December 4, 2002.


The Government has rejected an application by former wine maker Denis Hornsby to subdivide his five hectare winery into three lots.
This was done on the grounds that the size of one lot would have been in contravention of the statutory minimum block size of two hectares in the area.
"We have to show as a government that we are holding to the planning provisions without exception," says Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne.
It was the latest of a string of land development schemes by Mr Hornsby in conflict with planning principles for the area. Several schemes were approved under the previous government, despite determined campaigns by local residents.
The decision this week, which blocks a Development Consent Authority resolution to allow the development, has been warmly welcomed by the MLA for the area, the CLP's John Elferink, and by Rod Cramer, the chairman of the Alice Springs Rural Areas Association Inc (ASRAA).
Its members have campaigned for more than10 years to safeguard the block sizes.
Says Mr Elferink: "This is an example of where strong submissions to the Minister by residents seem to have taken an effect.
"It is gratifying to see the Minister has taken notice and has been listening to the overwhelming opinion of local residents."
Mr Elferink says he spoke to Lands Minister Kon Vatskalis during last week's Parliamentary sittings, urging him to block the issue of a development permit.
Says Mr Cramer: "Our members are pleased with this decision as they are sick and tired of having to defend their chosen lifestyle in such a manner.
"It is the type of bold decision that people not only in the rural area have been looking for over many years in relation to zoning.
"Hopefully this is the start of a new chapter in planning issues in the NT.
"The association looks forward to, and encourages everyone to take part in, the review of the Planning Act and the drafting of a new NT Planning Scheme, for which public comment will be sought early in the new year."
The application by Mr Hornsby was initially for four blocks. ASRAA and 18 other objectors made submissions to the authority Ð not unlike hundreds of objections lodged against Mr Hornsby's schemes in the past, principally on the grounds of block sizes.
The authority says 14 submissions of support were received but declined to give the public access to them.
Without public consultation and meeting behind closed doors, the authority later resolved to modify the application and allow three blocks Ð two of two hecatres each and one of one hectare.
No permit had been issued by early this week because it required the signature of authority chairman, John Pinney, who was overseas.
While the authority may decide such applications, the Lands Minister has the power to revoke permits granted by the Development Consent Authority, or he may issue directions to it.
As it turned out, no permit had yet been issued when the government made its decision early this week in the wake of a fax and email campaign by residents.
Except for David Koch, who said he supported the three-blocks model, the members of the authority were coy about their positions.
Jenny Mostran would not disclose how she voted.
John McBride said: "It is appropriate for the chairman to make any public comment on any decision made or deliberations by the authority."David Cloke said: "I don't think that should be public knowledge. It is a decision made by the committee."
Mr Elferink welcomed the planning reviews due to be held next year, but he cautioned that the NT had a lot to catch up on when it came to public influence over government decisions.
Says Mr Elferink: "The NT has no established review process other than common law which it quite restrictive.
"It's difficult, time consuming, stressful and usually expensive.
"There are laws in parts of the nation which are not reflected in the NT at all.
"Other jurisdictions provide for accessible reviews of government decisions.
"We don't have them in the NT yet Ð and we should."
Mr Hornsby did not respond to an invitation by the Alice Springs News to provide a comment.
[Declaration of interest: The author of this article is a rural resident, a long time member of the ASRAA and an objector to the application.]


"The further we go with juvenile diversion, the more we are finding out about the things that impact on young people that cause them to re-offend.
"There's no big surprises Ð it's housing, health and education, just like all the reports have been saying for years.
"We've now come to the same conclusion."
This is Senior Sergeant Kym Davies talking, officer in charge of the Juvenile Diversion Unit (JDU) in Alice Springs.
Readers will recall that the $5m that kick-started this program was the pay-off to critics of mandatory sentencing for the Commonwealth's tolerance of the regime under the former CLP Territory Government.
Juvenile diversion began to function in September 2000.
Under Labor mandatory sentencing has gone, but juvenile diversion looks set to stay, with records showing that young people going through diversion are half as likely to re-offend as those going through the courts.
The program, on a case by case basis, tries to put "accountability and responsibility" into young people's lives and into arrangements for looking after them.
Says Sgt Davies: "We do find a lot of young people are coming to us with parents or guardians, but they are not really being looked after in a way we would think adequate.
"For instance, there is a grandmother living in one of the town camps, she's really getting on in years now, and she has 12 to 25 young people in her care, supposedly looking after them on her pension.
"You have to ask yourself how they are even being fed."
The majority of offences committed by juveniles are not at the serious end of the scale. Serious offences, including homicide and exceeding .08 while driving, are excluded from diversion.
Juveniles with an extensive criminal history may also be excluded.
For diversion to be offered the police investigation of the offence has to reach the point where they would otherwise proceed to prosecution.
The young person needs to agree to diversion, as do their parents or guardians and the police.
"Basically, if they agree, then we agree," says Sgt Davies.
Diversion often but not always starts with a conference between the victim, the young person, their family members and police. The idea is for the young person to get an idea of how their offence has impacted on the victim. It also offers the occasion to apologise.
A case management team assesses the young person, looking for the factors that may have lead them towards offending.
The diversion program that is put in place attempts to do something about those factors.
In the first 18 months of diversion's operation there were 2196 apprehensions in the Territory. Another six months has brought this figure to 2922, of whom 526 or 18 per cent were apprehended in Alice Springs.
In the first 18 months 74 per cent were offered diversion; after 24 months this proportion had dropped to 66 per cent.
Sgt Davies says JDU have observed a rise in serious crime which may explain this decrease in diversion offers.
In 24 months six per cent have declined the offer of diversion, choosing instead to go through the courts, but 1814 received diversion with 88 per cent completing their program and only two per cent failing.
About 10 per cent of the diversions are on-going, so these figures could vary slightly in the future. The proportions for Alice Springs are consistent with the Territory figures, give or take a percentage point.
Overall appearances in court by juveniles reduced by 31 per cent in first 12 months; convictions reduced by 51 per cent.
Some 80 per cent of juvenile offenders are male, which is in line with adult offenders, says Sgt Davies.
Sixty per cent are Indigenous.
Case studies provided by Sgt Davies give some insight into how diversion is achieved.
One tells of an intoxicated non-Indigenous 16-year-old youth who responded to a disturbance outside his home by producing a weapon and threatening several neighbours. The police were called.
The youth was already known to police.
His parents had separated when he was very young; one had since passed away and the other had entered a new relationship that was resented by the youth.
He was given to violent outbursts and bouts of binge drinking which brought him constantly into conflict with family, peers and the police.
He was hostile during conference assessment and showed no remorse. He was offered a two-month anger management program that he attended under sufferance.
Fortunately, a good rapport developed between him and his counsellor; the young man was able to work through some of the emotional issues that had been with him for years.
As the program ran its course he stayed on in his full-time job with the knowledge and support of his workmates. His counsellor spoke highly of him and his completion of the program.
He has yet to resolve his difficulties with his family, but he has access to other people he now accepts as being part of his support system.
He has not re-offended nor come to police notice since completing the program.
NEXT: Booze blues.


Central Australian cattle producers can look forward to a bonanza if the drought breaks in the southern states early next year, in line with previous weather patterns.
This would mean growers, who had been forced by the dry spell to sell much of their herds, will hang on to their stock and fatten it up.
This drop in supply will create opportunities for Territory pastoralists.
"Prices tend to go up very sharply when a big drought breaks," says Terry Sheales, of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE).
"There will definitely be a lot fewer good cattle around," creating opportunities for cattlemen in The Centre not hit by the recent bushfires.
"Their stock will be in better condition than most people's," says Mr Sheales who will speak at an ABARE regional outlook conference in Alice Springs tomorrow.
He says there is hope the drought in the southern part of the continent will break with "decent rain, not the odd shower" in March or April next year. "That's fairly typical of what's happened in previous droughts."
But Mr Sheales says the general outlook for the beef industry is not bright.
The poor Japanese market, US beef quotas, slowing of the live cattle trade and the eastern states drought are combining to push down cattle prices.
The discovery of mad cow disease "hit demand very severely in Japan about this time last year.
"Demand for our beef is recovering there but only very slowly," says Mr Sheales.
With import restrictions in the US, quotas have now been filled two years in a row "and are likely to come into play next year as well".
In the near term, the Australian government's trade negotiations with the US are "unlikely" to achieve a better deal.
But long term, the beef industry in The Centre is on a strong footing, says Mr Sheales.
"You have a comparative advantage in turning off stock raised on pasture at relatively low cost.
"Growers in Central Australia continue to make money regardless of what prices do."
He says it's different for higher cost operators in the eastern part of the country: "When prices drop to a certain level, they can't make money out of cattle.
"For example, they are looking at higher land values which gives them a higher cost base" making it harder to "cope with the ups and downs of the market.
"The industry in Central Australia seems to be much better set to deal with this than parts of Australia where there are competing uses of the land, such as growing crops or running sheep.
"When returns from cattle are not competitive producers will shift over.
"The beauty of the cattle industry in Central Australia is that it's basically a very low cost operation."
Mr Sheales says demand for organic beef Ð and the pasture grazing herd in The Centre falls entirely into that category Ð is still small.
However, a group of cattle producers around Birdsville have a marketing program for organic beef and "appear to be doing fairly well out of that".
But so far organic beef remains "pretty much a niche market as are much of the other agricultural products.
"It's reputed to be lucrative but it's a market difficult to service."


Around 100 Alice Springs residents rallied for peace on the council lawns last Saturday morning, as similar actions got underway in centres around the country, the largest in Sydney with some 15,000 participants.
"War is not the answer" with special reference to Iraq, was the theme of the rallies.
In Alice, organisers had worked to establish a "Network for Peace", with representation from the Christian churches, and the Alice Springs mosque, as well as Indigenous and community groups.
From the churches Catholic priest Pat Mullins addressed the crowd. The Imam was expected to attend but did not.
Fr Mullins spoke of the Christian concept of a "just war", which he said had been around since the third or fourth century.
He argued that a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, let alone an invasion, would offend against just war principles, as such action could not be considered defensive and it would not be "proportionate".
Saddam Hussein may be one of "the creeps of the plant", said Fr Mullins, but the negative consequences of an invasion vastly outweigh what good might be achieved.
He said there would be no peace in the world without justice, that justice is what our governments should work towards, not only towards what is perceived as our "self-interest".
Senior Arrernte woman Rosalie Riley spoke from an Indigenous perspective, accusing the Howard Government of preying on people's fears of the unknown.
She argued that they had won their first election by preying on racist attitudes towards Indigenous people; their second election by preying on fear of Muslims.Australia already has war in its own society, said Mrs Riley, and we should clean up "our own mess" by working towards reconciliation.
Glenn Marshall from the Arid Lands Environment Centre outlined the long-term environmental damage caused by the Gulf War. It includes some 300 oil lakes that still, more than a decade later, lie on the land, the result of the Iraqis having set fire to some 700 oil wells in Kuwait.
On the other side of the ledger, the destruction of most of Iraq's power and water supplies by the allies was not only against the Geneva Convention, which prohibits attacks on basic infrastructure, but has had devastating consequences for the Iraqi population, said Mr Marshall.
Drinking water volumes are still half of what they were before the war, which has contributed to the deaths of some 100,000 people, 70 per cent of them children.
Dr Ofra Fried from the Medical Association for the Prevention of war referred to a report titled "Collateral Damage", by the association's sister organisation in the UK, Medact.
That report reveals that civilians are increasingly the casualties in war. In the First World War, 14 per cent of deaths were civilian. In the Second World War, the proportion climbed to two thirds and in the wars of the Ônineties, civilian deaths accounted for about 90 per cent.
The report predicts a minimum of 50,000 deaths in an attack on Iraq, climbing to four million in the case of a nuclear strike: "The majority would be civilians," sad Dr Fried.
The rally also heard from local poets Carmel Williams and Jacquie Chlanda; the Alice Springs A Cappella Singing Group; the Alice Springs Human Rights Group; Women in Black (who maintain silent vigil for peace at the Todd Mall markets); and from Lingiari MHR, Warren Snowdon.
Mr Snowdon spoke decisively: "No argument legitimises pre-emptive action against Iraq."
He warned of the dangers of member nations (a "Coalition of the Willing") moving outside the UN framework for the governance of international relations.
He urged Australians to "be careful not to vilify groups within our own community" and to be vigilant about the protection of our own civil liberties, referring to anti-terrorism legislation currently before the parliament.


Barbara Neck was recognised last week for her work with the Cancer Council NT by being named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of Alice Springs.The Paul Harris Fellowship is an international award by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International and is named in honour of the man who founded Rotary in 1905, Paul Harris, a Chicago attorney.In describing Mrs Neck's achievements, Rotary president Rohan Richards said that during her eight years with the Cancer Council, Mrs Neck has gone from sharing a desk with another organisation coordinator to organising fundraising events such as the Drive-In Movie Night and the Baby Boomers Ball.Mr Richards said also that Mrs Neck had been instrumental in setting up the Patients Assistance Scheme in Alice Springs."In recognition and appreciation of your contributions to the community, the Rotary Club of Alice Springs is pleased to name you a Paul Harris Fellow as your work has also contributed to the peace, goodwill, and understanding among people which is the ideal of Rotary and the Rotary Foundation," Mr Richards said.An individual is named a Paul Harris Fellow when they contribute, or on whose behalf is contributed, $1000 (US) or equivalent to the Rotary Foundation in any one year.The recipient receives a medal, lapel pin, and a certificate.Funds from the Rotary Foundation are used for a number of programs including the Polio Plus campaign which aims to eradicate poliomyelitus plus other infectious diseases of childhood by the year 2005.By April 1996 the number of Paul Harris Fellows throughout the world exceeded 500,000 including the Pope, Michail Gorbachev, the Duke of Edinburgh and Mother Teresa.In Australia more than 16,000 people have been named Paul Harris Fellows.In the 42-year history of the Rotary Club of Alice Springs only 18 Paul Harris Fellows have been named and Mrs Neck is only the fourth non-Rotarian to be so honoured.
In accepting her award, Mrs Neck said she knew the money which had been donated in her name would go to a number of worthwhile causes, including the Polio Plus program.She also said her work would not have been possible without the dedication of many volunteers and that, with the exception of Daffodil Day and the Greatest Morning Tea events, all funds raised in Alice Springs had stayed here."The Drive-In Movie Night was an Ôunknown','" Mrs Neck said."I did not know if anyone would show up or not but by 7.30pm of the first night, the place was full and the second night was just as good."As for the Patients Assistance Scheme, it helped with travel expenses for those who needed to travel interstate for care."And funds raised locally, stayed locally."Earlier in the evening, Colin Hutchieson, Rotary Club of Alice Springs' International Service Director, had spoken on the Rotary Foundation and its history."Rotary's mission for world understanding and peace remains as focused today as when Paul Harris founded Rotary almost a century ago," Mr Hutchieson said.

Remembering why we live in our dramatic centre. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

The Centre is always offering up the unusual, which makes life in Alice Springs exciting and dramatic. Lately, whenever friends have visited, it has rained.Looking back at photos, it rained a lot through 2001 Ð it rained mid-year when Dad and sis were over from New Zealand, Zimbabweans, Janice and Peter saw a damp Red (green?) Centre in May and South African visitors also experienced a wet Alice.Last week, David's niece, Jenni and her fiancŽ, Dan, both from London, joined us here, on their first trip to Oz, after spending about two weeks sight-seeing around the east coast.
The highlight, until they touched Alice (obviously) was a few days sailing around the Whitsunday's on a 55 foot ketch, Indulgence.Sunday was spent the way Sundays should be spent - relaxing, walking around the markets, admiring the Christmas decorations strung up around our sails, chatting to friends and enjoying lunch al fresco as we watched dark billowing clouds cover blue skies: in true tropical style, the heavens opened up early evening.
The weatherman had promised a lot more of that much needed rain when the tour leader arrived bright and early the next day to take Jenni and Dan out bush. It was with total relief that I went back to bed for an hour or so knowing that the vehicle transporting them, and others, was a four wheel drive.They had an incredible trip, a bit sodden underfoot, but that didn't stop them climbing all around Kings Canyon, Uluru and Kata Tjuta: a great outback experience.
We are privileged to live in such breathtaking surroundings.On Wednesday Alice Springs woke to an absolutely brilliant day, sunny, after a night of torrential rain, and there it was, the Todd in flow, not in "flood", not quite a banker, but better than a trickle - enough to dampen the dust, put out the bush fires and entice the photographer, which is inside everyone, to get out there and capture that special shot of swirling muddy waters with the "Road Closed" sign in the foreground.
David and I took our visitors to the Alice Springs Cultural Precinct, proud winner of its second Brolga award, before heading to Standley Chasm Ð charred tracts of land either side of the highway have created a barren lunar-landscape, stark but spectacular.
The brumbies, in excellent condition, were enjoying a paddle road-side and snacking on fresh blades of grass. The trees will take a lot longer to regenerate, as we know.
The drive out is always peaceful.
Jenni and Dan would like to come back sometime and they've promised to promote our unique part of the world. Everything impactedÉ the expansive countryside, enormous skies, the intensity of the rain and the storms, and the sunny days after and our incredible light.We repeated the Alice adage: 'see the Todd flow once and you'll come back, three times and you may never leaveÉ'. They've seen enough to entice, and it now looks as though they're destined to return.
Every so often, when the biorhythms are at the nadir, I find it beneficial to re-affirm the reasons we choose to live here Ð a deep breath, a few moments of calm, a look at our clear blue skies, the sunshine and our magnificent MacDonnell's, and the magic begins all over again.

And now it's time for the (wrong) local news. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Stand on the eastern shores of Australia with someone under ten and you have an opportunity to sound worldly and wise.
For some of us, whose best attempt at insight is to predict the weather, this is the only chance we get. Gazing to the sea horizon, you can say: ÔOut there, son, is another continent'.
The child alongside you will become wide-eyed and imagine what it must be like in the mythical land of the Americas.
If this proves successful, then it is worth turning around to face inland.
Then say something like: ÔImagine the vastness of the Outback which stretches all the way to Alice Springs'.
By this time, your angelic offspring may already be looking for the nearest Red Rooster, so best not to overdo it.
When talking about the Americas, most children might be expected to experience a mild shudder of excitement at the thought of Aztecs and Amazons. But most kids are brought up to think that there is only one America; the northern version.
So rather than mountain panthers and Indigenous forest peoples, they would disembark from a trans-Pacific raft and expect to meet a character from Nickelodeon.
I think we should blame someone for this and it shouldn't be parents.
Okay, it can be parents so long as it's not me. But to avoid an argument, let's just blame the media and the politicians.
After all, American culture came ashore some time ago and nobody sent it to Nauru.
Our politicians become weak at the knees wherever they sight a US Under-Secretary of Something or Other.
And there is a steady increase in North American references in our newspapers, radio programs and television, even here in the Centre.
I heard a radio story the other day about a policeman from Michigan who gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a chihuahua, complete with an interview (with the man, not the dog).
And there was the man in Alabama who forced himself to go five nights without sleep and went half-crazy. The report had footage of him snoring afterwards.
Another day, there were details of some neighbourhood dispute in a suburb of Albuquerque.
Surely this happens all the time in Larapinta? Maybe not, but why do we need US local news piped to us in the Alice?It's as if the other America doesn't exist.
So, dear readers, just for the length of time that it takes to read this column, gaze straight out across the bush to the east past Undoolya and ponder the richness of Latin America.
Take Mexico for a start. There was a movie released last year called ÔLove's a bitch'. Still available in the video shops of Alice Springs and a vicious depiction of the poverty, crime and deception of urban life, it makes ÔPulp Fiction' look like a wet day on St. Kilda Pier.
In the same country, a coffee table book was recently published about the poor taste of extravagantly wealthy Mexican women. It featured glossy pictures of people cavorting on bedspreads dressed as zebras.
No, I didn't understand it either, but this is one extreme of a Latin American country.
While at the other extreme, there remain isolated peoples in the mountain interior, living a traditional life that has changed little in centuries.
I saw a documentary where a tribesman was asked what was the absolute most important aspect of his life. ÔGoat dung' he replied, Ôbecause it fertilises the soil in which we grow corn'.
And let's not forget salsa. Those swinging hips that we uptight people stand no chance of replicating.
And Cuban cigars, hand-rolled.
Lost mountain cities still being discovered.
The monolithic Catholic church that reaches into every nook and cranny of the whole continent.
In one country, an elected president and his sidekick security chief made off with millions of dollars of the country's money.
Nothing new in that, I hear you say.
But in this case, Fujimori managed to convert himself into a Japanese citizen and Montesinas undertook plastic surgery as a disguise before being caught and returned to Peru.
Do we learn much about this in Australia? No. Do we find out if President Bush's golf buggy breaks down? Yes. I rest my case.
So, to conclude, wouldn't it be refreshing to receive a more balanced view of the Americas.
As for local news from Iowa, please can we less of it. I recently heard a news clip from a mid-western town where a wife went on strike against her husband because he was good-for-nothing.
Big deal.
My wife does this all the time.
But do our equivalents in remote North America hear this on the radio? Do they exchange glances, raise their eyebrows and say ÔGee those crazy Australian people'?
The answer, of course, is no.


How many camels is too many?
It's a question that's got to be asked, as the nation's wild populations of camels grow exponentially.
The current feral camel population in the Territory is estimated at about 200,000. Nationally, the figure is around 600,000 and it's growing at 10 per cent each year.
That means 1.2 million by 2010 and before the population stabilises it could grow to 50 to 60 million.
That's because the camel is the world's animal best adapted to arid environments and in Australia there are no known limiting factors present, such as natural predators or disease.
But with so many camels, there would be "no diversity any more", says German biologist Jurgen Heucke, who, together with Birgit Dorges, has been studying wild camels in Central Australia since 1984.
Says Dr Heucke: "Camels eat between 80 to 90 per cent of the plants which grow in central and arid Australia.
"We found that for most of the plants, with the population at status quo, there have been no serious impacts.
"But the camels start of course with their preferred plant species. You won't eat camp pie if you have steak!
"Some of these preferred plant species are rare, like the quondong. In some places it has gone, on Angas Downs, for example, where there were camels in the Ôseventies and early Ôeighties."
Drs Heucke and Dorges clearly love camels. Their office in Alice Springs is plastered with photos and diagrams and all sorts of camel memorabilia and they speak about what they have learnt with passion.
For instance, in these last wet years in the Centre, they have seen their study group of camels at Newhaven Station (now a Birds Australia sanctuary) change their strategies: they are moving in larger groups, with more than one male looking after several females, and the females calving every year.
In the early years their study was funded by research grants from the University of Braunschweig in northern Germany which awarded them their doctorates, but since 1995 they have had to piece together grants for applied research, mostly from Australian institutions and agencies, in order to keep themselves in the field.Now they think they just about know it all, and they are unequivocal: the unfettered growth of the camel population is environmentally unsustainable.
This is what Parks & Wildlife's Glenn Edwards wants to hear. He's the senior scientist with the Wildlife Management Unit in Alice Springs.
"We are at a crossroads with camels," says Dr Edwards.
"We have to come to grips with how many we have got and decide how many we want to have, which means how many can the environment carry.
"Then we have to decide how we are going to manage them.
"There will be various schools of thought about that, but I think we've already got too many camels and we ought to be doing something to reduce the population.
"We'll have to bite the bullet. If we don't, it will be harder in the future."
All three are agreed that it is not possible to eradicate camels in Australia and Dr Heucke says having some camels is probably good for this environment.
"A certain browsing is good. Trees are healthier than if there's no browsing."
Where they differ is in their approach to control.
Drs Heucke and Dorges, whose work receives some in-kind support from the NT Camel Industry Association and from the Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development, are putting their faith in the camel industry. (See article in last week's Alice News.)
They are confident that if an export abattoirs can be built, the industry would move rapidly towards taking care of population growth and eventually start on reduction.
Dr Edwards does not share that confidence."The problem as I see it is that industry is small. At the moment it's taking some camels (they're predicting between five and 10 thousand in the next 12 months) but that's nowhere near enough. It doesn't even keep a cap on reproduction."
Even with an abattoirs, Dr Edwards sees the industry's move towards holding domestic herds of camels in yards and paddocks, in order to guarantee supply, as undermining the population reduction potential of harvesting wild camels.
He's calling for a realistic prediction of industry growth rates to be part of the debate over the next two years when Parks and Wildlife will be consulting widely with stakeholders about a camel management plan.
"If the industry can't meet expectations, the only other option is to start control by other means, which could mean culling."
The culling of large animals, especially charismatic ones like horses and camels, is always an emotive issue, but Dr Edwards argues that his highly trained staff can do it humanely and effectively.
In the Victoria River district, they have contributed to the significant reduction of the wild horse and donkey population, which had grown to such an extent that for the first time NT legislation was used to declare the VRD a Pest Control Area. That meant that landholders and land managers had to do what was required to reduce the population.
From some 142,000 animals (mainly donkeys but including 50,000 horses) it has been reduced by 100,000, some animals mustered and sold, but the rest culled in a major operation.
Drs Heucke and Dorges accept culling for populations in inaccessible areas but argue that it is far too expensive to be a major part of the solution.
Dr Heucke: "To shoot one camel costs about $42. You have to take out 20,000 camels just to maintain the population at present levels, that is $840,000 per year, every year, just to do that only for the Territory. Nobody can pay that.
"You get between $300 and $400 for a camel, after trucking costs and everything. Only the industry can be the solution. If they get an abattoirs."
The Camel Industry Association's Peter Seidel predicts that it will take two years from the time an abattoirs is built for the industry to start reducing feral camel numbers.
"The demand will be immediate. Being able to meet it will depend on the through-put of the abattoirs, but I predict that we will soon be scratching for animals."
Whatever methods are used in the long run, it will have to be in collaboration with the neighbouring states of Western Australia, where the majority of camels roam, and South Australia whose far north also has hefty populations.
Across the three states, the camels are mostly (about 80 per cent) on Aboriginal lands. Traditional owners are thus key stakeholders.
Without tri-state collaboration, warns Dr Edwards, the Territory would create "a dispersal sink":
"Camels would move from high density areas into our lower density areas to have more space, less competition."
In the meantime, some plant species and water holes can be protected by fencing.
Dr Edwards says Aboriginal people have had some success with fencing waterholes that camels were fouling.
Camels are not greater respecters of the standard cattle station fence but Drs Heucke and Dorges have found the solution: higher fences obviously, with the top strand at about 1.8metres. Dr Dorges: "And you have to make it visible. We tried it out with empty beer cans on the top wire and that worked very well, visible and audible because it is rattling in the wind.
"We have had no breaking of what we call now this camel proof fence."
They have used the fence on Newhaven to enclose a stand of a rare plant, black needlewood.
"This acacia is heavily browsed and there was no regrowth.
"We fenced a stand in, the camels accepted that and now we have new shoots."Our basic idea is to save these rare plants in the interim until there are measures to bring down the camel population."


These days sports people generally grow into their game through the junior ranks, play it at its best in the seniors and then retire to "middle age" activity once the body has started to say "no more".
Too often competitors who take so much from a sport give very little back in their more mature years, preferring to continue as competitors in bowls, or on the golf course.For locally born Jack Oldfield however the road of sports participation has been different. After spending his primary school years in the sedate surroundings of Ross Park and the Eastside, he found himself having to square up to one of life's tragedies in his teenage years when his brother Michael was killed a car accident.
To help overcome the trauma of this loss, Jack took to long distance running. It is through this experience that we have Jack Oldfield, the mountain bike endurance devotee, competitor and administrator of today.
Oldfield expanded his interest from pavement pounding to triathlon during the early 'nineties when Dave Shields, big Tony Quinn and Ross Muir were establishing the neophyte sport in the Centre.
The challenge of the water, cycle and running legs proved to be infectious and provided Jack with the impetus to seek further challenges.
In time they came, one in particular being the Crocodile Trophy, an endurance bike ride that had been conducted from Darwin to Cairns and merely read about in a magazine by Oldfield.
As chance has it however, the organiser of the Crocodile ride, Austrian Gerhard Schoenbacher, was in fact looking for a more eye-catching trail for the Crocodile race and found his way to Alice Springs. The Austrian made contact with a countryman in town, Erwin Chlanda, of the Alice Springs News, and a meeting to publicise the proposal to have the marathon ride start at Kings Canyon and conclude in Cairns was arranged.
Oldfield's imagination was fired up from the meeting as Schoenbacher referred to competitors who were household names in Europe, but simply super stars only seen in glossy magazines here in Australia.
As no Australian had been able to finish the Darwin to Cairns Croc rides Oldfield immediately took up the challenge, finishing twentieth in the Kings Canyon to Cairns ride.
In 1997, Schoenbacher, seeking further exposure for his event, set the race from Alice Springs to Cairns. Once out of the prelude stage in Alice the ride avoided any bitumen and wound its way through Arltunga, across the Plenty, deep into north Queensland before arriving at Karanda and the downhill drop into Cairns.
In Jack's words the course was the ultimate test with competitors relying on skeletal support teams, and often insufficient supplies of food and water.
In such circumstances, life on sections of the Barkly was enough to break the toughest of European spirits. Jack finished that 1997 ride in sixth place and established himself as a regular top 10 place getter in the years following.
Furthermore, in those years Jack found himself invited to international rides in Spain, Egypt, Switzerland, and most recently in Costa Rica.
Besides the thrill of great mountain bike enduros, Oldfield has struck up and cemented firm friendships with the elite of the mountain bike world.
It was on a mateship visit to Jack's homeland in Central Australia that Swiss legend Alfred Thomo planted the idea for a Central Australian Bike Challenge.Thomo was struck by the absolute beauty of our ranges and the challenges the seismic tracks and cattle pads in our locality presented.
But on the home front mountain biking was still in its infancy, having been established by Charlie Lawrence and Oldfield a mere year or two before. Assistance was obviously light on around town to nurture the conduct of an international event, and so the idea remained a mere dream for Thomo and Oldfield.
Enter John Dermody. Dermo has been held in high regard as a sportsman running down the wing in the Ôseventies to a veteran triathlete of the Ônineties, and just as significantly as the master mind of Masters Games' administration.
Few would argue that the procedures in place to guarantee Masters Games' success these days came from John Dermody implementation over a decade ago.
Oldfield and Dermo teamed up as mates on their bikes and no doubt discussed the dream of a Central Australian Bike Challenge as they pushed their two wheeled chariots through the Centralian landscape in the name of training.
From there the two talking heads plotted and pasted together the concept of an international race, which would attract all comers. Certainly, six time Crocodile Trophy winner Jaap Viegiever from Holland, and Spain's Miguel Blanco Embun will be there at the start line, but for Oldfield and Dermody the thrill will come from the presence of a whole range of mountain bikers, competing to conquer their own challenges.
And a challenge it will be as the prelude and six stages will take in the best terrain Central Australia has to offer.
Each stage will cover about 40 kilometres, which to a road cyclist would present as a piece of cake, but for the mountain biker could take up to five hours to complete.The tour has been designed around the Desert Rose concept with stages forming petal-like loops in each direction around Alice Springs.
The prelude will be held in the heart of the Desert Rose, in the form of a race down the Todd finishing in front of the Alice Springs Resort.In terms of publicity, promotional material has been distributed to over 200 bike shops in Australia and some four thousand brochures have found their way across Europe.
Electronically, up to date information can be sourced through the race web site, www.cabc.infoThe Central Australian Bike Challenge will come to Alice Springs March 14 to 20 in 2003.


There was nothing fierce about the Olive Pink portrayed in Fierce by the Darwin based theatre company, Tracks, performing at Araluen over the weekend.
She was a fey creature from beginning to end, clinging to her white dress and teacup, scrawling the odd missive, at a loss in the environment she made her home and among the Warlpiri people who became her rescuers and friends.
If she developed a reputation as "fierce" and "mad" and as a "nigger lover" we had no idea how, but the production's most emphatic moment would have us believe that it was the attention she was after.
The casting of a man in the role of Miss Pink had no apparent intended significance, yet it could hardly be insignificant.
For me, combined with the illustrative approach to the narrative (for example, train movements showing a train journey Ð all we needed was to hear "choo,choo!"), it gave the production an air of pantomime, and a not very entertaining one at that.
Although he mastered a certain femininity, Trevor Patrick did not appear to have much insight into the woman he was portraying, and neither did artistic directors, Tim Newth and David McMicken.
Perhaps that's got something to do with them all being men. I don't think a woman could have aimed so wide of the mark.
The real Olive Pink, however eccentric, was at least a woman of great intellect and passion.
During the assimilation era she campaigned for the right of Aboriginal people to practise their culture without interference, anticipating land rights with the concept of secular sanctuary.
After her death, her anthropological research played a vital role in successful Warlpiri land claims.
She established Australia's first arid zone flora reserve, an enduring legacy.
These major contributions are at most merely hinted at in the production (and it's not as if it wasn't using spoken word).
The publicity for Fierce says it is about "connections: between a white world and a Warlpiri Aboriginal world".
So is my focus on the Olive Pink character misguided?
I don't think so. Her character was central to every sequence, and more might have been gained with respect to "a Warlpiri Aboriginal world" if that were not the case.
I commend the production for choosing to work with the Lajamanu Yawalyu Dancers.
The move succeeded in bringing an Aboriginal audience to the production and they were highly entertained by some moments. Hearing their laughter and clapping provided some of my meagre enjoyment on the night.
I appreciated the presence of the Lajamanu Yawalyu Dancers on stage, but I don't think the directors overcame the challenge of combining two very different approaches to performance. For me, the sequence fell flat.
Am I being too harsh?
Bear this in mind: this production has been in development since at least the start of the year and draws on, as the directors' notes tell us, "a 14 year working relationship between Tracks and the Warlpiri Ceremonial Dancers of Lajamanu".
The company has full-time salaried staff, including the artistic directors.
I think therefore that the Central Australian audience, the Warlpiri and Olive Pink herself deserved a production of much greater depth and artistry.
So, you Thespians and playwrights out there, why not show them how to do it?

LETTERS: Threat to program could increase crime.

Sir,- I am writing in response to the article headed 'Street kids crime: Solution in sight?' published on November 27.
My response is 'no' to that question.
Why? Because one of the very few positive programs in Alice that attempts to address the 'street kid' problem is, at this very moment, facing an uphill battle to survive.
I refer to an innovative educational model that has, under great strain, operated for the last six years as an adjunct to Centralian College. Now the College seeks to divest itself of the program.
The learning centre that I speak of is a concept developed by an inspirational educator, Nicole Traves.
She identified a glaring need for those kids living in town camps to have access to education in a setting away from the mainstream system.
More than that, it is an inter-generational structure where parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, guardians can also pursue studies there. It includes CDEP.
There are severe social problems in some of the families. Just getting the kids to attend school on a fairly regular basis is an outcome in itself.Many of the anti-social problems reported in the local media can be traced either to the students or family members.
On one recent court sitting day there no less than five cases before the magistrate that involved either students, ex students or adults attached to the centre. Sad but factual.
The whole program was given a big tick in the Bob Collins 'Learning Lessons' report.
Syd Stirling, Education Minister, spoke highly of it when he visited twelve months ago. Strong indications were given by him, at that time, that much needed support in terms of provision of a co-ordinator would be forthcoming. To date zilch is the score on that issue. A counsellor is also an urgent priority.
Teachers and other staff work under tough conditions, both physically and mentally. The centre has never been adequately staffed. Teachers in the mainstream system would be mortified at what has been the lot of their colleagues at the learning centre.
With respect, barbecues in the Mall as suggested in your paper recently in order to help establish a better rapport between these kids and shopkeepers is, at best, cosmetic.
What is needed is for a properly co-ordinated approach that fully supports the learning centre. The players that need to be involved, apart from education authorities, could include political input, Tangentyre, Congress, Family and Community Services, police (without their hats on), Correctional Services, Town Council and other appropriate bodies.
The educational model I have referred to must be maintained. However, many more people in positions of power or authority must grasp the nettle and be more prepared to roll up their sleeves and collectively contribute.
Graham Buckley
Alice Springs


Sir,- OK, so does someone want to tell me exactly when we're going to stop bumping our collective gums and do something about the 'anti-social' problems that have plagued the Alice for donkey's year?
While I have the deepest respect for the efforts of community minded locals the likes of Eddie Taylor and organizations like Tom and Jerry Council, the Youth Center and the like, the facts of the matter are pretty simple.
Until the community, as a whole, stops trying to make all the excuses in the world in dealing with these issues and holds the perpetrators accountable for their actions, you are going to be in the stalemate in which you stand today.
Don't for a minute think that the blame for the issues encountered in the Alice can be laid at the feet of any single race or socio-economic group.
The Police and the Courts have been (and still continue) to be hamstrung in dealing with 'serial' juvenile offenders. The way I see it (in fishing terms) is it's still a "catch and release" program for these young offenders.
Rudy Guilliani took over as the mayor of New York City when that city had the highest crime statistics in the United States.
He initiated a strict policy that stated that if you offended and broke the law then you would be held accountable for your actions.
People were arrested for jay walking, loitering, littering, fare evasion - not just the major crimes that the previous administration focused on. Crime statistics and arrest numbers soared in the first 12 months, but major crime reduced significantly.
Guilliani's thinking was that if you nipped the problem in the bud then you would not have to spend the resources in fixing larger problems.
History has proven that theory to be correct and New Yorkers now enjoy one of the lowest per-capita crime rates in the world.So how does that help the Alice you ask? Surely if you arrest, prosecute and incarcerate more people, then the community has to expend its resources building more jails, youth correction facilities, hiring more police and correctional officers?
No it doesn't.
What's wrong with using the one thing that all people fear - shame and humiliation?Why not put together a seven day a week self funded 'chain gang' program for non-violent offenders. Put these people in bright orange vests with 'prisoner' in bold black writing on them and get them to clean up the highways and byways.
Participants would have to pay five or 10 dollars a day up front. The premise being that once assigned to the program, you must do a required minimum of two days a week until the sentence is complete.
A lot of offenders claim they have nothing to do and are bored. This will change that! Any rule infraction sees them removed from the program and sitting in a cell (jail or watch house) at a cost to them.I can hear it now, the do-gooders freaking out that it's cruel and inhumane to publicly humiliate offenders. Just how did the people whose house they broke into feel?
Local government employees will have a whinge about taking work from them. How many shovel handles are broken by them leaning on them? Businesses upset that their laborers are losing out because offenders are doing the menial work - who really wants to do it anyway? Cops or screws having a go about having to work weekends and their bosses crying about budget restraints and paying penalty rates. Don't they work shifts now? C'mon, fair go. You've got to break an egg to make an omelete.Admittedly there is going to be some initial set up issues and ongoing logistical problems, but a least having a go is a whole lot better solution that what you have now - nothing!
Mark Fitzgerald
Boise, Idaho


Sir,- Thank you for your article about fires in last week's paper. Hopefully it will create useful public debate into and for the future.
I visited the areas shortly before and after the fires. It was a visual shock. Some plants are regenerating and subsequent rain may stimulate growth, however we did have three years of good rains and biomass build up without coordinated mosaic or patch burning.
Is it time we moved on from exclusive to inclusive practices?
In 1989 the Fire Management Manual for Central Australian Parks and Reserves was published by the then CCNT.
With the advent of the Desert Knowledge Project (DKP), is there a way in which the Centralian community could collaboratively use Federal, Territory and other funding to help create integrated fire management?
Perhaps aided with incentives?
I am aware that several pastoralists have sought to collaborate during time of need, however how about a strategy developed (and implemented) using an internet-based, moderated, expert system for realtime feedback?
The strategy could have an inclusive or multilateral whole of Centralian region and community partnership approach.
Centralians have the technology, social and legal potential to totally integrate all interested people to maximise biodiversity and pastoralism as per the 'triple bottom line' accounting espoused by the DKP and others.
An example can be seen at:
Matthew Fowler
Alice Springs


Sir,- Today I was so heartened to read a couple of short pieces written by Dorothy Grimm.
For ages now I have been looking for her articles. I enjoy her writings.
Please give us more Dorothy Grimm articles, I do not always follow Fish out of Water, and sorry, but I skip 'The Way I See It' altogether. Too much 'I', 'I', 'I'.
I read your main articles.
Frances M. Woods
Alice Springs


Sir,- Territory landowners who lose property rights because of a sacred site will not be given the same opportunity to negotiate compensation that the Martin government promised as part of its policy approach.
Two sets of rules now exist.
We have one set which says if there is a claim for property rights under the Native Title Act the Martin government will negotiate with the claimants.
The second set of rules say if a landowner loses property rights because there is a Sacred Site on their land the government says 'see you in court'.
It is totally unfair.
It is wrong to force a landowner to go to court at great cost to themselves to get compensation when the government has a different set of standards when it comes to negotiating away ownership of land, such as our national parks, with Native Title claims over them.
In Parliament this week the government said it intends to negotiate over the parks estate to find outcomes with people who may have lost property rights in those areas.
Yesterday the government refused to accept its own formula when dealing with people who may have lost rights under the Sacred Sites Act, even though it accepts it may be liable to pay compensation to people who have had Sacred Sites claims on their land.
I said during debate that the government appeared confused about their position.
The Chief Minister said that the government would, 'talk to people' a position she later retreated from, saying, 'I didn't say that'.
Later when the Minister with responsibility for Sacred Sites, Jack Ah Kit, was asked if the government's policy of negotiation would apply to people who have lost land to Sacred Site claims he said, 'no'.
The government needs to explain this inconsistency. It has repeatedly stated that litigation is expensive and only fills the pockets of lawyers. Why then is it so keen to go to court with all but Native Title or Land Rights claimants?The Government used to have a policy, now they have hypocrisy, and taxpayers have a lawyer's bill.
John Elferink
NT Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister

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