Council v government: Kilgariff to flood or not?

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Is Kilgariff above or below the Q100 flood level? The Town Council says it is below. The NT Government says it is above.

 

Kigariff is to be Alice Springs’ newest suburb, south of the Gap and east of the Stuart Highway, before you get to the turn-off to Adelaide.

 

Q100 means the level of flooding likely to occur once in 100 years. Because the existing flood map shows that Kilgariff will be under water in a Q100, the Town Council has wiped its hands of it, refusing to take on responsibility for roads and drains in the planned subdivision, as it normally does.

 

Today the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment told the Alice Springs News Online: “The site is above the Q100 flood level and comprehensive, independent engineering studies and design have been undertaken to ensure immunity to flooding as the remainder of Kilgariff is developed into the future.”

 

Council’s Director of Technical Services, Greg Buxton, disagrees. He says in his advice to the council he will continue to be guided by the Australian standards which require that housing land is above the Q100.

 

He says he has been told by the government of its new opinion on the subject but has not been shown the report.

 

Mr Buxton says there is another major obstacle in the project: storm water is not proposed to be taken off the site but allowed to seep into the ground. However, it has become clear that the soil is not sufficiently permeable for this to occur at an adequate rate.

 

This casts doubt on the usefulness of the $10m pipeline, 10 years under construction by Power Water Corporation, from the sewage ponds to the Kilgariff site. It is meant to be taking partially treated sewage to open ponds where it will seep underground, being filtered in the process. It is then meant to be pumped back to the surface for use in horticultural ventures (not yet in place).

 

The department says the request for proposals to subdivide Kilgariff “allows for a $3.5m grant to contribute towards the construction of the spine road and the drain” and it is “assessing the proposals received and looks forward to an announcement on the Kilgariff development in the near future.

 

“Developers have stipulated in proposals their timeframes for the release of the lots and these timeframes will be released following the announcement of the successful proponent.”

 

Adam Giles, before he became Chief Minister, in March this year said he wanted “100 residential blocks in Kilgariff ready for sale ‘off the plan’ by July” and in May said it was expected that a “preferred proponent will be appointed by the end of August”.

 

Image: This Google Earth shot shows the Kilgariff land and St Mary’s Creek running through it. The road on the left is the South Stuart Highway. The road at the bottom is Colonel Rose Drive. The intersection is the south-western corner of the proposed suburb. BELOW: The flood map.

 

The questions raised

 

Council CEO Rex Mooney concedes the deal with the government about Kilgariff is unusual; in fact it seems full of contradictions: Normally the council takes over responsibilities for roads and drains after the completion of a subdivision, having made sure that all work is up to its standards.

 

If the council has made an error, the council is liable for any resulting losses incurred by land buyers: this would include allowing a subdivision on land where a known flood risk exists.

 

In the case of Kilgariff the NT Government would now be liable. The Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment has removed “any reference to requiring Council approvals from our Expression of Interest documentation,” states a letter from the department dated June 13.

 

“We will seek agreement in year 5 from completion … to take over the site in year 5. This will provide sufficient time to remedy any defects that may arise,” says the letter. Mr Mooney says the council has the discretion of not entering into such an agreement.

 

The department engaged three engineers, including one to assist the council: it is “unfortunate” that the engineer advising the council disagreed with the other two on some issues, says the letter.

 

Is there an ongoing disagreement on Q100? “The council accepted the advice of the department and independent engineers,” says Mr Mooney.

 

Given that, why is the council not proceeding in the normal fashion, taking over the subdivision upon completion? “There are challenges, but it is a cooperative decision [for the government to fully take over the project] and council believed this to be the most straightforward way. There is an expectation for the council’s guidelines to be taken into account.”

 

What if, after the five years, the Q100 question remains unresolved, simply because there hasn’t been a major flood which would show conclusively whether or not Kilgariff goes under? A Q100 is bound to happen some time and council could cop the consequences.

 

However, Mr Mooney says: “The council has confidence in the advice obtained by the government.”

 

If that is so, why is the council not accepting that advice right now, dropping the assumption that a Q100 will flood Kilgariff and redrawing the town’s flood map accordingly?

 

There are more questions. If this model is a good one, why not apply it to all subdivisions? After all, this would remove one bureaucracy from the land development process.

 

On the other hand, is the involvement of local government, the government closest to the people, not a desirable thing, giving locals a say in how their town grows, rather than leaving it to decisions made north of the Berrimah Line?

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!

10 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. Posted August 28, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Thank you, Paul, for the links.

    View Comment
  2. Paul Parker
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Link http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/staff/mbourke.html works OK, if fails try use their internal search for Dr Mary Burke, which locates fine.
    Alternate try link: http://www.psi.edu/about/staff/mbourke/mbourke.html
    Direct links to various research papers on both.

    View Comment
  3. Posted August 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I’m interested in reading more on Dr Mary Burke’s project, but the link brings up an “Error: Cannot find file”. Could you please check the link, Mr Garner, and re-post for our benefit? Thank you.

    View Comment
  4. Paul Parker
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Agree many potential residents will come from rural communities, as direct results from the Aborignal Land Rights (NT) and in particular mismanagement these lands.
    For longer than two decades our family told we must obtain a lease to live together.
    Same two decades Central Land Council, the Haasts Bluff Land Trust and unnamed “Traditional Owners” refuse to provide such leases.
    Leases refused due a “special protection” Commonwealth persists in providing to promote apartheid.
    So my wife, our children, our grandchildren whilst acknowledged as “Traditional Owners” continue to be denied a lease, and thus my attendance.
    Leases remain critical for any improvements.
    Whilst many who come to live in Alice Springs, a step towards the wider world, they shall find it difficult to adjust, difficult to sustain tenancies in houses and flats.
    Perhaps this aim, to ensure an ongoing captive community under totalitarian control.
    This in resolvable.
    Poverty of these communities, all the problems found are direct results ongoing mismanagement.
    Politicians mostly deserve to be tarred with “white feathers” for their moral vacuum cowardice – Warren Snowdon in particular.
    Or do most politicians prefer sustain ongoing poverty rather than facing their fears to call a spade a spade?
    Each of us as people needed learn our responsibilities.
    Learning those involved with obtaining and maintaining a lease remains a critical part of our education if ever we are to achieve control of ourselves and our day to day living.
    Almost everyone in wider community of Australia has been through this learning process.
    Such learning remains a critical stage to be surpassed IF ever we to obtain a real chance to prosper towards our potential.

    View Comment
  5. Bob Taylor
    Posted August 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    As posted by V. Garner on August 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm re: Council v government: Kilgariff to flood or not? My question to the government would be: did the planners take into consideration the work done by Dr Mary Burke when planning Kilgariff?

    View Comment
  6. Bob Durnan
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Paul (Posted August 18, 2013 at 12:42 am): the demand for new ‘social (i.e. government–owned or government subsidized) housing’ is probably greater than you estimate, as many adults in the age groups 15 to 65 want to move out of bush communities and try life in Alice Springs. As you are aware, they want to move for a whole gamut of reasons.
    Some want to escape from boredom, poverty, ‘enemies’, unemployment, limited range of jobs, overcrowding or other causes of unhappiness with life in their ‘home’ communities.
    Others have aspirations for a better life for themselves and their kids (i.e. for better jobs, better housing, better education, better health services, better safety, more recreation options).
    Many others desire more excitement, variety, and a more constant and cheaper partying lifestyle (i.e. easier access to alcohol and other drugs).
    Some belong to all of these categories.
    On the other hand, while the general education levels and life skills of most of these potential migrants remain at an average mid-primary school level, and while the alcohol and cannabis availability remains high in Alice Springs, it would be unlikely that most of these people would be able to sustain tenancies in Alice Springs houses and flats of the type you describe for very long.
    Maintenance costs would also be unacceptably high.
    I believe that the best solution of this set of riddles would be for the Commonwealth and NT governments to jointly provide funding for a special integrated social accommodation program, available to both Aboriginal and other impoverished people, to simultaneously increase accommodation options in Alice Springs and those bush communities which have the worst overcrowding and/or those which have some genuine employment prospects for local residents.
    Contracts to design, build, manage and maintain this range of accommodation should be provided to competent Aboriginal-controlled organisations, or consortia which include Aboriginal-controlled organisations as significant partners.
    The contracts should require agreed levels of Aboriginal training and employment, with penalties falling on directors and managers (and/or unemployed local workers who fail to take up or stick with suitable training and work opportunities) for failing to meet targets.
    Most importantly, the range of accommodation (in both Alice and some bush communities) should include more hostels for students, single workers and others who prefer secure and well-managed medium-to-longterm lodging.
    It should also include other managed and semi-managed options, as well as semi-secure, grog-free cluster housing along the lines of the excellent transitional housing village at Percy Court in Alice Springs.
    I believe there should not be further investment in free-standing, unsecured social housing in Alice Springs and other places with severe alcohol and cannabis problems, such as several nearby communities, until secure, well-managed accommodation options have been greatly expanded in these places, to the extent that demand for these options has been exhausted.

    View Comment
  7. V. Garner
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Some years ago I sat in on a couple of lectures Dr Mary Burke gave here in Alice Springs about a project she was working on.
    http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/staff/mburke.html
    I came away, as did other members of the public service and various interested parties knowing full well that I would never want to live anywhere between the Gap and the airport (or most of lower level Alice Springs for that matter!) The sat. photos and flood mapping she showed us said it all!
    Has her work been forgotten, or has politics got in the way of good hard facts once again?

    View Comment
  8. Paul Parker
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 12:42 am

    IMHO Alice Springs housing needs require at least 500 blocks developed.
    If all completed within two years, can satisfy current housing needs, with demand likely to increase as more seeking better opportunities in their lives, leave rural communities.
    Housing and other social problems need at least 400 self-contained units, half single bedroom and half double. (Some new Melanka?)
    Such developments can achieve economy of scale with reduced costs.
    More than 100 blocks for family homes required, though not as urgently as for singles or couples.

    View Comment
  9. Steve Brown
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Editor, as an add on to the previous comment I would like to make it known that the comment and opinion I have given are my own and not necessarily that of Council. Just so there is no confusion.

    View Comment
  10. Steve Brown
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    I rest my case, previous comment about being “confounded” exposing the extraordinary stupidity of risk assessment era.
    While we are having an argument about how fast the water will soak in at Kilgariff a good deal of the town upstream on the sides of the Todd will be washed away or completely inundated. I think that makes the residents of Kilgariff pretty well off in such a circumstance and certainly a better insurance risk for such an event, one that we don’t even know, ever occurs!
    Meanwhile we have people waiting without homes they could insure anyway and they’re being asked to continue waiting without homes for eternity because some bureaucrat thinks they might not get insurance should they ever be lucky enough to own one in this sub-division.
    There is something seriously wrong with a mentality that finds itself in such a place! TIO sell insurance policies to residents in Katherine that we know go underwater, so why not to homes where you possibly get your ankles wet for a few days in a hundred years!
    Elected council members made the decision to pass responsibility over to the NT Government to expedite things, put and end to the “what if” nonsense between bureaucracies. Council does not have an interest or a role outside of that of the NT Government. We are in fact part of that Government! In any given situation the less bureaucracy involved the better the outcome.
    We owe it to the young, the homeless, in fact to the whole town, its economy and its future to get a move on with this development.
    Government needs to take this development on and do it themselves. Developers are an unnecessary extra expense. They need to do a large enough development to achieve economy of scale, bring costs down, develop 500 blocks or more, not a 100 or less!
    There is no question about flooding the market! Blocks only need to be released at a rate that matches demand!
    No money is lost, it’s simply invested! Have some guts, have some vision, borrow the money if necessary and get on with it ASAP!
    To date this whole exercise has been a clownish and embarrassing farce. It needs to be sorted.

    View Comment

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*