Ouch! Sadly I knew Hal wouldn’t be able to resist …

Comment on Todd River: will we stand by and let the worst happen? by Mike Gillam.

Ouch! Sadly I knew Hal wouldn’t be able to resist a jibe about the athel pines on our property. But it’s worth the personal embarrassment to secure his agreement (will his conviction last?) that we should act on weeds that threaten the Todd River.
WEEDS. In land management terms one of the most dysfunctional sections of the river corridor is described by Hal as an “…improved section … especially that part extending north from the Wills Terrace causeway … It’s also here that on the eastern side the public parklands have become a pride of the river.” (Letter to Ed. Alice Springs News).
Unfortunately this perfectly manicured ‘exotic parkland’ on the river-bank is dominated by the following weeds. Himalayan Rain Trees (I stopped counting after 10), Peppercorns, White Cedars and European Nettle Trees. All of these species are listed in “Weeds of Central Australia” (2009) published by Greening Australia.
This is really tragic because in the mid to late ’90s the Alice Springs Town Council produced a report, endorsed by the elected members, which called for the gradual removal of these exotics and replacement with appropriate local species. If this had been acted upon the replacement shade trees would be well advanced by now. Instead the mature exotics are pumping large quantities of seed straight into the Todd River drainage system.
Re. ATHEL PINES. There are about 10 Alice Springs sites where athel pines persist today and these are the focus of an eradication plan by the Alice Springs Land Care Group. We’ve lived on our property for 15 years and at our own expense have removed approximately 60-70% of the pines. The costs were highly prohibitive and we retained those trees on our front boundary while we considered our options on this heritage-listed property and because they were the only shade we had.
Our research indicated the trees were planted during the 1940s – early ’50s and we were relieved to discover there had been NO unassisted expansion beyond the original plantings. We have discussed the issue of our remaining trees with government agencies a number of times and given our permission for their removal. I can advise that funding has been secured to assist with their eradication on our property by the end of March 2012.

Mike Gillam Also Commented

Todd River: will we stand by and let the worst happen?
Hal, when it comes to issues such as weeds I would think that best practice land management of the mere 5 km you talk about is highly relevant to the remainder of the drainage system.


Todd River: will we stand by and let the worst happen?
If Hal’s comments provide a looking glass into the land management thinking of the Town Council then the future of the Todd River is looking grim.


Todd River: will we stand by and let the worst happen?
Do our leaders intend to stand by and watch the collapse of the natural order so we can call for tenders to “re-make” the Todd River in the form of say, an English country estate?
Just thirty years ago, river management in cities with populations much greater than Alice Springs followed a predictable and familiar course. Urban rivers and creeks were simply neglected and vandalized and finally replaced with concrete drains. In these more enlightened times City Councils everywhere are trying to resuscitate their neglected watercourses and rebuild biodiversity (“wildness”). Yes, there are many reasons, not least of them financial, to retain much of the wild attributes of our river corridors – this does not preclude the extra manicuring of some sections for recreational purposes.
While lawns may appear to dominate the banks of the once utterly devastated Torrens a great effort is being made to reintroduce endemic vegetation in preference to “exotics”. I recently visited a Torrens billabong with no manicured lawns but teeming with wildlife. It was a wild looking place and I’m sure some locals would not venture there but…
The Todd River is too important to be the plaything of amateurs (from politicians to gardeners) to be modified and changed every time a new Council staffer decides they have a vision based on a river from a different climatic zone or a park from another hemisphere. We need best practice in the Todd. We need a River Curator who will lead this community and help us to find a balance between conserving natural and cultural values (our heritage) and developing those recreational uses that are compatible with the imperatives of river management in Central Australia.


Recent Comments by Mike Gillam

Melanka building would obscure unequalled backdrop
While I broadly support the views of the writer, I’d like to correct what is clearly a typo.
The building height limit in the CBD is 14 m. not 8.5m, and for the record, I won’t be making a submission to the NT Planning Commission, a Statutory Authority advising the NT Government on planning matters including building heights in Alice Springs because I don’t regard the public consultation process as genuine.
Recent calls by the Chief Minister for expressions of interest in the development of land at Whittaker Street, just outside the western boundary of the CBD and in an area with a LOWER height limit, makes a mockery of this public consultation.
The artist’s impression shows a building that dramatically exceeds the stated limit for this area, from memory, not even 14 m but currently 8.5m.
Of course, the nature of legislation, regulations and town plans may be subject to the extraordinary powers granted to the responsible Minister who can always find some justification.
In closing I would give credit to the NT Planning Commission for its recognition of the value of protecting some critical east west sight-lines across the CBD.
However the town’s future shape and collective massing of buildings will be determined to a large extent by the uncoordinated actions of individual developers and politicians in the decades ahead.
Ultimately this is a game of chance and DESIGN, that elusive collective vision for Alice Springs, appears to be taking a back seat in the process. As a struggling tourist town we can and should do much better.


Festival broadens ambitions of Alice Cinema
At a time when the town’s commercial centre is under great stress we are very fortunate to have such dynamic and progressive people directing the cinema complex.


A funny thing happened to me on the way to the tip …
Delightfully zany, elegant, rigorously conceived and resolved, an asset to the landfill and the town. Congratulations to the artist for her uncompromising effort and those on the Town Council who placed their faith in her and dared to make this happen. I hope the obvious quality of this public art has raised the confidence of decision makers and they feel vindicated to do it again with equal rigour. Perhaps in time, as the town’s artistic side is further highlighted and revealed we may regain some of our reputation as a tourist mecca.


Dancers take over after dark
Not denying there is an equivalent need for the hard core stories but surely this is the Alice Springs News at its very best.I’m kicking myself for missing the event.


Residency is at risk, says heritage group
Hal, where to start…If you peddle misinformation some readers might hyperventilate. But I think you’re ignoring the elephant in the room here…no-one likes their time being wasted and that’s how I feel trying to unravel your torrent of opinion and innuendo. Time prevents me from responding to more of your posts. It’s not simply that you distort reality by describing The Residency as “…current inactive state…” or that it’s preposterous and insulting to say, “Have you considered that Heritage Alice Springs’ dogmatic approach to these matters contributed to the Old Riverside not being given Heritage listing?” What an outrageous example of shoot the messenger by some-one who has not seen the nomination by HAS. But wait there’s more, “…I often think the heritage crowd exceed their brief…” Really? They’re the main reason you can cite the example of the Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame at its fantastic heritage location. And again, “…We don’t have very many buildings worth listing. Too many tin sheds, and who really cares…” Your regard for vernacular architecture including sheds is out of step with rising national interest and ignores much of the development history of Alice Springs.
PS Re. leasing the Residency for use as a cafe, I reiterate the issue of onsite car-parking. From memory, 6 parks are required for every 100m2 of net floor area and any alfresco dining areas – so I’m guessing this site would have to at least double the existing parks – this reasonable condition may be waived by the Minister BUT it’s in the best commercial interests of cafe owners to provide viable parking to lessen the impact on the street during periods of peak trade. And no, the idea that a new venture would be allowed to free-load on existing public car-parking is unlikely to win much support. The RFDS has it all, why try to replicate that experience with less at the Residency?


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