A major reason why we enjoy so many old river …

Comment on Old tree danger: council was told two years ago by Alex Nelson.

A major reason why we enjoy so many old river red gums in our urban environment today is due to a command forbidding Arltunga-bound miners and prospectors, camped on the flood plain that was destined to become our town, from cutting them down.
That order was made by Mounted Constable Bill South, based at the old police station next to Heavitree Gap.
Often described by historian Stuart Traynor as Alice Springs’ first greenie, Bill South is appropriately remembered by the road that bears his name along the west bank of the Todd River from Heavitree Gap up to the intersection with Stott Terrace (also named after a benevolent early policeman).
Many years later trees such as the Parsons Street river red gum beside the Stuart Arms Hotel and those opposite the (then) new Memorial Club were saved from destruction through protest by local residents of Alice Springs.
The NT Administration decided these trees posed a significant hazard to traffic (the Parsons Street tree, and also one in the middle of Todd Street, were nicknamed The Silent Policemen as they were uncannily efficient at abruptly halting drunk drivers) and determined that they should be cut down.
Some were lost but not all of them. That work was performed by the municipal branch of the NTA, and many on the labour force were Aboriginal.
In the days of heavy local overgrazing, dust storms and no air-conditioners, the big trees dotted around early Alice Springs were highly valued for their shelter.
Not only that, but many more river red gums were planted as street trees, especially along Gap Road where most continue to grow to this day.
In fact, in 1963 Olive Pink lobbied to have the name “Gap Road” replaced with “Van Senden Avenue” in honour of former Municipal Officer Dudley Van Senden (he left the Alice in 1954) who oversaw the first widespread street tree planting scheme in Alice Springs.
So let’s not have so much of this bunkum that settlers in the early history of Alice Springs didn’t care for or respect this country.
Undoubtedly most didn’t have the same perception or understanding of this country as the traditional owners of this land but it’s far too easy for the new chums of today to re-interpret recent local history to uncritically suit their own preconceived notions of what they think occurred here.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Keith Lawrie Flats – people have had enough!
The Keith Lawrie Flats came under pressure for demolition in February 2004 from neighbouring residents and then Member for Araluen, Jodeen Carney. This story was part of a feature report about the problem of petrol sniffing in Alice Springs.
The Minister for Housing, John Ah Kit, stated the NT Government had no intention of demolishing existing public housing stock, and in March 2004 announced this block of flats would be a part of the government’s multi-million dollar “urban renewal program.”
I was suspicious of the initial report about the Keith Lawrie Flats as it was only three years after the former CLP government had announced its intention to demolish the Cawood Court complex and replace it with house blocks and a retirement village.
The effect of this approach was obvious – it would reduce the quantity of available housing in town at a time of existing short supply and so contribute to driving up the price of real estate.
The CLP lost office before this could happen, and in late 2001 the new Labor government (specifically Housing Minister Kon Vatskalis) reversed that decision in favour of the CLP’s former practice of selling rundown public housing to developers to refurbish the flats and release them for private ownership. Consequently the Cawood Court complex became the City Edge Apartments and sold rapidly when released for sale.
I had a few letters published in the Centralian Advocate (and got some haughty responses) early in 2004 about this matter. The Keith Lawrie Flats were later shut down for quite some time. I took photos of the abandoned complex about January 2006, by that time over-run with weeds.
Later that year the units were reduced in number from 32 to 22, were extensively renovated and (as I recall) were to be closely monitored and controlled to avoid the problems that afflicted them previously.
The stories I have on file about this don’t reveal the public expense involved but sadly it’s apparently entirely wasted as this complex has reportedly reverted to slum conditions again, effectively within a decade.
At least some of the blame for this must accrue to the previous Country Liberals government because the flats surely can’t have declined so precipitously in just the one year of the current government.
In 2004 I suggested the Keith Lawrie Flats should be sold, renovated and released for private sale. The Housing Minister, John Ah Kit, wrote to me saying the government was reluctant to do this because of the adverse impact on waiting times for public housing.
Given the return of the anti-social behaviour at the Keith Lawrie Flats and other complexes, maybe the NT Government just has to bite the bullet on this one and offload these properties for sale.


Pollution? High fliers get it easy.
While it’s preferable that dumping of fuel in the sky is undesirable for a range of reasons, this incident is small beer compared to the overall impact of aviation emissions in the atmosphere and its substantial well-documented contribution towards climate change.
This is clearly evident from the DIRD’s statistics quoted above – if 0.01 per cent of “of fuel used by the aviation industry each year is released into the atmosphere” through dumping then the obverse suggests up to 99.99 per cent of aviation fuel is eventally combusted and emitted as various greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides (which generate ozone at lower height levels), water vapour and other contaminants, all of which contribute to atmospheric warming.
Some more information is provided by DIRD on its web page “Aviation Emissions – Managing the carbon footprint of Australian aviation”.(https://infrastructure.gov.au/aviation/environmental/emissions/).
Another website (https://www.quora.com/) provided some interesting answers in 2015 on the question “What is the impact of dumping fuel by aircraft in the atmosphere?”
One answer states that vaporised dumped aviation fuel contributes to “emissions of atmospheric pollutants such as benzene  and ground-level ozone” but another contributor vividly points out that “it’s a fart in a hurricane compared to all of the carbon being pumped into the atmosphere” and “focusing efforts on fuel dumping would be akin to checking the pedicure on a gunshot victim.”
Others point out that vapours from fuel spills by motorists at petrol stations in total far outweigh the effect of air pollution from aviation fuel dumping.


Pay up, and you’ll make the news, inquiry is told
Manipulation of public opinion by the mainstream media in the Northern Territory is a time-honoured practice that dates back more than quarter of a century, and possibly further.
I awoke to this in the NT election campaign of August 1997 when a Murdoch-owned newspaper published on the day before the election a front page story warning that the vote was too close to call.
This was patent rubbish but it triggered a vague recollection that I’d seen something similar before; and as I’d been heavily involved in the two previous NT election campaigns I checked the back copies I’d filed away.
Sure enough, the same trick had been played with both front page stories and editorials published one day prior to the election days of June 4, 1994 and October 26, 1990, warning of the closeness of the polls. The technique was employed in Alice Springs and worked in favour of the ruling party.
The method wasn’t used in 2001; instead the election campaign began with a front page story stating the CLP was a red hot favourite to win – no prizes for guessing what happened on August 18 that year!
It was this pattern of reporting during the 1990s that alerted me to the value of the (literally) paper trail that has been laid by print media in the NT over the decades.


The ‘tough gig’ of doing things the right way
Thank you, Kieran, for a most interesting article.
Sorry, I can’t help it, but there is one error of a minor nature concerning “Magistrate’s Hill” – the house that used to be on top of it was built in late 1964 / early 1965 and was first occupied by Magistrate “Scrubby” Hall.
When Hall retired in the late 70s he was replaced by Magistrate Denis Barritt whose family lived in that house until his retirement in early 1992.
Thereafter the house was abandoned and heavily vandalised until its demolition in 2000.
It’s interesting to note a letter published in early September 1964 signed by “An Old Timer” lamented the construction of the house on that hill, criticising the unnecessary damage inflicted on natural outcrops that “give our town that unique ‘something’ which is part of its charm and character”.


Compromise was needed to save youth crime plan
@ Fred the Philistine (Posted November 25, 2017 at 6:48 am): Your claim that “the Australian flag has been around for 100s of years” is one of the silliest claims I’ve read in years. Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it?
The facts are that the original design was chosen in 1901 and was first flown on September 3 that year.
The Commonwealth (or Federation) Star in the lower hoist (bottom left) was a six-pointed star, this was changed to a seven-pointed star in 1908.
However, it wasn’t until 1954 that the Australian flag was officially recognised and defined in Commonwealth legislation.
For its part, the Aboriginal flag was designed by Harold Thomas (who has Luritja ancestry) in 1971.
It’s true, as David says (Posted November 25, 2017 at 7:52 am) that “most local governments around Australia fly the Aboriginal flag alongside the Australian flag and their own local government and state flags” and, indeed, that is an arrangement the Alice Springs Town Council formally adopted early last decade.
No-one has observed civilization as we’ve known it abruptly coming to an end from flying the Aboriginal flag.
Whether Anzac Hill is the best place to feature the Aboriginal flag alongside the others is questionable in my mind; but irrespective of that can we all come back down to earth for a moment?
We’re getting ourselves all tied up in knots arguing about bits of coloured bunting flapping in the breeze on top of tall metal poles – we spend lots of energy and time diverted over symbolism rather than addressing the far more difficult problems that in reality give us so much angst.
Whether the Aboriginal flag ends up flying on Anzac Hill or not is a moot point; symbolism (such as, for example, the national apology a few years ago) won’t address the problems of alcohol abuse, youth crime and a lacklustre economy.
Let’s get real.


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