Turning smelly nuisances into multi million dollar assets

COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA

 

All those who haven’t been paying attention to the debate so far, please join me for this back-of-the-envelope exercise on big picture issues confronting Alice Springs, looking past the end of our noses and compelling matters such as parking in the CBD on Saturdays.

 

OK. Here we go. Deep breath, now!

 

At the moment we are storing our garbage, and process our sewage in an open-air facility, pretty well dead in the middle of our municipality (X marks the spot on the map).

 

The new Kilgariff suburb is about a square kilometer and will accommodate up to 1500 housing blocks.

 

By that measure the sewage plant, which is two square kilometers, could accommodate 3000 blocks.

 

Given that the current value of developed blocks is (my best guess) $260,000 and it costs $60,000 to develop a block, the potential value of residential land on the present sewage land is $600m.

 

That is 14 times the cost of a water recycling plant that would fit comfortably on three hectares (that is 3% of one square kilometer).

 

Headworks for a residential development at the present sewage land are already in place: Water and power are running past it, and as for sewage, well, see above.

 

The big win for Alice: A suburb at the present sewage land, that is owned by the public and unencumbered by native title, would be half as far from the post office as Kilgariff, would be located between two beautiful mountain ranges, and would not stink.

 

Oh yes, and we would be harvesting three billion litters of water every year instead of wasting it in the driest part of the world’s driest continent.

 

Now to the landfill: It needs to be expanded. At present the Town Council is looking no further than the block next-door, pretty well pristine bushland, except for vandals using it as an illegal dump. It is the former commonage, offering superb recreational opportunities but it is encumbered by native title.

 

Plan B is a dump at the Brewer industrial estate well to the south of town, publicly owned land, unencumbered by native title, and out of our face.

 

We understand the cost for the extension of the present is about the same as the new one –  $18m to $20m.

 

The transfer station under construction now at the old dump would stay to serve casual legal dumpers’ and recyclers’ needs. The rest of the rubbish would go to Brewer Estate.

 

The town produces 26,000 tonnes of putrescible garbage a year, including kerbside collection. That is 71 tonnes per day or a little less than the capacity a three-dog side tipper road train.

 

The casual rate for such a machine is $330 per hour. It would take garbage south and return with clean fill from the hole dug for the new tip.

 

On the face of it that transport would add $300,000 a year to the cost of the landfill operation.

 

It would earn us a tourism fortune by creating a wilderness experience – including the gulleys on the southern flank of the MacDonnell Range – within walking distance from the CBD.

 

The fill brought back from Brewer Estate would cover the mountain of garbage presently greeting everyone passing through the iconic Gap, on the way to and from the supposed tourist Mecca, Alice Springs.

 

Put your thoughts in the comment box below, please!

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3 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Steve Brown
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    As a child who travelled to town most days of the week through Heavitree Gap I was always rather horrified that at anyone would be so short-sighted about our Town and its future that they would seek to mine the sides of the range as had been done on either side of the Gap.
    Unfortunately here we are many years on still exhibiting the same short sightedness, dumping our garbage and our sewage in what over the next few years of southern development will become the very centre of our town.
    I have always been embarrassed when bringing visitors to our town for the first time that the very first thing they experience and see, right in front of what has to be one of the world’s more spectacular town entrances, is the sight of our escalating pile of rubbish and the stink of our town’s sewage!
    As a our town grows, its front door moving further south, it has become absolutely essential that we stop treating the Ilparpa Valley as a dumping ground!
    Recognise its enormous potential for future development and preservation, in what hopefully will turn out to be, a well balanced combination.
    The removal of the town’s sewage and garbage dump from this area has been a matter of discussion for some 30 years that I know of, CLP Government Minister Ray Hanrahan put forward a proposal that both facilities be moved to the Brewer Estate all that time ago!
    Many of us had thought that it was simply a matter of time before that move occurred. However like everything developmental for Alice, over the past 30 years it was put on the bac kburner and eventually disappeared from the agenda like so much of our corporate knowledge, leached from our town by high population turnover.
    Now that the Kilgariff subdivision is on the way, it is high time an updated version of this proposal was put on the table! Improvements in sewage treatment and garbage handling have now made this considerably more affordable, the growth of our town has made it essential.
    The Ilparpa Valley devoid of these facilities offers us enormous opportunities for the development of our sporting facilities, housing and industrial estates.
    With the proposed Mt Blatherskite Industrial Area re-entering the valley near the gun club, the removal of these facilities would offer some very good options for Road and service routes.
    The range itself, right there in the middle of our town is a spectacular wilderness area! Offering all sorts of possibilities for walking and bike trails visiting the spectacular gorges that descend the mountain side. There are ring route possibilities round through Honeymoon Gap both at the top and bottom of the range. Our recent discussion about a range top restaurant and cable car come to mind, another golf course and water park recreation are all possibilities for this area!
    Sure they may take many years to achieve, some may never be achieved, but the very least that we can do now is to look at this area with these future possibilities in mind, begin the task of cleaning up the mess we have created and make dam sure we don’t further exacerbate the situation by adding further poorly planned infrastructure!.
    This is not by the way, a shot at the council’s waste transfer station now under construction because as the name says it is a “Transfer Station” and any waste not recycled can easily be transferred as Erwin’s article says, to a waste disposal area at the Brewer Estate without any need to further foul the Ilparpa Valley!
    I will however be urging council to start looking in the direction of the Brewer Estate rather than at further extending in the Ilparpa Valley! I will likewise be urging the Territory Government to give some genuine long term thought to this area before adding to any of its facilities in the area. Another important highlight for the new and upcoming Town Plan I would hope.

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  2. Bob Taylor
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    After a helicopter ride from the Camel Cup west along this area and around the sewage treatment ponds then back to Blatherskite Park this weekend; I can see where you are coming from Erwin. What you have outlined above sounds like a major project for the new Planning Commission to get their teeth into and the sooner the better. All the issues that will arise could be explored, fleshed out and a plan drafted ready to be put to the Alice public at the next Territory election. I hope this generates some further ideas and practical responses from your readers and the local community.

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  3. Hal Duell
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 11:51 am

    How long and at what cost to turn the current sewer-farm land into residential land? Not that I’m against moving the sewer farm. I’m not. But can the currently polluted land be converted into acceptable residential land so easily?
    Any answers?

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