This month (April 2017) will be the 25th anniversary of …

Comment on Melanka development break-through: Work starts next week by Alex Nelson.

This month (April 2017) will be the 25th anniversary of the official opening of the Scouts Hall on Larapinta Drive; in fact, it’s on Anzac Day.
The Scouts previously had their hall at the base of Billygoat Hill, on the corner of Stott Terrace and Bath Street. The Scouts were granted their new lease of land on Larapinta Drive in October 1984 (courtesy of then Member for Araluen, Jim Robertson), however they continued to occupy their old facility in the town centre until 1992.
The NT Government had long-standing plans to widen Stott Terrace into a six-lane road and this meant acquiring leases on the southern side to allow this widening to occur.
This process started in the late 1980s, with the dismantling of the original CAAC building and demolition of the abandoned Sunny Centre building on opposite corners of Hartley Street – these blocks remained vacant for many years afterwards.
(Material salvaged from the former Congress building was used in the construction of the Old Ghan station and museum at the MacDonnell Siding south of town, now a part of the National Road Transport Hall of Fame complex).
The old Scout Hall at Billygoat Hill was demolished, and the property on the opposite corner – the Repco Building – was also destined to be removed (today’s Red Hot Arts centre).
The only southern corner that couldn’t be acquired for the Stott Terrace widening was at Todd Street because one three-storey wing of Melanka Lodge was built close to the property’s boundary.
That was no problem, it just meant that Stott Terrace had to swing to the north side and acquire the necessary land from KFC – which is the reason why KFC itself is built well away from the Stott Terrace boundary.
All of this planning was associated with the proposed expansion of Alice Springs towards Undoolya, formally announced by the NT Government in July 1987. Stott Terrace was to be the main road link with Undoolya Road near Centralian College (now CDU) and then on towards the long-anticipated Undoolya urban satellite development.
None of which came to fruition, of course; and not least due in part to the national recession that hit the Centre hard in the early 1990s.
The planning for the the “Undoolya Option” was suspended and eventually dropped; and likewise the same occurred for the six-lane development of Stott Terrace.
The former Scout Hall site at Billygoat Hill was converted into a small park in 1993, landscaped with native plants and lots of sand rather than lawn (I worked on the project).
In the mid 1990s Repco moved across to its current premises in the new light industrial development that replaced the former railway housing precinct; its former property in Bath Street varying between vacancy and serving as a base for various art enterprises.
The two long-vacant blocks on the corner of Hartley Street were taken up in the early 2000s with new office buildings that mirror each other.
And then the ultimate irony began in 2008 when Melanka Lodge was demolished to make way for bold new multi-storey developments – which like the multi-lane Stott Terrace widening planned some two decades earlier, have never proceeded.
To top it all off, the Scouts have “commandeered” the only vacant lot by Stott Terrace – the Melanka site – exactly 25 years to the month since they left their own lease at Billygoat Hill.
Well done, Alice Springs, I love it!

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

When NT was officially ‘a country for the White Man’
The story of John Anderson Gilruth demonstrates an extraordinary example of the phenomenon of “six degrees of separation” in the Northern Territory.
After Gilruth left the NT he worked as a consultant until, in 1929, he was appointed as the foundation chief of the Division of Animal Health in the newly constituted Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which later became the CSIRO. It was the CSIR’s most important division in which Gilruth led research into livestock diseases of national importance.
Gilruth’s strong personality and leadership skills enabled productive co-operation with state research institutions and universities, and with pastoralists whose enterprises were the intended beneficiaries of the research effort.
In 1935 Gilruth retired, having created a highly successful research team across Australia and doing much to reduce mistrust and misunderstanding between scientists and graziers.
Gilruth was elected as the president of the Australian Veterinary Association in 1933, which later named its top award, the Gilruth Prize, in his honour.
This was mirrored to a remarkable degree when in 1946 the Federal Government appointed Colonel Lionel Rose as Chief Veterinary Officer of the Northern Territory and the foundation director of the Animal Industry Branch, headquartered in Alice Springs.
Rose proceeded to build up the AIB as an efficient and highly regarded research organisation throughout the NT; one of its first major projects was to initiate in Alice Springs the pleuropneumonia campaign which became the world’s first successful national animal disease eradication scheme (the original stockyards for disease testing still exist at AZRI).
Just like Gilruth, Colonel Rose also was possessed of a dominant personality and leadership skills, and with these abilities facilitated strong relationships with other research bodies – and one such body was the CSIRO for which he provided resources and assistance to enable its permanent establishment in Alice Springs in 1953 (I reside at the original CSIRO property in Alice Springs, the former home address of Dr Robert Winkworth who was the first CSIRO scientist permanently appointed to the Centre).
Also like Gilruth, Colonel Rose built up a highly successful and well regarded team of staff and researchers, of whom many came to be known throughout the NT as “Rosey’s men” – I believe my father is now the last surviving member of that exclusive group.
To top it off, it was in 1961 that Colonel Lionel Rose was honoured with the top award of the Australian Veterinary Association – the Gilruth Prize.
I was sorry to miss the official launch of Ted Egan’s book about Gilruth but am very much looking forward to obtaining a copy and reading it with interest.


Pine Gap and the Nobel prize the Oz government ignores
@ Robert Hall (Posted October 19, 2017 at 10:20 am): In October 1983 the annual Alice Art Prize was held at the Nurses Lounge at the Alice Springs Hospital. The NT Government sponsored a special category, The Golden Jubilee Award, to mark the 50th anniversary of the official renaming of the township of Stuart to Alice Springs.
The controversial winning entry was by Dr Jenny Gray, whose work of “a nine-panel quilted piece in satin” depicted the progression of a nuclear explosion behind Mt Gillen.
In the front page story (November 2, 1983) about this award, Dr Gray was described as “a member of a world-wide organisation of doctors, the Medical Association for the Prevention of War.
“She said its main aim was to inform the public of the medical consequences of nuclear war, in the hope that people would urge governments towards disarmament.
“World-wide membership stood at 35,000 with 1000 members in Australia. Eight medical practitioners in Alice Springs belonged to the association.”
This event occurred more than a month prior to the women’s protest at Pine Gap that year and clearly shows that Robert Hall’s claim to be the sole representative of MAPW in the Northern Territory at the time appears to be incorrect.
As it turns out, the greatest moment of danger from nuclear conflict during the entire Cold War occurred on September 26, 1983 – probably about the time Dr Gray was stitching her quilt for the Alice Art Prize – and it had nothing to do with Pine Gap or the Americans.
A Soviet spy satellite alerted a military command centre in Moscow that the US had launched a few nuclear missiles towards the USSR. The officer on duty, Stanislav Petrov (who died a few months ago), chose to regard this warning as a false alarm thereby averting a nuclear catastrophe.
It turned out that the offending Soviet satellite had interpreted sunlight reflecting off clouds as missiles that had just been launched from America.
Nobody in the West knew anything about this event until after the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly a decade later.


Pine Gap and the Nobel prize the Oz government ignores
@ Steve Brown and @ Hal Duell: I don’t know the personal circumstances and timing of Russell Goldflam’s family leaving Nazi Germany; however, historically Jewish people were fleeing or being expelled from Germany prior to the commencement of the Second World War in September 1939 and long before Japan’s entry into the Pacific theatre in December 1941.
Some of those refugees made it to Australia before the war or very early in that conflict. A notable example was the British passenger ship Dunera which transported German and Italian “enemy aliens”, including Jewish refugees, sailing to Australia from July to September 1940, a period of time that saw the fall of France and the Low Countries to Nazi Germany and the onslaught of the Battle of Britain – this was more than a year before the USA and Japan entered the war.
One person on board that ship was Doug Boerner, who came to Alice Springs during the war and made his home here (he passed away in 2000).
Russell Goldflam has written an eloquent contribution for the Alice Springs News Online and provides a very interesting perspective which isn’t personally familiar to me. I don’t agree with all that he has written but I see no need to respond with the vicious rudeness expressed by at least one correspondent to this story.


CBD planning: The vibrants are at it again
Last weekend (Saturday, 14 October) was the 30th anniversary of the official opening of the full pedestrian Todd Mall.
Interesting to read what was published on the Centralian Advocate’s front page about Todd Mall on that occasion: “After a long and tedious 12 months of noisy machinery, frustrating dust and some inconvenience to the public, the new-look Todd Mall opens officially today. And what a mall it has turned out to be!
“It has ushered in a new era in the town’s development and growth. Some people may have had some misgivings on the outcome of a project they believed was unnecessary.
“But we are happy to say that the mall has assumed an essentially Centralian character which has pleased most people – and the tourists seem to love it.”
The editorial opined: “This newspaper has always maintained that Alice Springs needed a full mall to give the town a lively centre. Today that mall is a reality.
“Big problems were predicted when a full mall was mooted. Some traders felt they would lose business if people could not park in the street and deliveries would be made very difficult.
“While the matter of service lanes has never been properly addressed, customer parking has been provided in adjacent areas and through a good-sized car park within the Ford [now Alice] Plaza.
“There is also a big car park in the Yeperenye Shopping Centre opening next Tuesday – and that is only a short stroll to the mall.”
The editorial went on: “So early in 1986 council commissioned the architects to design and document the project.
“The wisdom of council’s decision to use a local design has been proven – the end result is suitable for our unique area.
“Today locals enjoy the traffic-free ambience of the mall almost as much as the tourists.
“It is fitting that the International Malls Conference is being held in Alice Springs this week. We hear that, generally, the delegates also think our mall is just great.”
Ouch!!
@ Bob Taylor (Posted October 17, 2017 at 10:05 pm) – The Post Office was relocated to its current site in 1977, prior to then it was on the corner of Railway Terrace and Parsons Street. At that time Todd Street was undergoing reconstruction to become a semi-mall with a one-way street from south to north (opened in 1978).
Historically the proximity of the Post Office to Todd Street was unnecessary; and indeed would have been most undesirable as it would have worsened the traffic and parking problems then being experienced in an extremely busy and chronically congested main street in the commercial centre of town. That is simply unimaginable today.
Your suggestion for a multi-storey car park south of the current Post Office has been made before at least twice as I recall (in the 1980s and again in 2001); and I suggested Hartley Street have one-way traffic with angle parking in a submission to a town council commissioned CBD traffic study in late 1987, exactly three decades ago. There was no response.
Alderman Les Smith made a similar suggestion about a decade later.


Master plan for town, reconciliation plan for Australia Day
@ Domenico Pecorari and @ Steve Brown: The first site chosen for the Anzac Memorial was to be an area set aside at the (then) new cemetery established west of town in 1933 – today’s Alice Springs General Cemetery on Memorial Drive.
There were objections to this location, mainly that it was a considerable distance out of town and access was via a very rough track.
According to an account published in 1952, a veteran by the name of Jack Novice suggested that the top of View Hill (or Stott Hill) next to Wills Terrace would be a good location for the memorial. This idea was challenged on the basis it would be too difficult and costly to transport materials to the top of the hill but Novice claimed he had been able to drive his vehicle to the summit easily enough although there was no track at the time.
Dr D R Brown tested this claim by driving his A-Model Ford to the top of the hill without difficulty whereupon the decision was taken to proceed with construction of the war memorial on that site.
The energetic Reverend Harry Griffiths became the driving force behind this project, designing the obelisk and presiding over its official dedication on Anzac Day of 1934 on the top of what now became Anzac Hill.
I’m unaware that any Traditional Owners were consulted about this project – this was an era and time when such considerations just didn’t arise; moreover, Aboriginal people required permits to enter the town area at the time and had no right to be present within the town at all after sunset each day.
If there is permission from TOs for the Anzac Memorial now, it’s almost certainly been obtained long after the fact of its existence.


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