This announcement, following hard on the heels of the dire …

Comment on Making the CBD vibrant, again: Detail, please. by Alex Nelson.

This announcement, following hard on the heels of the dire budgetary situation for the NT, is highly reminiscent of a quarter century ago.
Here’s a few comparisons: The CLP won the NT election campaign of October 1990, which it was at risk of losing earlier that year after much infighting and instability; the ALP wins the NT election campaign in August 2016 after much infighting and instability in the previous CLP government.
Shortly after its election victory in 1990, the CLP Government announces the formation of an Expenditure Review Committee chaired by Treasurer Barry Coulter in light of the dire budgetary situation in the NT, concurrent with a worsening national economic outlook.
In April 1991, seven months after the elections, the NT Government announced major cutbacks in expenditure including the ending of government programs, and the abolition of 1220 public service positions to be achieved through attrition and a freeze on recruitment.
In March 2017, eight months after the NT election campaign, Treasurer Nicole Manison faces up to a massive decline in GST revenue for the NT by abandoning the Government’s commitment to return the NT budget to surplus by 2018-19, non-renewal of government programs and reduction of the public service through attrition – all within the context of a clearly deteriorating national economic outlook.
Now we have an announcement by the current NT Government intending to rejuvenate the CBDs of Darwin and Alice Springs.
In 1990 the major project underway in Darwin was the State Square development, which began with the construction of a new Supreme Court opened late that year. Hmm, sounds remarkably familiar within the context of 2017 in Alice Springs, doesn’t it? The second stage of the State Square project was the construction of the new Legislative Assembly, completed in 1994.
In Alice Springs we got a commitment for revitalisation of the CBD! During 1992 the Department of Lands and Housing commenced “Planning for the Future Development of the Alice Springs Central Area” under the project title “Alice Springs – Visions for an Oasis Town” which (in my opinion) can be easily re-imagined by the current government’s emphasis to make Alice Springs the “capital of inland Australia” (maybe this description is in consolation for no new Legislative Assembly in the Centre!)
Dale Wakefield’s assurance that “Government will work closely with the Alice Springs community to identify and plan and deliver key projects to revitalise the Alice Springs CBD” is markedly similar to the extensive public consultation and planning the NT Government undertook in late 1992 (I’ve still got my copies of the extensive “response forms” for the key topics of land Use, buildings, conservation, mobility and your choice).
Very little eventuated from all of this activity, although we did get the Tom Brown Roundabout at the entrance to Heavitree Gap which was actually part of the design for a four-lane extension of the Stuart Highway through the Gap announced in 1986.
So here we go again – frankly, I can never overcome my suspicion that George Orwell’s dystopian society described in Nineteen Eighty-Four isn’t simply a caricature of the regime in which we find ourselves.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Making the CBD vibrant, again: Detail, please.
@ Ross Chippendale (Posted May 1, 2017 at 6:23 am): Anyone who’s lived in Alice Springs from before the construction of the full pedestrian Todd Mall would recall that Todd Street (as it used to be) was a highly vibrant location, as it was the main retail area in town.
We didn’t have the Alice Plaza, Yeperenye Shopping Centre, K-mart and (before 1980) the Coles Complex.
Todd Street (in the CBD) featured two supermarkets at either end, with Woolworths in the north (where the cinema complex is today) and Egar Beavers at the Heenan Building corner.
We had the Stuart Arms Hotel on the Parsons Street corner, and Todd Street featured pleasant shopping arcades especially in the northern end (Turner Arcade and Gorey Arcade), and there was the fabulous B-Mart general store in the north end, too. There was so much more.
Todd Street was crammed with traffic and tourists, as long ago as the 1960s when Alice Springs’ population was well below 10,000 – but it was also a time when The Alice was THE pre-eminent tourism destination of the Northern Territory as it was the gaps and gorges of the MacDonnell Ranges that collectively was the main attraction, and Ayers Rock was an adjunct to those attractions.
Todd Street became a victim of its success at a time when there seemed to be no limit to the possibilities of growth and expansion of the town.
The first recommendation to convert Todd Street into a pedestrian mall was made in the HKF consultancy report into the Central Australian tourism industry released in late 1969.
The concept probably would have worked if the recommendations of that report had been adhered to but over the years the failure of proper planning and disciplined consistency for appropriate developments ruined its chances of success.
The expansion of retail developments across the CBD during the early to mid 1980s were based on the assumption that Alice Springs’ phenomenal growth would continue indefinitely into the future.
However, the completion of these major developments coincided with the end of this massive expansionary phase and suddenly the town found itself overdeveloped with a substantial excess of commercial retail and office space.
Something had to give and it did. The new Todd Mall collapsed virtually from the moment of its completion in late 1987 and has never recovered from that time onwards.
Many millions of dollars, both private and public, have been spent trying to jumpstart the Todd Mall ever since, and the current government appears intent on continuing to throw good money after bad in a vain attempt to recover the situation.
This simply won’t work because we’re ignoring the facts that the town’s stagnant population is oversupplied with existing retail facilities and tourist numbers are inadequate to make up the difference.
A very different approach is required but, on the evidence observed so far, it seems far too much to hope for from the current crop of “experts” in bureacracy and business.
I’m left seriously underwhelmed by the NT Government’s current approach to resolving these long-running, deeply entrenched problems of, frankly, our own making.


Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Former gallery advisor scathing about its planners
What’s the betting that old sign is going to do a rapid vanishing act?
Perhaps I should nominate it for heritage listing, pronto!


1 Territory too fixed on opposition to fracking: Lambley
@ John Bell (Posted December 3, 2018 at 2:49 pm): I don’t agree with you this time, John.
Here’s part of a comment I’ve made on another media website: “A lot of food for thought from this post. My earliest recollections of politics dates from the dying days of the McMahon Government which, ironically perhaps, was a time of great progress and optimism in the Northern Territory. It capped a time of extraordinary economic and population growth in the NT from the late 1960s onwards (when McMahon was the federal Treasurer), notwithstanding the contemporary mythology now of several decades standing (justifying NT Self-government) that this was the “bad old days” of Commonwealth control and mismanagement”.
@ Edan Baxter (Posted December 3, 2018 at 11:05 am): I have a quote for you, too: “As you say, the agreement made on 7 December 1907 between the Commonwealth and South Australia for the surrender of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth is still in force” (Letter from NT Attorney-General, Daryl W. Manzie, 26 May, 1992). This still remains the case.
Incidentally, it was this letter from Daryl Manzie that first triggered my interest in Territory history; and what I realised after some time back then is that all is not well with the legal basis of self-government of the NT.
Hence my allusion to section 44 of the Australian Constitution and pointing out the Statute of Limitations does not apply to constitutional law in a recent comment: http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2018/11/20/code-of-conduct-allegations-vexatious-frivolous-councillor/#comment-1802265


Happy Birthday, Auntie, and good luck for the next 70.
The ABC ranks along with the CSIRO as the two great Commonwealth institutions of Australia, both of which have made immense contributions and are amongst our nation’s most important assets.
These two organisations set bench marks against which all else in their respective fields are compared.
It is good to know that at least one of these organisations continues to flourish in Alice Springs.


1 Territory too fixed on opposition to fracking: Lambley
@ John Bell (Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:13 pm): Entirely agree with you, John, except for your final sentence. It’s an old line that the NT’s “exceptional” circumstances of population and geography justify self-government.
After 40 years there is more than abundant evidence demonstrating that the criticisms you direct at the ACT apply equally well to the NT.


1 Territory too fixed on opposition to fracking: Lambley
@ John Bell (Posted December 1, 2018 at 8:21 am): It’s worth recalling that the ACT had a referendum on the question of self-government in 1978 but almost two-thirds of the electors voted against it, preferring instead to maintain the arrangement of a House of Assembly which was simply an advisory body to the Department of the Capital Territory.
Notwithstanding that result, a decade later the ACT got self-government irrespective of whether anyone agreeed to it or not.
@ Psuedo Guru (Posted November 30, 2018 at 8:09 am): Your comment may be much closer to the mark than anyone realises.


Be Sociable, Share!