Story Archive » Volume 19 » Issue 17 »

April 26, 2012

Have your say!

 

 

Inaction on all levels of government is hurting The Alice: Former resident.

Adam Giles (pictured), Shadow Transport Minister and Member for Braitling, says taxi threat is another reminder of Alice violence.
Governments are too secretive: council should lead reform, says Hal Duell.
Jane Howie remembers the great old days in The Alice.

NT Housing’s unwanted fences.

Why are exorbitant rents driving us out of town?

Click FULL STORY for further comments, including calls to close Northside liquor shop. FULL STORY »

A quarter of tiny works Budget goes to expand gaol

 

Central Australia is getting $40m in new capital works spending in the Territory’s 2012-13 Budget.
This is not counting re-votes from previous Budgets.

The Centre’s slice is just 3% of what Treasurer Delia Lawrie describes as “a huge $1.3 billion infrastructure investment across the emergency services, education, health, roads, corrections and housing sectors”.

A quarter – $10m – of Central Australia’s new allocations will be spent on the Alice Springs Correctional Centre (at left, Google Earth), $5m on the Alice hospital and $5m on the Mereenie road, the Red Centre Way.

Meanwhile the Opposition says Territorians will pay in excess of $1b in interest repayments “as a result of the Labor Government’s failure to reign in debt”.

Peter Solly, General Manager Tourism Central Australia, says the Budget “recognised the importance of providing additional funding to the tourism sector to stimulate demand and support the industry in response to the Global Financial Crisis [but] the real value of base funding to the tourism sector has not kept up with inflation”. FULL STORY »

Council debate happening in closed meetings

Public gets the polite rehearsed version

 

Councillor Steve Brown’s move to create a Town Council body to monitor the effective delivery of government services in Alice Springs inched forward at last night’s end of month meeting.

The concept is similar to one operating in Port Augusta, reported on by the Alice Springs News Online in the wake of the council election campaign as part of an interview with outspoken Mayor of Port Augusta, Joy Baluch.

The concept was promoted in the campaign by candidate John Reid.

Removal of standing orders last night allowed a mild-mannered discussion of the subject, with no sign of ‘gangs’ of four or five. The end result was that councillors will put their heads together with Corporate and Community Services Director Craig Catchlove, pooling the information they have gathered. At the urging of Cr Geoff Booth, it was decided that this will start at an early morning meeting in the coming week.

He, Cr Brown and Cr Eli Melky all wanted it to be seen that council is doing something “urgent” (Booth), “immediately” (Melky) to address the “considerable anxiety” (Brown) in the community over law and order issues and economic decline.

Apart from questions to a deputation from the National Trust (about which we will report separately) this subject was the only one discussed in the open section of the council meeting, during which everyone was on their best behaviour, with the meaty business of council finances and budget priorities having been dealt with in an early morning (closed) meeting. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 

Pictured: Cr Geoff Booth during his swearing-in with Local Government Minister Malarndirri McCarthy. He wants immediate action, but will it come at the expense of  transparency allowing public input? FULL STORY »

Build a house for 15% of the going rate

 

Twelve years ago, after an international career in show business, three brothers from Melbourne came to Alice Springs with a dream about sustainable living and the determination to make it come true.

Today Ben, 39, Dan, 37 and Tom Falzon, 36, with the hands-on help of their dad Joey, are a long way down that journey – which isn’t meant to have an end.
Their 40 hectare lease on a low hill of airport land at the end of Colonel Rose Drive has the grand name of Earth Sanctuary but its achievements are very much down to earth.
With solar cells and wind turbines, the brothers generate more power than they use.
They are connected to mains water but use it very sparingly, mostly relying on every drop of rain that falls onto the roofs their house, sheds and shelters, and collected in tanks with a combined capacity of 75,000 litres.
And they are building houses with linked together, Pine Gap style geodesic domes for just 15% of the cost of conventional homes.
And all that is put before up to 2000 school kids a year, from Alice Springs and around the nation, and several hundred “dinner and show” guests. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. Photos (from top): Dan with wind turbines. Tom dusting off solar panels. The metal domes.

 

FULL STORY »

Kids enemy No 1 in law & order debate – or the main victims?

PHOTO: We chatted with this group of youngsters yesterday and they were happy for us to take this picture. It was a nice Saturday morning in the Mall, and they were hanging out together, having fun. One boy, clearly suspecting that people would think they are up to no good, said: “Are you going to give this photo to the police?” Another said he would look up the story at school on Monday and took the Alice Springs News Online website address. A third boy, when asked where he is from, replied: “Alice Springs. I own it.” One boy said, with a big laugh: “My name is Damien Ryan.” We’ve obscured their smiling faces because there was no opportunity of getting formal permission. We’re sorry about that, and will be happy to provide the un-redacted picture to the boys.

 

Down here on the ground in Alice Springs, black children, driven to crime by hunger and fear, are fast becoming enemy number one, or victim number one, depending on who you’re talking to.

There’s not much public knowledge about just who these kids are,  nor how many of them there are.

We have a land, sea, men’s, women’s and all manner of other councils, but do these kids have a voice?

Here’s a look at a couple of current initiatives: are they going to make a difference?
The drunks “send in the kids. For the kids it’s excitement,” a burgled restaurant owner explained during the recent town council election campaign, dominated by law and order issues. The loot was a few bottles of spirits. The cost of smashed property was in the thousands.
“We’ve had $1800 worth of damage done here and all they took was bread and cheese,” said a candidate seeking re-election.
Meanwhile up there in the stratosphere, the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) are making submission to the Attorney-General’s Department Public Consultation on the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), while Canberra will be spending $1.5b, from mid next year, on a new Remote Jobs and Communities Program. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. FULL STORY »

Female tourists sleeping in car alleged to have been sexually assaulted: all three suspects now charged, rifle still not recovered.

UPDATE Saturday, May 5, 3.05pm: Detectives in Alice Springs have this morning laid charges against two 17 year-old youths who Police believe were involved in the alleged sexual assault of two tourists in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Detective Acting Superintendent Travis Wurst said one of the youths has been charged with Sexual Intercourse Without Consent, Acts of Gross Indecency, Deprivation of Liberty, Assault and Threaten with a Firearm along with numerous other offences: “The other youth has at this stage only been charged with the Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle (similar to the one pictured) in relation to the alleged sexual assault but we hope to lay further charges as the investigation continues.”
A/Supt Wurst said the firearm allegedly used in the incident has not yet been found.

 

UPDATE Friday, May 4, 6.50pm: Alice Springs Police have located a green Toyota Ascent (similar to pictured) allegedly stolen and used during a sexual assault in Alice Springs on Wednesday.
Detective Acting Superintendent Travis Wurst said the vehicle was found in Ntaria [Hermannsburg], about 130 kilometres south west of Alice Springs.
Police believe the weapon used during the alleged sexual assault was also used in an attempted armed robbery of a taxi early on the same morning.
“The three 17 year olds arrested for the sexual assault are also believed to be involved in this crime.
“A firearm was used to threaten the driver and occupants of the taxi before the offenders fled. Nothing was stolen from the taxi.
“There were three passengers in the taxi who Police would now like to come forward.”  FULL STORY »

Power struggle on Town Council: a sign of things to come?

The so-called Gang of Four were not going to accept the consolation prize. Councillor Liz Martin had said on this site that she would be nominating Cr Brendan Heenan for the role of Alice Springs Deputy Mayor and that runner-up in the mayoral race, Cr Steve Brown, would be ideally suited to chair the Technical Services Committee. Once Cr Heenan was elected by the predicted five / four split in votes, Cr Brown and his supporters, Crs Geoff Booth, Dave Douglas and Eli Melky, were ready.

The four proceeded to refuse all nominations to chair the standing committees in what was clearly a coordinated boycott.

Council has three standing committees – Finance, Corporate and Community Services, and Technical Services –  through which is channelled all its business. All councillors are members. There are no standing orders for the meetings and they are normally the place for more robust debate and thorough discussion of issues. They are chaired by councillors elected to the position.

When Mayor Ryan called for nominations to chair the Finance Committee, Cr Booth nominated Cr Chansey Paech. New to council and its youngest member, Cr Paech seemed surprised but chuffed and accepted the nomination. Cr Jade Kudrenko, also new and youthful, tried to head off the manoeuvre, nominating Cr Booth, an experienced businessman. He declined, so Cr Paech was elected.

Cr Paech then nominated Cr Liz Martin to chair the Corporate and Community Services Committee. She accepted and was declared elected.

Next, Cr Eli Melky nominated Cr Kudrenko to chair the Technical Services Committee. She was clearly startled. If the five who supported Cr Heenan to become Deputy Mayor had decided on this in advance, they hadn’t counted on such a reaction from the ‘Gang of Four’. Cr Kudrenko declined the nomination. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 

Pictured: A happy Cr Steve Brown with Local Government Minister Malarndirri McCarthy after his swearing-in. The good cheer didn’t last. FULL STORY »

Keep racist remarks off Facebook site, police officer appeals

 

The Facebook site Assist your local Alice Springs Police is “not about presenting racist remarks. It is about reducing the harm associated with crime and anti-social behaviour”.
This appeal comes from Police Senior Sergeant Michael Potts (picture from Facebook) who earlier this week was listed on the site as its administrator.
Sgt Potts said in a posting yesterday, apparently referring to the Alice Springs News Online report, posted on Tuesday: “Due to a recent news article and some posts / comments that have been written I wish to clear up some issues.
“Firstly I am not an Administrator for this site although I have asked to be put back as one to enable me to make this post.
“The Administration of this group is now in the hands of the community and has been this way for about a week.
“It is clear that some people are using this forum for their own agenda and not for the aims that the group was developed for.”  ERWIN CHLANDA reports. FULL STORY »

The Y withdraws from town pool management

The YMCA has withdrawn from its aquatic centre management contract more than two years before it was due to expire in July 2014.
The Town Council is now calling for tenders, seeking “professional and experienced managers of aquatic and leisure facilities for the contract which will commence on Sunday 1 July, 2012″.
This follows disclosure of financial difficulties first reported by the Alice Springs News Online and more recently, an intervention by WorkSafe in the handling of chlorine gas cylinders.

Earlier problems had been described as “major”.
Council CEO Rex Mooney says “council and the current contractor have agreed that a new management tender is in the best long term interest of the operations of the facility.”
Chair of YMCA Central Australia Fiona Davis says:  “YMCA Central Australia would like to thank Alice Springs Town Council for the guidance and support with Alice Springs Aquatic and Leisure Centre, which is a wonderful facility and a valuable asset for Central Australia.” FULL STORY »

Alice Springs Facebook vigilantes or neighbourhood watch?

From letting off steam about crime in The Alice to helping solve some of it – it’s all on a Facebook site called Assist your local Alice Springs Police.

It has 1143 members and local Police Senior Sergeant Michael Potts is the administrator.
Frustration and anger are the hallmarks of many of the posts: “id rather be in America cause while they can sue me they have to live to do that. Its legal to shoot them as they break in. Now thats really what we are coming to. no kidding. people are sick of being broken into by kids that are untouchable.”
Or: “do we get a government rebate on security devices and guns i got it for my solar panels to help the future of the town.” ERWIN CHLANDA reports. FULL STORY »

Three day trek on foot to reach art centre: revise your definition of ‘remote’!

We’re used to the word ‘remote’ in Central Australia but try this for size: to reach the string of five art centres that make up Omie Artists you must trek by foot for up to three days, often (for seven months of the year and then some) in torrential rain, across flooding rivers, clambering up muddy mountain sides and slithering down again. The company’s valiant manager, Brennan King, with six Omie security guards, necessary to protect him from attack by ‘rascals’ from the neighbouring tribe, make this journey several times a year. The artists’ work – among the last traditional barkcloths being produced in the world – has to be brought out the same way, rolled over PVC pipes and hoisted on the shoulders of the art centre coordinators.

How remarkable then for these works, steeped in the law and lore of the Omie tribe of Papua New Guinea and many of them a tour de force of design brilliance, to arrive on our doorstep here in the dry centre of Australia and to resonate so strongly with us.

This experience we owe to, apart from Omie Artists, RAFT Artspace in Alice Springs. Its curator Dallas Gold wants to take the pulse of contemporary art in our region (in its expanded definition) and give us a sense of its dynamism, diversity, achievement and promise. This is the third exciting show in a row at RAFT, each stop opening up a window onto a world rich with beauty, ideas, observation and spirit.

The Omie are few in number, King says about 1800 according to a census done by the Omie themselves in 2009.  Around 70 artists are producing barkcloths. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 


 Pictured, above left:  Omie dance a welcome celebration for Brennan King’s arrival at their newest art centre in January 2010. • Above: Pig tusks and teeth, and fern leaves by Linda-Grace Savari. Photos courtesy Omie Artists. FULL STORY »

Three new businesses in three weeks

Breathing new life into the CBD  

 

There are ripples of activity at either end of Todd Mall. At the southern end, a new travel shop is shouting out from the corner of Gregory Terrace and Todd Street, the first business to open there after a string of closures and relocations. And at the northern end, there’s a new cafe, Ziggiz, and this week Piccolo’s restaurant relocated to where Oscar’s used to be.

No-one can have missed the artwork on the travel shop, but inside there’s more to it than its new look and the usual booking service. The core attraction is access to Wicked Campers. The shop’s been open about two weeks. Customers are coming in off the street and online. There’s a good mix, says Manager Sara Bangs: “We’ve had a  couple in their sixties taking a car, it’s not just for backpackers.”

Asher Tuzewski is the man behind Ziggiz cafe, tucked into a little shopfront of the cinema complex. It opened about three weeks ago.

They start early, by 7.30am, and go till late, the exact time depending on what’s happening at the cinema.

“In the cities you can go to a cafe day or night but in Alice Springs there was nowhere like that. We’re the only non-alcoholic venue open late. It’s a cultural readjustment.”

The cafe’s presence makes a contribution to improved security in the north end of the mall: “We’re an extra pair of eyes in the area and we’ve been able to help clamp down on some issues.”

Asher, who grew up in Alice, sees the cafe as part of a big picture: “I want people to believe in this town.” KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 

Pictured, top: Signage you can’t miss, the new travel shop on the corner of Gregory Terrace and Todd Street. • Above: Ziggis cafe, a welcome new presence at the northern end of the mall, often a hot spot for anti-social behaviour. FULL STORY »

A stabbing that didn’t happen?

It seems a serious crime in our streets, where children were among the victims, remained unreported to both the police and to the children’s services of the NT Government.

We strongly believe the following occurred: A woman and her three young children were attacked by six to eight people in the Target carpark, Todd Mall, at 8.30pm on Saturday, April 7.
She received a wound, inflicted possibly with a knife, which required 14 stitches. 
Her son, in his mid-teens, was apparently stabbed, and a younger son had his jaw broken. Another child and the woman were bashed.
The attackers demanded money and were given $50. They tore a gold chain off the woman’s neck.
The crime was not reported to the police, and we don’t know why not.

Neither was it to the Department of Family and Children’s Services (FACS). ERWIN CHLANDA investigates. FULL STORY »

Grog, residential land, law & order: More power to Alice under Country Liberals, says Terry Mills.

Central Australians would get much more influence over their affairs if the Country Liberals gained power in this year’s NT election, says Opposition Leader Terry Mills.
In an interview with the Alice Springs News Online yesterday he said locals and the town council will have a greater say about town planning, and stakeholders will be involved in decisions over tourism promotion.

Alcohol control measures will “bring back peace to the streets of Alice Springs” and will have strong mandatory elements. There is no mention of a take-away free day nor a floor price.
The big shires may be broken up so that decision making is brought “closer to the people”.
And while policies have yet to be fine-tuned, Mr Mills promises cheap residential land to enable young people to “get a stake in the Territory”.
He spoke with editor ERWIN CHLANDA. Photo: Mr Mills addressing protesters outside NT Parliament during its sittings in Alice Springs in last year.
FULL STORY »

New town pool failure: workers were in danger of being ‘crushed’

WorkSafe have issued a “prohibition notice” after observing manual handling of chlorine gas cylinders at Alice Springs Aquatic Centre, because workers were at risk of “being crushed by the cylinders if they got away from them”.
Laurene Hull, the Executive Director of the authority, says the prohibition notice does not affect public access to the pool as management is now chlorinating the water by other means.
This is the latest controversy involving the town council owned centre and its management by the YMCA.
The Y’s Helen Sargent, who is in charge of the pool contract, declined to comment when asked by the Alice Springs News Online.
Recently a letter leaked to the News revealed that there are significant cost overruns for the management, and the Y is seeking a higher fee from the council.
Council’s works manager, Greg Buxton, says the Y is obliged under the contract to comply within safe operating procedures which, relate also to the handling of the chlorine cylinders, and to comply with Occupational Health and Safety requirements under the Act.
“This is a matter between the Y and WorkSafe,” says Mr Buxton. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. FULL STORY »

It’s an A for 400 self-drivers to The Alice

Why an A’van? That’s easy: you can fold it down to half its height in 20 seconds and it won’t cause the fuel-guzzling drag a normal caravan does.

The A’van – starting price $25,000 – is strong. None of the walls are made from canvas.
The triangles on either side fold on top of each-other, and so do the quadrangles front and back, all resting on the bench tops inside for towing.
They are great for two people on a trip of a couple of weeks (although too small for extended living, having no bathroom, for example).
Why these simple advantages spawned a veritable cult – very benign, to be sure – is a bit of a mystery, until you discover the friendly like-mindedness of the owners.

Photos: Like Doctor Who’s telephone box – it’s so much bigger inside: June Hicks in her A’van in Alice today, at the MacDonnell Range Caravan Park. Chilling outdoors in The Alice after  couple of days of rain. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. FULL STORY »

Leslie Oldfield, 1941-2012

 The much loved former Mayor of Alice Springs has passed away.

 

Leslie Irene Oldfield (Huggins), former Mayor of Alice Springs from 1983 to 1992, died yesterday at Apollo Bay aged 71 years.
As a young woman Leslie traveled overseas.
She was the personal assistant to the Territory’s legendary aviation pioneer Eddie Connellan for many years, and a couple of years ago Leslie returned to give the keynote speech at an event at the aviation museum.
After being Mayor she married her sweetheart from youth, Alan Huggins, in the gardens of the Old Timers Museum and they recently celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary.
They went to live on Alan’s farm in Apollo Bay where they kept sheep and cattle.
Leslie settled easily into the life of the farm and cared for many lambs and baby alpacas.
She established a beautiful and productive garden around the homestead. She learned to spin and spun her own wool.
She became very much part of the community.
After being diagnosed with an aggressive form a cancer which was throughout her body, she spent the last few months of her life in a palliative care unit at Apollo Bay where until quite recently she continued her public life and charitable activities, in her inimitable style, from her bed.
Leslie leaves behind friends across the country, many of whom recently travelled to Apollo Bay to say their goodbyes.
(Contributed by Helen Fisher. Google the many references to this immensely popular public figure in our story archive. Feel free to click FULL STORY and leave your tribute in the comment box.) FULL STORY »

Government debt drag on shire finances

Take a look at the Central Desert Shire’s “Accounts receivable” summary and you begin to get a picture of the complexity of shire operations.  Their debtors range from small local businesses, a plethora of Aboriginal organisations and other NGOs to government departments. Most of it is quite in order, within the normal 30 day turnaround for accounts. But over $500,000 has been owed the shire for more than 90 days and a big swag of this is owed by Territory Housing. As at February 29 the amount was $403,992.06.

Some of that has since been paid. However invoices for over $300,000, relating to work done in 2010-11, are still being verified, according to a statement from the department.

At the last council meeting  CEO Roydon Robertson told councillors that a number of shire CEOs had met with the head of the department to try to resolve their “massive concerns”, as a result of which a working party was being formed.

This has apparently helped. KIERAN FINNANE reports.  FULL STORY »

Poetry finds a welcoming hearth in Alice

Metal gig upstairs, poetry downstairs, crowds for both!

 

Last Friday’s poetry evening at Soma restaurant drew an unexpected crowd of over 70 people. At one point there seemed to be standing room only! The cold and blustery autumn night did not deter throngs of people seeking the pleasures of poetry in the warmth of Soma. As the new project officer for the NT Writers Centre in Alice Springs, Kelly-lee Hickey brings an enthusiasm and passion for the job that can only be found in a poet or writer. She was inspired to see so many people turn out for the first Off the Page event of the year. As Michael Watts said on the night, poetry has an important place in our society.

The experience also showed how even as adults we love to be read to. Perhaps the opportunities outside of the young child age bracket are limited. A new lover reads aloud from their favourite books as they reveal themselves to you, or you do as you read in your turn to them. It got me to thinking about how popular audio books are now. I’ve always loved listening and still being able to do something with my hands. I’ll bet the busier our lifestyles have become so too  the popularity of audio books has risen.

I also wondered about the starts to our lives with wondrous tales and sleepy time stories told to us as vulnerable children …

 

Pictured: Poet Penny Drysdale in action. Photo by KIM HOPPER. FULL STORY »

Shire vacancies set to be filled

All vacancies will be filled on shire councils, with enough nominations coming in by today’s deadline. In fact in Central Desert, MacDonnell and Barkly Shires supplementary elections will have to be held as there are now more nominations than vacancies.

In the Anmatjere Ward of Central Desert Shire four people have put up their hands for three seats. They include two former councillors, James Glenn and Dianne Martin. Mrs Martin stood in Southern Tanami Ward, where she lives, but missed out there. You have to live within the shire to stand, but not necessarily within the ward. Southern Tanami is adjacent to Anmatjere.

The other two nominees for Anmatjere Ward are Marlene Tilmouth and Benedy Bird.

In MacDonnell Shire’s Rodinga Ward, where there is one vacancy, Rosalie Riley and Louise Cavanagh have nominated.

In Barkly Shire, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, its former president, did not stand March 24, but has now nominated for a councillor position in the shire’s Alyawarr Ward. There are two vacancies and four nominations. The others are Timothy Jakara Price, Leslie Morton and Eileen Bonney.

 

Pictured: Candidates in the Anmatjere Ward supplementary election: Dianne Martin (left) and James Glenn. Both served as councillors during the first Central Desert Shire Council. FULL STORY »

A fence to play

This fence is not designed to keep people in or out; it’s designed to make them happy.

“It’s not a new idea,” designer Elliat Rich told the children. “It’s a small innovation of an old idea.”

She remembered how kids used to run with a stick along a fence making their own kind of music. What’s different about this fence is that every pipe, tubes of copper, aluminium, brass and steel,  makes a different note.

So it’s called The Melody Fence. It’s situated at the front of Ross Park Primary School and while it’s bound to be a favourite for their students, it’s also open to the public, says Assistant Principal Elizabeth Verstappen. Just step inside the front entrance on Winnecke Avenue and enjoy!

Rich worked with musician Bree van Rejk to get her fence to sing. It’s in the key of C, so whatever combination of notes that is produced it will always sound harmonious. And if you happen to run along the fence from start to finish – some 15 metres –  it plays a melody composed by van Rejk. – KIERAN FINNANE 

 

Pictured: Bree van Rejk plays the fence with children from Class 2/3. FULL STORY »

Dollars for the bush in NT budget

The sealing of the 157km Namatjira Drive, which began in 2006, will finally be completed in early 2014, according to Minister for Lands and Planning Gerry McCarthy. On Tuesday he announced $5m worth of funding will be in this year’s budget for sealing the final 7km stretch. Work won’t start however till mid 2013.

The drive must be one of Australia’s most scenic, connecting with Larapinta Drive west of Alice Springs, heading along the MacDonnell Ranges to Glen Helen and beyond from where it heads southwards to Gosses Bluff. An estimated 41 to 183 vehicles travel the road per day.

The on-going sealing of the Tanami Road will also get an allocation of $2m in the budget. The Tanami runs from the Stuart Highway to the WA border, a distance of 703 kms. Sealing began in 2004. To date some 220kms have been sealed, in six separate stretches. The $2m will cover another 4kms. FULL STORY »