I didn’t attend this meeting. Like most people, I’m sick …

Comment on Is the town over all the talk? by Alex Nelson.

I didn’t attend this meeting. Like most people, I’m sick to death of the incessant chatter and next to no resolution of all the problems we face. But another reason I didn’t attend last night’s forum is because I had to go to work at a local supermarket in the CBD.
I left my home in the Old Eastside and walked down a laneway at the rear of my address to Sturt Terrace, I crossed Wills Terrace along the bike path and then proceeded down an old bush track along the east bank of the Todd River. There were a number of Aboriginal people I encountered along the way, most had been drinking. They didn’t bother me, although one woman from Yuendumu greeted me and spoke about her home for a short while. I proceeded across the bed of the Todd River and onto the west bank opposite the ANZ carpark, along Parsons Street, through the Post Office and then to the Yeperenye Shopping Centre.
While I was at work filling shelves at Woolies, I was twice informed that my comments on ABC radio earlier that afternoon concerning media headlines (actually from almost 40 years ago, specifically November and December 1974) were mentioned at the public meeting.
I finished work just before midnight. I exited the Yeperenye Shopping Centre into Hartley Street and made my way back home exactly the way I had come in. The only people I saw were a few young backpackers at the YHA opposite the ANZ carpark.
That’s the way I go to and from work four nights per week. I’ve been taking this route (except for when the Todd flows) for more than two years.
Prior to that, when I was working at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden, I walked or rode along the much-feared Todd River bank every morning and evening (frequently after dark) to and from work, from the time I shifted to my current address in February 2006. At no time has anyone threatened or bothered me. (There were a few occasions when camp dogs came snarling after me but I just stopped and calmed them down, and after awhile they didn’t bother me, too – but that was a few years ago, and the council rangers have long been on top of that problem).
But then again, 21 years ago when I was living at another address in the Old Eastside, I was walking home one evening on the Wills Terrace footbridge when I was approached by a jogger from behind who kinghit me in the face, breaking my nose, because he wanted to take my money. Too bad! I wasn’t carrying any!
A decade later, I was living at a friend’s place in Lindsay Avenue (south of Undoolya Road) and I had commenced working as a nightfiller at Woolies at that time, too. As usual, I walked to and from work at night. One night, about 12pm, I walked home to find police with torches doorknocking and searching for clues in the park opposite my residence. Turned out a young German woman had been abducted from the Wills Terrace causeway an hour or so earlier, dragged all the way to the park near my home and viciously beaten and raped. She had screamed for help but apparently nobody heard her; something I find very difficult to believe.
I was born in this town and grew up here; however, for most of the first half of my life I lived in the rural area south of town and never personally witnessed or experienced all this kind of crime and antisocial activity. Yet I can 100 percent guarantee that I can pick out editions of the newspaper randomly from anytime since the early 1970s and find stories about crime, alcohol abuse, petrol sniffing, police numbers (or lack thereof), truancy – you name it, it’s all there.
This town and region is classic Jekyll and Hyde, and the formula that has created this dichotomy is well known to us all – it’s called alcohol.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Road Transport Hall of Fame is saved
This is great news to start the day. The lingering question in my mind is why the situation was allowed to get to the point where this major attraction was under imminent threat of being significantly reduced, and possibly under threat of closure.
Why endure the aggravation of crisis and emergency before action is taken to achieve a reasonable and satisfactory resolution for all involved?
Surely this outcome could have been negotiated in a more congenial and reasonable manner than apparently was the case.
However, at least this asset for Alice Springs looks set to be saved and for that we must be grateful.


Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill: the nays have it 
@ Steve Brown (Posted February 16, 2018 at 10:02 am): I’m interested to know, Steve, when it was that TO’s dedicated Anzac Hill for the purpose it now serves as a war memorial? The memorial was first dedicated on Anzac Day, 1934, and as far as I’m aware local Aboriginal people had no involvement in it. Is there a subsequent occasion when this matter was addressed?


Jacinta Price reneges on council undertaking
If Jacinta Price does win preselection to stand as a candidate in the next Federal election campaign, she will not be the first to do so.
On his third attempt, John Reeves was elected in a triple by-election as an Alderman of the Alice Springs Town Council in April 1981.
He was the Labor candidate for the seat of the Northern Territory in the Federal election campaign of February-March, 1983.
Reeves was successful, and his departure from the Council contributed to another multiple by-election in April that year (this was the occasion when Leslie Oldfield was first elected as Mayor after the retirement of George Smith).
Alderman Bob Liddle resigned from the town council in 1987 to run as a candidate for the NT Nationals in the Federal election campaign in July that year. He was unsuccessful.
The NT Government had earlier changed the law so that resignations by council members who stood as candidates for NT and Federal elections were not reinstated as council members even if the candidates were unsuccessful (at present they are).
Alderman Di Shanahan had stood as a Labor candidate in the NT elections of March 1987 and was also unsuccessful. The law being what it was at the time, a double by-election was held for the Alice Springs Town Council. Neither Liddle or Shanahan chose to run again.
The NT Government subsequently reversed this law to the current situation now prevailing.


Bully buffel barges into natives’ live and let live harmony
I largely concur with Lindsay Johannsen’s observations about buffel grass; however, another mode of seed spread is via the digestive tracts of herbivores.
I pointed this fact out several years ago, beginning with observations of buffel seedlings germinating in euro (hill kangaroo) scats at Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
I followed this up with a germination trial of fresh euro scats I collected by the Todd River near the Old Telegraph Station – no buffel seedlings emerged but I did obtain couch grass and stinking lovegrass seedlings, both introduced species. There were no native species.
I can also confirm that termites do indeed consume buffel grass, including seeds gathered from the ground surface, but no way near enough to make any impact on the grasses (seed harvesting ants also consume buffel grass seeds).
I’ve taken quite a number of photos of termite activity in buffel grass; and indeed pointed out in an article published in the Alice Springs News over a decade ago that one species of termite that prevails in rocky hill slopes has become particularly partial to buffel grass.
On one damp overcast day at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden I observed (and photographed) termites actively and vigorously harvesting dead buffel foliage and stems during daylight hours. Every buffel clump I checked on the hillside at OPBG had termite activity associated with it, and I believe this works to the mutual advantage of both species but would have significant implications for the natural ecology assuming this situation applies on a wider landscape scale.


Story Wall, buffel and Jacinta
@ Kathy (Posted January 31, 2018 at 7:47 am): Unfortunately almost nothing of what you’ve claimed is correct. Here is a brief history – in the summer of 1951/52 the wet season failed completely, and much of northern and Central Australia was caught in the grip of a short but very severe drought. However, Central Australia experienced a wet winter in 1952 which prompted the growth of an enormous variety of native flowers and grasses. There were numerous claims by pastoralists of various species never having been seen before.
To the founding director of the Animal Industry Branch, Colonel Lionel Rose, this situation compounded his already strong awareness of the critical lack of knowledge of the natural ecology that underpinned the beef cattle industry. For this reason he gave significant material support to the establishment of the CSIRO’s permanent presence in Alice Springs in 1953; and the first permanent CSIRO officer, Bob Winkworth, immediately began to collect and collate specimens of native pasture species.
In 1954 the AIB itself finally gained its first botanist, George Chippendale, stationed in Alice Springs who immediately commenced work to establish a Herbarium of native plant specimens from across the NT. Bob Winkworth contributed his own collection to assist the establishment of the Herbarium.
The mid 1950s was generally a run of good seasons. Alice Springs was a cattle town and was actually one of the busiest railheads in Australia, transporting cattle from the southern half of the NT via the Central Australian Railway to markets in South Australia.
In 1958 the year went dry – it was the beginning of one of the worst droughts on record in the Centre. It was in this year that my father worked for the CSIRO but transferred back to the AIB in early 1959. He became offsider to botanist George Chippendale and was involved in a number of major botanical survey trips in the NT during the 1960s drought.
Central Australia and Alice Springs were not swept by “huge sand storms”, they were dust storms – and they blew up from overstocked pastoral leases that had denuded the natural vegetation of the region. The dust storms did not come from the true desert regions. My father personally observed and noted these conditions during his botanical survey trips.
The 1960s drought crippled the beef cattle industry in the Centre; conversely it assisted the rise of the tourism industry as an alternative economic basis for Alice Springs.
From the late 1940s onwards there had been a range of evaluation trials of buffel grass (amongst other species) for improved pasture. Ironically, at the start of the drought there was a lot of failure experienced with these trials and it looked as if buffel grass wasn’t suitable for introduction. However, a pasture species evaluation trial run by the CSIRO at AZRI during the 1960s drought indicated that, with the right conditions, buffel grass could be successfully established in limited areas.
However, it was the burgeoning tourism industry that provided the impetus for widespread establishment of buffel grass in the region. The major airlines TAA and Ansett-ANA wanted to introduce jet airliners to service Alice Springs but this would only proceed if the dust storms could be controlled. It was the need to control dust around the Alice Springs Airport that led to extensive sowing of buffel grass in the area from the late 1960s onwards, as a method to achieve soil conservation.
The 1970s were a reversal of the climatic conditions that dominated the 1960s. From 1973 onwards there commenced six years of well above average rainfall in the Centre. This happened to coincide with the collapse of the beef cattle market, leading to an enormous build-up of herd numbers in the Centre of largely unsaleable cattle. This led to concerns that the large herd numbers significantly exceeded the natural carrying capacity of the country; it was only the exceptional seasonal conditions that prevented an environmental catastrophe from occurring.
The establishment of buffel grass on many pastoral leases was systematically undertaken during this period, intended to alleviate the grazing pressure on natural pastures. In combination with the exceptional seasons, it was this program of well-intentioned soil conservation measures that triggered the invasion of buffel grass in the environment, still ongoing in many situations where it was never originally envisaged it would take hold.
In 1980/81 I was involved with a CSIRO project at AZRI to ascertain the grazing preferences of cattle at varying stocking intensities on mixed buffel/native grass pastures. It was discovered that cattle preferentially graze native grasses first before consuming buffel grass so this means that livestock assist buffel grass in outcompeting native species.
Buffel grass itself outcompetes most native plant species, that is well documented. In situations where buffel grass is removed (such as I helped to achieve at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden) and there is no grazing pressure, there is an immediate response in the return of native plant species. It’s easy to see the obvious differences of plant species diversity between areas dominated with buffel grass compared to those without buffel. It’s not difficult to measure.
Buffel grass does help stabilise soil and provides useful feed for livestock but so do native pastures when they are well managed and not abused by persistent overstocking of grazing animals.
There is no doubt, however, that buffel grass alone is the single greatest environmental threat by far across most of inland Australia, far more so than other officially recognised feral weed species, but in this case there remains a studious avoidance by government to do anything substantial about it.


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