April 9, 1997

Government company mum on Rock - Reef links

The Ayers Rock Resort Company (ARRC), in which the NT government is the majority shareholder, refuses to comment on reports that it is forming an alliance with Queensland's Hamilton Island.
This could have a serious impact on the tourism industry of Alice Springs.
A "Rock and Reef" link may further entice tourists to bypass Alice Springs, whose motel occupancy is below 50 per cent and falling, according to statistics released recently.
Local operators have frequently commented on the local consequences of competition from Ayers Rock.
Adelaide-based ARRC chairman Rick Allert told the Alice News "neither I nor anybody connected with Ayers Rock Resort Corporation [entirely controlled by the NT Government] or Ayers Rock Resort Company Limited will be making any comment on any of their commercial arrangements, all of which are confidential.
"NT Industry Minister Eric Poole said this two weeks ago (News, March 26), when asked whether ARRC is buying into Hamilton Island: "The idea was floated a couple of years ago, but we didn't like it and Cabinet knocked it on the head."
However, when asked again last week-end, Mr Poole said the NT Government should not attempt to influence ARRC decisions, that the company needs to run as a business.
Mr Poole says: "The NT Government could see that a collaboration with Hamilton Island would make commercial sense but recognises this would disadvantage Alice Springs.
"I'll raise the issue with my colleagues and find out exactly what is going on."
There are significant links between the island and the Rock resorts.
Former ARRC chief Wayne Kirkpatrick is now the head of Hamilton Island Enterprises Limited (HIE).
Several other former Rock staffers have moved there.
Mr Kirkpatrick visited Ayers Rock recently, according to reliable sources on the island.
It is understood that the finance company Bankers Trust (BT) is part of the consortium which owns 40 per cent of ARRC (the NT Government owns 60 per cent).
BT is also heavily involved in HIE, according to Hamilton Island sources.
They say HIE shares have recently dropped dramatically, from around $1 to as low as 35c.
The sources claim the island's management has caused a sharp drop in visitor numbers by carrying out renovations at the wrong time of the season, forcing the closure of important parts of the resort.
According to the sources, in the past fortnight some 43 million HIE shares changed hands for around 38.5c a share, a total of $16.5m - about one fifth of the value of the company.
Mr Allert declined to disclose whether or not ARRC was the buyer.
Several concession holders on the island say they have been threatened with eviction by Mr Kirkpatrick.
They are currently seeking a Supreme Court injunction against the island's new management.
A similar action is under way at Ayers Rock where ARRC is taking Supreme Court action against the hire car, limousine, coach and tour company, VIP, owned by long-term operator at The Rock, Ren Kelly. Mr Kirkpatrick did not respond to a request for comment.

Council probe: Recycle or pay

MacDonalds is taking three truckloads of rubbish to the dump each week (Mac's say it's 16 cubic metres).
When the building company, Sitzler Brothers, redeveloped the Greenleaves Caravan Park, dozens of tonnes of rubbish were dumped at the town council's tip.
Hundreds of Pine Gap and Federal Airports Commission residents don't pay any rates but use the dump as much as the next person.
Yet the maximum garbage rate the council is charging any one business is just $2000 a year.
The ordinary householder pays $120.
These are some of the issues the council's recycling committee is grappling with, according to its chairwoman, Ald Sue Jefford, and long-term anti litter campaigner, Geoff Miers.
At the same time the only "hands-on" recycler, Fred Webb, is hanging up his beanie - as one resident puts it - after providing a kerbside service in the Eastside for nine months: He says he's being squeezed out by rising freight costs and falling revenue from the sale of materials.
Ald Jefford says options being considered to stimulate recycling in the town - and reducing the garbage mountain - include charging by weight for refuse being dumped, and increasing commercial rubbish rates.
Ald Jefford says the flip side of higher charges could well be a rise in indiscriminate dumping of rubbish around the town.
The council has just approved $7000 for a consultancy and $1500 for a survey.
Oddly, just twice that amount would have bought a second-hand tipper for Fred which, he says, would have kept his service alive, and allowed him to even expand it.
Fred says he would transport recyclable materials to Adelaide himself, and earn some extra cash by bringing back general freight.
At present, he's paying $40 to $60 a tonne "back loading" - but even a $20 a tonne subsidy would have kept his service viable.
He says the $8500 now being spent by the council on reports would have allowed him to shift 425 tonnes of recyclable items out of town.
Fred, 58, says he's been in recycling for 35 years and "enjoys" it.
During his nine months servicing the Eastside he had the support of around half the households there, putting out for him in bags, on the first and third Monday of each month, anything from bottles to batteries.
"Alice Springs is one of the most wasteful towns in Australia," says Fred.
Among "valuables" being discarded are copper, aluminium, brass, cans and bottles.
He says despite his extensive knowledge of the recycling game, the council's committee hasn't spoken to him once.
Ald Jefford says this is because Fred hasn't approached the committee.
She says: "The committee is only three months old and has only just reached its full quota of members."

Ross River fever epidemic: 18 sick

Eighteen people in Central Australia - compared with two last year - have now come down with the Ross River Virus (RRV).
Although the Health Department says it has no analysis by area, the epidemic is believed to be concentrated in the rural Ilparpa subdivision.
It is near a swamp into which effluent from the sewage plant overflowed during recent rains.
There are about half a dozen different varieties of the common "mozzie" currently in the Alice Springs area, and two of these are known to be carriers of RRV. The highest area of mosquito infestation is Ilparpa according to Owen Harris, Director of Environmental Services at the town council.
He says: "The incidence of mosquitoes at Ilparpa is several times higher than anywhere else in the town.
That's why we spray the two Ilparpa swamp areas three times per week, but there's still a lot of water there because of the amount of rain we've had.
Also, the long period of humidity and cloud cover has lowered the evaporation loss."
Mr Harris says the sewage ponds at Ilparpa do not breed mosquitoes now, and preventative measures undertaken and the Power and Water Authority (PAWA) have reduced the need for release of "nutrient-rich" water from the ponds into the swamp area.
This has been confirmed by Dr Alex Hope, an Ilparpa resident who says PAWA's control methods "have improved considerably over the last two years."
Dr Hope is also impressed with the work done by the town council which not only conducts burning off and spraying to combat mosquitoes, but also also regularly traps the air-borne carriers at various locations and sends them to Darwin for identification.
In this way population densities and species varieties are constantly monitored.
In nature, RRV is normally passed between animals and mosquitoes; the only way humans can catch the disease is from a bite by a virus-carrying mosquito. The virus cannot be caught directly from another person or from wildlife, and fewer than one in three humans bitten by a carrier mosquito will become infected.
Symptoms usually appear within seven to 14 days and vary from person to person.
Common indications include painful or swollen joints, sore muscles, aching tendons, skin rash, fever, fatigue, headache and swollen lymph nodes.
Recovery sometimes takes weeks to months, with occasional cases lasting up to several years. (See case study this page.)
Territory Health Services urge anyone having any of the above symptoms to have a blood test.

Cheaper trunk calls?

Trunk 'phone call rates for Territorians could drop sharply if the Labor Party gets its way.
ALP communications spokesman Peter Toyne, MLA for Stuart, says Darwin is in the "footprint" of more international satellites than any other Australian capital.
"That means we can shop around for the cheapest satellite as well as land based services," says Mr Toyne.
He says the CLP government must avoid making a deal with a single carrier for its internal communication system.
"Given this we need an immediate assurance from the CLP that competition among carriers would be fostered. "After all, Telstra paid for Shane Stone's trip to the Atlanta Olympics," says Mr Toyne.
He says deregulation in July this year will present an ideal opportunity for the government to negotiate better deals on private telephone and data traffic with carriers.
"A Labor government would be an honest broker to attract the best services for Territorians."
That is only one aspect of Territory Labor's new communications policy.
Mr Toyne says the capacity of existing telephone facilities needs to be tripled, and their reliability enhanced, so that links to remote mining companies, outback towns, tourist resorts and communities can become faster and less prone to drop-outs.
The "bush" telephone system - largely relying on microwave transmitters - is currently geared mainly to voice communications, while data traffic is becoming increasingly important for development of remote areas.
The cost for this upgrading Territory-wide would be $15m.
Mr Toyne says the $75m dollar cost overrun for Darwin's new parliament house would have paid for the Territory's "telecommunications needs for the next 10 years".
Mr Toyne says he's concerned that the CLP may "play favourites" by selecting one big carrier and one big computer company to take care of the government's telecommunications needs.
Labor would aim at getting the best deals through playing off the growing range of carriers against each-other, and by involving Territory companies: "Let's exploit the opportunities of deregulation," he says.
For example, one NT company is building custom built Pentium-based computers. "It's important to keep that sort of expertise in the NT," he says.
Territory pioneered systems, such as the School of the Air and the Flying Doctor Service, equipped with a "kit bag of much more powerful technology," could develop a huge range of export products.
One example is "tele medicine" - medical diagnosis, training and consultations via compressed video - already being exported to Indonesia.
In education, too, "borders are disappearing".
For example, TAFE colleges and universities are collaborating between states, electronically "pulling together their most powerful areas".
However, parochial attitudes in parts of the Territory bureaucracy is still standing in the way of importing this form of education from other states.
Tele conferencing could save the Government major expenses.
For example, sending three Alice hospital staff to a renal nursing course in Darwin for six weeks would have cost $12,000 - plus the loss of their work for that time.
Instead, the course was recently delivered by tele conferencing, after working hours, for a cost of just $2400. Mr Toyne says Labor would ensure that the benefits of advances in communication are spread throughout the community - in terms both of access to hardware, as well as training.
The CLP's policy is "interwoven with cronyism. "They have pet projects. You're either in or out," says Mr Toyne. "There's no overall methodology."
Mr Toyne says the centrepiece of Labor's communications policy would be the Centre for Excellence. "This isn't a building," he says. "It would be a think tank of the best brains in private enterprise, public service and education," keeping abreast of developments, and advising the government about how best to benefit from them.

New Author: Characters take on their own life

Plains of Promise, debut novel of Alice Springs writer Alexis Wright, tells the gripping if tragic story of Ivy, taken from her mother into the "care" of a remote mission in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
At the age of just 14 Ivy gives birth to a daughter she will never see, the child of her "protector", the Rev.
Errol Jipp. She has in the meantime suffered endless physical and mental abuse from most of the inhabitants of St Dominics, a community quarantined from the outside world under tyrannical church and state laws.
As well as offering an often fascinating reading experience, the novel provides an insight into a desperately unhappy community, riven with suspicion and fear, but one that nevertheless draws on a profound resilience rooted in what survives of its traditional culture.
KIERAN FINNANE, who published a review of Plains of Promise in last week's issue, interviews the author: News: Did you know stories similar to that of Ivy?
Was it knowledge that you had from your life or did you research it?
A.W.: They're not characters that I researched.
They're characters created during the process of writing.
That creativity takes its own shape and form.
You might start off with some ideas about characters and storyline.
They're the bare bones but once you're writing they take a life of their own and they become very much a part of you until you finish the novel. News: Ivy and Elliott, the man whom the mission forces to marry her, really come off the pages.
You seem to have got inside their experiences.
A.W.: They became like my family or close friends.
I was very sorry when I finished the novel, because that was the end of the journey that I went on with them.
It took a while to bring it to an end but now I'm a long way from them or their lives and I'm creating new work.
When you start to write a novel there are a lot of things that you have in mind.
One of these is just to see if you can write a novel.
But with the character Ivy I guess what I was concerned about was stigma.
There are people like Ivy who exist in the world and on Aboriginal communities, in towns and cities and isolated areas. I've seen people like that, outcasts, and I wonder how they cope, what do they think, how do they come to be like that? I imagined Ivy's story but maybe one day other stories will be told by the people themselves who have been in that position - a whole unfortunate chain of events that have come through their lives and probably those of their families.

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