Keep in mind that there was a concerted effort to …

Comment on Todd River: Trees in, buffel out by Alex Nelson.

Keep in mind that there was a concerted effort to eliminate buffel and couch grass in the Todd River from the Taffy Pick Crossing to Heavitree Gap 15 years ago, which (if I recall correctly) was part of the Alice-in-10 program.
The project cost about $400,000 and involved Aboriginal workers. The grass was mainly slashed and sprayed with Round-Up.
There was also removal of sand and silt build-up at Heavitree Gap. This was intended to be the beginning of a program of systematic removal of exotic grasses and other weed species along the entire length of the Todd River from the Telegraph Station to Heavitree Gap.
Both my father and I commented in the media at the time this will prove to be a waste of public effort and expense.
Our predictions proved correct – there was no more funding made available for this work, other than sand excavation of the Todd River adjacent to the town centre combined with upgrading of the Wills Terrace Causeway in 2006.
There also was no follow-up to the grass control work near Heavitree Gap. Here we go again …
In reply to Laurie Butcher’s comment about Glyphosate (Round-Up and related weedicides), there’s no obvious long-term adverse impact on the environment from the use of these chemicals. However, there’s plenty of evidence (especially in Australia) that some of the target weed species are developing resistance to this chemical.
I first started using Round-Up for buffel and couch grass control in the early 1980s when our family lived at the CSIRO Field Station (now Centre for Appropriate Technology). It cost $30 per litre at the time. I achieved complete control of theses grasses in the area around our home but after we departed in 1988 there was no further management of that ground, consequently both grasses have returned to dominance exactly as they were before I controlled them.
Prior to living at CSIRO at Heath Road, our family resided at AZRI next door (then called the AIB Farm).
It was during this time that extensive work was undertaken by the Soil Conservation Unit and AIB Farm management to achieve dust control through the establishment of buffel grass.
This was mainly done for the benefit of passenger jet airliners at the Alice Springs airport which required clean air for safe operation (yes, we can blame tourism just as much as pastoralism for the systematic introduction of buffel grass in our region).
I started gardening when I was six years old (1969), and amongst the first weeds I had to contend with was buffel grass.
I recall at first I didn’t know what to do because everyone in those days thought this was a good plant – anyway, I can reasonably claim having the longest continuous experience with controlling buffel grass of any person in Central Australia.
If anyone wants to see a good example of what can be achieved with sustained control of buffel and couch grasses, both from spraying and chipping – and consistent follow-up – go take a wander through the grounds of the Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
I’m proud to be the person who was the major contributor to achieving this result, during my time of working there from 2000 to 2008.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Todd River: Trees in, buffel out
Fred the Philistine’s comment repeats an age-old misconception of the state of the Todd River bed.
In general it isn’t blocked by saplings and sand. The main impediments to the free-flow of the water are causeways, these act to impede the current and cause sediment to deposit on the upstream sides.
Conversely scouring of the river bed occurs on the downstream side which sometimes exposes the water table; and in these conditions permit a larger number of young trees to germinate and grow than might normally be the case. No such problem pertains to bridges.
Many people, including long-term locals, are under the impression the Todd riverbed in town (mainly adjacent to the CBD) is unnaturally high.
The old river gums clearly tell a different story, as many of them have exposed roots which indicates the river bed has actually gotten lower.
Also, there are old river gums adjacent to the Todd River which clearly show that inundation of the surrounding land is a natural feature of the central town area.
The best example of this is the old Parsons Street river gum but also those next to the Memorial Club carpark, too. In addition, there once used to be other river gums in Todd Street (as old photos clearly show) which were cut down in the late 1940s.
River gums only germinate and begin to grow naturally in conditions of inundation so it is obvious the central area of Alice Springs has been inappropriately developed across a natural floodplain.
Historically there is now significantly less widespread flooding occurring in Alice Springs in the past few decades than what was observed in the earlier period of last century, and in large part this is due to the lowering of the Todd riverbed.


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This encounter instantly reminded me of a passage in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” when Winston Smith followed an old man into a pub with the intention of finding out from him what life was like before the revolution that led to the rise of Big Brother.
Yet no matter how earnestly he asked the old man to recall the early years of his life, “Winston had the feeling they were talking at cross-purposes.”
He kept on prodding the old man for information but “a sense of helplessness took hold of Winston. The old man’s memory was nothing but a rubbish-heap of details. One could question him all day without getting any real information.”
Plying the old man with beer, he tried one more time but failed: “Winston sat back against the window sill. It was no use going on. He was about to buy some more beer when the old man suddenly got up and shuffled rapidly into the stinking urinal at the side of the room. The extra half-litre was already working on him. Winston sat for a minute or two gazing at his empty glass, and hardly noticed when his feet carried him out into the street again.”
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Isn’t that something? A minister of the NT Government has listened to concerns about a government decision, and reversed it in a day.
Little aggravation, and great relief for many, I should think.
Minister Selena Uibo has set a fine example – now, if only certain others of her colleagues would take notice of public concern about the NT Government’s poor decision-making over the location of the proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery…


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Is it just me, or is it the case that the “Boundless Possible” embarrassment has suffered a swift death, consigned quietly to the wheelie bin of history?
Ah yes, a government elected into office that promised us all greater standards of honesty and accountability; but no, it’s just business as usual, that we’ve long endured for decades in the Northern Territory.
It really makes no difference who’s in charge.


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@ Ruth Weston (Posted September 7, 2018 at 1:08 pm): Sodium fluoroacetate is the commercially produced 1080 poison, and is closely related to potassium fluoroacetate, the poisonous chemical found in a wide variety of plant species.
Both chemicals have the same effect, disrupting the Krebs Cycle (or Citric Acid Cycle) which disrupts the ability of cells to metabolise carbohydrates, fats and proteins for energy production.
It was biochemist Ray Murray, based in Alice Springs with the Animal Industry Branch from 1954 to 1966, who first identified the naturally occurring 1080-based compound that occurs sporadically in poison Gidgee (Acacia georginae) which plagued the beef cattle industry in the east of Central Australia and across the Queensland border.


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