Fred the Philistine’s comment repeats an age-old misconception of the …

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

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.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Todd River: Trees in, buffel out
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.


Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Air traffic: Looking down on Alice
Interesting to hear that the Alice Springs Airport was blindsided by Qantas’s announcement for flight schedule changes and deletions.
I wonder if that offers any portents about our chances of hosting the airline’s second pilot school? Far from being The Centre, we seem more and more to be on the outer.


No youth detention facilities in residential areas: MLAs
It’s only in comparitively recent times that we’ve developed an abhorrence to gaols and juvenile detention facilities within or near suburbia.
There are two heritage-listed old gaols in or close to the CBD area of town. The old gaol in Stuart Terrace – now the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame – was built in 1938, simultaneously with the old Alice Springs Hospital and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, all neighbours along the same street frontage facing Stuart Park.
There was also new housing on the other side of Stuart Park (now a historical precinct) where the top bureaucrats and civil servants of the day lived, all in close proximity to the gaol. Nobody minded.
In the early 1960s more housing was built between the old Alice Springs Gaol and the new Traeger Park oval. Our family moved into a new residence on Telegraph Terrace on the block between the gaol and Traeger Park, living there for three years.
There was also a new motel (Midlands) and primary school (Traeger Park) built within a short distance of the old gaol – again, nobody was fussed about it.
In 1977 the first juvenile detention facility in the NT, called Giles House, was officially opened by Senator Bernie Kilgariff on the corner of South Terrace and Kempe Street in the Gap area.
I’m unaware that anyone objected to its presence in that suburban location.
There were many escapes from the old gaol and Giles House over the years, it’s nothing new.
It wasn’t until the new Correctional Facility was opened in 1996 that the practice commenced of putting gaols well outside of the town area. Now many of us think that’s a normal situation but, from a historical viewpoint, it’s quite unusual.
If a juvenile detention facility is established near the Desert Knowledge Precinct, it’s still a considerable distance from the nearest suburban area of Kilgariff.
Seems to me some people are considerably overstating the risks and simply giving vent to their prejudices.


Independents now ineffective?
Alice Springs has a long tradition of CLP members becoming independent representatives, starting with Rod Oliver (Member for Alice Springs) who lost preselection to Denis Collins in 1980; Denis Collins (Member for Sadadeen) who in turn lost preselection to Shane Stone in 1987 and was twice re-elected as an independent; and likewise Loraine Braham (Member for Braitling) who lost CLP preselection in 2000 but went on to win two subsequent campaigns.
One might include Ray Hanrahan (Member for Flynn) who resigned from the CLP in mid 1988 and continued as an independent for about three months before his resignation from politics. By the standards outlined by Steve Brown, Hanrahan took the honourable course but the subsequent by-election on September 10, 1988, didn’t work out too well for the CLP – the party came last out of three candidates with a swing of over 21% against it, and it was CLP preferences that enabled NT Nationals candidate Enzo Floreani to take the seat.
And then there was Alison Anderson (Member for MacDonnell) who resigned from the ALP and ricocheted from the CLP to Palmer United Party to independent (I forget the exact order).
One can go back over half a century, when independent Member for Alice Springs, Colonel Lionel Rose, announced in the NT Legislative Council in August 1965 that he was the leader of a new political party, the North Australia Party – and he was strongly supported by Non-Official Member, Bernie Kilgariff, who worked in close association with Rose.
The NAP didn’t last very long – it was wiped out in the elections of October 1965, with only one candidate, Tony Greatorex, winning the seat of Stuart. Greatorex, in turn, joined the Country Party when it was established in July 1966.
Whatever one may personally think about elected members changing their allegiances while in office, there’s never been a legal case against anybody (and that goes for other parliaments, too) obliging a sitting member to resign because they’ve changed their minds about party memberships. It’s up to voters to decide their fates whenever elections are called.


Anzac Oval will be site for gallery: Gunner
Twenty years ago Alice Springs found itself in a remarkably similar situation.
The NT Government was determined to demolish the old gaol in Stuart Terrace and replace it with infill development (all the rage at the time). The NTG was CLP and, under Chief Minister Shane Stone, had been returned to power with an overwhelming majority of 18 members.
There was resistance from local residents determined to save the old gaol as a heritage site. The arguments we’re reading and hearing today over the old Anzac high school and oval site for the NAAG are markedly similar – nearly identicial in many respects – to the bitter dispute that raged for months those two decades ago.
What was the outcome? The NT Government lost on two counts; first, the old gaol was saved; and second, the CLP lost office at the next general elections in 2001.
The CLP had been in power for 27 years but the current Labor government, behaving in exactly the same fashion as the CLP 20 years ago, is only halfway in its first term.
We live in a time where political party allegiances are evaporating, and voters can and do switch their support in no uncertain manner.
Given the astonishing high handed arrogance of the Gunner Government, it seems fairly clear it will suffer at the hands of the voters at the next Territory elections.
History – and contemporary politics – unequivocally demonstrates that big margins provide no protection in the polls anymore.
The inference is obvious.


Four charter flights from Japan to Alice Springs
The concept of Alice Springs Airport serving as an international flight arrival and departure facility is an old one.
It’s typical of the difficulties this region faces with major infrastructure developments of this kind; consider, for example, the histories of constructing the north-south railway (well over a century from its original conception), the sealing of the south Stuart Highway (this took decades), and the still awaited sealing of the “Outback Way” and Tanami Road (first called for by new Member for Stuart, Tony Greatorex, in 1966).
Nothing new in any of this; and it’s telling that progress on these issues is no faster under self-government of the NT (or, in the case of the airport, under private ownership) than it was when the Commonwealth had direct control of the Territory.
Some of us may live long enough to see the completion of all of these major transportation infrastructure developments for Central Australia.


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