Story Archive » Volume 19 » Issue 11 »

March 15, 2012

Native title group Lhere Artepe: bombshell briefing note – and fresh hope

 

An internal document details exhaustively the events over the past several years which tore apart the native title organisation, Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, and threatened the commercial entities linked with it.
The document, briefing notes for the directors of the corporation and Lhere Artepe Pty Ltd, the ultimate owners of the group’s assets, was obtained exclusively by the Alice Springs News Online.
It details efforts to stabilise the group’s finances and business dealings, and forecasts a brighter future.
But it also confirms what has been reported by the Alice Springs News Online investigation for over a year, drawing on a range of sources – and a lot more.
The conduct of the person referred to as the “former CEO” – Darryl Pearce – rates a frequent mention.
The document reports:-
• An estimated $7m loss arising from a failed investment in a civil engineering firm, CDE, arranged by Mr Pearce.
• A $3.5m loan, negotiated by him with an Adelaide company, ACA Finance: “The former CEO apparently negotiated a deal by which this loan would be reduced to $1 million in return for transferring three of the Mt Johns blocks to Guistozzi [the head of the company], but the agreement for this deal was not signed. As a result, the full $3.5 million remains payable and is in fact overdue,” the briefing note says.
• Delays with the Mt Johns residential real estate development pushed it to the brink of the National Australia Bank taking control of the project.
• At the time of the briefing only seven buyers were left (of the touted near-sellout) who hadn’t claimed back their deposits.
• The mess Mt Johns turned into was secured by the three IGA supermarkets (Flynn Drive, Hearne Place, Eastside) bought for about $14m in part with a Federal grant: “These arrangements were also negotiated by the former CEO and we have been questioned by Commonwealth public servants whether this is contrary to the terms of the Federal Government grant that partially funded the purchase of the supermarkets business.
“The former CEO did not inform the Lhere Artepe Enterprises board of any of these proposals in advance, nor seek the board’s views or approval.”
• “An additional mortgage was placed on the supermarkets unbeknown to Commonwealth Government which put the grant funds in jeopardy,” says the note.
• A deal over maintenance required in one of the supermarkets, involving blocks of land provided by the vendor, also apparently went pear shaped: “Without reference to the board of Lhere Artepe Enterprises, the former CEO arranged to transfer the land, for no payment to Lhere Artepe Supermarkets, to Lhere Artepe Services Pty Ltd. It is therefore apparently no longer available to Lhere Artepe Supermarkets to fund the maintenance work.”
• The Board and members were being kept in the dark, it is claimed. There were just two meetings between April and August 2011.
The note says: “At neither of these meetings did the former CEO provide a proper written report to the board to explain the significant obligations and expenditures he had negotiated over the previous several months without reference to the board.” ERWIN CHLANDA reports.

 

PHOTOS: Top – Publicly funded supermarket acquisition props up Mt Johns development. Above right – Darryl Pearce. FULL STORY »

Last meeting of 11th Council descends into chaos

Relationship between Mayor Ryan and Alds Melky and Habib Bitar has become unworkable

 

The final meeting of the 11th Alice Springs Town Council started with fine sentiments and a few tears but descended into a brawl before the night was out.

The aldermen not seeking re-election – Murray Stewart, Sandy Taylor and John Rawnsley (Jane Clark was absent) – were presented with framed certificates acknowledging their service by Mayor Damien Ryan.

They all spoke, with undoubted sincerity, about the privilege and honour of the role and Ald Taylor cried, as she did on the day of her investiture four years ago.

The meeting then proceeded fairly calmly, often even blandly, until questions without notice, when Ald Rawnsley demanded of Ald Samih Habib Bitar an apology for what he considered a “highly offensive” remark.

Ald Habib Bitar, who is seeking re-election and also running for mayor, had apparently compared council’s approach to graffiti removal (requiring the property owner to act, with penalty for non-compliance) to a measure of Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

The ensuing slanging match over-shadowed the more worthwhile initiative of Ald Rawnsley that followed: a motion to call on both the NT and Australian governments to provide more policing resources to Alice Springs “on a sustainable basis”, that was carried unanimously. KIERAN FINNANE reports. 

PICTURED clockwise from top right: Aldermen John Rawnsley, Samih Habib Bitar and Sandy Taylor. FULL STORY »

Besieged businessman stands for zero tolerance but also calls for more ‘joy and laughter’

Candidate for councillor backs Eli Melky for mayor

 

KIERAN FINNANE talks to leading light from Action for Alice lobby

 

 

“It’s hard to stay positive,” says businessman Geoff Booth, manager and owner (with partners) of two licensed venues that have experienced a shocking run of break-ins. Town & Country, a bistro in the mall, was broken into in the early hours of this morning, twice. Club Eastside was the target of a ram raid in the wee hours of March 8, while Town & Country, also had a rock through the window, just a few hours later.

On that night Mr Booth (pictured at left with bollard protecting the club’s entrance) was called into Club Eastside at 1am, went home at 3.30, was called into Town & Country at 4.30, then went home at 5.45. In neither case did the police attend – the night of March 7 and 8, as we know, was a busy one in Alice, for all the wrong reasons.

Town & Country was attacked again in the early hours of March 11. On all occasions thieves took a few bottles of liquor and some RTDs – of insignificant value alongside the damage they caused .

A ram raid of a few weeks ago (pictured below) caused $10,000 worth of damage to the club entrance, prompting the installation of the red bollard. Five more bollards have now been installed to protect the front wall of the club. The raiders used stolen cars, says Mr Booth.

Last year’s damage bill for both venues came to $50,000. To date this year Mr Booth has had to spend $28,000.

By anyone’s standards, these are intolerable conditions in which to do business. But Mr Booth, who came to town 13 years ago as a golf professional to work at the Golf Club, remains resilient. He has put his hand up to run for council. A leading figure in last year’s Action for Alice campaign, his views on law and order are what you would expect: he stands for zero tolerance; he considers the outgoing council and Mayor Damien Ryan have failed the community on this issue; temporary solutions like Operation Thresher are only “bandaid solutions and short-term fixes if a few weeks later everything is turned upside down again”, he says; council has to make every possible effort to lobby the NT and Australian Governments for a longer term strategy and resourcing.

Yet he admits to not having all the answers and understands the importance of listening to different groups, having “everyone at the table”. FULL STORY »

Rotary scholarship to future doctor in Centre

The 2012 Rotary Club of Alice Springs – John Hawkins Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to Sam Heckathorn (pictured), the 2010 Dux of OLSH College.

He has this year started a Bachelor of Biomedicine at the University of Melbourne with the intention of becoming a general practitioner in Central Australia.
Chairperson of the JHMS committee, Catherine Maughan, says  the award was given because of “Sam’s obvious intelligence, exemplary community service record and his commitment to invest his future in Central Australia”.
The scholarship is valued at $18,000 paid in six equal installments over three years.

The Rotary Club of Alice Springs encourages local students intending to commence tertiary study in 2013 to apply for next year’s scholarship, says Ms Maughan.

“Money raised from the annual Rotary Club of Alice Springs Melbourne Cup sweep helps fund the scholarship.” FULL STORY »

Horror week of violence puts law and order centre stage in council election campaign

New talent to tackle challenging times? 

 

KIERAN FINNANE talks to two new faces in the councillor contest.

 

 

Law and order has moved to centre stage in the local government election campaign, following a horror week in Alice Springs: two suspicious deaths (March 6 and 9, the latter in Antherpe Town Camp), two serious assaults around midnight on March 7 at Little Sisters Town Camp (over one of which star footballer Liam Jurrah has been charged), a domestic violence incident on March 9 in which two people sustained knife wounds at Mount Nancy Town Camp (a stronghold of the Shaw family, usually among the more peaceful town camps), and a daylight attack on March 6 on a teenage girl in an Eastside suburban laneway. And these are only the worst incidents of personal violence. There were also house and vehicle break-ins, property damage and vandalism.

The above list of violent attacks was not complete when Mayor Damien Ryan on March 8 reported his contact with the Chief Minister and the assurances received that a strike force was to be mobilised, bolstered by Darwin officers. “Too little too late”, accused Alderman Eli Melky, seeking re-election and also campaigning for the top job. He wanted to know why Mayor Ryan had not supported him on the issue of a youth curfew; why he had “repeatedly declared” law and order is not the job of the council.

Such is now the fraught atmosphere of this election campaign, with no sign that anytime soon Alice Springs authorities will get a chance to rest on aspired-to laurels. It’s not new, of course, and it’s interesting to observe the strong field of candidates that has emerged in response to these challenging times.

It fills candidate for councillor John Reid with hope: “This is a very passionately contested election. I feel very positive about  many of the other candidates, their passion to represent the interests of the town, the policy-driven perceptions driven by strong research of people like Edan Baxter. We need that.”

Mr Reid, a researcher himself at the Centre for Remote Health, has lived in town for 25 years. That’s almost as long as Jade Kudrenko has been alive. Yet the 29-year-old, who works as a trainer for the Central Land Council’s Indigenous Ranger Program, talks the same language: “I’m for evidence-based approaches,” she says, careful to not commit herself on issues where she feels she doesn’t have the knowledge.

Ms Kudrenko expresses “real concern” over the spike in violence but says council is not “the lead agency” in dealing with crime and needs to work closely with the NT Government and police.

Pictured from top: Jade Kudrenko – she wants “evidence-based approaches” and a tree register for the CBD to protect our mature trees. • John Reid – he says Port Augusta’s collaborative approach to arresting the decline of their town has lessons for Alice.

 

UPDATE: Police last night arrested and charged a man in relation to the death at Antherpe Camp. He will appear in the Alice Springs Magistrates Court this morning. The dead man, who appeared to have suffered fatal stab wounds, was 36, the man charged, 31. Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Malley from the Major Crime Section confirmed that the two men were known to each other. FULL STORY »

Mayoral debate cancelled

The five mayoral candidates will no longer face one another in a single forum.

Charles Darwin University had advertised a debate, Vote 1 4 Alice, for March 20.

An invitation had been sent  to Mayor Damien Ryan but his challengers didn’t get an invite, according to one of them, Steve Brown

They meanwhile accepted the invitation of Mez Elliott who described herself as a part-time announcer and producer with Radio 8HA, to a meet-the-public occasion at the RSL on the same night.

Radio 8HA manager Roger Harris says Ms Elliott is not a producer with 8HA but “occasionally stands in on shifts when an announcer is away”.

Hosted by Territory Today presenter Adrian Renzi, the RSL function will not be a debate but a question and answer session, also open to councillor candidates.

Mayor Ryan, however, will not be present, as once he became aware of the CDU cancellation, he accepted another invitation, addressing a visiting group.

A media release from CDU says: “The university accepts that no one’s interests are served in having two debates on the same night and that there is insufficient time to organise an alternative date.

“The university apologises to the mayoral candidates and to anyone else for any inconvenience.”

 

UPDATE:  Following the cancellation, Mayor Damien Ryan and Deputy Mayor Liz Martin will be hosting a ” Meet the Candidates” night in Stuarts Bush Kitchen at the National Road Transport Hall of Fame on Thursday, March 22 from 6pm to 9pm.

Alderman Martin says this is not an Alice Springs Town Council initiative.

“We have invited all mayoral and councillor candidates to participate with equal opportunity and have had a good response to date. This is a casual evening that will allow members of the public, particularly those from various associations and industry groups who have already issued questionaires, to chat in an informal setting one on one with candidates to find out where they stand on issues that are important to them.”

The evening will include a free sausage sizzle and transport can be arranged for those that dont have it by calling Ald Martin on 0429 201 549. FULL STORY »

Alice Springs News defamation case needs to be put into context, says prominent author

COMMENT by BARRY HILL

 

When historians come to write the history of central Australia, the archive of the Alice Springs News will be uniquely invaluable. For the last 19 years it has been the most intelligent and fearless of the newspapers, one that goes after the news—political AND financial— in ways that its rivals, almost invariably owned by Rupert Murdoch, do not. It is also a paper with a special touch for the cultural life of the community in and around Alice. It is therefore lamentable that the paper has received a judicial heavy body blow.
I am in no position to challenge the details of the judgment except to say that paper’s professionalism has in the past impressed me, as has the quality of its motivation with regard to whatever it is reporting. If the paper was in the wrong, legally, I feel sure that one should also take into account its previous general demeanor and its tenacious regard for the public good. Those who know and like the paper will of course be able to put this moment in the necessary historical context. Those who do not, or those who feel they have their own reasons to even be pleased with the judgment, will probably be indulging resentments that have little to do with the public interest. We might want to say, for argument’s sake, that this was a case of fearless reporting that got carried away with itself and deserved punishment, but not punishment at the top of the range, which this seems to have been. What we can’t say is that the paper is one of those that has at last got what was coming to it. On the contrary, it has long deserved prizes for its achievements in journalism.
I should also add, in the interests of transparency, that I am a friend of the paper’s editors. Is also crucial to say that I became their friend very much out of admiration for what they have been doing in this wretched period of Central Australian history.
One last point. As things stand a poorly resourced paper, one that created itself out of grit and social conscience, is in massive debt to a flourishing real estate agent. What is the paper’s future? A deadly question created and left hanging from this case is this: would the Territory be better off if the likes of an Alice Springs News were owned by real estate agents?

Dr Barry Hill (pictured) is the award wining author of Broken Song – T G H Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession. His books The Rock: Travelling to Uluru and The Inland Sea (poems) also arose from a decade of work out of Central Australia. FULL STORY »

Melanka project not quite hot to trot

 

Cold water was poured on the idea that construction would go ahead on the Melanka site as soon as mid-year in the Town Council meeting last night.

The Centralian Advocate ran a front-age story on March 6, quoting  real estate agent Doug Fraser, that the plans have been down-sized and the owners hope to start selling “off the plan” in June with building to begin soon afterwards.

Greg Buxton, council’s Director of Technical Services, in response to an enquiry from Alderman Eli Melky, said if the plans have been changed by more than 10% the developers may be required to make new submissions to the Development Consent Authority (DCA).

Mr Fraser, the manager of L J Hooker, says: “The owners have had discussions with the Town Planning Authority and have received a positive response.

“Obviously the project needs to be approved by the DCA with council having their input. We would hope that council would not unduly delay the project.” KIERAN FINNANE reports. PICTURED: A drawing of the complex as it was planned originally. FULL STORY »

How can we all be winners?

 

KIERAN FINNANE talks to three candidates for the upcoming Town Council election.

 

Work together, get past the difficulty of differences of opinion, work with the whole community, for the good of the whole community: sounds obvious, sound perhaps soft, but it was a message delivered with convincing emphasis from all three Town Council candidates I spoke to for this article.

They are an assorted lot. Greater diversity is on the cards with the change to the way votes are counted in local government elections, and perhaps the likelihood of a diverse council is delivering candidates who welcome the opportunity of working with its inevitable challenges.

Despite their varied backgrounds, Aaron Dick, Dianne Logan and Matthew Campbell share a number of broad aims: rejuvenation of the town centre, doing what council can to stimulate business in the CBD, developing a greater connection with the river, protection of mature trees, much more shade, more activities for young people.

Alcohol policy and flood mitigation – in this, the year when the 20 year moratorium on a flood mitigation dam north of the Telegraph Station will be lifted –  were recognised as thorny, perhaps the latter even more than the former.

While none wanted to comment too much on the mayoral race, all expressed respect for the way Mayor Damien Ryan has handled his role.

Pictured, from top: Aaron (Charlie) Dick – we need more trees and shade throughout the town, and fewer carparks in the CBD!  • Dianne Logan – “Let’s get it happening!”, she says of rejuvenation of the CBD . FULL STORY »

Bedlam in the eye of the beholder

 

My mum, who in terms of Australian travel has never strayed beyond the reaches of the east coast, has booked her flights to Alice today. This has got me to looking about the house and thinking, I really need to clean that, rearrange this, put these away and definitely get rid of that red back spider. It’s that thing of seeing your space through somebody else’s eyes and of course I want her to be comfortable whenever she stays with me. Something she definitely would not have been, had she woken up as I did with a bearded dragon lizard shuffling about the room, fixing me with his little eye and imposing stance.

In the past I’ve loved having overseas or interstate visitors. They renew your dulled perspective with their fresh gaze. So how does that play out in an amazing and troubled place like Alice?

Riding my bike home after work I skirted around broken glass, dodged drunken ramblings and staggerings, rode past the cops who had just pulled over to a bunch of people sitting by the river. I turned into my street and my housemate was on the phone to the police. A woman and her male companion had been having a fight out the front of our house. She was completely pinned to the ground with the man on top of her trying to tear her mouth at the corners with his bare fingers. She was screaming “Call the police!” after my housemates intervened and were also aggressed. The woman had a sit down and glass of water and didn’t want the cops called anymore, by that stage however the phone call was in full swing.

 

Pictured: The Todd, not always so peaceful. FULL STORY »

The harvest of farming illusions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do we need the Army again to make large-scale farming in the Territory a reality once more?
The World War Two events described in the Alice Springs News story “After Darwin’s bombing, the Army made the desert bloom” sure seems to suggest it.
It was an era of huge population gyrations as the military moved in and out.
And the Army showed that some no-nonsense resolve can indeed make the desert bloom.

However, the army had “more farm workers than acres and no need to consider the cost of production”.
A botanist who provided technical advice for the army farms, warned that “the Northern Territory … is definitely not a land of milk and honey waiting to be tapped by the first agricultural adventurers”.

While the Katherine region, headquarters for the army’s 2 Farm Company, has gone on to be the focus of  farm and horticultural production in the NT, Central Australian horticulture continues to languish. In this comment piece ALEX NELSON argues for the importance of a history of agricultural research and enterprise in Central Australia for us to understand why this is so. PHOTO above right: a great crop of silverbeet at Haasts Bluff Aboriginal community, mid last century. Courtesy Gross Collection – Strehlow Research Centre. FULL STORY »