Native title enterprise: Light at the end of the tunnel

Lhere Artepe is unlikely to make money from its Mount Johns residential development (above).

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Lhere Artepe Enterprises Pty Ltd (LAE), the commercial arm of Alice Springs’ Native Title Holders, was facing the possibility of going into liquidation when it sacked its CEO Darryl Pearce in December 2011.

 

Since then it has discharged a multi-million dollar debt to a private lender, and put in place a debt repayment schedule it can service with its existing assets – plus some help from the Commonwealth government, says spokeswoman Sally McMartin.

 

“There is some light at the end of the tunnel.”

 

The company was set up by Mr Pearce separate from the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation (LAAC). However, senior native title holders – including Deputy to the Administrator, Pat Miller – are directors.

 

Ms McMartin says the 28 residential blocks in Mount Johns Valley are all sold except three and a further three are under contract. However, the company is not likely to make a profit from the land development.

 

“Because of the downturn in the market it took longer than expected to sell the blocks,” says Ms McMartin.

 

She says there was some tough negotiating with the private lender, resulting in a “significantly reduced debt” and his liens on the company’s three IGA supermarkets – Flynn Drive, Northside and Lindsay Avenue – have been discharged.

 

The supermarkets were bought in part with a Federal grant, and the assets’ use as collateral by the private lender was frowned upon by the government. Government are aware that the fixed and floating charges have now been discharged.

 

There has been some help with the remaining debts from Indigenous Business Australia: its “great support” is also assisting with the upgrading of the supermarkets including upgrading of health and safety matters.

 

There will be continuing efforts to further enhance the earnings of the retail businesses which are already “very profitable, viable businesses”.

 

Ms McMartin would not disclose the amount still owed but says the repayments are within the capability of LAE.

 

Dividends from the 40% share of the Yeperenye Shopping Centre, some of which had been “taken in advance,” will also start to flow again.

 

“It’s a huge turn-around through strong leadership of the Lhere Artepe Enterprise Board,” says Ms McMartin. “I would be very  happy to give LAAC members a briefing and welcome the opportunity.”

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4 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. Nothing but the facts.
    Posted October 26, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Oh and coincidentally, it wasn’t LAE who sacked Daryl Pearce, it was the directors of Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation!
    The protected species never did jack!

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  2. Nothing but the facts.
    Posted October 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    People need to speak with the Lhere Atepe Enterprise chairperson who is coincidentally the Director of Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid, and also the Deputy Administrator of the NT.

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  3. Alex Hope
    Posted October 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Regarding the IGA supermarkets: It is good to hear they are still profitable, but it would be fascinating to see the figures for turnover and profit before and after the sale by the Venturins to Lhere Artepe.
    As a regular shopper I know that I spend much less at Northside than I used to, because the range and quality of both meat (since they outsourced the butchery) and fruit and veg has deteriorated so much. I am pretty much down to buying milk and a paper there nowadays.
    And I notice the clientele has changed also. No more station people with big trolleys of groceries, and no more backpackers either. In fact almost no trolleys are used there anymore, and nor are the trolley checkout counters, which must say something about turnover.
    I have also noted a huge turnover of staff, whereas in the past I know that my teenagers had to go on a waiting list to get jobs there.
    All in all, it makes one question whether the return on investment for Lhere Artepe is what it should be.

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  4. Hal Duell
    Posted October 23, 2013 at 3:51 am

    This is the best and most welcome news story that I have read on the Alice Springs News website in a long, long time.
    Alice Springs desperately needs a strong Lhere Artepe to liaise with a strong Town Council to see Alice through the years ahead. The need for a positive partnership between the two cannot be overstated.
    I have no idea what happened financially to see Lhere Artepe get in such hot water, but if it can pull itself out of whatever that was and assume the leadership role in community affairs that is its by right, Alice Springs has a chance.
    The recently concluded Mbantua Festival and the coming beach cricket tournament with the Barmy Army are two good examples of such a leadership finding its feet.

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