leadership development training and experience.
In this way it is hoped they will build a genuine network based on
trust and understanding and the experience of working together.
The program will also expose them to how “the wider world works”
through its links to the National Australia Bank leadership program in
Melbourne. (NAB executives do some of their leadership training in
Central Australia, through DKA.)
“I think that’s important rather than trying to manage problems in an
isolated environment and, when that doesn’t work, having decisions
imposed from Canberra or Darwin by people with little understanding of
this town,” says Dr Osborne.
Her scientific training has led her to look for facts and analyse them
before jumping to conclusions.
Over the years in thinking about Alice Springs’ problems – “we can all
name them, alcohol, violence, unemployment, illiteracy, boredom,
idleness” – she says she has often felt hampered by a lack of
understanding of Aboriginal people and what their perspective on the
issues might be.
“There’s been no obvious way I could gather facts from outside a white
“Often our problem solving is done by white people sitting down in
committees and coming up with solutions from a white perspective.
“And, even with the best intentions, they don’t often work.
“A lot of people in town have done cross-cultural training, but from
what I can gather it is usually presented by one person who is speaking
on behalf of a very diverse group of people.
“Being part of an inter-cultural network is quite different. As people
get to know and trust one another they’ll start to talk openly.
“I see it as filling an empty space in town.”
This network-building is the core of the program, while the mentors,
matched with individual participants, sit outside that circle, there as
a sounding board for the younger person, “asking questions to help them
think things through, to make their ideas more concrete, to look at all
aspects of a situation”.
“It’s a listening and questioning role,” says Dr Osborne, who’s had
plenty of practice in training and mentoring veterinary nurses into
supervisory and management roles and in overseeing graduate vets who
need guidance at the start of their career.
She is also on the national executive of her professional body, the
Australian Small Animal Veterinary Association.
While all too aware of the limits of her inter-cultural experience,
since 1993 she has been involved in animal management programs in town
camps and on Aboriginal communities.
She is also registered with the Aboriginal Employment Strategy: “We’re
now big enough and have the systems in place to employ someone who
needs mentoring in the workplace.”
Like the other mentors involved with the program, Dr Osborne is on the
lookout for suitable candidates (applications close March 1): “When you
start thinking about it, it’s amazing how many younger people are out
there doing significant things in small areas.
“We’re hoping to find people with a long-term commitment to the town,
but even if some of them move away, it’s valuable to have people
interstate who have insight into the situation here.
“We hope they’ll be able to add common sense to the debate among
The Alice News asked DKA’s CEO, John Huigen, about how the program will
avoid creating a self-serving elite.
“The program is not value-free,” he says.
“Leadership for us is about serving the community, not about
“The program’s focus is on developing a new way of working together for
a shared future, one where we build harmony, sustainability and wealth
in the desert.
“Unless civic society is working well we won’t get all those things, so
the program is about contributing to a more effective civic society for
Why do we need a program to develop leaders? Don’t they emerge anyway,
in response to the pressures on their communities?
Program manager John Rawnsley, who at 28 became Deputy Mayor of Alice
Springs, says that may be true, but “ask any of our present leaders, if
they had had the opportunity to go through this kind of program, I
think they’d say they would have grasped it.”
As a young leader himself he acknowledges “some great opportunities he
has had to work closely with a number of people and learn from their
The News asks him what kind of a town he wants to see Alice become and
have this program contribute to: “One where everyone has opportunities
and everyone meets their responsibilities,” he says.
Solar plant blot
on Araluen? By KIERAN
By KIERAN FINNANE
Site plans for a solar air-conditioning plant in the Araluen precinct
have only now gone on display at the arts centre despite their
significant impact on the precinct grounds and facilities.
Their display comes well after the deadline (December 1 last year) for
public submissions on the already controversial development plan for
Even Central Craft, whose studio will be severely impacted upon by the
plant, was only shown the site plans on December 11.
Araluen precinct director Tim Rollason says the site plans were
available at the November 19 public meeting to discuss the development
plan. He says he told the meeting that the plans were there and
suggested that people attending should ask questions if they had
“No-one did,” says Mr Rollason.
He says the feedback at the meeting was that people supported the use
of solar energy at the precinct.
However, chair of Central Craft Faye Alexander says the plans were not
addressed by those attending the November 19 meeting “because it was
about long-term vision, not a question and answer forum”.
“We were gob-smacked to see the sheer size of the plant,” says Ms
Members were also appalled to see that the western wall of the plant
would be just six metres from the studio’s main entrance and that an
eight metre high tower would form part of the plant, both significant
blockages to the view and to natural light entering the studio and
impacting on access by vehicles and users of the studio, including
people with disabilities.
The pleasant gardens to the east of the studio, through which visitors
move when they leave Araluen Galleries and make their way to Central
Craft, the Museum of Central Australia and the aviation museum, will
They’ll be replaced by 10 rows of parabolic troughs, enclosed by a
security fence (the plans on display do not include an elevation to
show, for instance, how high the troughs will be or what the security
fence will look like).
At this stage, Mr Rollason says the caterpillar sculpture will not have
to be moved.
However, the troughs and plant will block the view to the sacred hill
rising immediately behind the studio and the main Araluen building –
“not greatly”, says Mr Rollason.
They also will be sited on either side of a sacred tree.
The sun-powered air-conditioning system, which will reduce electricity
use at Araluen by about 50% and gas usage by about 70%, is billed as an
“iconic project” for Alice Springs Solar City.
A media release put out by the Department of Natural Resources,
Environment, the Arts and Sport (NRETAS) would have it as “a visitor
experience for the 21st century”.
But is it the kind of icon suitable for an arts and culture precinct?
And is it the kind of visitor experience Araluen would want to promote,
particularly at a time when the centre is repositioning itself,
attempting to provide a richer entree into Indigenous art and culture
in the region?
Should the cultural landscape and identity of the precinct be allowed
to be so thoroughly transformed?
And how does the display now of the plans not undermine the community
consultation over the precinct development plan?
Mr Rollason says the plant is “an appropriate icon for a solar city”.
He says custodians have been consulted about the project, directly and
through the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, and have given their
Ms Alexander says it appears that work on the project has been done
“When they applied for funding for the system they did not know what it
would look like or where it would go.
“We wrote to them way back in July or August of last year asking for
the site plans.
“How could we comment on the development plan without knowing what this
plant would look like?”
In the public debate around the development plan for the precinct
Central Craft has been fairly supportive of the general thrust of the
changes. Their position has improved: they received a 10 year lease on
their facility and their rent was waived to bring them into line with
long standing arrangements for Territory Craft in Darwin.
It now looks like these moves could have been a sweetener before the
bitter pill of the solar plant was delivered.
“No-one had ever mentioned an eight-metre tower,” says Ms
“We wanted to know why we hadn’t been told.”
At a meeting with precinct director Tim Rollason and an engineer, Ms
Alexander was told that the plant could possibly be moved two to three
metres to the north, possibly even more, pending clearance by the
Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority.
While this would relieve some of the immediate impact on the studio, it
changes little in relation to the impact on the whole eastern side of
the precinct – “our beautiful precinct!” as Ms Alexander puts it.
She points out the discrepancy between the solar project and the vision
for the eastern area of the precinct as expressed in the development
“Sensitive development of the eastern area and the possible
construction of a new, additional gallery would create a living
precinct. The view of the ranges, the sacred nature of the area nearby
and the links provided by the Two Sisters story would make this a very
special place where visitors and locals would be able to gain an
insight into the true nature of Alice Springs and its people.”
Central Craft put out a media release about the plans on January 29,
calling for a community forum and suspension of the tender process,
currently underway, until “proper consideration” had been given to the
project by the community.
Mr Rollason says “at this stage” the tender has not been recalled.
He says a new draft development plan for the precinct will be put out
this month and the public will be able to comment on it.
Will there be any scope though for influencing the outcome of the
siting of the troughs and plant?
He says: “The public have told us they want to reduce carbon emissions
and use solar technology and that’s what we’re doing.
“In order to maintain the 24/7 climate controls required to house its
collections and display exhibitions, the arts centre is a high
electricity consumer, so there’s an obligation, on behalf of the
planet, to reduce our carbon emissions.”
Says Ms Alexander: “It had become apparent to us that no-one knew the
details of these plans and we felt we needed to let the public know.
“It’s not just about Central Craft.
“I’m so disappointed that we have not had an open and transparent
process about this.”
Frank. By KIERAN
“Often they haven’t got a strong male figure in their lives,” says
Aboriginal Community Police Officer Frank Curtis about the young men he
works with in a juvenile diversion program.
He knows what it’s like to be without such a figure: he and his twin
brother Danny were taken by “Welfare” when they were 13 years old and
virtually homeless in Tennant Creek.
They were sent to Yirara College, the very first ones through the doors
at the transitional school for Aboriginal students. That was in 1973.
Today they both work helping young men, Frank with the Territory police
force, which he joined in 1992, and Danny with the South Australian
disability service, in a program for petrol sniffers in the AP Lands.
Frank had been one of the founders of Tangentyere Council’s night
On a trip to Papua New Guinea to talk about this work he saw
“dark-skinned officers in uniform”.
“I thought if they can do it, I can do it.”
He has found the work challenging and rewarding, particularly now with
the young men’s diversion program.
“I try to to show them the right way and the wrong way.
“I knock their baseball caps off their heads and say ‘This is mine
“They get wild and I say, ‘See, that’s how your victim feels’.
“I turn it around so they can understand a bit more.
“I warn them, ‘When you’re 18 I won’t be here any more to help, you’ll
have to go the Big House then.”
He sounds stern but the lads appear more than happy to be with him,
vying for his attention: “Uncle Frank! Uncle Frank!”
It’s Thursday afternoon. Frank’s picked them up after school and taken
them out to Simpson’s Gap for the evening until 8pm. With him are
a few volunteers, young Aboriginal men, some of whom have been through
the program in the past and say they want to lend a hand now.
There’s a pool of around 10 volunteers with four or five coming along
on any occasion.
There are a couple of new chums but most of the participants began the
program last year and have come back after the Christmas break.
Frank says none of them got into trouble during the holidays.
They like “getting out of town, having fun, swimming, cooking”, they
tell the Alice News.
They don’t speak about the talking in a circle that they do, but this
is a big part of what these evenings over six to eight weeks are about,
says Frank – when he asks them how they’ve been feeling, about any
trouble that they might have been in, how they’re doing at school, how
they’re getting on with their mum, whether they’re showing her respect,
whether they’re being shown love, getting a hug sometimes.
On Friday he’ll take the young men further afield – for a swim at
Ellery Big Hole and a meal around the campfire, getting them home by
“I tell them to look after one another, like brothers. When you’re on
the program you’re like a family, “ says Frank.
“I encourage them to stay on at school longer – that’s very important.”
Frank himself stayed at school till Year 11.
“I tell them we’re not American, we’ve got our own culture, we don’t
have to take someone else’s culture.”
He outlaws hoodies and rap-style gestures from the young men’s program.
He’d like to see the program grow “like a spark” right through the
Territory: “Night patrol and police on remote communities can do the
same – take the young men out hunting, have a cultural night where the
old people talk, teach respect.”
He hopes some of the young men will choose a career in the police
His own daughter, the first born of six children, has followed in his
footsteps, currently serving in Tennant Creek.
Big W is
Now that I have caught the attention of hapless shopaholics, sorry to
disappoint but I’m really referring to all those noisy cicadas,
so-called due to the prominent W markings on their backs.
They are properly called Golden Drummers (Thopha colorata) but, as a
lifetime local, I’m yet to hear this name in common usage – usually we
call these insects “Big Ws” or just plain “cicadas”.
There are numerous species of cicadas around the world. In general they
spend most of their lives underground for years as nymphs (juveniles),
surviving on sap they suck from plants’ roots; eventually they emerge
from the soil to moult their exoskeletons (“shells”) and spend a final
time as fully winged adults.
As adults they live briefly, only a week or two at most, sufficient to
court, mate and breed a new generation.
However, it is during their adult phase that these insects impose their
existence upon our attention – big, blundering, colourful and loud,
they are hard to ignore.
The shrill of the male cicadas in the treetops (yes, it’s the blokes
who make all the racket) is a fundamentally characteristic sound of a
dinkum Aussie summer. They are showing off to the sheilas, you see –
the loudest and longest decibel-busters get the girls.
Big W cicadas are associated with river red gums, and are not normally
found on other local plant species. Interestingly, river gums are
widely distributed across mainland Australia but the Big W cicadas are
exclusively Central Australian.
Cicadas always emerge as the heat of summer sets in, normally in
December and January. This summer they appeared quite late, after the
heavy rains in January. Almost none appeared before this event so it’s
clear cicada nymphs also respond to soil moisture levels (and plant sap
flow, I guess) as well as high temperatures. This timing is crucial to
maximizing their chances of survival long enough to breed.
Presumably if this summer there had been no rain the cicadas would have
suspended their emergence until the next.
Cicadas often frighten people new to town but they are inoffensive
creatures – they cannot bite or sting. Their defenses lie in bluff,
disguise, flight and numbers.
A frightened male cicada will “sing” (actually vibrating drum-like
organs called “tymbals” on his abdomen) and both genders can pee
streams of fluid in a bid to frighten predators but these are largely
ineffectual defense tactics.
Cicadas are good tucker for many predators, especially larger birds.
Big and juicy (and obviously not distasteful), many cicadas end up as
meals for other wildlife; their sheer numbers satiate the appetite of
predators so that the sacrifice of some ensures the remainder will
There is an intimate relationship between Big Ws and river red gums –
these trees provide cover and camouflage for the adult insects. By
contrast, cicadas avoid Ghost Gums, for example, as they stand out in
stark contrast against the brilliant white bark and are quickly picked
off by birds. (The same observation applies to juvenile river gums,
I suspect there is a symbiotic (cooperative) relationship between
cicadas and mature river red gums – there are generations of these
insects on the trees’ roots yet the river gums never appear to be
stressed by them.
But the balance of nature for Big Ws has changed in the Alice, and to
their apparent benefit – they are more numerous than would normally
In part this is due to widespread planting of river red gums but also
to the introduction of other plant species (especially eucalypts and
some bottlebrushes) as street and garden trees that don’t exist
naturally in Central Australia.
Some of these are highly favoured by cicadas; literally thousands of
them smother the limbs of these plants. The burden of cicada nymphs on
these trees’ roots must be enormous, and is the probable reason why
many supposed drought-hardy Australian (but non-local) trees and shrubs
inexplicably die suddenly during extended dry periods.
Cicada nymphs can also transfer to the roots of other trees if their
normal host tree dies or is cut down.
I observed this from September 2009 when a towering river red gum just
over my neighbours’ fence was removed. Like any self-respecting river
gum, this tree hosted a resident population of cicadas. Growing under
this tree were a number of citrus; and also two mulberries, a mature
tree and a sapling. After the river gum’s removal, the nymphs attached
themselved to the mature mulberry tree, nearly killing it.
Sure enough, after the rains in January many cicadas emerged from the
soil around its roots. The mulberry has now fully recovered.
leaves Alice. By KIERAN
“A week ago I thought I was going to buy a racehorse,” says Dean
Slattery, manager of Freight Solutions (SA) Pty Ltd, based in Adelaide.
“Then we happened to walk past the newsagency in the mall and saw it
was closed and took it from there,” said Mr Slattery.
“We made an offer to the administrators and it was accepted.”
In fact the company bought both newsagencies, in the Mall and in Alice
Paza, after owner Wangkapai Pty Ltd went into voluntary administration.
Says Mr Slattery: “The thing that helped us along was that the staff
were willing to step up and take responsibility for the day to day
running of the business. If we’d had to learn how to run a
newsagency from scratch we wouldn’t have been able to do it.
“We’re keeping on all the employees – though not the former management
– as they’re passionate about their work and they’ll have the
opportunity to build the business for us.”
The Alice Springs Newsagency on Todd Mall reopened on Tuesday and it is
expected that the Alice Plaza business will follow next Monday.
Mr Slattery told the Alice News that the company is always on the
lookout for new opportunities.
That spirt brought them to Alice nine months ago to operate the Toll
Priority Air Freight contract here.
Meanwhile, Wana Ungkunykja, the umbrella company for a string of
Aboriginal enterprises, including Wangkapai, is withdrawing from Alice
The beneficiaries of Wana Ungkunykja are the people of Mutitjulu,
Imanpa and Docker River communities and Nyangatjatjara College, the
boarding school based at Yulara.
Other Alice interests bought by the Wana Ungkunykja group in 2006 – the
Frontier Camel Farm on Ross Highway and Spirit of the Night Sky
(formerly Chateau Hornsby) on Petrick Road – have also closed
their doors, though they have been sold as residential properties and
have no unpaid creditors.
Both were on the market “for considerable periods” as tourism
businesses but “no one is willing to go into tourism business in Alice
Springs in the present climate”, says CEO of Wana Ungkunykja since
January 2009, Matthew Ellem.
Mr Ellem says Wana Ungkunykja (WU) is re-focussing on working in
However it will continue to own and manage Anangu House on Gregory
Triple A Accounting, based there with some 15 staff, continues to do
“very well”, says Mr Ellem.
WU’s tourism marketing company, Anangu Waai, also has two call centre
operators based in Alice, although this is only because of an
accommodation shortage at The Rock.
Mr Ellem says the two newsagencies depended on tourist trade and had
suffered in the downturn caused by the global finacial crisis.
He said the Alice Plaza newsagency had also been impacted by decreased
trafffic through the shopping centre, commenting that that the centre
was without an anchor tenant for 18 months and that the new anchor
tenant,Target, is not attracting the same numbers as the Bi-Lo
supermarket did (a claim vigorously refuted by property manager Tony
Mr Ellem says newsagencies are a hard business, contracting elsewhere
as people’s reading habits change. Another newsagency in Alice,
Freckletons at Hearne Place, closed 12 months ago.
He says Wangkapai tried hard to make the two shops work, introducing
souvenir lines, Darrell Lea chocolates, giftware.
“The manager did a good job but in the end couldn’t fight the tide of
decreasing customers through the door.
“The directors were worried that trading was becoming insolvent” so
they went into voluntary administration.
There was a creditors’ meeting on Tuesday as the Alice News went to
Anangu Tours, offering Aboriginal-guided tours at The Rock, is Wana
Ungkunykja’s brightest star. It was declared an Indigenous Tourism
Champion in 2009 by Tourism Australia and Mr Ellem says they are
working with the Central Land Council and other communities to develop
Anangu Jobs, active in the three beneficiary communities, has had its
contract with Job Futures renewed to 2012.
One of its initiatives is the Under the Rock cafe at Mutitjulu,
established to provide hospitality training to residents. It is not yet
on a commercial footing but may be one day. Meanwhile, residents and
visitors (mainly public servants) are able for the first time to get a
decent cup of coffee at Mutitjulu, says Mr Ellem.
Nyangatjatjara College, the boarding school at Yulara, with campuses on
the three communities, is also back on its feet, says Mr Ellem, after
the Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation moved out of adminsitration
in September 2008.
Politically correct Dr Stotz.
Sir,– I write in response to Dr Stotz (Letters, Feb 4).
My wife, daughter and in-laws are equally proud to be blackfellas. I
hope my grandsons are proud of the cultural inheritance that I give
them as well that from their grandmother and other two grandparents.
None of my Aboriginal loved ones have a problem, as Dr Stotz seems to
have, with me being a whitefella. I have not spoken out for many years
because I did actually believe that ‘Indigenous’ people only had the
right to speak on ‘Indigenous affairs’. Then I noticed that many of
those speaking out, waving the banners, shouting slogans, burning
flags, were as white as I am or had a very tenuous connection to the
Indigenous heritage they claimed and knew literally nothing about the
situation that my loved ones find themselves in.
A significant majority of Australians who identify as Indigenous now
produce children with Australians who don’t. Most of their kids
identify as Indigenous.
Are we, who are now producing these children, along with our Indigenous
spouses, to be denied a voice on the issues that affect them because we
can’t point to one Aboriginal ancestor among those we are descended
from or because we don’t have a degree in anthropology?
Does Dr Stotz know what is in my family’s best interest better than I
do because she is an anthropologist and I’m only a whitefella. I don’t
Ethnic pigeon holes will hopefully disappear soon and we will all be
Australians proud of all of our cultural inheritances, citizens of the
world. Dr Stotz, I find your letter offensive, deeply racist and a
disgrace to the discipline you claim to belong to.
Sir,– As the child fathered by David Price to an ‘Indigenous woman’, as
Dr G. Stotz so clinically put it (Letters, Feb 4), I am angered at the
sad attempt Dr Stotz has made at trying to pigeon hole my father and
deny him the right to fight for the plight of those he loves.
Do you have children yourself, Dr Stotz? Do you understand the concept
of family? Have you seen the blood of your loved ones spilled right
before your eyes and the destruction that plagues their lives on a
I doubt this much but I’m sure you’ve studied hard in the whitefella
way to learn of such issues that impact the lives of Aboriginal people
(my people). My father has lived these issues along with myself, my
mother who has a name (Bess Nungarrayi Price) and my family.
Study as much as you want but you have not lived it. My people are not
simply a subject you can learn about and consider yourself an authority
on; we are human beings just like my father.
Jacinta Yangapi Nampijinpa Price
Sir,– It is with a great sense of frustration and disgust that I find
myself once again reading a series of articles (Alice News, Dec 3 &
17, 2009) on the supposed pros of Aboriginal law, and even suggestions
that we allow “payback”!
Since the early part of the last century we have seen a continual
degradation of customary law – the gradual handing in and selling
off of tribal tjuringas, the old people refusing to pass on the
stories; an ever increasing disrespect of the young towards the
council of elders, who were the enforcers of customary law – until we
have arrived at a moment when the structures of customary law no longer
exist, or exist in a much weakened state.
Customary law has given way in most places to the rule of the strong
over the weak, the rule in fact of the “thug”! The old, the young, the
women, and those too weak to care for themselves, are left totally at
the mercy of those who have no pity.
“Payback” has descended into drunken mob bashings, multiple spearings,
stabbings and a continuing line of murders.
Yet we have so called intellectuals, cherry picking tribal customs,
actually calling for “the reinstatement of customary law”!
How do we as a nation deal with this? The answer is really simple: we
enforce the law that allows us to live together, as one nation.
A law that is not culturally sensitive, a law that is compelled to
treat us all as “equals”, the Australian Law!
So why have we run into so much trouble with the law and
Aboriginal people? The answer is pretty easy to observe. A horrible
disease runs right through the very core of our government, legal and
academic communities – paternalism. The most insidious, vile and
destructive form that racism takes.
Paternalism takes away the right to individuality, the right to act,
the right to decide, the very right to life itself, by taking
away everything that makes human life worthwhile. How are we committing
this horrible offence in relation to Aboriginal Australians?? We do it
by saying “you’re equal BUT”!
One example was an incident a few weeks ago when three young boys were
rushed to emergency in Tennant Creek Hospital, suffering from
wounds inflicted during a customary circumcision ceremony. When
the Territory’s acting Chief Minister Delia Lawrie was asked if she
would prosecute, her was reply was that circumcision was “a deeply
imbedded practice” in Aboriginal society.
Yet how would you feel if I, or your neighbour or anybody at all, bar
an Aboriginal person, was to do that to their children? You
couldn’t and you wouldn’t accept it. So why was this incident deemed
acceptable? It’s because Ms Lawrie said “you’re equal BUT”.
In so doing, she has once again denied an equal citizen, a child of
this nation their most basic right, that of protection as an equal
citizen under the law. She has clearly demonstrated to all Aboriginal
people that they are not equal under the law. And if they are not
equal under the law how can we possibly expect Aboriginal people in
general, or these children as they grow, to have any respect for the
institutions of this nation? No wonder the constant murmuring about the
need for two laws.
Camel industry: matter of life or death
Sir,– In response to the Jeff Perz letter on the feral camel situation
( Alice News, Dec 17, 2009) I wonder if he has any trouble sleeping
with the knowledge that hundreds of tons of camel meat of good
nutritional quality feeds the wild dogs, crows and eagles in the
Western Desert, while the poor earthquake-devastated people of
Haiti and recently Samoa, the Phillipines and Indonesia are desperate
Regarding the contraceptive debate, the Centre for Feral Animal Control
have been working on this for years, along with similar research on
pigs, rabbits et al but the problem has beaten them so far.
Regarding Mr Perz’s strategic water proposition, after a request to the
WA water resources people in support of a commercial camel trek through
the eastern WA region. I was supplied with 40 foolscap pages of
detailed description on watering points between Balgo and the Docker
I actually went with a friend, looking for some of these points and
found hand pumps, solar powered bores with overhead tanks and many
camels surrounding them. They constitute a camel heaven, and
camels could easily be managed, even farmed and harvested in a
sustainable way, using the watering points as a lure.
Charlie Carter’s letter (also Dec 17) makes some of his comments
equally as “stupid and short-sighted” as those he attributes to
others. They were his own words, not mine. I hope he didn’t speak
like that to his clients. No one has an exclusive right to either
opinion or knowledge to the exclusion of other lines of
thought and he should know that, and to talk like that does not further
the debate, but hardens lines.
The statement that the Camel Industry Association has been trying for
20 years to find a market does not mean that one does not exist, and
the first body to be appointed to the management committee at Ninti
should have been from the Meat and Livestock corporation to legitimise
the operation in the eyes of the industry.
I wonder why tenders were not called for the removal of the offending
animals at Docker River. Isn’t that the way government and NGO
operations work? They do it for roads and civil construction and
aspects of environmental wildlife management, why not camel
Certainly the Egyptian interests that were trying to build a $14m
facility near Whyalla last year think there is a market which should be
There is an industry-based solution and part of the problem with Desert
Knowledge thinking is that they think it wrong to try to turn “problem”
into an industry, not simply based on making a dollar, but also to help
others not as fortunate as we are.
There are numerous examples of how this has been done in many different
parts of the world, and one needs look no further than the sea weed
industry in Tasmania, the crocodile industry in the Top End, the
jellyfish industry in Italy (these animals were causing havoc in their
tourist industry and are now being harvested and sold like everything
else to the Chinese) and the squid industry in Chilli, which started
because squid were interfering with the pilchard industry.
These things do not happen in a day but we must make a start somewhere
and not let it drag on for 20 years as the camel programs have.
I suggest that Dr Carter look at May 2009 edition of Time magazine to
see the immense market potential in the Islamic world. Others have
picked this up and are acting on it, with or without the aid of Ninti,
and good for them. In Adelaide recently I had an enquiry from a
provodore seeking camel meat. I also had a request for 20 camel skulls
for the tourist trade!
The reference to the $1b market for racing camels is anything but
irrelevant because, as Dr Carter should know, knowledge is
transferrable and in pure scientific terms not to be hogged. What
research they do into the genetics of racing camels will most certainly
be transferred to an emerging meat industry, as is happening with the
rabbit enterprises, as has happened in so many other areas of primary
On a recent trip to the eastern States I met a contract musterer
from Broken Hill, very familiar with NT conditions, who was very keen
to get to Docker River to harvest camels and pay for them, but was
denied access through Ninti. Reasons were not given.
We taxpayers then paid around $100 a head to shoot them!
I also heard of an operator of a mobile abattoirs on the NSW North
Coast who wanted to do the same thing but was denied access also.
I then met a property owner in Cobar who is also a professional
kangaroo shooter and was also keen to be involved.
He had his own refrigerated transport contact via Pt Augusta, and was
all set to go, but could not get access.
I was heartened to see a herd of very handsome camels grazing
contentedly and commercially on the south side of the Finke river and
passed a road train of camels heading South.
I was less heartened to think that at some time in the future, the know
how on how to upgrade these animals to meet a huge and
growing overseas market will have to be imported from the UAR,
via Murdoch University.
It should have been done here, by picking the genetic eyes out of the
ADAM'S APPLE: It’s all go until
Gerry says no.
With 2010 barely beginning to find full stride, we have just started to
get our first real politics of the new decade from Darwin.
After all the extraordinary events of 2009, you’d be forgiven for
wondering how Territory politics could get more outrageous. Rest
assured it will.
For those of you new to the Territory: here is a summary of the last
few years of Territory politics.
After 27 years of CLP rule, Labor and Clare Martin were elected to
government in 2001.
In 2005 Opposition Leader, Denis Burke fought a strong campaign based
on a policy so complicated that even he didn’t really understand it. I
think it had something to do with electricity.
His lack of understanding lead to Labor winning 19 of the 25 seats in
the Territory parliament, including Burke’s seat. Only now do we think
that even an electricity grid so “out there” it would have sent us
broke might just be preferable to our current energy situation.
Local MLA Jodeen Carney was elected opposition leader to a party of
four parliamentary members. No matter how awesome the MLAs, leading an
opposition of four is like being a president of the chess club… for the
School of the Air. It looks good on paper but where’s the fun in it?
Clare Martin came to Alice Springs and tried to be nice. We didn’t let
her and she cried.
Then the Federal Government introduced the Intervention. This really
got Clare Martin annoyed because she preferred “don’t do a lot”
approaches to Indigenous disadvantage.
It was either the Intervention or the rather large salary at ACOSS that
made Clare Martin resign.
Paul Henderson was sworn in as Chief Minister therefore becoming the
most successful Tasmanian since David Boon.
“Hendo”, as the memo said to call him, is a nice man. Like Clare
Martin, Hendo does a lot of assuring the voter. In fact he has all the
policy wiles of Clare Martin but lacks the sex appeal.
On the other side of the chamber (in a small corner of it anyway) the
CLP announced that Jodeen Carney would not be leader of the party. In a
statement so encrypted that it took the residents of Alice Springs a
whole four seconds to decode it, the powers that be decided that a
member from Alice Springs could never lead the party that was created
in Alice Springs.
Although he looks a bit like a principal of a Christian school, because
he was once, Terry Mills became the leader of the “gang of four”.
So once when we thought there might be an all-female led election, it
soon became clear that we would have an all-accountant led one
instead.”Hendo versus Mills! An all out, knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out
and show ‘em how to maximise their tax return of a battle! “
Somewhere in amongst all this Kon Vatskalis said something
incomprehensible. The incomprehensibility of what he said has nothing
to do with his fairly thick Greek accent but everything to do with the
fact that he is a Cabinet Minister of the Territory Government.
It turns out that a swing of 10% doesn’t need that many people in
Territory electorates. The swings of the 2008 election against Labor
however did take a fair few people. They almost lost government and
promised to do more to win back the voters they lost. They haven’t.
In Labor’s defence, they have been a bit busy trying not to implode of
When Marion Scrymgour left the party because she was unhappy with the
party’s handling of Indigenous issues, the margin of government was
one. When Alison Anderson left for a similar reason, Marion came back
saying that her reasons were different to Alison’s. Everyone except
Gerry Wood was confused. Which is really saying something. Gerry is the
Independent Member for Nelson. “Independent Member” can often be code
for “slightly loopy”. He believes in aliens and may just talk to
But he now has the balance of power and struck a deal with the
Henderson government that allows them to govern until Gerry says no.
So, in a nutshell, instead of being ruled by people who don’t really
care, we are now ruled by a bloke who cares about caravan parks.
Did you follow all that? And to think New South Wales’ politics makes
ours look sedentary.
What will happen in 2010? I’m not sure but you can rest assured that it
will probably be so tragically awful, you’ll have to laugh.
Ayers what? By
The politically correct brigade which scuttled the fruits of billions
of dollars worth of advertising, over decades, and re-named Ayers Rock
as Uluru, is still far from achieving its august objective.
In January, after some 20 years of pontificating and indoctrinating the
public, 123,857 people in Australia googled Uluru but 86,260 were still
looking for Ayers Rock.
The global figures are similar: 389,921 people were reformed and typed
in Uluru, but 290,249 still stuck to Ayers Rock.
These searches were done to find tours, food, accommodation,
entertainment and so on.