October 14, 1998


A Central Australian meat processor says he is offering a scheme that would create 100 jobs and save the cattle industry in The Centre $4m a year.Brett Heaslip, whose family company owns and operates the Bond Beef abattoir north of the town, wants to upgrade the beef and camel slaughtering facility to export standard.He says: "We want to bring together the NT Government, Aboriginal people and private enterprise in an historic move to create a viable industry, working in harmony for a common objective."He says NT consumers are spending $1m a week on meat, and nearly all of it currently is bought from interstate.He says talks are under way with the Central Land Council (CLC) and with the Aboriginal investment company, Centre-corp (in which the CLC has a two-fifth share).Mr Heaslip says he will be meeting with the NT Government later this week.The objective is to involve joint venturers to expand the facility now worth about $1.5m.Mr Heaslip, who has worked in livestock raising, processing and marketing all his life, is planning to develop the abattoir's trade with stores in Aboriginal communities, tourist resorts and mine sites, all of which he says are now largely supplied from interstate.TRAINING Mr Heaslip, whose family owns Bond Springs Station, where the abattoir is located, immediately to the north of Alice Springs, says there would be jobs, training and career opportunities for all rural people, including Aborigines."The venture would promote racial harmony by providing the kind of work for which Aborigines have a great affinity as descendants from the Territory's legendary black stockmen," he says. And cattle producers would avoid losses caused by stress, bruising, downgrading and weight reduction caused to stock by long-distance transport, reducing the average revenue to the producer of up to $50 a head. Growers would also save on border taxes and yard fees."What's more, they would have the opportunity of seeing first hand how value is added to their own stock," says Mr Heaslip. "They would learn about the processing and costs of boxed beef."Quite often local consumers buy meat originally from Central Australia, but a 150 per cent mark-up for transport and processing goes to interstate companies, which in turn crush smaller local businesses."THROUGHPUT Mr Heaslip says he wants to enhance the viability of the local processing centre, which has operated since 1970, by raising its throughput: the company, currently supplying part of the local market, has clinched a deal with an interstate manufactured meat company, and has already started a limited upgrading program using its own resources to work towards export standard.Export orders would allow the abattoir to realise its full potential, he says, ultimately absorbing the entire 40,000 head produced annually in The Centre.This would allow the local company to compete effectively against the cut-throat national meat market: currently up to 20 interstate wholesalers are vying for business in Central Australia."By doing this the local centre can supply the town with a fresher and cheaper product, employing local families, and giving the Centralian cattle producers a guaranteed local market.CAMELS "This is something the pastoral industry desperately needs and will ultimately keep the dollars in the town," says Mr Heaslip.At present, much of the NT Government subsidy for the camel industry is spent interstate where the beasts are slaughtered, usually in Strathalbyn in SA.The local abattoir could well satisfy the entire local demand for processed camel meat, usually for Muslim countries.Mr Heaslip says a move to build a new abattoir near the Roe Creek rail yards, at an estimated cost of $4m, would duplicate facilities already available at Bond Springs, although the rail yards are under-utilised because many Central Australian cattle have, in the recent past, been shipped north for live export.However, that trade has been hit hard by the South East Asian currency crisis.Mr Heaslip last week gave a press conference together with CLC director Tracker Tilmouth and Alice Deputy Mayor Fran Erlich, discussing moves towards statehood.Mr Heaslip says: "For statehood to be a better solution for Central Australian people, certain matters have to be addressed to achieve financial viability."When the NT Government is committed to assisting us, Shane Stone will have our support."


Community activity on Old Eastside has become very much part of the lifestyle for people living in one of the oldest residential areas of town. The Eastside Residents Association (ERA), while being an active lobby group on a number of issues from town planning to sport and recreational activities, are not afraid to get their hands dirty. I was reminded of this when I saw the flyer in last week's paper calling for residents in the area to help at a working bee at Spencer Hill Playground and Park. Along with others, ERA continues to assist with clean-up and reestablishment work at Davidson Street Park and the Coolibah Swamp. All of which reminds me of previous occasions when Old Eastside residents have grouped together. One such group was called Eastside Action Group which worked in the late 70's to improve the immediate environment around Ross Park School, including the sports oval. The group also lobbied, unsuccessfully, at the time for a local child care centre, but were successful in gaining permission to start a local Cub Pack at the school after-hours. School holiday programs followed later. There was strong feeling that school buildings, built with tax-payers money, were greatly under utilised and opening them up to after hours activities could also assist in building community spirit. Burke Streets residents also came together in an initiative of their own. Burke Street was once the edge of the town. With a growing population, the border was extended to allow for the development of new sub-divisions and the area which we know today as Sadadeen (1973). The park which now corners Undoolya Road and Kurrajong Drive was established by the residents of Burke Street, particularly those whose gardens backed onto the area. These were the people who faithfully watered and cared for all the newly planted seedlings until the area was able to be fully maintained by Town Council. Spencer Park was named after the anthropologist and scientist, Professor Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer (1860-1929). Baldwin Spencer, as he was known, was born in England and came to Australia at the age of 27 to take up the position of Professor of Biology at Melbourne University. It was during the Horn Scientific Expedition to Central Australia in 1894 that Spencer first met Francis Gillen (who was the Station Master of the Overland Telegraph Station) and developed his interest in anthropology. As is well known, the two became friends as well as working colleagues. Spencer was a keen photographer and was convinced that the new medium of moving pictures could provide a valuable record of traditional customs. In the early 1900's Spencer and Gillen undertook an expedition which recorded, I believe for the first time, on film and phonograph cylinders, information about indigenous ceremonies in northern and central Australia. Some of Spencer's scientific publications were also illustrated with his own watercolours. The Spencer Hill area has held a special place in the affections of the town's residents for a long time. I have been told that it was the site of Alice Springs' first golf course in 1933. Local golf enthusiasts established a nine-hole course between the Todd River and Spencer Hill and put up a small shelter to act as their club house. I also recall the establishment of a group called the Spencer Hill Preservation Group in the early 80's. The group was formed after a town planning proposal by the then Dept. of Lands and Housing for the area to be rezoned for low-density housing. Jim Robertson, who was Minister for Lands at the time, postponed making a decision on the condition that the group developed a Plan of Management. A comprehensive five year plan was developed which included having the park reserved. Listed in the plan also were about fifty different species of bird life and 63 plant species found in the Park. It would be interesting to know if there has been any follow-up on species since that time. There are many beautiful wild flowers and shrubs in bloom especially around the foothills area at the moment. However, the valley floor has become overtaken with buffle grass to the detriment of other plants. Perhaps the Dept. of Lands, Planning and Environment could assist with some rehabilitation. The current Spencer Hill Playground and Park Redevelopment Project is a joint effort between Eastside Residents and the Town Council. The Town Council have provided a grant of $5750 to assist with buying of materials and hiring of equipment, and work is planned over a twelve month period. Students from the Centre of Appropriate Technology will also be assisting with the building of a shelter during the coming term. The dedicated group of helpers who turned up last Sunday, including the dozen children who came to build a BMX track, did a great job. Their efforts continue the work of the Spencer Hill Preservation Group and will provide an enjoyable recreational area for visitors and locals alike.


The NT Government has no powers to prevent miners and transport operators from selling sand contaminated with the declared noxious weed, Mexican Poppy, according to a spokesman for Lands Minister Mick Palmer.The weed has taken over several rivers in The Centre, including sections of the Todd and Roe creeks.However, sand mining is continuing, and according to the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) in Alice Springs, truckloads of river sand carted to buyers throughout Central Australia have spread the infestation.The spokesman says the Noxious Weeds Act 1994 requires transporters of cattle and fodder, but not of sand, to observe precautions against spreading of weeds.He says the extractive industry will be holding a forum soon to "address" the problem. However, until the Act is amended - most likely in the near future - the government has no powers to stop the mining."Pulling the pin on sand mining would be a quick way into the courts for us," says the spokesman."It's better to cooperate with the industry rather than closing it down."We're happy with the approach they are taking."He says the industry in The Centre is likely to formulate a code of practice similar to one operating in the Top End.Meanwhile ALEC's Deborah Metters says the noxious weed is being introduced deliberately around the NT and interstate, in a "seemingly unregulated and flagrant spreading of seeds".She says infested sand from the Todd, Charles and Finke rivers plus Pioneer, Roe, Ormiston and Jesse creeks "is being distributed around the Territory from Daly River, up the Tanami, down to Uluru and Watarrka (King's Canyon), and even across the border into the Georgina River catchment in Queensland."Recent government and interest group meetings have agreed that the spread of Mexican Poppy should be curbed, but in reality nothing has been done to stop the spread of Mexican Poppy laden sand," says Ms Metters."The NT Weeds Management Bill may take another two years before it is passed, by then the horse will have well and truly bolted and Mexican Poppy will be widespread across the Territory. "There has been a united call for a long-term strategy for Mexican Poppy control, which is an encouraging and necessary project."However, whilst a strategy is being written there also need to be several immediate actions. "Firstly, there must be a ban on infected sand distribution to locations that are known to be free of Mexican Poppy. "Secondly, suppliers and distributors must be supported in accurately informing consumers of weed infected sand. "All infected sand should be clearly labelled with information about weed control. "Finally, there must be a broad public awareness campaign about the life and control of Mexican Poppy."Ms Metters says Mexican Poppy's introduction into Central Australia is well documented, and it is unfortunate that its control was not taken seriously enough when it could have actually worked, for it is now well established around Alice Springs. "Right now we could all be working towards restricting its spread, but instead, its spread is being deliberately encouraged in river sand. "Mexican Poppies can be seen growing in landscaped sites around town from using infected river sand, and this same sand is being carted to poppy free areas. "It is an absurd situation," says Ms Metters."The Mexican poppy Management Plan, a document written in April 1998 by Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries (DPIF), clearly states that DPIF are committed to consultations with Department of Mines and Energy and sand extractors to ensure that only sand free of Mexican poppy seeds is to be mined and transported. "ALEC hopes that these negotiations are moving along quickly despite the lack of resources for the Weeds Officers in Central Australia. "Responsibility for Mexican Poppy lies not only with government agencies to stop its vagrant distribution, but also with the public to report new infestations to the weeds officers and to personally become informed when purchasing infested sand and control techniques," says Ms Metters.She claims in 1997, the Iwupataka pipeline west of Alice Springs was laid in sand mined from Roe Creek. Subsequently, the Department of Lands Planning and Environment "have created a whole new project for themselves in monitoring and controlling the inevitable Mexican Poppy populations along this pipeline. "The pipeline saga is a perfect example of unfortunate lack of fore planning which has resulted in government staff and dedicated members of the public having a huge task ahead of them to control another outbreak."Weedbuster Week (October 11-18) is the perfect chance for the public to get involved in helping stop the spread of Sheda Grass at Ilparpa, and continuing the control of Mexican Poppy in the Todd River.Further information on Mexican Poppy or Weedbuster Week is available from Ms Metters on 8952 2497.

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