Building lots of things is a surgical strike in the NT

p2251-hub-1

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

A keen observer of the local condition calls it the Edifice Complex: The symptoms are the spending of substantial amounts of public money on construction projects, whether they are needed or not, so long as temporary jobs are created, before the next election, of course, and the local CLP-voting builders are kept happy.

 

In very acute cases all this happens with a minimum of transparency and high-dosage shots in the arm of selected patients. However, their recovery is feared to be temporary.

 

We now have implants of a courthouse and more police real estate although the disease of rampant crime is – so we’re told – improving from critical to merely serious.

 

While the much touted Labor black hole is far from cured, apparent over-servicing is rampant. Head surgeon Adam Giles announced today he will be grafting another 47 blocks of residential land on Kilgariff, at a cost of $4.7m, although home sales around town are withering.

 

p2251-hub-2Did he get a second opinion?

 

In some procedures the meat axe has replaced the scalpel and long standing practices have been put aside in the emergency department.

 

A large block of prime land, corner Stuart Highway and Whitaker Street, is being amputated from the body politic to develop medication that is, at best, in the early research phase and should be used only on mice: The Hub.

 

Do we know how much that land is worth? “A current valuation of the site has yet to be undertaken,” says a government nurse.

 

How much will the operation cost the taxpayer and who else will be paying for it? “It is not known to what extent, if any, Territory or Commonwealth funding may be required.

 

“It will be the proposed proponents’ obligation to fund this development with no minimum spend stipulated. However, it is expected that the project objectives will be met as part of the proposed development,” says the nurse.

 

“There is no NTG funding currently allocated to the project.”

 

Who has picked the Whittaker Street group, which has Michael Sitzler as its spokesman? (He’s the guy right up front in the ward rounds. He’s also doing the court house heart transplant and the Kilgariff shock therapy.)

 

“The Assessment Panel consisted of representatives from relevant NTG agencies as well as from Genesee and Wyoming Australia Pty Ltd.” That’s the people who are running the Ghan.

 

On what grounds? “Corporate stability, financial capacity, skills and experience, vision and innovation, risk to the Territory,” according to the Expression of Interest document released last December.

 

When’s it all going to be finished? “There are no deadlines at present, but it is anticipated that the project facilitation stage will take 12 months.

 

“Until such time that a more complete design is provided, timing around the project is yet to be confirmed.”

 

p2251-hub-3This is where it all gets a bit, well, contaminated, the sort of thing about which The Lancet would be doing a shock-horror story.

 

Surely, when it comes to procurement, namely millions of taxpayers dollars worth, those coughing up the money deserve to know how it is used.

 

Surely, there is a procurement process.

 

And there is one, of course: “Open and Effective Competition means … procurement procedures and processes are consistent and transparent to agencies, suppliers and the public.”

 

And: “Contracts awarded … will be published on the Territory Government website unless approved otherwise by the Minister responsible for procurement.” Is there a little dizziness happening here – approved otherwise? Do they mean not approved?

 

And: “Contracts and Procurement Services will publish details of all contracts awarded … on the Territory Government website.”

 

However, when we asked further details about Whittaker Street we were sent straight to the loony bin: “While negotiations are ongoing with the proponent, the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment (DLPE) is not able to provide any further information.

 

“The agreement is confidential.

 

“This process is governed by the Crown Lands Act and does not fall within the NT Procurement Act.”

 

So there it is, this procurement has nothing to do with the Procurement Act. How many people have put in EOIs?

 

“The number of expressions of interest received is not released as this is commercially sensitive.”

 

Now firmly strapped into a straightjacket we didn’t even think about asking any other stupid questions, such as, can I have a copy of the proposal?

 

What sort of corporation is the Whittaker Street group? (No luck on the ASIC site.)

 

Is it a company (apparently it’s just the OZ branch of the US giant Genesee and Wyoming).

 

Who are the shareholders? What are the assets? How much is proposed to be spent all up?

 

Re the proposed hotel – how many beds will it have?

 

The bed question finally did it: I’m now firmly strapped to a bed, ankles and wrists, a bandaid over the mouth, men in white coats with large syringes hovering.

 

Not in a hotel bed. I’m in Ward One.

 

And yet there are quite a few empty hotel beds in Alice Springs. In April – one of the better months – the occupancy rate for the 3.5 to 4.5 star hotels was 65%. And that’s on a bed number a lot lower than when tourism was a big business here.

 

The authoritative survey firm STR Global reports the NT regional hotel occupancy for May as follows: There was a 14.1% drop in 2011 to 66%, a further 0.8% drop in 2012 to 65.5%, a big 13.6% drop in 2013 to 56.6%, an 11.5% increase in 2014 to 63% and a 6% increase this year to 67%. This means according to STR Global we’re now one 1% better off than the very low base of 2011 which had been the result of a 14.1% drop on the year before.

 

I’m mumbling through the bandaid: “What about Todd Mall?”

 

The needle of a large syringe is thrust into my buttock. I try to count to 10. I can only get to fiiiivvv …

 

IMAGES from the NT Government’s expressions of interest brochure.

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!

5 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. Hal Duell
    Posted July 4, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Have to admit that Steve Brown’s comment brings to mind an old adage: When business is bad, paint the shop-front.
    I am sure there are other adages, contrary to this one. But he does have a point. Vision creates change and encourages growth. And we need that if we are not to remain stewing in the puddle of negativity that Alice has become.
    Let’s take a punt. Let’s get out of the Todd Mall. It might work. It might not. But we’re going nowhere by insisting that we remain as we are simply because that’s become who we are.

    View Comment
  2. Steve Brown
    Posted July 3, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    How the hell did one of the world’s last frontier places become so infested with negativity?
    Nothing nice to say, no hope to offer, just narky negative comments from navel gazing introverts who simply can’t see the woods for the trees, dark and embittered, simply unable to accept that others can?
    Preferring instead to believe there must be something underhand, something less than honest, driving these projects, something that they feel they’re unfairly missing out on!
    Then of course that feeling is hardly surprising given that sitting on your proverbial in the corner taunting, envying the efforts of others, doesn’t tend to produce much that could be described as rewarding.
    Towns, states, countries, bridges, dams, roads and rail are built on vision! On hope! By people following dreams! By people driving those dreams by sheer force of will to fruition!
    When visualizing a project such as the new rail station you can’t produce figures or numbers of heads through the doors! Because those numbers don’t exist until your project becomes operational some years down the track.
    You have to have faith!
    You have to believe!
    You have to be able to see a possible opportunity, and you quite literally have to be willing to lose everything to bring it about. Big projects are built by dreamers not accountants. What the Giles Government is doing by putting up this piece of land for expressions of interest is simply raising the level of temptation or incentive for possible investors those who see the possibilities for wealth creation but to date haven’t quite been able to make the figures work.
    It is in fact trying to sell a dream.
    What does Government get out of it?
    It gets employment in tough times. It addresses an infrastructure need without the need to fund that need itself.
    If successful it adds to the overall level of community amenity which in turn translates into greater visitor numbers.
    Investors gain a wealth creating business. Tourists and citizens gain a better amenity! That would be Win Win Win wouldn’t it?
    Everybody who has been here for more than five minutes has at some time or other witnessed our much sought after tourists being forced to sleep on the footpaths in the middle of town during early morning hours while they await a bus, as we do not have a serviced transit centre!
    I’m sure you have also witnessed passengers struggling down murky backstreets hauling luggage because we do not have a centrally located rail station allowing easy access to our town’s accommodation and shops.
    Not providing these facilities displays a less than enthusiastic level of hospitality towards visitors we strive so hard to bring to our community. It’s been an infrastructural embarrassment for our town for as long as we’ve been in the tourism Industry.
    If we are to stay in that industry it is a project that has to be undertaken at some point.
    In the building industry we all know and understand there is never a better or cheaper moment to build something than now!
    It is always much more expensive later on!
    So when things are quiet, business slow, a smart forward looking business or government who knows of a long term Infrastructure necessity, builds it “Now”!
    Creating much needed employment and business activity during tough times this activity flows right through the community helping to pay the rents maintain property values during tough times all the while creating opportunities for tomorrow.
    Alicespringites should be very pleased that a wonderful home grown business like Sitzlers has enough faith in our communities future and enough guts to get behind it and back up its belief.
    Alice is slowly climbing out of the doldrums, there really are good times ahead and projects like this will drive the recovery. Why should anyone feel threatened by that!
    As for further funds being put into additional development at Kilgariff the only issue with that should be that it is far too little!
    A decent level of Investment a thousand blocks or more not only looks after land requirements for years to come it produces an economy of scale that brings the cost of that development right down, resulting in more affordable land which in turn becomes an attractive prospect not just for individual home buyers but for new industry.

    View Comment
  3. KP
    Posted July 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Look over here! Here’s a shiny new building!!
    Look over there – it’s another major sporting event!
    Look down there – it’s a big Car Show!
    Whatever you do, don’t look at the real issues we are facing – we sure as s#!t won’t answer any hard questions about them.
    Signed,
    NT Government.

    View Comment
  4. Bob Durnan
    Posted July 1, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Erwin, you are sane. Best reporting of Alice Springs “development” issues I have seen in a long time. That nightmare is real though. Smiley Giles and his grinning clowns have created a big Ward 1 covering the whole Territory, and are attempting mass hypnosis, and politically based sedation, of the entire population.
    And in some cases they are succeeding: you only have to look at the delusional post of Another Observer (Posted June 30, 2015 at 9:14 pm) to see this.

    View Comment
  5. Another Observer
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    The biggest problem we have in this town is not-for-profits or government agencies now competing for work against commercial interests.
    Only problem is, the funds to pay for that are all coming from the tax base that the government is killing.

    View Comment

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*