The Keith Lawrie Flats came under pressure for demolition in …

Comment on Keith Lawrie Flats – people have had enough! by Alex Nelson.

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.

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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