March 3, 1999


Bores are running dry at the western end of Ilparpa Road, and some people there are already having to truck in water for their basic needs.Meanwhile, the Power and Water Authority (PAWA) wants $2.2 million to connect the area to the town water supply.The blocks of the White Gums area, generally referred to now as the Wanngardi Estate, were developed in the early 1980s, before the Ilparpa Estate was built, on the understanding that they would rely on bore water for their needs. Their underground water is fed by the watercourse through Honeymoon Gap, Roe Creek. The creek hasn't actually flowed since 1997 and, with increased numbers of people living in the area, the demands on the bore water have grown as the supply has diminished.There are only 25 blocks in the subdivision but many blocks are around 20 acres and have multiple families living on them. How many people live there is unclear but the area includes two caravan parks. Many properties, including the caravan parks, have instituted informal water restrictions to make their supplies last.The subterranean water is spread unevenly in the area so some properties are worse off than others. On top of that many bores are almost 20 years old and need replacement. At the cost of $5000 to $10,000 to sink a new bore and no guarantee that the water will last, many property owners are unsure of what to do.Wayne Woodberry told a meeting of property owners last Sunday: "My block has simply got no water, my bore is finished. I have done everything to get it flowing again. I've dropped it down, I've had it blown out, I've put a submersible pump down, there is simply no water there. "I have spent about six grand up till now. I spent all day yesterday bringing water out in a truck. I have got the option of sinking another bore but there is no guarantee that it is going to work. There is no guarantee that there is a better flow underneath there until Roe Creek flows again. [When that will be] is anybody's guess. It's going to be an ongoing problem."I have got people living on my block with young children, and if there is no water they can't flush toilets or bathe. They have to be really careful with it. The water I brought out yesterday hopefully will last six weeks and then I've got to do it again. There is a swimming pool that's empty, there's no vegetation, nothing is getting watered."Dawn Grey bought her block in 1980. She says development of the area was opposed by the town council but approved by the Planning Authority on the basis that bore water was available.Later the town council was again overridden by the NT Government which authorised the development of the Ilparpa Estate closer to the Stuart Highway. The Ilparpa Estate is connected to the town water supply but, as more people have moved there, the pipes are proving inadequate and residents are experiencing water pressure problems. The government is about to spend around $200,000 putting in a booster pump to service the estate.There were already concerns about the Wanngardi bore water when the Ilparpa estate was approved. Mrs Grey says her then husband lobbied PAWA to extend the town water supply another four kilometres from the Ilparpa Estate, but this was rejected. This would ultimately have been the cheapest option but would have required bigger pipes and boosters being put in, in the first place. Now the price tag on the pipe to Wanngardi Estate is $2.2 m because all the pipes servicing Ilparpa back to the highway would have to be dug up and enlarged to provide enough volume and pressure to go the extra distance.Back in the early 1990s a $3m pipeline funded by ATSIC was built on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges, out west to the Aboriginal Land Trust properties around Jay Creek. While the pipe runs past Honeymoon Gap, PAWA staff say the cost of re-engineering it to service the Wanngardi Estate would be even more expensive than the Ilparpa option.Member for MacDonnell, John Elferink, convened last Sunday's meeting to discuss the issue with land holders and will chair another this Sunday at 10 am at the Wanngardi Caravan Park. It is hoped a committee will be formed to lobby the Minister for Essential Services, Barry Coulter, in person in a couple of weeks.In a letter to Mr Elferink, Mr Coulter points out that "the nature of the ground water supply was widely known at the time that the subdivisions proceeded, and blocks were purchased on that basis"."The Power and Water Authority holds the view that it is reasonable that the costs for provision of a reticulated water supply to the White Gums area must be substantially borne by the land holders rather than subsidised by existing customers."The minister offers that the land holders can jointly build the pipeline or each pay a proportion of the $2.2 m cost. He points out that one consideration for land holders will be "the enhancement of property values from such a connection to reticulated water supply". It seems the land holders are not going to get something for nothing from the government. They face some difficult choices in the near future unless Roe Creek runs again soon.


Now that the Northern Territory Government has revised its October 1997 decision to bulldoze the old Alice Springs Gaol, it is probably opportune to reflect on how and why Alice Springs and Central Australia ended up with that part of its heritage otherwise known as the built environment.To paraphrase Professor Julius Sumner Miller - "Why is it so?"Every time there is a confrontation over the loss of yet another "old building", there are some complaints that Alice Springs is losing its character, its uniqueness, or whatever one chooses to call it. That is all very well, but what is this "character"? Its meaning seems never to have been defined.Alice Springs, or Stuart Town, never had the grand banking chambers, the cathedrals, the magnificent libraries or the town halls of other rural or outback towns or cities. Nor was there the cultural heritage that flows from these things. It may be stating the obvious, but to have these things you need natural resources, wealth, people and access to markets. Until the relatively recent boom in the tourism industry, there were none of these things at least not on a sufficient scale.The pastoral industry never did provide substantial wealth, and it never will. In Central Australia the industry has almost always been based on relatively small family operations. To this day the industry here has never had its Sir Thomas Elders or its Sir Sydney Kidmans. There are no pastoral barons with their vast estates and legacy of stately homesteads. Consequently the large pastoral firms of Dalgetys, Elders GM and so on, never had any reason to establish themselves in impressive chambers within the town.Similarly with the mining industry.The rubies in the East MacDonnells turned out to be worthless garnets; Arltunga was small beer and short-lived; as was the Winnecke Goldfield; the Harts Range mica fields and so on. The evidence is out there in the bush at these places. Small huts, usually built of local materials, sufficient just to shelter the miners for as long as was necessary. No large mines with their impressive pit heads and other structures. And consequently there is nothing in the town, and never was, to show for it.The other other "industry" of note was government the bureaucracy. It was the first, in the form of the Overland Telegraph Line and its associated infrastructure, to make its presence felt. Then came law and order the police. Finally, much later, from about the time when the "state" of Central Australia was formed came government administration. Up until then it had been largely remote control from Adelaide, Canberra or Darwin. Not that that really changed much!But none of this was ever on a grand scale. There never were the resources, the wealth or the people to leave us with a legacy of grand architecture or large scale infrastructure and the things that might flow from these.Instead our heritage the legacy left to us from previous generations is modest, it's simple, it's often scattered and far-flung, and can be easily overlooked or dismissed by those who do not understand it.And it is this simplicity, this unpretentious nature, that makes it difficult for many to understand why we need to keep it or even want to! We don't have cathedrals instead we have the old Catholic Church or the old Lutheran Church, both made from cement bricks, not from Hawkesbury sandstone. We don't have a Government House we have The Residency, also made from cement bricks. We don't have impressive mansions we had Turner House, we have the Alice Bazaar. We don't have the large shopping emporiums we had Marron's Newsagency, we have Tunk's Store. We don't have a GPO we have the old Post Office now the PINTS Club (which has a cloud hanging over it). We don't have precincts like those in Toorak or St. Ives we have the Alice Springs Heritage Precinct.Thankfully we do have some buildings with character left from a bygone age. The Alice Springs Telegraph Station, Heavitree Gap Police Station, Stuart Town Gaol and Adelaide House. All built from stone and all, except the latter, built by government. More "recent" examples, apart from those already mentioned, are the old Courthouse, the Railway Cottages, the RFDS Base, the old Pioneer Theatre and so on.These are some of the things which give "character" to the built environment of Alice Springs. These are some of the things remaining from yesteryear they are usually modest in size and scale, architecturally plain and not necessarily "nice" or "beautiful". There are more, we have lost many, no doubt we will lose some others. Many have been swamped by modern development, several have adapted successfully for current use.What of the future? Ask yourself what is there of the development of the past 20 or 30 years or so that you would hope will be retained as an example of "today's heritage". It's a difficult question to answer. It could well be that future generations may decide to keep one of the 1980s "greed-is-good" structures as an outstanding example of its type. What will that say of Alice Springs of the last two decades of the twentieth century?


At the next Territory election over 600 people in the seat of MacDonnell, currently held by John Elferink for the Country Liberal Party, will find themselves in a new electorate.According to the latest figures from the Northern Territory Electoral Commission, by June 2000 MacDonnell will be about 13 per cent above average, the biggest population increase in Central Australia since the last election.This has been mainly due to growth of the Ilparpa Road population, south of Heavitree Gap. Late this year the Electoral Commission will start the process of redrawing the electorate boundaries ready for the next Territory election to be held by late 2001.The Commission may chose to keep people in the Alice Springs rural area south of the range in MacDonnell, or transfer them in to an Alice Springs centred seat. Currently MacDonnell includes Yulara and communities across to the South Australian, Queensland and West Australian borders. The seat of Stuart, held for Labor by Peter Toyne, will be seven per cent below the average electorate next year, so it needs more people. Moving the boundary south to include more Aboriginal communities would maintain Mr Elferink's support base in the Alice Springs rural area. The three town seats, all held for the CLP, are all slightly larger than average. Eric Poole's seat of Araluen will be almost six per cent above average, or needing to lose about 270 people. Loraine Braham's seat of Braitling and Richard Lim's seat of Greatorex will both be about three per cent above average by June next year.The average size of an electorate is currently about 4300 enrolled voters. Due to the small number of voters in each NT electorate, compared to state or Commonwealth seats, there tend to be more extensive redrawing of electorate boundaries at each re-distribution. Relatively small population movements within towns or between communities produce uneven growth between electorates.Some people caught unaware of the latest boundary changes go to the wrong polling booth and find it more difficult to vote in NT elections at a polling booth outside their own electorate.After rounds of public consultation and submissions from individuals and political parties, the decision on boundaries is made by the NT Electoral Commission which is still part of the Chief Minister's Department. All states and the Commonwealth have independent electoral offices.The NT Electoral Commission draws the new boundaries trying to even up the electorates and keep communities with similar interests together. A maximum 20 per cent variation between electorates is allowed when the boundaries are redistributed.The growth in Alice Springs is sluggish compared to Darwin. In the whole of the Territory the fastest growing areas are Port Darwin and Palmerston .By June next year Chief Minister Denis Burke's seat of Brennan in Palmerston will be the largest electorate. It will have more than twice as many people as the average electorate, 118 per cent above average. Palmerston is booming with new suburbs released and many military families recently arrived in the Top End now living there.The electorate most likely to have a by-election, Shane Stone's seat of Port Darwin, will be the second largest seat at 56 per cent larger than average. The growth there is largely due to the development of Cullen Bay and Bayview Haven.


Sir, Up until the 11th of December, I was the President of the Yipirinya School Council, Inc. On the 8th of December there was a meeting of the school council about the issue of the bilingual program. I resigned as President over the issue of the bilingual program.The reason that I have resigned is that I don't believe that education in Aboriginal languages in schools should be done. This is because education of Aboriginal children in the traditional way is a job for the relatives. The work of grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles and aunties is where the cultural education should come from. The stories of Aboriginal people are the work of families who have to teach their children about the Aboriginal ways. The stories for Arrernte people are different for Pitjantjatjara people. If the kids were going to learn different stories of other Aboriginal groups then the stories won't be with the right people. If a school was going to teach these stories they would not be achieving the cultural aims that they are after because if a Warlpiri kid knows a Pitjantjatjara story then it is not right.Only the relatives of the children know the right stories about their country. Language and the stories of Aboriginal people are together and they cannot be separated. The Aboriginal way is telling stories and keeping it in their heads. Not writing it down because the relatives have to tell the story. If the school wants to protect the Aboriginal culture then it has to let Aboriginal culture be taught in the traditional Aboriginal way and that means that it has to be told to the kids in language by the relatives. If a family wants to write down a story then that's their business, but it is not a school that should decide that. It's the family's decision, not a school.I don't think that those stories could be taught in a school because the teachers may not know the right stories for the kids. What school should be doing is giving an education in the non-Aboriginal way. Kids learn to speak their Aboriginal languages at home. They speak it all the time with their family and friends. What they need is good English so they can work with non-Aboriginal people in the future. I care very much about the future of all people who live in Alice Springs and the Northern Territory. If we spend too much time worrying about the past the nothing will ever get done.I know that Aboriginal culture will be strong in the future. What I also know is that if Aboriginal kids don't learn how to talk English properly then they will not be able to get on with non-Aboriginal people in the future. Aboriginal culture will not suffer because of talking English in school. But I think that Aboriginal kids will suffer if they do not have a good understanding of both ways.So, as a traditional owner for the North and South Petermann Ranges area, I don't agree with your article in last week's Alice Springs News, and certainly not all "Bush Elders" support the bilingual program.
Davey Inkamala
Alice Springs

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