500 year old red gums are being lost through neglect – but the trees can’t speak

Restoring the Concept of Priceless

 

 

This article in the Food for Thought Series reflects my long-standing concerns for the natural and cultural heritage of Alice Springs. The views expressed here are my own but the reader is entitled to know I currently serve on the Board of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority. MIKE GILLAM.

 

The Policeman who loved trees
In 1988 I published a poster entitled “Canopy of Life” to highlight land management issues in the Todd River. I’ll quote a few passages because the words are still relevant today.
“One hundred years ago the gum trees in Alice Springs were saved by a remarkable act of foresight. On November 22, 1888, Mounted Constable W. G. South wrote to the Minister for the Northern Territory: I have the honour to inform you that when the township is sold … the Young Gum trees along the Todd Creek … will require protection or they will be all cut down by the residents for building and fencing purposes, in fact some of the trees have already been destroyed by persons forming camps. I would request your instructions on this matter and … all regulations with regard to protection of timber. The trees are a great ornament to the place and it would be a great pity to destroy them …”
Historically these were times of great conflict and given the public’s singular fascination with scoundrels and violence Constable South’s example is often overlooked. It may be useful to provide some context for his actions in this remote frontier ‘settlement’ that would become Alice Springs. He decided to protect trees at a time when the civilized folk of Sydney had only just declared (nine years earlier) Australia’s first (Royal) National Park. This followed declaration of Yellowstone, the world’s first National Park, in 1872. Before the advent of Parks many ancient societies understood the importance of protecting special places and applying rules and taboos. The gum trees in the Todd River were important to Arrernte people and its possible South was influenced by this knowledge.
As an aside, South was appointed Protector of Aborigines in 1908 and Chief Protector in 1911 – he was no ordinary policeman. I doubt South intervened on behalf of trees to win friends or influence people but I’m willing to speculate he believed there was a moral obligation to act. Flanking the Todd River’s west bank, South Terrace is a reminder of William Garnet South’s contribution to Alice Springs. So what’s improved? There is more legislation designed to protect the natural environment but very little compliance. The Todd River, managed by the monolithic Technical Services Department of the Town Council, desperately needs an autonomous river manager or curator. I’m hoping there is someone out there with South’s passion and sense of duty.
The heart, the soul and cultural warfare
The heart, the soul, the centre is an inspired marketing tag but is Alice Springs in danger of losing its soul? The natural landscape cradling this town is incredibly important whether you view it as a scenic wonder or a cultural map or much more. Arrernte sacred sites and song-lines are embedded here, a rich cultural heritage that co-exists with a modern urban setting. With European colonisation, the heart of the interior was a magnet for exploring parties and scientific expeditions and Alice Springs remains a cultural touch-stone for today’s adventurers, mavericks and dreamers.
The unfolding conversation between black and white, the friction, the highs and the lows, place us conspicuously on the world stage. I’m stating a fact of life – no marketing campaign required and social media is disseminating much of the story. The transformation of Aboriginal culture continues and in the process whole languages are being lost, but thankfully the value of sacred sites to Aboriginal identity and memory are recognised in our town. Managing our natural assets, the backdrop and life force for these stories, is a challenge but I’d like to think most of us believe it’s essential.
Would we be happier if the Todd River was reduced to a tree-less concrete drain? I’ve met no-one who thinks the town’s modern architecture is a wonder to behold and yet we are rescued from mediocrity by this amazing natural setting. In fairness to the town’s architects they’ve had little influence on urban design and landscape architects are not responsible for the tragic appearance of our street plantings. As a tourist destination it seems surreal, I know. But thank the stars for river gums, foothills and ranges that give us timeless horizons, texture, colour, shade and above all, form.
Public appreciation for sacred sites is undermined by a torrent of one-liners, racial stereotyping, commercial opportunism and political expediency. For some, particularly those with electoral ambitions and little else to offer voters, sacred sites represent a favourite political football. Why would any local want to denigrate this priceless cultural heritage? How can we expect Aboriginal people to benefit from cultural tourism, not to mention self worth, identity and pride if we are prepared to damage or kill their stories for short-term profit or political gain?
I’ve come to realise that denigrating or damaging sacred sites or the heritage of another is part of the ongoing culture war being waged in this country. No doubt a similar disdain for European heritage is aired by some Aboriginal people. Surely we can identify and actively remove some of the blockages that facilitate and encourage racial division in our community?
Balancing the plumber with an arborist
A significant number of trees and tree communities are registered sacred sites and in recognition of their importance to Arrernte people, are protected by law. In contrast mature planted trees, even those recognised as trees of significance to the general community, may be cut down at will by landowners.
The absence of a by-law protecting trees in Alice Springs creates an issue of racial conflict where one shouldn’t exist. Throughout Australia municipal councils are at the forefront of tree protection. This is not just a matter of heavy-handed law enforcement and compliance. Trees are core business for Shire and City Councils and arborists routinely provide expert tree advice to ratepayers. Despite the obvious significance and value of trees in this semi-arid landscape, both the advice and the compliance are clearly missing.
Is our community hiding behind sacred sites legislation? Are we reluctant to stand up and be counted on the issue of tree conservation because Aboriginal custodians can do it and they make the perfect fall guys? ‘They’ will continue to be seen as ‘anti development’ and local government can avoid sharing the burden of hard public interest decisions. Whatever the reason, the absence of by-laws leaves the majority of mature trees in our town without any protection whatsoever. Yes, the majority.
The Town Council should introduce overarching tree protection by-laws that reference sacred trees, heritage plantings and other mature trees that add to the amenity of this place. This would give the town a unified position on the meaning of ‘priceless’ instead of endlessly pitting one culture against another.
In Alice Springs plumbers often advise people to cut down trees when old or faulty plumbing is invaded by roots. Where’s the balancing advice from the arborist? It really depends on your perspective – the presence of roots may be viewed legitimately as a failure of plumbing because roots are generally attracted to moisture. Sometimes a very large tree too close to plumbing is simply incompatible but on occasion it’s actually cheaper to place root barriers or move the infrastructure. The problem can and must be corrected and frequently, provided the repaired system does not leak, the tree can remain.
The knowledge and professionalism on display at the Alice Springs Desert Park and Olive Pink Flora Reserve should be echoed in our management of urban bushland and the landscaping of our streetscapes. Alice Springs needs inspired thinking to ensure that our investment in trees, a long-term contract in any society, is sound in every respect. A commitment to landscape architecture would benefit the public domain tremendously and an arborist would be needed if tree protection by-laws are adopted. Perhaps the two positions can be combined.
Now I’m wondering what the upcoming elections will do for the interconnected future of the natural environment, the fragile balance of race relations and the viability of tourism. Bad news seems to eclipse good news so I expect the highs and lows but mostly the lows of our conduct will be picked up by the media and beamed around the world. That’s a shame because Alice Springs is an extraordinary place looking for extraordinary leaders. Without pinning all our hopes on leaders, we the town’s citizenry, must follow the example of Constable South because 500 year old red gums are being lost through neglect and the trees can’t speak.

IMAGES (from top, all by Mike Gillam): The Wills Terrace causeway across the iconic Todd River • Author Mike Gillam • Frogmouth plays tree • Moth on plumbush • Eucalyptus – peeling bark.

 

MIKE GILLAM REPLIES TO COMMENTS (it is run here because Mr Gillam provided the photo below as part of his response): Not sacred but certainly sculptural – a group of planted Eucalypts on part of the Melanka site.

Russell: I’m confident, in the not too distant future, most developers will view sacred trees as a gift and not simply an impediment to maximizing profits. These are some of the new pioneers that we need to attract.
I wouldn’t take Melanka too seriously – I have no idea why Steve implicates AAPA (Sacred Sites Authority) in some wild theory threatening 50% of the potential of this very large commercial block. I’m certain some potential buyers / developers would greatly value the few sacred trees that grace this block – given their location they impact very little on the development potential of the site. We should also remember the owners gained approval to build to an unprecedented five storeys.
In this town many at risk and yet highly valuable trees sit within boundary setbacks and do not encroach significantly on potential building envelopes. Smart developers naturally balance economic returns with the need to create landmark buildings with shade and amenity. There is little point building a greedy box to minimize capital costs and maximize leasable floor space if the upper levels remain unoccupied half the time. In contrast the most recent plan for the Melanka site had some design merit (notwithstanding a five storey impact!) and the few sacred trees strongly enhanced that proposal in my personal view.
Some locals have enthusiastically suggested the cleared site remain a park – I’m not one of them. But are they responding to the power, beauty and grace of tall trees within the CBD? These values of parkland relief are quite rare in the CBD, while any evidence of high quality landscape architecture is rarer still. I hope the Town Council takes note because prominent streets such as Gregory Tce. are almost treeless. In contrast one of our best-treed roads is the Stuart Highway where the NT Government (not the Town Council) is responsible and the importance of landscape design is recognised.
Thanks for the information about Stott; I’m not surprised because he was a man of character. Judging from historical photographs, tree cover across much of the town was pretty grim at that time. Overall the current situation is better but trends in both the streetscape and the natural environment are unmistakable and there are no prizes for sitting on our hands.
Trees are a long-term investment in the townscape. Landscape architects can combine inspirational design with informed decisions about water use, shade benefits, maintenance, environmental impacts and tree survival in the longer term. In the past we often planted street trees from temperate zones, watered them lavishly for many years and watched them die in a single dry year. Those times are slowly changing.
Happy Australia day to all tree lovers, especially police and I absolutely support Janet’s right to paint her house blue.

Pictured above: Not sacred but certainly sculptural – a group of planted Eucalypts on part of the Melanka site.

Pictured above: Another victim of fire in the Todd River – this majestic gum is referred to in Hal Duell’s letter in the comments section below.

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37 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Domenico Pecorari
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I, too, couldn’t agree more with Daryl and Bob.
    When I first came to The Alice, over 27 years ago, the view from Anzac Hill was of a town with a wonderful green canopy of trees, truly an “oasis in the desert”.
    Over the years, the trees have slowly disappeared – one or two here, a few from over there, a process that sadly continues to this day.
    Last year, I found it interesting to receive the NT Government’s e-brochure for Gilbert Rochecouste’s “Placemaking Masterclass”, a brochure which featured a very verdant view across the town from Anzac Hill. A closer look, however, revealed the very distinct Panorama Guth, which burnt down many years ago. Perhaps I’m not the only one to have noticed how drab the view is today.

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  2. Bob Durnan
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I agree completely Daryl (posted February 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm).
    Those first impressions are very important. Pity the poor tourist (or local) trying to find a shady spot for their car these days. I was disappointed when taking visitors to Araluen last weekend: most of the few trees capable of shading a parked car there have disappeared since my last visit on a hot day. What are people thinking when they do these things? Cutting back dangerous limbs is always necessary, but taking out whole mature trees so they can’t regenerate some shade within a few years?

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  3. Daryl Gray
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    @5
    Steve, your comment regarding the value of trees as seen by the City of Melbourne i.e. “This included quantifying environmental, social, cultural and economic benefit” is a good one, and it got me thinking about this debate as it relates to built spaces, streets, climate, and peoples’ first impressions.
    When I got to Alice in 1974, I was impressed walking around the town along Railway Terrace and Gregory Terrace by the lovely country houses, and railway cottages, and the train station and its large half round tin shed / canopy, but most of all it was enjoying the shade that so many White Cedar trees along both sides of the streets afforded me on foot.
    Cars with canvas water-bags keeping cool under them too! First impressions … good ones … still with me 37 years later!
    I know that later in the year the proliferation of yellow cedar berries underfoot added colour and excitement of a different kind, but that was a unique Alice experience too. Alice has more paved footpaths, ramps, and large new buildings its true, but I think my first impressions today in the year 2012 walking along Railway Terrace and Gregory Terrace in the Summer sunshine might be a lot different.
    Yes, we can take out trees and rebuild streets, and houses, and retail centers, but we need to value the role that trees, both ancient and new, can make; to our mental well being, our sense of place, and economic growth that comes from providing travelers, and locals, with an oasis in the desert in the true sense … in the tree sense.
    In looking forward it sometimes helps to reflect on the past, and in that way I believe, better planning outcomes may be achieved. Wherever trees are in the town, they need to be properly valued and appreciated for what their very presence brings to a Town like Alice; environmentally, socially, culturally, aesthetically, and economically.

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  4. Mike Gillam
    Posted February 6, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Hal: The name change from Sacred Sites Authority to Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority was a decision made by a previous government, in my view a purely political move that affected the ability of the organization to communicate its message. Some confusion on your part is therefore understandable. Land management is not a core responsibility of the Authority but the organization has an obvious interest wherever land management practices impact on sacred sites.
    Apparently you serve on a couple of Alice Springs Town Council committees? Perhaps as a member of the Environment Advisory Committee you could encourage the Town Council to honor the intent of its own Strategic Plan. I quote from the 2004-9 document: “Environment. Goal 3. To lead Australia in the management of its arid land natural resources …”. These aspirations have been watered down in the current (2010-2015) Strategic Plan: “A town at the forefront of management of its arid land natural resources …” Goal 3 also proclaims “Alice Springs’ vast and unspoiled landscapes attract visitors from around the world.”
    Recognition of red gums as sacred does NOT prevent the Town Council from removing combustible material from around the base of significant trees. I repeat my personal belief that an adequately resourced and autonomous River Curator is urgently needed to raise standards of land management in the Todd and Charles Rivers. The right person will create a credible community focus that should attract widespread support and volunteers.
    Crown land (including the Todd River) is controlled by the NT Department of Lands and Planning. On the ground, the Alice Springs Town Council is the responsible “Trustee” for local sections of the Todd River: zoned (CN) Conservation. Endless blame shifting won’t change the reality that the Town Council is ultimately responsible for managing fuel loads in these parts of the river corridor. In my view their response has been woefully inadequate given the nature of this fire season. The consequences of this neglect (fire prevention) rebounds time and again on the stretched resources of the Municipal Fire Brigade and wreaks irreversible damage upon our natural and cultural heritage.
    For those who don’t care about biodiversity, sacred sites or tourism, I’m convinced it would actually prove cheaper to manage fuel loads, minimise destructive fires and save many more trees!

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  5. Diana Whitehouse
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Only grandfather redgums know, a hollow tree to leave my bones,…
    in the long grass I sleep and the wind it keeps …
    constant lonely echo,
    old people are gone …
    Missin’ from this place, still I love them so …
    Only grandfather redgums know the songs of long ago.

    from Burrumbeep Hill, Neil Murray Lake Bolac 2008.
    Regards from Diana Whitehouse and family.

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  6. Hal Duell
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    A fascinating debate, but meanwhile I notice another of our big old River Gums has gone down in last week’s fire. From the look of the surrounding burn, this fire was also started in and fueled by uncollected dry ground cover [ED – see photo at the end of the article above].
    Perhaps if Aboriginal Area Protection Authority embraced Protection with the same fervor with which they embrace Authority we might manage to save a bit more of our common heritage.

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  7. Domenico Pecorari
    Posted February 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    My heartfelt thanks to Steve Thorne, for bringing some factual information into the debate. Sadly, facts and figures are in very short supply amongst our town’s decision-makers.

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  8. Steve Thorne
    Posted February 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Editor,
    To add a fact to several opinions, the City of Melbourne recently quantified the cost and benefit of planting trees. The bottom line is that for every dollar spent on trees, $5.60 of value was returned to the city and the broader community. This included quantifying environmental, social, cultural and economic benefit.

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  9. Laurelle Halford
    Posted February 3, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    This has all made for extremely fascinating reading, thanks. I know we’re talking mostly about trees, but I do have a question for Steve Brown – I am quite keen to know which buildings in the CBD area you consider are unworthy of preserving (Jan 28 post) please? Rather than this preservation leading to “an ugly, decentralised, characterless city centre or in fact no real centre at all”, I disagree. These buildings add wonderful character to the town centre. In fact I would never live anywhere that didn’t have a sense of history through its buildings and built environment. We don’t have many, but these buildings and the sense of history they give us, is one (of several) reasons I choose to live here.

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  10. Mike Gillam
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Thanks Ruth for providing a breath of fresh air and highlighting the essence of my article: “Restoring the concept of priceless.” Russel is correct – a small number of trees on the Melanka site are indeed sacred and registered. The great majority of trees on the site were planted. I posted the photograph of a planted grouping: “not sacred but sculptural gums” on a small portion of the site to highlight the value of landscape “architecture”. When the old Melanka buildings were bulldozed, all the mature trees were suddenly revealed to the street and people responded with delight. I believe much of the enthusiasm for protecting this site reflects a deeper yearning for evocative design incorporating tall trees. This debate has confirmed my concern that mature trees, planted or not, sacred or simply beautiful, are tragically under-valued in Alice Springs. Perhaps we will command more respect from others including tourists when we proudly declare that some features of this town are not for sale at any price.

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  11. Ruth Morley
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I love the photo of the tawny frogmouth owl looking like a branch of the tree. There is a tree next to the courthouse where I retreat to to get out of the confines of the court for a few minutes, and there is a branch that is the same as this photo, and when there are kids bored to death waiting at the courthouse for their parents matters to be dealt with, I point out the tawny frogmouth branch and then it becomes something engaging for the kids and amuses them for a little while as they look for other “branch animals”. I don’t think I could cope with my job without that tree.

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  12. Russell Guy
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Ah, yes Janet… I’m beginning to see the wood now, thank you for enlightening me. My reference to “sacred trees” on the Melanka site was taken from Mike’s post (19/1/12) below his night time pic of the site above – “sacred trees that grace this block.” How fabulous it is to have that view, “sculptural” and poetic against the westering sky. How often visionaries and poets have been dismissed as soft in the head by harder headed types who, as you said in an earlier post, are allowed to dictate their terms. Great pic, Mike.
    You didn’t answer either of the two questions I put to you about why you haven’t done anything about your five year old “fantastic idea” of an Aboriginal Culture Centre or how you propose to progress to “100% equality” in Alice. Instead, you wished me a great day. Thank you for that. It’s getting better as more light is shone upon the matter and upon fellow citizens with whom we are debating.
    For a woman with “a strong Christian faith” who understands the constitution very well and other law subjects, I wonder if you’ve had a look at Genesis 3: 1 lately: “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
    You are quite right, some of us can not see the wood for the trees. In fact, I’d go further than that. All of us, being human, cannot get it right every time. Some of us have a go and fall into error. Others play as God, but where sin abounds, grace so much more abounds and we rise again, somewhat wiser in our folly, although, sometimes we need to burn a little more until the Morning Star rises in our hearts.
    I’d be interested in the answers to my questions because there may be some reason why you didn’t push your fantastic idea of an Aboriginal Culture Centre and perhaps there is a valuable lesson for us who would like to have a go. As someone who understands the Constitution very well, perhaps you could also enlighten us as to why it needs to be amended or maybe you would have it remain the same? I’m interested in your opinions too.

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  13. Janet Brown
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Russell trees are not sacred on the Melanka site. And hey if government is prepared to spend the money that would be great for the town. And by the way I studied constitutional law at uni along with social policy, Australian politics and many other law subjects. And for your benefit. I understand it very well and the speck in the eye was in fun. And for some of us we cannot see the wood from the trees. Have a great day.

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  14. russell guy
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    OK, Janet. Time to get serious. Your slam-dunk, reactive comments “We do not support an ‘us and them'” program, “We support 100% equality” need some balance and I’m putting my hand up. So, you have a “strong Christian faith”. That’s fine and I’m not knocking it, but your faith is a belief that comes with a values structure. I’ve met lots of Christian believers and more than a handful who have been cautioned by their church authorities for covetous behavior. I’m not taking your faith at face value. Since you quote scripture “speck in my eye, log in your own,” you’re probably aware of scripture about discerning the spirit of a person, e.g., Hebrews 5: 14, so let’s just lay that aside.
    Yes, I do think that Australians will agree to deleting sections of the Constitution that are racist and including others that give indigenous people some dignity. This happened in 1967 when a majority of citizens approved a referendum and it brought in a swag of social improvements, not least the encouragement for politicians to introduce Land Rights legislation for the first time, leading to the fiction of Terra Nullius being defeated by Mabo in 1991. The “racist minority” that you refer to, is by your own admission, a minority and not representative of indigenous people of long suffering and goodwill.
    It may be considered vandalism or worse to burn the Australian flag, but again, I suggest you get a copy of the new “Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution” as recommended to your husband. As a professing Christian, you may be aware that our nation of Australia was founded on Christian values and be expected to take some interest in its Constitution, exhorting people to give it the respect it is due, instead of making disparaging comments concerning a “racist minority” trouncing it.
    As mentioned to Steve, the report to the PM for Constitutional reform includes the opinion that very few of us understand our own Constitution or what’s in it. I quoted from it in an earlier comment and if these amendments are approved, then the positive reporting that follows, will give a sense of identity to indigenous people that they’ve not had before.
    This cross-cultural encouragement on a national scale is what is needed in Alice Springs.
    I would like to ask you that if Steve pushed the idea of an Aboriginal Culture Centre five years ago and if you think it is such a “fantastic idea,” then why haven’t you done something about it? “100% equality” is a fantastic idea too, but how are you going to get there?
    I’d like to make a positive suggestion that the proposed Aboriginal Culture Centre be built on the Melanka site. That would solve a lot of issues raised in this forum. For a start, the sacred trees would be protected. The position of the site lends itself to such a centre, which as I’ve already said, could be a jewel in the crown of a town desperate for something to celebrate.
    If we as a town can’t come together and analyse the merits of something like this, then I doubt you’re ever going to achieve equality. I see a low rise building with locally quarried stone and timber, spreading out along the block, linked with sails and decks around tall, shady mature trees, incorporating a small performance space, a bush tucker cafe and boutique retail outlets, with public toilets and water fountains, powered by “green'” technology. It’s up to the indigenous to decide what goes in it, but I would imagine that there’d be modern aspirations and care for country on offer.
    We have the resources to do all that here in town, including the financial investment, but do we have the goodwill? The performance space, hosted by the Aboriginal Culture Centre could be hired out to non-indigenous performers, creating a cross-cultural atmosphere of cooperation and smoothing the rocky road to equality. I say “rocky” because there is a lot of hurt, rejection, discouragement and misunderstanding among indigenous people because of what has happened in the past and is still happening today, acknowledged in the PM Rudd’s “Sorry” speech and in PM Keating’s famous “Redfern” speech. It is also acknowledged in the proposed Constitutional reform document. If you have eyes to see and ears to hear, then it’s all about us in the form of the poor in spirit and in body.
    The proposed Aboriginal Culture Centre needs a committee of interested persons to drive it towards a Management Committee. I acknowledge that I’m no architect, nor experienced as a CEO, but we need a winner in this town and this seems like a good match. Anyone interested?

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  15. Janet Brown
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 8:33 am

    The Oxford dictionary is clear: EQUALITY is the condition of being equal. BALANCE. Well look it up. No description referring to equality. Equality has nothing to do with wealth or position. It has to do with laws. And treatment. Balance refers to two sides to argument. Balance is about opposing views. And find balance. And as in any discussion or argument balance is to find middle ground to find an acceptable outcome. I don’t follow blindly to what is written. I question what I find fault with and that is due to my logical mind. I live by strong Christian faith. I do not support any religion be it environmental, hate or control by fear or favour. This discussion has balance. But no outcome. Because no balance has been obtained due to finding common ground and understanding. Attack is always the first stage of defense. Now it is time to find an outcome that has a 50/50 balance. That is referred to as an agreement.

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  16. Mike Gillam
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 7:00 am

    From my limited involvement in the administration of sacred sites in the Northern Territory, I can assure readers the work of AAPA is very much driven by the deep and justifiable concerns of Aboriginal custodians for the protection of their sacred places. I’d recommend a visit to the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority website for more information.
    Steve, if you have knowledge about offences committed against this community by misguided Government employees who “refuse” to protect trees you need to speak up. These may constitute offences under various NT and Federal legislation and you should report such matters to departmental heads, the ombudsman’s office and authorities such as AAPA. Refer also to: “Principles and Code of Conduct (Public Sector Employment and Management Act)”. Hopefully ALL public servants are familiar with this legislation. Refer to section 20 “Disclosure of Wrongdoing” for instance: “Employees have a duty to report to a supervisor, manager, CEO or the Commissioner for Public Employment, any unethical behaviour, corrupt act or wrongdoing by any other employee.” Steve, by publicly rationalising the refusal of public servants to protect trees and / or claiming that sacred sites are a fiction you are encouraging the destruction of this town’s heritage. Surely that is not your intention…
    Before we condemn people it would be good to reflect on the potential benefits of growing up in the first world: family safety and early childhood development, education, housing and living standards, social and professional networks (eg. family and friends that form a supportive critical mass around us). Accordingly, I believe your concept of “equality” between people lacks balance. Yes, the current epidemic of welfarism in this country must change but unless those changes are made with compassion and good will and an eye to raising the well-being and morale of people, can we really expect to attain optimal results?
    Finally, I find it very hard to reconcile your love of trees with an assertion that wherever they occur, whatever their age or historical relevance, trees on private land in Alice Springs deserve no special protection and should be treated as a crop.

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  17. Johan
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Steve, you probably haven’t seen that ad currently on TV about cutting down trees? It reminds us that cutting down one several hundred year old tree requires several thousand new trees to be planted for the equivalent amount of CO2 to be absorbed from the atmosphere.
    Additionally, trees providing shade to our homes and office buildings reduce the need for air conditioning by up to 30% (“Benefits of Urban Trees”, Michigan Uni), thereby reducing the amount of gas and diesel burned to produce electricity in Alice Springs.
    You said there’s “absolutely nothing in the way of us planting more trees to replace them”. Would you still say it’s reasonable for us to plant several thousand new trees to replace each cut down mature tree?
    While I’m at it (sorry this is a bit off topic, but I just want to make sure I’m voting for the right person): What’s your position on domestic violence? Should it be kept private?
    Would you have a problem with bottle-shops closing one day a week?

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  18. Janet Brown
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Russell Guy should think about the subject at hand. Trees. And their place in the big picture. Oh and by the way the cultural centre idea was pushed by Steve about five years ago. It is such a fantastic idea. We do not support an “us and them” program. We support 100% equality. And you really think Australians will vote for changes to our constitution after the burning of our flag by a racist minority?

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  19. Domenico Pecorari
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    @ 1
    One could tackle Steve Brown’s latest comments from so many angles but, as a heritage architect, I must say that I am particularly appalled and dismayed by his simplistic and inaccurate comments regarding heritage matters.
    I find that his personal view, that we have “far too many unworthy buildings preserved in our town centre”, speaks volumes about his general ignorance on heritage issues.
    His claim that, in turn, this “has led to an ugly, decentralised, characterless city centre or in fact no real centre at all” seems to ignore the tremendous loss of the town’s character buildings in recent decades. I would suggest to Steve that our town centre’s presently unattractive condition is instead the result of recent unrestricted re-development.
    Defined in the broadest terms, “heritage” can be seen as something (be it a building, a space, an object or simply a story) that needs to be preserved and handed down to future generations, as pieces of a puzzle that enables a deeper understanding of a place and the whole of its diverse history.
    In this sense, it is not unlike a Family Photo Album, in that it needs to include photos from every era in order to tell a complete story of a family’s development: from its earliest photographed ancestors to the latest born child; from their everyday ways of life to notable events and the various activities they undertook. Every photo telling a story, every story being important.
    If Steve has such an album, I’d like to think that he would be unable to throw away any one of his family photos, in the interest of perhaps keeping only the oldest, the best preserved, or only one of each person? You see, the preservation of heritage is more complicated than you may think.
    Steve might also need to be made aware of the many urban studies which show that places that have preserved their unique heritage have also generally benefited economically, both as places people want to visit and want to live in. Again, if Steve wishes to be enlightened on the matter, I would be happy to forward any number of articles for his reading.
    As we rush towards our next Town Council election, I will be looking for candidates that are capable of appreciating the complexity of our town’s problems and offering more than simplistic, poorly thought out “solutions”; candidates that are respectful of others and willing to contribute as part of a team and willing to broaden their knowledge instead of hanging on to small-minded, out-dated ideas.
    Tell me, Steve, have you got what it takes to get my vote?

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  20. Russell Guy
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Steve, you seem determined to have the last word and that word is “equality,” based on a level playing field between the indigenous and people of whom you and your oft quoted family are representatives and the rest of us. You don’t seem to recognise any other opinion but your own, e.g, your latest comments about Mike and Domenico, or the earlier comments in this forum from John Sheridan and Brendon Meney, which are worth revisiting.
    I thought Dom gave you some well-reasoned advice in “writing less” and “reading more,” but all you do is carry on calling fellow citizens names like “parasites.” If you’re really interested in “equality” and what someone else has to say, try obtaining a copy of the just released “Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution,” the report to the PM. You could obtain a copy from the library or from Mr Snowdon’s office and in it, you may discover that the past you talk about is referred to by many as unfinished business, e.g., the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (p 41) who note “the lack of acknowledgement of a people’s existence in a country’s constitution has a major impact on their sense of identity, value within the community and perpetuates discrimination and prejudice, which further erodes the hope of indigenous people.”
    There are numerous chapters and easy to read quotes which will allow you easy access. A person who always wants to win an argument never learns anything and we have a lot to learn about where this town is heading if it is to prosper. There are an awful of lot of underlying issues here and they won’t be solved by simply pointing to “400 rooms and 200 jobs” at the Melanka site, so consider Dom’s advice and calm down. There is a way forward and the Constitutional Reform document prepared by an “Expert Panel” of “parasites” has attempted to explain some of them to a nation that “doesn’t understand its own Constitution”.
    An Aboriginal Culture Centre was suggested in an earlier comment in the “Food for Thought” series at the News and I think it’s a good starting point for inclusion or “equality” because in my experiences, most tourists want to know about indigenous culture. They want it explained to them by an indigenous person and rightly so. There’s jobs in it. Hopefully, there may even be a giant leap forward in landscape architecture if their creative people are allowed a chance to enter the “built environment”. One thing that I’ve learned about postmodernism is that it enables us moderns to pause and ask the question: “How did we get to this point in social policy and how can we improve on it?”
    Having a “pause for the cause” is necessary. It doesn’t equate with “anti-development, anti-establishment” thinking, although I empathise with you about some points of view which seem to be anarchist rather than socialist.
    Perhaps, the way forward is through reconciliation of cultural ideas. Never an easy concept in practice and a big statement, but you’re the one who talks about “common sense”. I hope these comments are received in the spirit in which they are offered.
    To Dom’s prescription, may I add “less rancor and name calling” and more “acceptance of difference through trying to understand different points of view”.
    I believe it is possible to sit down and reason without resorting to name calling, litigation and going Hell, West and Crooked for the last frontier. You may well have a gift for bringing people together and with a little humility, get on side with the other side. For all of our sakes, I hope so too. The raft of opinions offered in the wake of Mike Gillam’s “Food for Thought” has brought some valuable light to the darker table in this town and I want to thank you for your sustained contribution.

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  21. Steve Brown
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Mike, it’s not Aboriginal Centralians who have manipulated the sacred sites act to achieve their own purposes, whether that be a passion for preservation or as a deliberate mischievous attempt to frustrate development of which they don’t personally approve.
    This has been done by the usual run of parasitic do-gooders who attach themselves to various aboriginal organisations and from that time work very hard at creating a continuing culture of dependency.
    These people are always threatened by the Non Racist Non Paternal Non Patronising concept that I am promoting called equality. This concept recognises Aboriginal people as being able to speak for themselves and protect their own culture without the aid of any parasites.
    I am not arguing about the existence of nor the right to protect sacred sites. I am saying that the misuse of this act to protect trees that definitely are not sacred sites has resulted in putting all our trees at risk. Fear of this act, that has been interpreted with such a broad brush, has led our various agencies that might under normal circumstances protect trees refuse to do so.
    The efforts to protect trees in this way have been counterproductive and if left unchanged will eventually result in their demise. Throughout this discussion you continually make reference to my use of inaccuracies and half truths, yet you have failed to point out a single one! I was thinking that it may have been some kind of Freudian slip on your part, that was before I remembered that you don’t deal in half truths at the SSA, but in complete fiction, LOL.
    I am really curious as to what exactly this tragedy around our town’s heritage buildings is? Buildings like trees come and go, only buildings of exceptional merit should be preserved. We have earlier Alice Springs preserved in its entirety at the Telegraph Station and in my view far too many unworthy buildings preserved in our town centre. This has led to an ugly, decentralised, characterless city centre or in fact no real centre at all.
    I hold this view in spite of the fact that many of the earlier buildings, including the last one to go down, were constructed by my family.
    Oh, and on all those buildings a very large portion of the labour was by Aboriginal people. So why, please tell, is it European history as opposed to Centralian history? It’s nice to remember the past and sometimes essential, but we work for tomorrow!
    We must not be held back by what we did yesterday. It’s a matter of balance, try not to feel too bad when you come out on the wrong side of that balance. It’s inevitable with attitudes like yours and Domenico’s that you are often going to be on the losing side.
    As for my attitude to issues of race, Mike: I believe in the fundamental right of equality, the right to determine our own path, to take responsibility for our own actions. I believe in equality with no buts. I do not want to control Aboriginal, culture I want Aboriginal people to do that for themselves. Without interference! I want to see the culture of dependency gone from this place forever, along with all those parasites who bring it to us.

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  22. Mike Gillam
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Dom: Thanks for providing those facts because I fear Melanka was becoming a cultural and planning cul-de-sac in this forum.
    Steve: I’m relieved to know your Melanka comments were hypothetical because it felt like another malicious attack on Aboriginal organizations and cultural identity by someone running for public office. I’m sure you know that banging your drum on sacred sites will do nothing to save trees. Aren’t you simply dog whistling to your “constituency” and dressing up these attacks as “inclusion and sharing” – I think most voters will see this for what it is.
    I’m very sorry about your concerns that Aboriginal people are somehow using sacred sites legislation to over-shadow the “equal” love for trees by Europeans but may I suggest this concern exists in your own mind. Arrernte custodians have never questioned the sincerity of my passion for trees that they regard as sacred. They have never boasted that their relationship with a tree is more important than mine – they were happy that someone else cared. Instead of attempting to achieve “heritage parity” by weakening the protection of sacred sites I suggest you start with a campaign to strengthen the shocking status of European heritage in this town. It was business people who poured scorn on heritage buildings and talked up the importance of development at any price that created the current tragedy.
    Your use of the word racist is novel and I think you should take your theories to the Human Rights Commission. I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with that organization through your association with the group Action for Alice.
    Perhaps you should write a book and explain your theories in a lot more detail. Because you’ve certainly had a good run in this forum for someone who has so little respect for facts. Steve, you appear to be motivated by a desire to control Aboriginal culture and force it to comply with your world-view. I’m not sure if this is your intention? I absolutely agree that our society has become far too segregated through the delivery of services and it’s time to recognize this situation has negative consequences. But parallel organizations such as health services and schools were created because of systemic failures of the mainstream to accommodate difference. So education must occur in two directions between Aboriginal and mainstream society. This will take time and we’ve squandered enough of that.

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  23. Domenico Pecorari
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    @1 Calm down now, Steve, and have another read of my comment. It is obvious to me that you have not read the developer’s submission relating to the Melanka proposal and, if you would like me to, I would happily email you a PDF copy of the document so that you may write from a knowledgeable position in future. I can also email you a copy of the Minister’s Decision, which includes the conditions relating to the EDP, conditions which could in no way be seen as affecting the economic viability of the project. In fact, at the time, it seemed to me that the Minister was bending over backwards to accommodate the developers, ruling against the 70 letters of objection, out of the total of 93 public submissions received by the DCA.
    As for the trees … all I can say is: Give it a rest, Steve.

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  24. Steve Brown
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    What a pompous and utterly ridiculous comment Domenico! A comment that doesn’t relate in any way, to what I have said. Talking about the need to read, you have to read with an open mind in order to take in information Domenico. You as usual have completely missed the point we are not discussing as to whether or not I like trees or support having them in our town’s centre. The discussion is about the economics of retaining trees in certain cases. Do we retain them at the expense of such projects as the Melanka’s development? It has obviously escaped your notice Domenico! The Melanka project didn’t go ahead! And further more it didn’t proceed for a couple of reasons, not the least being the time taken and the constraints put upon the developers by our ridiculous planning process that included the demands to retain those trees which resulted in a designed project that simply wasn’t economic to construct.
    Planted trees are like a crop, Domenico, we plant them where we want them and at a later date cut them for timber or remove them because they are too large or in the wrong location, sometimes in the built environment they just have to go.
    There is however absolutely nothing in the way of us planting more trees to replace them, just as the ones under discussion were planted about 30 years ago. I say that our town cannot afford to be pedantic about a few replaceable trees at the expense of projects of this size.
    It must be up to the developer as to whether or not trees stay and if they value them as much as you say, Domenico, then they will stay, won’t they. Alice Springs now supports many more trees than the area did in its natural state. I don’t have to read about it I was here! Including being amongst the very first to move into the newly constructed Melanka building, my opinions are based on knowledge not fantasy. Politics is about putting forward a point of view and gaining the right votes, the ones that support your point of view. Not everybody’s vote, at the expense of your own point of view.

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  25. Domenico Pecorari
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I find it very difficult NOT to respond to Steve Brown’s outrageous assertions, very few of which, I have noticed, are supported by factual references, with Mr Brown preferring (by his own admission) to keep his comments in the realm of the “hypothetical”.
    Whilst I think his undervaluation of our town centre’s ever-declining number of mature trees to be very sad, I’d like to suggest to him that the developers behind the Melanka proposal most probably do not share his extreme views, as it would seem they considered the existing trees on the site to be an asset, not an impediment to development.
    In their submission to the NT Planning Authority, they presented the retention of the trees (both registered and not registered by AAPA) as a significant bargaining chip in seeking the Exceptional Development Permit (EDP) to exceed the town’s building height limit.
    Numerous references to tree retention can be seen in the developer’s “Town Planning Report” (Sept 2009), by Blueprint Architects, particularly pages 4, 6, 10 and 12, as well as in the many drawings.
    It would seem the Minister for Lands and Planning also placed great value upon the retention of the trees, as his conditional approval required that the developers prepare “a landscape plan, supported by an arborist’s report outlining the impact of the proposed excavation(s) on the trees identified to be retained” to the approval of the consent authority, and that the approved landscaping plan be made part of the permit, thereby legally linking the two issues. (see EDP10/0001: Minister’s Notice of Decision dated 23/2/2010)
    Steve Brown is certainly entitled to his personal opinions but, in the interest of more informed discussion and in light of his possible nomination in the upcoming Town Council elections, I respectfully advise him to consider “writing less” and “reading more”.
    The last thing the town needs are self-opinionated, misinformed aldermen on Council.

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  26. Russell Guy
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Steve, I think you missed seeing all the paperbarks that have been retained as well as the palms at Palm Cove. A little of the surrounding wetlands are still intact as well. To their credit, the Queensland government have built boardwalks over urban wetlands. Mike, you’re right about the fact that we need to attract developers who see sacred trees as gifts. Thanks to the AAPA we’ve still got some, unlike most other states who allowed property owners to bulldoze sacred sites as soon as talk of Land Rights was raised in the 1970s. That kind of vandalism was racist in my opinion.

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  27. Steve Brown
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Nowhere in my comment do I claim that SSA are responsible for the devaluation of the Melanka Site. My comment was based on the hypothetical, i.e. the results of enforcing protection on trees that may not be wanted by the developer. The results of the interference in a private development, by those intent on stifling development. It is often not practical or economical for existing trees to remain on a site. Russell Guy indicated that in Palm Cove they kept all the trees and built around them. That is not completely accurate, they kept the palms and removed almost everything else. Quite obviously it is a lot easier to accommodate trees on a site of Palm Cove’s scale than it is on a small highly valued city block. My argument in relation to trees on private land is that it must be up to the owners to decide, after all it is their money, their asset, and you can be bloody sure they won’t be getting rid of any valuable assets just for the sake of it!
    You simply have to be practical, use a bit of common sense, otherwise you are putting at risk development and employment opportunities the town desperately needs.
    Mike, if you’re so dedicated to saving these trees, put your own money where your mouth is show us how it’s done. I’ll be the first to congratulate you when you achieve the salvation of these trees along with a project that provides a replacement for 400 beds and some 200 jobs.
    When it comes to saving looking after or planting trees in the public space my thinking is pretty much along the same as your own, Mike, with the exception that I do not support the misuse of the Sacred Sites Act to preserve trees. Although I acknowledge a greater historical association of local Aboriginal people with the trees older than the first white settlers.
    I do not acknowledge that any person of any race has a greater claim or a greater love or respect for trees than another. The very act of claiming sacred rights over a tree is based on “race,” based on “racial division,” therefore in itself it is a “racist” act! An act which instead of bringing us together as a community with the mutual goal of preserving our “joint heritage” our joint passion for our beautiful trees, actually separates Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal, sometimes leading to acts of retaliatory vandalism, always leading to inaction on the preservation front, and as such is completely counterproductive. The consistent misuse of the SS Act in this way has now bought about a situation where many of our ancient and beautiful trees located in the public space, such as those along the river bank, are faced with grave danger as a direct result of the paralysis, the powerlessness, the uncertainty it causes among our government agencies including our fire fighters.
    So those who have chosen this path in seeking to preserve will eventually find they have achieved exactly the opposite along with the growing disrespect of the community. Its time for a rethink on preservation, time it was taken out of the hands of the disaffected, the chip on the shoulder, anti-establishment groupies, who have given environmentalism and preservation a taint that makes it unacceptable to the majority! Its time preservation was about community, inclusion and sharing.

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  28. Mike Gillam
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I’d like to reply to comments by Russell Guy and Janet Brown. Please refer to the posting at the end of the story above for my response and image of the Melanka site – an issue raised by them.

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  29. Janet Brown
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    I am pretty sure the trees on the Melanka site were planted after the building was built on bare dirt. The building has now been removed. I love the way all these ambulance chasers stand on the sideline telling investors what they want.
    You want to draw up the style of the project then buy the land and do it. When we first built our home some environmentalist told me (angrily) that my house house color was not blending with the environment. I asked them to look up at the larger than earth sky. Blue and white. Same color as my home. That made them very quiet and embarrassed. Sometimes when you think you know the facts you should look for the truth made up of many facts. And one fact is, you want to dictate how investors build. How about they come to your place of work and tell you how to do your job. Please don’t point out the speck in my eye when you have a log in your own.

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  30. Russell Guy
    Posted January 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Steve Brown’s belief that ‘the cost’ of retaining the trees on the Melanka sight represents a $3.5m devaluation is one view. Another is through creative building design where the trees are incorporated, using locally quarried stone and timber as was part of the previous building’s low-rise attraction before it was totally demolished. Imaginative sails, decks and other secured al fresco features, could harmonise with the environment and provide an economically viable return on the space. It could be a jewel in the town’s desperate need for something to celebrate. The economic scale belongs to qualified expertise, but I’m sure ways and means of proceeding according to a deeper ecological culture can be found. Occasionally, all too rarely, you see it in other parts of the country, e.g, Palm Cove. N.Q.
    We’re stuck with a certain bureaucratic infrastructure, but myopic haste causes problems for trees, birds and wildlife and those who appreciate these things, including tourists, but mostly Aboriginal people whose experience of accelerated culture change and I use the term loosely, is one reason why they have such low expectations of change, not to mention, for many sadly, their current despair. I’m tired of this Australia too. It wearies me.
    We have to find a way of taking a creative and longer term view of development because I don’t think the current model has left a lot to be celebrated. Incidentally, in 1919, Sgt Stott placed an embargo on cutting down trees within a mile of the Todd.

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  31. Mike Gillam
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    Diana: I’m old and cynical enough to suspect that the road to hell is paved with good intentions – so I’d like our community to stretch this debate to more useful horizons if possible. Yes, shameful rates of homicide and violence loom large in the story of the Todd River linked in part to this community’s spectacular failure to manage the use of alcohol. Certainly it seems our numerous failures and the occasional triumph is reflected in the ecological health of the river. Contrary to popular belief the human impacts on the river environment can’t be attributed entirely to one section of our society. But when it comes to homicide or suicide for that matter, Aboriginal people are massively over-represented so I’m glad you decided to speak up.
    Overcrowding and the reality we still don’t offer appropriate facilities for many of our “return” visitors are impacting adversely on the river’s ecology. These same issues are killing people and destroying families while our community response has been underwhelming for several decades. This crisis management is also impacting massively on government spending from the town council, fire brigade, police, the ER, law courts, prison.
    When it comes to alcohol consumption people are being processed with industrial efficiency at the great expense of this community and their own social development. The brand new “grog free” visitor park is apparently full but so too are the unofficial camp-sites in the river where drinking continues unabated without the socializing checks and balances that exist in a managed bar or beer garden. So we sell mountains of grog to people who take it into the river to drink – frequently the alcohol they paid good money for is poured onto the ground by police who are only doing their job. Talk about reactive – a brilliant way to create anger and resentment. These problems are not insoluble but stronger partnerships between government and private enterprise are urgently needed.
    Success in these social dimensions are central to improving land management in the river.
    Steve: If you are successful in your bid to become a council alderman I sincerely hope you bring more than the usual mix of scrambled logic, half-truths and manufactured evidence to the table. Yep, when it comes to disdain and name-calling, nobody does it better than you, Steve, but those tactics won’t silence everybody.

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  32. Steve Brown
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Yeh! Good Comment Hal.
    Mike Gillam seems to have put himself upon a pedestal from whence he sees himself as controlling the high moral ground, passing disdainful judgements on the lesser human mortals of this town.
    The harsh reality however, is somewhat different to that view. If I was asked to pick out of the community an organization, a bureaucracy that was responsible for the most social division and disharmony that causes the greatest anger and unrest which sometimes leads to retaliatory vandalism that has had the most negative effect on our tourism, that has caused our Government agencies the greatest paralysis and unwillingness to act, then I would pick out Mr Gillam and the Aboriginal Ares Protection Authority!
    If I was asked what organization I considered most responsible for the destruction, or threat of destruction, of our beautiful ancient river gums I would pick out the AAPA! Why? Because the blatant patronizing misuse of the AAPA Act. The empire building attempts to impose itself as some kind of inspecting authority apparently holding some kind of expertise on African grasses, mowers and chainsaws the rest of the community doesn’t possess and of course the blatant attempts to extort money from ratepayers, tax payers and businesses to pay for that expertise
    That has created a situation where gutless government and councils are too scared to act. I recently attended a small deliberately lit fire where several of those ancient gums were engulfed. One large tree burnt, as they do, like a chimney stack for some considerable time this tree had a large limb which would weigh many tons completely overhanging the highway in a 100km zone.
    If the tree were to fall on or in front of a vehicle it would most certainly result in death. As the road adjoining property owners we requested attending firies and workers from the Alice Springs Town Council to remove the dangerous limb for the obvious safety reason, after much discussion it was decided to leave it in place because no one wanted to be sued by the AAPA and no one wanted to deal with them.
    This kind of interdepartmental fear and paralysis is the clear and present danger to our ancient river gums and ourselves, it seems. It should be quite obvious even to a fool that the Todd River needs management where it passes through the town proper. It is far too heavily trafficked to remain as natural bushland. Within the perimeters of the town, where possible, banks should be roughly smoothed, fall litter removed and grass mowed on a constant basis. It is the only economical fire risk reducing and aesthetically pleasing way to maintain the area, it also makes the area more accessible as park lands.
    People tend to value areas they can use and enjoy so better maintenance and accessibility produces more community “care”!
    The best way to make this happen is for the AAPA to get out of the way confine itself to a minimal operation within the Act, a role that could easily be undertaken by NT Planning.
    This is something the Territory Government should seriously consider given that AAPA has proved pointless, expensive and very often counterproductive to its intended roll. Their services as arborists simply aren’t required. This is a job for council, not empire building bureaucrats. As for the control of or removal of the planted trees, which make up the vast majority of trees within the town area, that must remain the prerogative of the land owner because within the area that we have set aside for human habitation trees have to conform with the built environment. It is quite simply too expensive to take any other approach. Take, for instance, the Melanka Site. If the community demands that all the trees remain you devalue a seven million dollar site to considerably less than half that amount. So who pays for that loss?
    You putting your hand up for that Mike? Will the AAPA? It’s so easy to spend other people’s money isn’t it?

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  33. Diana Whitehouse
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 8:46 am

    @1; Mike Gillam writes that the care factor is missing with regards to our iconic Todd River. Fair enough, but you know Mike as does anyone with good intent that the NT has for decades had a high homicide rate coupled with disgracefully low factor of care.
    We can rise above it, at the same time succeed in dragging the NT into the 21st century and create a viable, diverse town for all in the Alice.
    In modern day parlance, it is called the chain of responsibility.
    However, just where does this new thinking leave the beleaguered ASTC?
    Regards, Diana Whitehouse.

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  34. Mike Gillam
    Posted January 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Brendan Meney is absolutely right to focus on “care”. From the iconic Todd River to the concrete filled roundabouts and neglected garden beds in the Mall there is a pervasive sense that care is missing. John Sheridan highlights our environmental ignorance and links some of this to failures of leadership. His observations about “representation” ring true. Business interests have always liked to control local government but is the business sector shooting itself in the foot here? The “bottom line” discipline of small business is not easily adapted to the democratic, social and environmental imperatives of running a community. And yet local government demonstrating professionalism and respect in the management of the environment and sacred sites can only be good for the tourist industry, a key economic driver and major employer.
    I’m sure most Town Council workers do their best – they are not consciously neglecting the Todd River – it’s more about setting priorities and matching these with the appropriate skills, resources and management structures. Continued reliance on political spin and denial are setting the workforce up to fail in the eyes of a skeptical community. Getting the big picture right is crucial – if you work with country much of the detail takes care of itself – ignoring this will bring consequences, often long-lived, irreversible or costly. Ultimately neglect of crown land can only harm Alice Springs as a place where people choose to live or visit.
    Hal Duell’s claim that Council is “hobbled” in land management (presumably by custodians trying to protect sacred sites) is absolute rubbish. Readers should refer to previous articles on the Todd River and Fires. Readers should also see through his attempt to cheapen the values of cultural identity with one-liners such as “… cultural theme park …”
    Sneering is no match for substance. Finally the NT Government must share the legacy of neglect in Alice Springs. In the Todd River they’ve appointed the Town Council as trustee but it’s unclear whether basic standards of competency, key performance indicators or similar are included in the terms of agreement.

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  35. Hal Duell
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Yes, let’s save the remaining 500 year old River Red Gums.
    Of course fire reduces their prospects of making it to 600. Using accumulated dead ground cover as start-up fuel, arsonists seem to enjoy trying to burn the big ones down every springtime. One way to ensure the future of the big trees is to not hobble the efforts of those, such as council employees, who would reduce that fuel load in a timely fashion.
    Alice Springs is a dynamic municipality, not a culturally precious theme park. With common agreement and hard work, we can make all parts of our shared urban space better, including the green corridor that is the Todd River.
    Trees on private land are best respected as trees on private land. Surely we already have enough eyes peering over our fences without empowering any more jazz police to come poking around in our lives. Any elevated view will show Alice to be a sea of green canopies. We can be proud of our tree planting, and I am confident we will continue to do well.
    On the other hand, sometimes the plumbers do get it right. One summer many years ago I almost perished a small herd of camels by running their water line through a stand of Athel pines.

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  36. John W Sheridan
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 3:19 am

    There can be no higher goal than to respect and maintain the land upon which we live. No one truly “owns” that land, we merely rent it for while we inhabit it or use it for whatever purpose until we pass it along to another or abandon it. We have over time grown lazy and arrogant to equate land with money rather than quality of life. There are too many who have grown deaf to the sounds of our wildlife and blind to the colourful hues of our landscape and the creatures that live upon it.
    A major flaw in our governing bodies is the lack of representatives from many walks of life, from educators to scientists and medical fields. While our local governing body is made up of business people there will never be serious concern for preserving our lands and protecting the creatures that make it such a delightful place to visit and to live. We witness on a regular basis the expectations of our current leaders for more growth, more bodies and more money with no concern for the disastrous effects on the land and its resources. Rest assured that this continued abuse of our land will have eventual unfortunate consequences that our future generation will have to deal with or leave behind.

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  37. Brendan Meney
    Posted January 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Well Mike, you have well and truly smacked Alice Springs’ bum. I hope the naughty kids who rule the playground take note and grow up somewhat. We as a community need to truly realise the incredible place we live in and appreciate the wonderful gifts we have been given to work with in our built environment. It is only then that the “playground bullies” will understand that we can all “share” if we all “care”.
    To not show the “land” the respect it deserves is to open the door for mother nature to take the “toys” away. As architects we continually find it difficult to get the message across that buildings and the land they sit within are intrinsically linked and must work together to create the complete “place”.
    I recall a plumber once asking me: “When are you going to get a set square?” I replied: “When you find me a straight line in nature”.

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