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

How does a future in opera sound?
There is an intriguing link between the Sydney Opera House and a singer who got her big break in Alice Springs.
In 1958 a young couple and their family in NSW came to live in the Alice, they were Tom and Lorna Oliphant. Judging from a street address published on one occasion, which was in the (then new) railway cottages precinct just to the west of the town’s centre, Tom Oliphant must have worked for the Central Australian Railway.
Lorna Oliphant (nee Beulah) was a Wiradjuri woman originally from Forbes, NSW. Both were accomplished singers and soon became the stars of the newly formed Centralian Musical Society from about 1960 onwards.
In 1962 Lorna Oliphant entered a national talent quest held for that year’s NADOC week (as it was then known). Mrs Oliphant, who entered the competition by submitting a tape with three songs, won first prize which led to her gaining a scholarship at the prestigious Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
The family was given a big send-off with a variety concert held at the Alice Springs Youth Centre later that year; and in time Lorna Beulah, who came to be known as The Nightingale, became a renowned opera singer performing in concerts around the world.
It was her voice that was used to test the acoustics of the brand new Sydney Opera House prior to its official opening in 1973.
Strangely she is now barely remembered. She passed away in 2012.


Sweet Country, a voice demanding to be heard
I’m looking forward to seeing this film, to study it as much as to just watch it. For this reason I will probably see it twice because there’s always too much to take in from a single viewing of a well made film.
I noted with interest Pip McManus’ observation: “The camera rarely moves above eye level, in fact it most often looks upward from ground level and focuses on rich grainy detail of flesh or rock, hand gesture or marks in the sand. Elders Archie and Sam know they are witnessing the desecration of country, the potential loss of sacred knowledge.”
I will be intently watching the landscape, especially the vegetation, to see if and how often buffel grass can be observed.
I anticipate the scenery, as much as the story, will tell us how much we really know of our recent history, of how much has changed and is still in the process of being lost.
Another point worth noting: “While Sweet Country does adhere to many of the tropes of the Hollywood Western genre – wide open spaces contrasting with close shots and dark claustrophobic interiors, silhouetted sunsets and liquor-sodden saloons – there is a determined turning of the tables.”
It’s worth remembering that amongst Aboriginal people across regional Australia for much of last century by far the most popular film genre was the Hollywood Western, of cowboys versus red indians as often as not – exemplified on February 19, 1942, when Tiwi islander Matthias Ulungara seized the pistol of crash-landed Japanese fighter pilot Hajime Toyoshima and reputedly ordered him to “stick ’em up allasame ‘Opalong Cassitty” thereby capturing the first prisoner of war on Australian soil.
A final point to keep in mind is “that signature blackfella humour and playfulness” which is as much alive today as it’s ever been, and is often deployed against the unwitting amongst us. It is used to great effect in the mainstream media, creating impressions that aren’t necessarily accurate.
None of this is to deny or downplay the conflict and confusion that did arise as Europeans encroached upon the territories of indigenous people. Sweet Country seems likely to offer much food for thought.


NT News interfered with reporting to protect ad income from NT Government: Allegation
This situation has been going on now for 30 years.
It commenced from July 1988 when the Centralian Advocate had the temerity to publish a scathing front page editorial after the CLP dumped Chief Minister Steve Hatton and replaced him with Marshall Perron.
This was the fourth leadership change in government in as many years and the Advocate didn’t pull its punches in its savage criticism of the CLP.
During this period the CLP was rocked by the resignation of Deputy CM Ray Hanrahan from all his portfolios and then from the CLP, finally resigning from politics in August 1988.
This was followed by the Flynn by-election of September 10, 1988, in which the CLP suffered a 21 % swing against it in what was formerly a safe seat.
It was clearly evident from this result that the CLP could no longer rely on any seat in the NT being safe and its hold on power was at great risk.
It was exactly at this time there was a sudden change of management of the Centralian Advocate, when accomplished reporter and long-serving editor Bob Watts was replaced by Gary Shipway and sent to do mostly court reporting for the NT News until his retirement in 2005.
(For his part, from about 1991 onwards, Shipway went on to serve as the chief media advisor to the CLP for many years – he is now a reporter for the NT News).
In the late 1980s the CLP cultivated extremely close relations with the management of News Corp in the NT, to both sides mutual advantage. It was a crucial factor for the success of the CLP during its “bonus decade” in power of the 1990s.
This situation has largely continued to the present day, with News Corp essentially prostituting itself to whichever political party happens to be in government; with the notable exception of the self-destructing Giles Government with which it was impossible to be seen in public support of it.
I am able to provide evidence to verify my claims. There is no doubt that the independence of the media in the Northern Territory (not just News Corp) has long been severely compromised to the overall detriment of good government of the Territory.


Telling the stories of war: we could do so much better
It’s worth noting that many of the plaques that “stud the walking path along the river” as a major component of the “Australian Armed Forces Commemorative Walk” might be described as “understated.”
Recently I walked along part of that pathway and found that many are now so faded they are barely legible.
All that public expense in their production and installation – only a little over two years ago – appears to be well on the way to being wasted.
Perhaps it’s in keeping with the demise of the RSL Club on the north side of Anzac Hill, which couldn’t sustain the attempt to revive its operation at the time. The whole exercise seems to have been badly mishandled.


To die for country
Two Centralian veterans of mixed race parentage, Harold and Milton Liddle, were prominent in the years following World War Two in highlighting the injustice to people who, such as themselves, who had fought in the war but were denied equal rights as citizens of Australia.
Together with another prominent Australian veteran, London-born Jim Bowditch, who from 1950 to early 1954 was the editor of the Centralian Advocate, they succeeded in gaining citizenship in 1953 for part-Aboriginal people and some full-bloods (the terminology then officially in use) in the Northern Territory.
This is an important part of Central Australian history that is largely overlooked.


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