Alice water cap lifted ‘under pressure from political advisers’

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Alice Springs based water planner Anne Pye says she was told to “remove the cap from the Alice water plan on the basis of comments from Darwin based political advisers and Darwin bureaucrats”.

 

Ms Pye, who has taken a job with the Central Land Council, stated this is a “final farewell” email to 47 colleagues and acquaintances which was leaked by a third party to the Alice Springs News Online.

 

The change of the cap, from 300 years of assured supply to 200 years, caused heated debate recently.

 

“I have resigned because it is becoming impossible to see the benefits of my work,” wrote Ms Pye.

 

“Procedures and systems are not in place” for proper water planning in the NT.

 

“After six months before the last election of nothing happening because the ALP was terrified of doing anything – to be followed by the current handing out of water licences to all comers, manipulation of data to justify allocation of the resource and disdain shown for community consultation.

 

“I am also rather dismayed that I have not even left and I have been told the powers that be are already talking about moving my position to Darwin.”

 

Ms Pye sees such a move as going against not only the interests of Central Australia but the commitment of the CLP government to “shifting the focus outside of Darwin”.

 

The News attempted to speak directly with Ms Pye but understands that she is travelling in a remote area. She has so far not responded to our message.

 

UPDATE 1:30am JULY 13:

 

Minister Willem Westra van Holthe has provided the following response:-

 

The Territory Government is currently progressing a comprehensive framework of water allocation planning in the Territory. There are extensive procedures and systems in place for both water allocation planning and water extraction licensing.

 

The Controller of Water Resources makes decisions as to water extraction licences. The controller is informed by the Department of Land Resource Management, the best available science and models and by community comment on water extraction licence applications.

 

The Department strongly refutes any allegation that it is manipulating data to support the issuing of water extraction licences; it is constantly updating its modeling based on the latest scientific research and understanding. Recent refinement of the model for the Tindall Limestone Aquifer at Mataranka has indicated that there is more water currently available for allocation than previously believed.

 

The Territory Government is undertaking extensive community consultation with respect to water allocation planning and water extraction licensing across the Territory. Community led Water Advisory Committees are in place to inform all water allocation plans currently in progress.

 

Removal of the cap from the Alice Springs Water Resource Strategy was suggested through community consultation, with the Department taking on board this suggestion.

 

While the Department has discussed the options for filling Ms Pye’s position, no decision has been taken as yet. There is no intention to reduce the Department’s focus or support for the Southern region.

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7 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. Janet Brown
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    @Tanya. No one referred to Ann as a greenie. And your knowledge base or lack of it is clearly evident by your misinformation from sources that deliberately feed out misinformation to those gullible enough to believe it.
    PAWA deliberately put out misinformation to avoid spending money in correct environmental best practice management. Ask the right questions to PAWA. Why do they continue to damage our environment by pumping our water from one hole without moving the pumping area to another giving that spot time to recover.
    Why do they pump raw sewage out to the swamp without building a treatment plant that would see treated water poured out to the swamp. In the case of Darwin why do they let raw sewage out to the ocean to pollute the beaches. 30 years ago an idea here was to build a dam wall on Ilparpa road area and pump treated sewage water out to provide a water recreation area for residents.
    That is not possible now as the land is too polluted and the cost to fix this issue to expensive. The money wasted to pump sewage to the dry aquifer as admitted by Desert Knowledge has not been successful not even a little bit. And only about 3% of waste from the ponds has been transferred. Real questions Tanya need truth. Anne was part of the false mistruths that were spread around to deceive Territorians by bureaucrats. So tell us all again that my husband has his own agenda and it is misguided. We actually research information unlike yourself, Arid Lands and Anne we are not so gullible.

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  2. Tanya Howard
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 7:50 am

    It is disappointing to see the NT government moving against considered and informed local water allocation planning. The development of the Alice Springs Water Plan was based on a long period of community education and consultation, formed the basis of effective water conservation programs and enabled the Alice Springs community to benefit from a substantial investment in water savings through the Federal Government’s recently ceased Water Smart program.
    Steve Brown consistently demonstrates his own political partisanship by attempting to associate all concerns for the security of Alice’s water supply with ALEC – he neglects to mention the long term efforts and financial contributions of Power and Water, Alice Springs Town Council, the NTG and numerous businesses in the town that have worked hard to ensure that wasteful water use is not the norm.
    Anne Pye could never have been called a rabid greenie – she grew up in Alice Springs and has a long connection with the pastoral industry in the town. If she felt the need to resign and make the reasons public, it is fair to say that the development agenda of the current government is posing a serious threat to the future security of Alice Springs’ water supply.
    [ED – Ms Pye’s letter was leaked to the Alice Springs News Online – she did not give it to us. We sought comment from her but she did not provide any.]

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  3. Jimmy Cocking
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    @ Steve – I have lived in Alice Springs for more than five years and consider it my home. It is unfortunate that you will never accept my claims to call this town home. I have come to Alice Springs with an open mind and willingness to learn. I have represented environmental views as best as I can. Environmental views are not city-based but earth based, so it has as much relevance in Alice Springs and the arid lands as it does in the more urbanised areas of the world.
    I am a tax paying Territorian. The Desert Park, the Museum, the tax office and the electoral commission considers me a Territorian, why can’t you Steve?
    The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC)is a community based organisation with a stable membership of approximately 300 people and a larger number of supporters.
    ALEC happily receives operational funding from the Federal and Territory Governments. This is because there is recognition of the importance of having organisations with expertise participating in government processes to improve their environmental performance and reduce the risk posed by wanton economic development.
    ALEC is a non-political environmental organisation. ALEC is non-partisan and works towards its vision of “healthy futures for arid lands and people”. ALEC takes its direction from its membership and volunteer board and is implemented by its committed staff.
    ALEC was born in Alice Springs and incorporated in 1980 in the NT. ALEC is a Central Australian organisation.
    I was born in Victoria but now call Alice Springs home. How long does someone have to live in Alice Springs for someone to care about where our water comes from and how its used Steve?
    ALEC has been here for life. I moved here and call this place home. You are an elected official and have to govern for all who live in this jurisdiction.
    You have to work for all of us Steve, not just your family or the people who say they voted for you but everyone. That is the role of government … I am a taxpayer. I work for a Centralian-born NGO. I volunteer much of my time for the benefit of this community. I am concerned about the wanton allocation of water when we have a finite resource here.
    You are a councillor and the council representative on the Alice Springs Water Advisory Committee. You have a responsibility to represent the views of council, not your views but those of council. The ASWAC and the Water Allocation Plan is not hindering growth in this town – divisive attitudes and small mindedness is.

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  4. Sean
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I am surprised at both comments. Mr Brown, the past is now irrelevant. You have the CLP back in Govt. You have the Chief Minister based in Alice. Sort it. Your time is limited with both privileges, frankly I wouldn’t be wasting valuable time.
    Now is the time for solutions and visions, ie: making things happen. Or perhaps the CLP isn’t what it once was either, huh.

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  5. Steve Brown
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    @ Jimmy Cocking, Your comment is a fine example as to why the Alice Springs Water Allocation Committee needed a review: Conclusions were drawn with the aid of persons like yourself who have absolutely no idea, no experience, no history, no knowledge and nothing to add to the subject matter over which they sat in judgement.
    Please take your big city politics and agenda back to the big city Jimmy, they don’t belong here! I might also remind you mate that I do not have a subdivision proposal before government! When there was a proposal from some members of my family it was to be connected to the Town Water supply at the expense of those who purchased the properties, as in fact is always the case, whether or not headworks are supplied by private enterprise or government, just as it will be in Kilgariff.
    The Aquifer, the water supply, we drink from at White Gums is also under the Water Allocation Committee, as a member of that committee you must know that!
    So why the mistruth, Jimmy? The people who live at White Gums now and into the future are and will be, taxpaying Territorians.
    And as such they are entitled to every bit as much service and amenity as any other taxpaying Territorian.
    As a long term Alicespringsites, as part of a very large Alice Springs family, as part of the Alice Springs community, as a parent, as a grand parent and as someone who has lived and fully intends to live out the rest of their life as part of this community, I definitely do have a vested interest in its future!
    That is why I get very angry and very concerned when blow-ins pushing wacko agendas from elsewhere attempt to interfere with the healthy growth of our community, especially when those agendas put at risk the future employment prospects of our children.
    While we are talking about vested interest Jimmy, doesn’t Arid Lands, your employer, depend entirely on taxpayers for its existence?
    And in light of that fact perhaps you should give some more thought to my preceding comment relating to bureaucrats and NGO understanding their non political role in our community!
    As for working together Jimmy, we already do! You’re a quasi bureaucrat and I’m an elected member. Your role is to comply with the wishes of the community of taxpayers who fund you. My role is to put those wishes to you, let’s try and make that work.

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  6. Posted July 22, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Steve – you have vested interests in this issue in terms of wanting to have your proposed subdivision connected to town water at the cost of the taxpayer. You drink from a separate aquifer to the rest of the town and you are talking about obstructionism and vested interests.
    C’mon now, the AS Water Advisory Committee is about sustainable development of the resource – this requires consultation and planning over the long term. Both of these processes were thrown out the window recently when you screamed your views into existence after remaining silent for the past decade of water allocation planning.
    Just look to the Murray Darling Basin for a fine example of what happens when you over-allocate water resources. The Alice Springs Water Allocation Plan was a sensible and realistic plan consistent with national frameworks for water allocation and planning.
    Let’s have a discussion with the Departments of Primary Industries, Land Resource Management about how the NT Government can support a public – private – community partnership on developing significant horticulture development south of the Gap with a focus on innovation for drylands / arid horticulture.
    This could be something that we agree on and could even possibly work together on Steve … what do you reckon?

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  7. Steve Brown
    Posted July 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Years of pathetic Labor Government bereft of ability, leadership, technical capacity or in house knowledge that could assist in decision making. Claire Martin’s plaintiff cry of “we don’t know anything about being in Government” and “we are going to need a lot of help” when Labor first won Government, brought about a previously unseen level of reliance on the advice and decision making capacity of bureaucrats.
    Over time, because of a lack of leadership, this has developed into an unhealthy bureaucratic culture. A culture that has some bureaucrats believing they have the right to make decisions on their own, to speak out at whim, to exert their own opinion, opinions often held without any personal expertise, being completely obstructionist even to the level of sabotaging attempts to implement policies with which they don’t personally agree.
    All this with complete disregard for the views and aspirations of Tax paying Territorians battling to get ahead, make a dollar under an ever growing burden of bureaucratic BS!
    In an attempt to reinvigorate the Territories economy, to reinstate the dream, [we need] our belief in a bright prospective future!
    Our new government needs a cooperative go-ahead bureaucracy that knows and understands its role and where the boundaries are, one that is prepared to operate within those boundaries!
    Although it is hard to believe at times, this is still a democratic country! The views of its citizens do count, and those views must prevail! Bureaucrats must accept that they are directed by the will of their community, through the auspices of their elected representatives and be prepared to get on board with a new government mandated to fire up the Territory! Not to mothball it! To sit on their hands looking at it because no one has the capacity to decide upon the way forward! This has been the way of the past dozen years, escalating backslide!
    The Water Advisory board was one of those sitting on its hands not prepared to look at the bigger picture, no belief in the future just plain pig headed obstructionism!
    We need to shutting it down and start again with a mind open to new employment and wealth creating opportunities.
    We need to look with an open mind at the science to see what really can be achieved, actually researching the levels of recharge and supply capacity of our aquifers before dismissing possible developmental use.
    Not just shutting down our region and sitting on it with teeth bared against all comers until the end of time!
    Recognising that one way or another we can and will maintain our region and its capacity to grow, to employ our children even if that means running pipelines to elsewhere!
    Our future is not constrained by one bore field! And it’s not going to be constrained by the small minds of a few secretive individuals pushing a doomsday agenda!
    Good on you Territory Government, strong government with the ability to make decisions and implement them, that’s is what will drive the Territory forward!
    And yes it’s always important to keep senior positions in our end of the Territory when we can. That is why its so important that those occupying them make the most of the opportunities, always making sure they are in tune with the wishes of the majority of the community as represented by the elected government of the day and never getting lost in pushing personal beliefs and agendas.

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