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.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

‘Bring back school based constables’
@ Phil Walcott (Posted March 17, 2018 at 2:55 pm): Interesting comment, Phil, because when I was a student at the Alice Springs High School in the late 1970s there was a school counsellor employed there. Her name was Glynnis McMahon, if my memory serves me right, a highly regarded person who worked at the high school for many years.
She passed away in 1989 as I recall, and maybe wasn’t replaced at a time of increasing budgetary constraint. That’s speculative on my part but given you arrived here in 1993 not long after massive cutbacks to public expenditure including significant attrition of staff positions, that’s probably the reason there were apparently no school counsellors employed here by that time.

Federal study casts light on future source of town water
Our family visited the Rocky Hill lucerne operation in the early 1970s when an open day for the public was held there. It continued to operate throughout the 1970s but was long abandoned by the mid 1980s.
I still have in my possession the Primary Industry flow charts for the development of the horticulture industry in Central Australia from the mid 1980s onwards, courtesy of permission from then Horticulture Senior Technical Officer, Frank McEllister.
One aspect stood out for me, there was no mention of potential horticulture development at Rocky Hill.
I inquired of this with Frank, and he told me that area was excluded from consideration because it was reserved as the future water supply for Alice Springs.
This was at a time when it was still expected the town’s population would reach 50,000 by the turn of the century and the NT Government had officially announced the development of a satellite town on Undoolya Station would proceed.
All of this is now forgotten but history always comes back to bite us in the end.

Cops hush up dangerous joyride
I witnessed a similar incident that evening too, which I think was the same vehicle.
I was walking on the footpath next to the ANZ Bank along Parsons Street when this utility came screeching around the corner from Todd Street and raced towards the Leichhardt Terrace intersection.
The utility turned left and charged up towards Wills Terrace where I lost sight of it.
When I got to the corner of Leichhardt Terrace, I observed the utility speeding over the Wills Terrace Causeway where it spun around the Sturt Terrace roundabout, tyres screeching, and then charged back along the causeway onto Wills Terrace past the Todd Tavern, when I again lost sight of it.
Despite being a block away from most of the action I witnessed, I had no difficulty hearing the young hooligans yelling and shouting. They were clearly defiant and rebellious, and deliberately challenging authorities.
Presumably they felt they had nothing to lose by indulging in this behaviour and were heedless of the possible consequences of their actions.

A good spot for the art gallery?
Hal, this is just the latest attempt to re-purpose Anzac Oval as a village green, first proposed by the Alice Springs Town Council in 1979 and firmly resisted by the rugby codes (and especially by John Reeves, then ALP Alice Springs branch president, rugby league president, elected as alderman on the town council, and not long afterwards elected as Member for the Northern Territory. He is now a Federal Court judge.).
The village green concept was tried again in 1994 when the ASTC attempted to relocate the rugby codes to the Ross Park Oval, enticed there by the promise of lighting to facilitate games at night; and stoutly resisted and defeated by local Eastside residents, led by the Eastside Residents’ Association of which I was then a committee member.
And now here we go again …
Quite apart from the old high school complex, Anzac Oval itself is of considerable historical value as it is the first turfed sports oval in the NT and it was established entirely as a community effort over the summer of 1951-52 – no government assistance involved.
Part of that work was done by the town’s children who were organised by the new Youth Centre into an emu parade on one weekend that cleared the whole area of rocks and sticks.
Ah yes, the bad old days of Commonwealth control.

A good spot for the art gallery?
A follow-up to my previous comment, I’m informed that the asbestos has been removed from the old Anzac Hill High School complex so that is not an issue for the use of those buildings.
I’ve no doubt that old school site is of considerable historical importance to Alice Springs. Nothing should be done to remove them until that history is assessed. There should be no return to the situation that existed in our town in the 1980s, which in fact was the origin of heritage protection legislation in the Northern Territory.

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