May 12, 2004.


In a largely politically correct town candidate for mayor Ernie Nicholls is leading with his chin.
A successful small businessman in Alice Springs for 30 years, Mr Nicholls hates bureaucrats: "My word, bureaucrats I cannot stand. I get my back up. I get off my backside, and I get things moving."
Mr Nicholls (pictured at right) wants to detain young petrol sniffers.
He yearns for firm leadership of the council.
Whilst casting his net much further than race relations he calls for determined council action to get a grip on the problems with "itinerants".
He says: "We can't have a minority group abuse and start to rule the town.
"The council has got to take a firm stand, together with the police, and tackle these problems.
"And don't put it to bed until you resolve it."
And he says what the council can't do he'll make sure the government will: "I'd ring them. Get in touch, persistently.
"I'd be in their face all the time. I'd be hounding them.
"I'd be on their doorstep. Annoying the crap out of them, until they take notice: 'That council. They must be fair dinkum about this.'"
Mr Nicholls says the new council may well change or drop current plans for the proposed $8m Civic Centre upgrade.
"The community has to make itself heard," says Mr Nicholls.
"If they don't want it, if they don't want the $8m spent on it, they have got to be heard. "[The project] definitely needs to be looked at by the new council."
But he says there must be an attractive building in the middle of the town.
"We need a new Civic Centre, I think it would be good for the town," he says.
"You drive up and down the coast, anywhere, and come into a town, and you see a nice Civic Centre there, nice lawns, gardens.
"You get a good feel about the town to start with.
"You come into Alice Springs and you see the council chambers, and the dirt, because there is not much grass, itinerants lying around.
"We used to have flower beds in the mall.
"Where are they all gone?
"All the colour has gone out of the mall because people used to sit in the flower beds.
"The council has got rangers walking around chalk-marking tyres.
"I'd rather see them walking up and down the mall moving people along, get out of the flower beds, and let the council workers come back and beautify the mall.
"I've heard stories about the library, should we upgrade it.
"The library has got to be closed down to start with.
"It shouldn't be a drop-in centre like it is now.
"When you go into the library you're stepping over bodies.
"You can't go to a computer to get data for kids' school work because you've got small Aboriginal kids playing computer games.
"The library is there for kids to educate themselves."
Mr Nicholls says the council should form an alliance with the government to control petrol and glue sniffing which is at the core of much of the town's petty crime.
"Petrol sniffing is something the government has to tackle first," Mr Nicholls says.
"The sooner they declare it illegal, the better for all concerned.
"I'd move to have put in place some legislation that if kids were seen sniffing, they are taken off the streets, and taken to a night shelter.
"I'd like to contain these kids, not jail them, but contain them.
"The council could buy a home, so the kids can be kept in a controlled environment, with medical assistance, to help the kids, black or white. It's not a race issue, it's a health issue.
"Then you have to have backup, to get the kids back to school.
"And this is directed at Aboriginal kids.
"I think there are way to many kids walking 'round this town who are not going to school.
"The parents of Aboriginal kids are getting paid to send the kids to school.
"What's going to happen to that generation of kids who are roaming the streets?
"No education.
"They learn about break-ins and vandalism.
"You've got to start by getting them off the street, give them some direction in life."
Should the council put money and manpower into that?"Exactly."
Mr Nicholls has a hearty laugh but his manner can quickly turn to sharp determination when he talks about defending his own rights.
And the council's rangers, who he says are mainly occupied with issuing parking tickets, are firmly in his sights.
He fought a three-month battle to get a loading zone for beer trucks outside his pub, the Firkin and Hound (Mr Nicholls' other business is the 24 Hour Store).
After protracted inaction "I fronted the council. I fought with the council."
But now motorists are illegally using the zone.
"Where are the traffic rangers?
"Back in the office? Having smoko, still?"
Mr Nicholls and his wife Lyn have been running enterprises in Alice Springs since the early 'seventies, including building, joinery, transport, clothing and sports goods retail businesses.
At one time the Nicholls family supplied 45 per cent of the town's milk.
When the Rowlands dairy in Katherine shut down Mr Nicholls started a "milk run" in a Mack truck between Toowoomba and Darwin.
His decision to stand for council (he's nominated for both mayor and alderman) wasn't spur of the moment.
He says he had toyed with the idea for about six years, was going to stand four years ago but business commitments got in the way.
Should a Mayor show leadership?
"Definitely. That's what it's all about.
"[As with my two businesses] if there is a problem I tackle it head on. I don't put it under the carpet and hope it'll go away.
"I see the council as a team effort but ultimately someone has the last say, and in my situation it's always me."
Mr Nicholls thinks leadership is lacking in the present council: "That's why I have been looking at standing for the last six or seven years.
"As the leader you've got to bring them together, to work as a team."
He says the fact that seven of the 10 sitting aldermen have not re-nominated is a sign of "dissatisfaction within the camp".
Says Mr Nicholls: "A couple of those I'm glad they are not standing because they are dead wood.
"The council definitely needs a stiff broom put though the place to clean out the dead wood".
Mr Nicholls says about the three aldermen seeking re-election, Samih Habib, David Koch and Geoff Bell, all members of the "right wing": "I'm pleased they are standing.
"We need level headed people, with open minds."
Is there room for party politics in council?
"Whether there is room for it or not, we're going to get it."
Have we had it in the last four years?
"Yes, and I think unless the right people are elected, it's going to be a political council, very political.
"What I saw of the candidates standing now, it's going to become very, very political. And that's not the way you want council to go.
"I don't know all the candidates, but there are a lot of left wingers there, which to me is not what the council wants.
"I think they could bring racism into the council.
"I feel strongly about that, just after what I saw yesterday. I don't want to see racism in the council, nor in the town."
(Mr Nicholls was referring to the closing of nominations at 12 noon last Friday. An Electoral Commission official announced, in the Greatorex Building, the names of the candidates. Apart from Mr Nicholls, present were Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke, Halliwell Duell, Joanna Jansen, Robyn Lambley, Susan Mure, Jane Ulrik and Phillip Walker.)
Should the council be vigorously involved in tourist promotion?
"My word," says Mr Nicholls.
How?"I don't feel that CATIA is doing enough.
"I know that there are people in town doing more than CATIA, trying to involve CATIA.
"As far as the NT Tourist Commission is concerned, there is Kakadu, Katherine Gorge and Ayers Rock but there is nothing in between.
"Look at the flights going direct to Ayers Rock.
"People get off the plane [in Alice Springs] and they don't even know there is a township of Alice Springs.
"They think it's a refuelling depot for the planes. Gospel."
Mr Nicholls says there is an obvious link between anti-social behaviour in Alice Springs and the town's future as a tourist destination.
This, inevitably, brings him back to the question of how to deal with "itinerants".
"An old friend of mine, Noel Fullerton, said years ago there is not a colour barrier, there is a dirt barrier."
Mr Nicholls says he knows a man who lives in the creek and he would say to him: "Why don't you go and have a bath. Have a wash."
"I'm not dirty enough yet, boss," would be the reply.
"That's the way they are, though. You're not going to change that.
"If you were to build a two star accommodation block down by the river there, and say, here's showers and toilets, they're still not going to use them.
"A tap and a bit of water, that's all they're worried about.
"I have heard mention that the council is talking about putting ablution blocks at the edge of town, so that the visitors could go to the toilet and wash.
"That's not going to solve anything."
What would solve the itinerant problem?
"I think there is only one way to solve it, and that's for the communities to be responsible for their own people."
But there's no indication they will be.
"There is no indication at this stage. The communities want to be dry. They are depriving their own people of having a beer at home.
"So they get on the first bus and come into town to buy some alcohol."
Mr Nicholls says there is an Aboriginal community north of town (he did not know the name but said he would find out), which has a "wet shed".
He says: "They police it themselves.
"They don't have any violence, no drunks.
"None of the women get bashed. No kids go hungry.
"It's working quite well. They have bitten the bullet and they are policing it themselves.
"They say to me: 'If we can do it why can't the other communities do it.'"


The most significant move by the outgoing Town Council, the planned $8m refurbishment and extensions to the Civic Centre, could be undone by the one to be elected at the end of the month.
Only three of the aldermen, plus Mayor Fran Kilgariff, will stand for re-election.
The three are Geoffrey Bell, Samih Habib and David Koch.
That means a minimum of seven new faces on council.Of six aldermen interviewed by the Alice Springs News since the closure of nominations last Friday, four have said that the council should put on hold any further action on the Civic Centre until the new council has had a chance to review the plans and the financial arrangements.
In this position they join candidates Murray Stewart and Des Rogers.
Jane Mure, who gives the current council the thumbs up in many areas, said on the Civic Centre plans: "We need to have a conservative approach to how much we spend and to be sure we are not over-burdening the public purse.
"We need to have a good understanding of what we need as opposed to what we may want."The Civic Centre belongs to the community so it is important to consult the community about what they need.
"It's also important to establish whether we are listening to a loud minority or getting the consensus of the majority."
Having the plans reconsidered by the new council would gain public trust, because "between the two groups the old and the new we would come to a good conclusion", says Ms Mure.
Robyn Lambley, campaigning on improved council support for the business sector, "a rational and sensible debate of our social issues" and initiatives to halt any population decline, said that, if elected, she would "want to read carefully through the documentation of public consultation over the Civic Centre".
"I would be reluctant to go ahead if the process of consultation hadn't been there.
"Spending $6m on it if the people didn't want it would be hideous."
Jane Ulrik, whose key platform is the importance of long-term planning for the town's future, said the Civic Centre plans must be reviewed.
"We were led to believe they were plans for a Civic Centre. Now it is clear that they are plans for the council's administrative offices.
"It feels as if this was a foregone conclusion without proper discussion and consultation.
"The out-going council should not try to whip this through before the election."It would mean that a group of mostly new aldermen might be saddled with something that they are not well-informed about and that might seriously hamper, because of its drain on council's funds, the things they are setting out to do."
Hal Duell has pinpointed the Civic Centre debate as the main issue of his campaign, calling for "a moratorium on the tendering of this project until after the council elections" and asking "Why such uncivil haste?"
Mr Duell said the money would be better spent on a new library, leaving the existing library free to be used for council offices.
A new library would serve the needs of the whole community, rathe than just those of council staff, and would encourage the recent increased use of the library, said Mr Duell.
He is concerned that, with the council already in debt to the tune of $5m if its planned upgrade goes ahead, it won't be able to afford to raise further funds for a new library without core services being impacted upon.
Phillip Walker, campaigning on the importance of community consultation, nonetheless could not comment on whether there had been adequate consultation over the Civic Centre.
He thought the plans "look nice" and that the apparent haste in pushing them through could be "pure coincidence".
Marguerite Rooke, also wanting more community consultation and even concerned that it was not adequate over the Civic Centre plans, would not comment on whether those plans should be put on hold till after the election.
"It was not enough to put up a display in the Yeperenye Centre," she said.
"There should have been a public meeting."
Jane Mure and Robyn Lambley are both business people who want council to increase their support for enterprise.
Ms Mure, resident in town for 24 years, set up Alice's first web design business, Netgirl, eight years ago. A qualified sports masseuse she also does workplace massage for people like nurses.
She says the current council's work on the Alice in Ten committees has been good, but she would like the future council to broaden its support for innovation and initiative in the community.She would also like to see more being done in the area of waste management, "not just kerbside recycling".
On the whole, she thinks people in Alice Springs enjoy a good standard of living; the town has its difficulties "like every community"; she wants to listen to the community and explore issues, rather than push something just because she thinks it's important.
Ms Lambley, with her husband Craig, owns Mad Harry's. She's been in town for just over 10 years and, with two young children, isn't going anywhere.
She is alarmed by the talk of a population decline and would like council to look at what more it could do to promote business and investment in the community: "We're always hearing about national businesses that are going to come to Alice Springs and then it doesn't happen. It would be good to understand why."Council needs to do some self-analysis, look at what it does, and what it doesn't do and consider becoming more proactive."
This could include doing more to welcome new families to town.
Being in business contrasts with Ms Lambley's past career in social work. She was the former senior social worker at the Alice Springs Hospital.
"I empathise with Aboriginal people, I know what the issues are. I haven't got the answers, but I think we need a rational and sensible debate about what council can do to promote a good future for everyone."
She says the perception about the current council lacking energy and not being prepared to act is "concerning".
"I would promote a proactive approach, with high levels of energy. When the time comes to make a decision, it is important to demonstrate to the community that you are capable of acting."
Jane Ulrik, a Centralian for the last 24 years, said she decided to stand for council when her 18 year old son told her that he wouldn't bother to vote because he couldn't see that it would make a difference.
"You have to lead by example," she said. "I want him and others to feel that it is possible to have a voice."
She says it's important for Alice Springs and the region to have a clear idea about where we will be in 10, 20 years' time.
"My commitment is to forethought and planning, to having a vision of our future and a plan about how to get there that is inclusive of all the people in town and at the expense of none."The community of Albury Wodonga straddling the NSW-Victorian border has shown the way, says Ms Ulrik. In collaboration with smaller communities downstream on the Murray, they have developed comprehensive strategies around water usage and its broad environmental impacts. Along the way, they have recreated wetlands, which have drawn tourists and education facilities.
"All of that was brought about by people like you and me, not experts," says Ms Ulrik. "They were on council and took a look at the bigger picture, the long-term outlook for their region."Ms Ulrik, a former nurse, now studying for a doctoral degree and part-time research coordinator for Tangentyere Council, is a member of the recently formed Alice Springs branch of the Australian Greens but says she is not standing as a Greens' candidate.
Hal Duell has lived in the Centre for 25 years. Through the 'eighties he ran a team of camels south and east of town, "revelling in the country" and taking tourists and groups of children on treks.
He went away for a while in the early' nineties, returning to town nine years ago. He now works as a groundsman at the Ross Park Primary School.
Apart from his concerns over the Civic Centre plans and their potential far-reaching impact, he wants council to work to make the whole town "more liveable, more welcoming, more inclusive".
Sometimes it's seemingly little things that would help, like the provision of gas barbecues along the river, and the provision of spring-loaded taps so that water is more readily accessible throughout town.
In other cases, it's building on what we've got, he says. A resident of the Gap area, he points to the Gap Youth Centre as a place of "huge energy, interest and opportunity": "Let's have more of that," he says.
Phillip Walker is an Aviation Rescue Firefighter and an emergency services volunteer. He's been in town for eight years and in standing for council wants to "give something back to the community".
He has found Alice Springs welcoming, open and full of opportunity, in contrast to the large cities he came from.
He says there are a lot of issues for council to deal with but he is "not going to beat the drum on any one".
His main aim would be to encourage families to get involved in the many opportunities and activities available to them.
Marguerite Rooke is well-known for her involvement in multi-cultural services and activities in town.
Originally from the Seychelles, she has lived in Alice for the past 15 years: "All my kids were educated and grew up here".
She has also been involved on school councils.
"Now I'd like to be more active in the wider community," she said.
"If I'm elected I'll want to work with the team. It's not just me, I can't change the world.
"I'll be seeking the views of the community and taking them to council, especially as a strong woman's voice."
In many areas council cannot achieve its goals on its own. Safety on our streets is important for residents and visitors alike. To achieve it council needs to work collaboratively with government and other agencies.


Town council candidate Des Rogers, determined to be "open and transparent", wants Alice Springs to know that he's done time and even broke out of prison.
But when he was released from the Alice Springs Gaol 30 years ago he was determined to never go back, and he didn't.
He has since worked 17 years in the public service, rising to regional manager level with the Bushfires Council.
He then went on to establish his own successful fruit and veg wholesaling business, Red Centre Produce, and to serve as ATSIC regional council chair and on numerous boards and committees.
He says he learnt his lesson the hard way.
He was in his teens when he committed a number of break and enter offences that landed him in gaol.
GOING NOWHEREHe was working at the time, driving a cement truck, living in a caravan, but seeming to get nowhere fast.
He says he got in with the wrong crowd and thought he could make easy money helping himself to the till of a local business.
Aboriginal trackers led the police to his doorstep.
He might have served only 36 months but ended up doing four and a half years, after a breakout he claims the only one ever from the old gaol.
He has not tried to keep his past a secret.
Indeed he's publicly read his writing about it and talked about it in a number of forums, including last year's Indigenous Employment Conference in Brisbane.
"Prison is not a good place," he has written. "For me, a person who needs to be on the move, a person who gets bored easily, a person who can't sit still, a person who has a connection with the bush, it all just becomes too much.
"I had to escape, I had to be free."
He crawled through barbed wire to get out and no doubt left a trail of blood for the Aboriginal tracker who once again caught up with him.
On the outside three years later he went back to truck driving.
He happened to be in the right place at the right time when a temporary driving job with government came up.
He served one three month contract, then another and then applied for and got the job when it was advertised as a permanent position.
He met his wife, got married, got a government house, they had two daughters and so it went.
Once he'd had the break and got back into wider community, the rest was down to him.
Mr Rogers says he has worked hard to get to where he is today.
He says his story is instructive: it shows what can be done when a man is given a second chance.
He says he is telling it now to show that he means what he says when he talks about being open and transparent.
"In asking people to vote for me, I need to be able to say this is who I am, this is where I come from.
"I made mistakes but I have also made a contribution over the last 30 years."
Mr Rogers says all levels of government, including the town council, should cooperate to provide support for prisoners as they leave gaol.
"It's part of having a holistic way of dealing with our problems. It's not just a matter of more lighting in the mall, more police, more Indigenous people in gaol.
"If we come up with constructive solutions, that will lead to a better lifestyle for everyone."


What sort of Budget can we expect next week? Will the NT Labor government finally put our money where its mouth is? Not likely, judging by previous efforts.
Have a look at the table above. Put your fingers in your ears to shut out all the hoo haa about new priorities of health, education, housing, police and all the rest of the feel-good stuff, and let the numbers talk.
They are from the Federal Grants Commission.
The first column is what Canberra paid to the NT Labor government in 2002/03 for various purposes, and the second column shows on what the government actually spent each allocation. The third and fourth columns are the corresponding figures for the CLP Budget of 1998/99.
The Federal grants are not tied. That means governments can spend them as they please. Nevertheless, one can safely assume that the people at the Grants Commission assessing "disabilities" are honourable, well resourced and well informed.
Yet our governments, CLP as wel as Labor, by their actions, keep telling the commission it hasn't got a clue.
Disabilities are things like big distances, low population, a great number of disadvantaged people, widespread poor health, inferior education, need for housing, and so on.
Labor, while in Opposition, was forever clamouring about underspending by the government on some purposes while overspending on others.
Check out the figures: not much has changed.
Bear in mind that many of the items relate not only to the people who would be the immediate recipients.
Family and Children's Services, for example, is grossly under-funded (see story this page).
That department is dealing or meant to be with, among others, young sniffers who cause mayhem by theft and vandalism and make life a misery for a great number of people. These become the secondary victims of substance abuse.
The CLP spent merely one third of its grant on that purpose and so has Labor.
For Homeless and General Welfare the CLP diverted all of its $41m grant. Labor diverted $74.1m of the $76.6m it received.
Under both governments, public schools get a lot less than the grant and private schools a lot more.
Each government diverted around one third, about $200m, from Health and Community Services.
Labor spent only half of the housing money on housing ($67m of the $122m grant).
By comparison the CLP had a positively touching social conscience, spending on housing $72m of the $89m allocation.
Check out "Culture & Recreation" a. k. a. Bread and Circuses, primarily sporting facilities grants spent in Darwin, which enable ministers to make great guys of themselves, handing over cheques.
Labor spent four and a half times its allocation; the CLP only one and a half times.
Are you wondering why you voted for a change of government?
The other question you might ask yourself is why, year after year, the NT gets "disability" funding while things obviously aren't getting any better.
Total per capita expenditure from grants in NSW in 2002/03 was $4810. In the Territory it was almost three times that, $12,089.
The Territory consistently fails to spend the vast amounts of money on fixing the "disabilities" for which it gets the extra cash.
The winner, year after year, is our massive public service: "General Public Services" in the NT cost $1107 per head of population.That's six and a half times as much as in NSW ($169).
Even the NT Council for Social Services hardly a right wing think tank is calling on the government to move beyond the plentiful reviews and inquiries and actually do something.
One wonders what Labor, which prior to the 2001 shouted from the rooftops "we are ready for government", was doing during a quarter of a century in opposition.
If they had any idea of what was going on, why the need for the countless reports and inquiries?
As the disabilities continue a lot of Territorians are left in pain.
And our administrations will continue to be the butt of jokes around the nation. Labor or CLP.


There have been enough plans and reviews and it's time for the NT Government "to put services on the ground".
This was the Budget message from NT Council of Social Services president Geoff Harris.
He says the government "should invest in social development at the same level of resources and commitment as the government has demonstrated towards economic and business development".
The government should "demonstrate its commitment to social and community services and the non government sector by moving beyond strategies and reviews, and providing growth funds for new and expanded services on the ground."
There should be "investment in community-based prevention and early intervention strategies not just crisis response and tertiary services".
In particular government should greatly increase its level of commitment to community based family support services, through the provision of funding for both crisis support as well as early intervention family services.
They should put in place, as a matter of urgency, a strategic framework and community engagement framework for social development which sets the government's agenda for social development for the next five to 10 years.
Says Mr Harris: "The last two budgets have provided limited growth funds for social and community services.
"The emphasis has been on reviewing programs and on developing strategic plans.
"While these plans/reviews have provided much needed strategic directions and have set the priorities for the future development of social and community services, it is time for government to use these strategies to drive necessary reform in social and community services and to put services on the ground.
"There has been a long-term history of under investment by NT Governments in social services, particularly in community and welfare services.
"Analysis undertaken by NTCOSS shows that NT Governments have over the past five to six years been dramatically underspending in the area of community and welfare services, as well as to a lesser extent in health and education.
"Community services in the NT are consistently unable to meet client needs and are turning people away from welfare services at a greater rate than the rest of the nation.
"Over the past two years the Labor Government has invested additional budget resources for social development primarily into addressing law and order and anti social behaviour issues and into tertiary response services.
"It has not however invested the same level of resources into community based prevention and early intervention services and strategies.
"If the government is serious about addressing children, families and youth at risk as well as chronic disease and long term health problems, then the Government needs to significantly invest in community based prevention and early intervention services.
"The government over the past two years has invested significantly in economic development and business.
"It has not however invested the same level of commitment to the area of social development.
"Currently there is no social development strategy in place and there is no equivalent whole of government social policy forum for the social and community sector. As a consequence the area of social development lags well behind."


Sports Minister John AhKit announced a $21,000 grant for Alice Springs soccer at the same time as a $5m expenditure for a soccer stadium in Darwin.
He says work will start on the "new home for Territory soccer" at the Marrara Sporting Precinct in 2004-05.
"Starting the head works in the upcoming financial year will ensure Territory Soccer has its $5m Stadium to play on by 2006 as long as NT Soccer keeps to the implementation plan and time line identified in the independent inquiry into soccer in the Territory," says Mr AhKit.
He says the Central Australian Junior Soccer Association grant is to top dress and re-seed the playing field at Blatherskite Park.
"This grant is being provided on the condition that the Blatherskite Park Trust maintain the grounds to a suitable standard for junior soccer.
"I'm concerned over the current state of the pitches there and am happy to provide funding to resurface the playing field to an appropriate standard provided the Trust ensure the grounds are not damaged.
"This is taxpayers' money and I do not want to see it wasted.
"Blatherskite Park is a multi-purpose facility."


The NT Government has hired CSIRO to see if effluent from the sewage treatment plant can be cleaned and stored under ground, according to Essential Services Minister Chris Burns.
He says CSIRO will be paid up to $400,000 to provide specialist scientific input into the development of a pilot "soil-aquifer treatment" (SAT) plant at the Arid Zone Research Institute (AZRI) south of Alice Springs.
The fluid piped from the main sewage treatment plant just outside the Gap will be stored in shallow ponds with a total surface of about five hectares, and soak down into an aquifer at a rate of about six metres every 24 hours.
The AZRI plant under construction now will also be the site of a horticultural business still being negotiated.
Dr Burns says the CSIRO team will be headed by Dr Peter Dillon, considered to be Australia's leading scientist in the field of water reuse.
He is the chair of the International Association of Hydrologists Commission on Management of Aquifer Recharge.
The experiment was started to avoid overflow from the existing sewage ponds into the surrounding claypans.
In Alice Springs, most waste water is produced in the winter months, while most demand for water is in the summer.
Storing the waste water below ground using SAT technology permits a greater volume of water to be stored than in aboveground ponds, virtually eliminates evaporation losses, and produces higher quality water.It also eliminates odour and mosquito issues that arise from aboveground storage.PowerWater's licence requires the elimination of overflows into Ilparpa swamp in normal weather conditions by the end of 2005.
The storage of water underground using the pilot SAT plant is expected to begin mid-2005.
SAT technology pumps recycle water underground. It can then be extracted in a similar fashion to bore water.
The process has the advantage of both storing and treating the water.


There is a noticeable increase in the use of ecstasy in Alice Springs.
Crystal meth is now more available.
Designer drugs are more popular than ever.
How do I know all this? Well that's simple: I am 17.
Drugs are socially acceptable.
I asked some of my friends about their take on the current state of drugs in Alice.
A recurring comment was: "The only problem with drugs in Alice is that they're too expensive."
Said in jest or not, the fact remains; the prices of drugs in Alice Springs are staggering in comparison to main cities in Australia.
One tablet of ecstasy costs up to$60; $100 for one night's supply of speed.
Even the cheapest drug, marijuana, is often double the asking price for the same quantity in Adelaide.
So why are teenagers prepared to save all their lunch money for a week just to get a "buzz" on Saturday night?
Any number of answers could be correct: rebellion, copying our favorite singers, to "escape", peer pressure.
Drugs are now as accepted by teenagers as alcohol or under-age sex.
It's not just a way to pass a dull weekend, it can also be a way of life.
A friend of mine claims to have started smoking marijuana at the age of 13.
Even though he admits that this is a young age, he says it's not rare.
Marijuana is so accepted amongst youths that you can be approached by complete strangers looking to "score".
My friend Mickey (not his real name) was approached by a tourist he had never seen before in a popular fast food restaurant.
Mickey says the dreadlocked guy didn't bother to lower his voice but just asked him in no uncertain terms where he could get some pot.
Mickey took him to a well-known local dealer and the deal was done.
The tourist offered some buds (heads), a common courtesy amongst "pot-heads", and the two parted ways.
It was that simple.
Teenage drug users in Alice Springs take offence to being called addicts, junkies, criminals and so on.
This is because most firmly believe that pot is not a drug and should not be classed as such.
That term is reserved for anything "harder" than pot, ecstasy for example.
Teenagers don't like adults looking down at them because of their drug use. The stereotypical addict is a person who is dirty and poor.
The teenage drug-user feels this does not apply to them.
Mickey says that his habit could cost up to $100 a week for pot alone.
This is before the bottles of alcohol and occasional acid trip.
He says he has never stolen to support his habit nor has he been involved in any crime to profit from it: he's adamant that he's not a dealer.
He does acknowledge that some teenagers do steal to buy drugs but says that these people would steal whether they do drugs or not. They are simply delinquents and smoking pot is just a small factor in their lifestyles.
Mickey says that pot is not a "gateway" drug but admits that once you start smoking pot you do associate with people who have access to harder drugs.
The are plenty of stories that are told among teenagers in Alice Springs about drugs.
For example, Ray (not his real name) says he wouldn't trust dealers in town for anything heavier than pot.
He says the ecstasy here is too dangerous and there are too many "dirty Es". Taking a dirty "E" could land you in hospital and presents the very real danger of overdosing.
He says that ecstasy in the main cities is "safer" and Alice Springs often has poor quality drugs.
Many a school lunchtime chat is about a friend who spent the previous Saturday night vomiting from too much alcohol, or on a "bad trip", trying to pick a fight with all and sundry.
These stories pick up momentum and eventually certain dealers lose credibility and the pecking order is redefined.
Serious decisions are made on the merit of high school rumours: which dealer should you go to, which "trip" will kill you and which will give you a good night.
Because dealers don't have resumes, you have no choice but to listen to your mates.
Ecstasy in Alice Springs was almost unheard of until quite recently.
In my five teenage years no drug has become so popular as quickly as ecstasy. In the more innocent Year 10 days of pot and acid, ecstasy was looked upon to be one step away from heroin.
The only way to get it was bribing someone to get you some E on their next holiday in a big city, at a jacked-up price.
Now you can get Ecstasy in less than an hour.
Here's how it's done:
First it helps to be of high school age.
Then either ask a friend or one of those guys that wear baggy clothes if he knows where to get "eckies".
Hopefully he will have a bigger brother but if not, then an older mate will be just as helpful.
Then all you need to do is wait around while he makes a phone-call or two and be prepared to hand over between $30 and $60.
If you're lucky, he will invite you along to get it with him, in which case he will take you to a rented flat.
Inside the flat will be the usual scattering of bongs and the smell of pot or spilt bong water.
The deal will be done and you will hopefully never have to see each other again.
This is basically the same process for any drug dealing in Alice Springs, but of course there are exceptions.
If the dealer is "dry" you have to wait around for hours while he sets about calling all his "friends", but generally it's a pretty basic process.
The question of trust is always brought up when discussing drugs such as ecstasy or speed.
The word "safe" is used to describe any drug that won't kill you in one "hit" or send you into a fit of convulsing. People readily believe that the drugs are "safe" if deemed so by somebody who has tried them from that particular dealer.


About half of the 30 "kids at risk" identified in mid-2002 are off the streets, mostly in the care of their extended families.
But youth workers say their places on the streets have been taken up by new arrivals.
Among those now in care is a 14 year old girl, who had been sniffing petrol since age nine, completely resistant to efforts to help her.
She is now said to be thriving with relatives in a bush community. She has been in their care for a year.
Although this information contradicts a statement made in the Alice Springs News on April 21, that there was not a single "safe family" fully in operation, the achievement was confirmed by four members of the Safer Communities Committee, working on the development of a Child and Youth Safety Strategy.This work is part of the Territory Government's Regional Crime Prevention Strategy.
The four committee members who spoke to the Alice News on behalf of the committee were its chair, David Ross, regional manger of FACS (Family and Children's Services); Karen Walshaw of Safe Families; Antoinette Carroll of Reconnect; and Sara of ASYASS (Alice Springs Youth Accommodation Support Services).
They say that while certain milestones such as the opening of the Safe Families refuge, due late June, and the after hours Youth Drop-In Centre, opened a month ago have been reached later than expected, youth services work in the "joint case management" of individual young people has proceeded, in many cases effectively.
They say that the collaboration between the various youth services is unprecedented and invaluable. If, for instance, a young person at risk comes to the attention of Safe Families and no staff member is immediately available to assist, then that service can call on one of the others to step in.
Even young people who seek help themselves often move from one agency to another, as they change where they live or who they hang out with. By sharing information the different services can better track the young person's progress.
Taking this approach helped the services to significantly reduce, they claim by 15, the number of young people in town who were sniffing over the last six months.
The committee members also stress the follow-up support provided by the services: it is not a case of finding what they think will be a safe situation for a young person and then dropping them. For instance, if the young person is placed out bush, the services have a look at what kind of support there is for them: what education facilities, what recreation possibilities and so on, coordinating their efforts with bush services like Waltja.
All of this can be tremendously time consuming, especially given the distances people must travel to negotiate with Aboriginal families in remote communities. But while the process is slow, they say the increased likelihood of the solutions being sustainable and long-term makes it worthwhile.
Joint case management has arisen out of the efforts of a few individuals. Time and effort has gone into developing memoranda of understanding between the services so that when individuals leave joint case management will remain.
The trouble is, of course, that as some young people move into safer situations and better lives, others take their place in being at risk.
It is on trying to stem this tide that the committee have focussed their efforts.
They say the community is often focussed on a crisis response, such as the presence of a refuge,But, ask the committee members, what happens the next morning? How do you stop the "revolving door"?
The Child and Youth Safety Strategy, yet to be endorsed by the Minister and released to the public, will identify a wide-ranging program of early intervention and on-going monitoring and support, in particular through education services.
It is well-known, they say, that the kids who get into trouble are the kids who have not been in school.
The committee is talking about interventions when children are as young as two through child-care, playgroups, pre-school programs and continuing right through to adulthood.
The committee have also wanted to address the negative impact of the competitive tendering process in the youth services area. Rather than services competing against one another for funds, they want to be able to have an agreed whole program of services and a collaborative delegation of who applies for what.
They say it is too early yet to comment on resourcing of youth services. They need the Territory Government to first endorse their strategy (its launch is expected to coincide with the opening of the Safe Families refuge) and consider its costed action plans.
However, they argue in advance for adequate resourcing, if for no other reason than the enormous savings further down the track, such as in the health and criminal justice areas.


Short-term fixes would seem to have squandered the opportunity of reorienting the Alice Springs townscape towards the Todd River.
Or have they?
The most significant foreseeable opportunity for doing this along Leichardt Terrace is with the Civic Centre redevelopment.
The council's present plans, however, are for refurbishment rather than a fresh approach and are strongly focused on Todd Street despite the "encouragement" by planning documents such as the Alice Springs Central Area Land Use Objectives and Planning Concepts to "visually orient" new developments towards the river.
Under the provisions of the current Town Plan the council does not need to lodge an application to the Development Consent Authority (DCA) for its plans because they do not involve uses other than those provided for by the site's present zoning.
There is therefore no regulatory authority that can insist that council takes heed of agreed planning objectives.
This is likely to change when the Town Plan, currently under review, is updated.
Peter Somerville, the Territory Government's manager of planning and development for the southern region, says draft changes to the Town Plan would require all new developments within a B1 zone, delineating the central business district, to lodge an application with the DCA.
But the DCA would not necessarily insist on "visual orientation" to the river because it is only one of many considerations to take into account and, as Mr Somerville points out, it is also "open to interpretation":"Does it mean a development should look directly over the river?
"Are carparks appropriate? After all, they are integral to the CBD, so where should they be provided?"
At present the river banks from Wills Terrace to Stott Terrace are dominated by carparks, sealed and landscaped, so when the Alice in Ten Built Environment Committee talks about Alice Springs focussing on the river as a major asset, you might wonder what the potential really is.Chair of the Built Environment Committee Mark Skinner says the group has put forward a number of projects to encourage that word again greater orientation to the river.
These include landscaping the streets that lead from the mall to the river " to make them more attractive so that they lead people towards that area".
And once there, what would people do?"A lot is up to the private sector," says Mr Skinner, " but I can imagine outdoor eateries and street markets there.
"Initially they could be set up in the carparks and if they prove successful, a more permanent arrangement might be looked at."
Indeed the Town Council located the recent visiting carnival to land between two of the carparks on Leichardt Terrace.
And the carparks should not be seen as an unbeatable obstacle, says Mr Skinner: "Removing them wouldn't be difficult, but that also depends on what the Town Council's carparking and traffic study tells us about where alternative carparks could be."
On the other side of the road, architect Susan Dugdale sees two carparks as key potential sites for adding to the dynamism of the townscape along the river: one is the ANZ carpark on the corner of Parsons Street and Leichardt Terrace; the other is the present informal carpark on the Civic Centre site, due to be formalised if the Town Council's present plans do go ahead.
Both would offer great views of the river from a two-storey development, says Ms Dugdale, which ideally would be the kind to attract public patronage a caf, restaurant or community purpose building.
Meanwhile, a quieter attraction right on the riverbanks themselves is the construction, funded by the Territory Government and carried out by the Town Council, of a network of interconnecting dual use (foot and bicycle) pathways along both sides of the river from the Gap through to Telegraph Terrace.
This is in line with recommendations of the 1994 Todd and Charles River Masterplan, which have guided the deliberations of the Alice in Ten Todd and Charles Rivers Committee, chaired by Peter McDonald (also regional manager of the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and the Environment).
It has also been supported by Lhere Artepe, the native title holders' body corporate.
Mr McDonald says there has been a noticeable increase of use of the riverside for recreation since paths on the western side have been completed. Planned landscaping informal planting of the riverine species will make the experience more attractive.
People using the riverside contributes to a greater sense of security and discourages illegal camping and anti-social behaviour, says Mr McDonald.
On the eastern side, work is continuing along Barrett Drive and subsequent stages will take the path as far as Undoolya Road, from where users could cross the river and continue through to the Telegraph Station.
Plans show the installation of an elevated walkway across the foot of Annie Meyers Hill, extensive planting of river red gums to provide shade along the path, as well as seating, shelters and shaded picnic benches.
These works, added to the rechannelling of the river bed, weed control and improvements at the stormwater outlets, show that "the town is demonstrating ownership of the river once more, starting to see it as an asset," says Mr McDonald.
Views back to the town from the riverbanks, however, reveal how entrenched the older mindset has become. From Stott Terrace heading south are long stretches of ugly corrugated iron and variously improvised fencing. Even where views to the river seem to be valued, from second storey windows and balconies, there are still high iron fences at street level. Security is the obvious preoccupation but transparent fences would be a more attractive alternative.
With tourism a key focus for the Alice in Ten projects why don't they become more emphatic about fencing styles?
Firstly, "we are not into forcing anyone to do anything", says Mr McDonald.Secondly, they do not have the power to act. There is a Fencing Act but "it is silent about type, style, colour, appearance to the street", says Mr Somerville.
Where there are consent use applications before the DCA, they can make comment about fencing and even require a fence type, for example, to limit noise, to provide sightlines for incoming and outgoing traffic, to improve amenity.
Generally open, pool-style fencing is desired, says Mr Somerville. But with existing developments, no matter how dilapidated, there is no possibility of regulation.
"Leading by example" is in any case preferred and Mr McDonald says his committee hopes that future developers of sites along the river will take heed of the example being shown by Tangentyere Design with the new Institute of Aboriginal Development (IAD) campus buildings.
The design for the site, developed over several years by Tangentyere Design, has sought to avoid presenting to the river the hard edge of a single monolithic structure behind a fence.
The campus buildings are moderately scaled, in keeping with the scale of the neighbouring, mostly domestic developments, and are assembled around a serpentine walkway through the site.
This allows vistas from inside the site to the river as well as views into the site from outside.
The common room/ cafe takes full advantage of the views to the river with large windows facing north-east and a sheltered outdoor eating area facing south-east, taking in a sweeping view of the river and the ranges beyond.
The site has been raised to above the 1:100 flood level, which has the spin-off of views being across the top of fencing, rather than through it.
The fencing will be made from galvanised steel pickets, pool-fencing style, allowing views through to and out from the campus.
The library building, set a bit further back, faces away from the river, with a sheltered outdoor meeting area facing south-west, with views to Mount Gillen.
The blank wall to the river will bear IAD signage, marking the main entry to the site, and obviates the need of fencing at this point.
Says architect, Stephen Lumb for Tangentyere Design: "We wanted a more formal presence for the campus on the street and at the same time wanted to reduce the amount of fencing we were using, so the building itself became part of the line of security for the site."
Of the curved forms, Mr Lumb says there was discussion of them being leaf-like the riverine landscape at that stretch is thick with leafy river red gums.
"That was a visual idea. The curves also defer to the river, presenting a softer face to it, even though their primary motivation is to respond to the curves of the circulation spine," says Mr Lumb.
The colours, at the express wish of IAD, are predominantly earthy ochres, reds and oranges, resonating with the ranges and the wider landscape. The library wall is in paler colours, which take their cues from the bark of the river gums.
This wall was also intended to bear a work of art, most probably a mosaic based on a painting by an Aboriginal artist. While the construction budget does not permit the commissioning of the work, it is hoped that funds will be found at a later stage.
The landscaping of the site was designed for Tangentyere by landscape architect Cathy Pirrie. Apart from grape vines for shading pergolas and some lawn areas, river red gums, melaleucas, whitewoods and native grasses, such as native lemon grass and kangaroo grass, were the obvious choices, in keeping with the riverside site.
Ms Pirrie makes a point about the importance of maintenance in landscape design.
She also did the design for the landscaping along Leichardt Terrace opposite the council chambers, using similar species.
She says poor maintenance by the Town Council has destroyed the original design. The native grasses have been replaced by bark mulch, and when some of the trees died they were replaced by a eucalypt variety not native to this area.
In her view, landscaping and the pathways along the river are not enough in themselves to turn around the public perception of the river.
"It needs a place for people to go to a sculpture park perhaps, with a caf? It needs to become a destination in itself, like Southbank in Melbourne."


It was a big weekend for Sweet Chilli, in more ways than one: they played Glen Helen on Saturday night (double billing with the Super Raelene Brothers), adding two musos and a singer as they went along; and then the Date Garden for Mother's Day, keeping to their basic four.
The outfit is headed by singer/songwriter/guitarist, Ingrid Laguna, strikingly pretty, small but with a big voice, especially in the lower register.
She's regularly joined by Emma Trenorden on vocals and percussion, Martin Proctor on bass guitar; and Daniel Keane on sax.
On Saturday Trevor Close on drums and Matt Richards on mandolin contributed, and then original band member Bec Matthews, spied in the audience, was asked to step up and add to the vocal harmonies.
Laguna nonetheless dominated, shifting easily through a range of styles, but perhaps best in "alternative country" mode story-telling in an emphatic Australian accent, starting off in spoken word, sliding into her melody line.
All the material the band perform is Laguna's, much of it written on her six week road trip to the Territory in 2002, and some since."Alice Springs has been a great place to develop my music," says the Melbourne-born Laguna
"Diverse" but definitely "acoustic and earthy", the music is about responding to what is going on in her life at some level. For instance, "Quiver" talks about her being hard on herself, having high expectations; "Picture This" is about people who are close to her not understanding her need to create music.
There are also a number of love songs, not surprising when it was a love story (with the man who's now her husband) that brought her here in the first place.
FEELINGSBut not all of the songs are about her feelings, some are more about "surface things" and some tell other people's stories, even though her own experience is probably in there somewhere.
The band has received funding from Arts NT to record their debut album next month.
"We'll be travelling to the east coast, north of Byron Bay, to record with consummate musician and high-calibre producer Steve Berry," says Laguna.
"I'm really looking forward to doing this with the band, they bring so much to the music."
The CD will be sold to fans of course but it will also be used to get gigs at festivals."It all depends on how the recording goes. We've only got two weeks and it's more important that we get six tracks that we're really happy with than recording a full-length album."
Laguna spent five years as a percussionist with Melbourne-based band Rubyfruit Jungle, touring in Europe, Asia and throughout Australia.
But she has no regrets about coming to the Territory."There's a good community of musicians here and they are very accessible.
"We've been able to get gigs and yet I've also had the space to develop my songs."It has really worked out in a way I wouldn't have expected."

Learning lessons of life. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

Last week someone asked me what was happening to "my lot", alluding to the biggest demonstration at New Zealand Parliament in Wellington in over 50 years. 15,000 Maoris marched, protesting against government moves to place foreshore and seabed in the hands of the Crown.
They're not "my lot", I remarked, although I did grow up with many Maoris, played sport and sat alongside them at school, and, like many Kiwis, have extended family of Maori origin.
I decided that perhaps they are "my lot", but then, I have always thought that the NZ foreshores which David and I enjoy whenever we are trans-Tasman are everyone's to share.
Ownership, or the claim thereof, is an anomaly.
David and I drove our house-guest, Irene, to the bus depot early Friday morning.
It was cold with the MacDonnell Ranges shrouded in mist.
David last saw Irene 30 years ago in Fort Victoria (renamed Masvingo), Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe.
She had migrated from England to become a Rhodesian citizen in 1958 and later met and married Ken there.
They bought a farm, worked hard for years, raised a family and in 1999, like others, were dispossessed of their property through Mugabe's compulsory land acquisition (for which white farmers received no compensation).
They stayed with family in the middle of the African bush for a period and in late 2002, arrived in Scotland, where Irene now bases herself.
Sadly, Ken died soon after the move.
Irene flew in from Perth on Monday and "did" some of the Centre.
She's interested in history and highlights for her were Panorama Guth, the Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame and the Telegraph Station.
We organised a "when we" dinner at Casa Nostra with African-born Australian friends, Anne & William and George & Sarah, who discovered that they had not only places in common with Irene; they also had people in common.
During a mid-week lunch on the mall, Irene met Lori, Liz, Francoise, Jules, Stephanie, Gill and others. I knew a little of Irene's background but I hadn't grasped Francoise's, ringing her later to confirm it.
Francoise, who's lived in Alice for over 20 years, is a dear friend of ours, an artist and sculptor who grew up in Dutch Indonesia.
When Indonesia was occupied by the Japanese, her Opa (grandfather) was one of many men who was forced to work on the Burma Railway.
When he finally returned home to Djember, Java, after the war, he found he had been dispossessed of his properties a dairy farm and rubber and coffee plantation.
The young Francoise, sent to continue her schooling in Holland, culturally and climatically a world apart from Java, was devastated.
Her parents opted to stay in Indonesia to rebuild the financial stability and livelihood that would eventually enable them to migrate to Oz.
It is said that everyone has a story it's a matter of taking, possibly finding, time to learn about it.
Irene calls herself a globe-trotting granny (trips courtesy of her children) and a "senior of the universe", although Jules said, as did Sir Bob (Geldof) at the 1985 Live Aid concert he organised in Africa, we're all children of the universe.
Thousands of people fight for the right to own seabeds, foreshores, rocks and ranges, as millions more lose lives battling for freedom or trying to protect and retain possession of what is rightfully theirs.
What happened to tolerance and acceptance?
Obviously what people have worked to achieve and own is certainly theirs (until someone else decides, for whatever reason, it isn't).
Perhaps there is a moral here, that wherever national icons or natural resources are owned by a specific group, there is always a danger of exploitation. Ownership of creation itself, the clouds, oceans, mountains and ravines should surely remain with Mother Nature for the enjoyment of everyone.

Give me back my phone! COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Years ago in a different town, my Saturday morning routine was to cycle down to the local shops where a man stood outside the supermarket selling newspapers.
Every week I would ride up to him and buy the weekend paper.
It was great because I didn't have to lock up my bike and I hardly even had to rest my foot on the ground.
This is one of my complaints about Alice Springs no outdoor newspaper vendors.
Anyway, one day the newspaper seller looked up at me and asked when I was planning to have the operation.
Taken aback, I asked which operation he was referring to.
"The one to get your bike removed", he said with a straight face.
Sad to report, but this was probably one of the comedy highlights of my life, comparing only to the sense of humour of the local barber, who asked me where the screws were so he could take off my glasses.
I mention these little comedic drops in life's muddy flow because they are relevant to my current situation.
My teenage daughter needs an operation to have the telephone removed. Whenever I am trying to ask her something important, or entering a moment of fatherly enjoyment like helping with her homework, suddenly the phone gets stuck to her ear.
Basically, she talks on the telephone all the time.
To give an example, her friends call her five minutes after she said goodbye to them at the front door.
Not because they left their Hilary Duff CD behind or anything.
No, all they want to do is finish the conversation that was supposedly unfinished, when they said "see you on Monday" five minutes earlier.
In return, she calls them about minor details of meeting in town or at the cinema, together with a list of other topics to which I have no access.
Sometimes I think it would be easier if all the friends moved into our house, I moved out and then she called me about her homework a couple of times a week.
Sometimes the national media offers parental guidance.
Recently moved into a new home on the Eastside, I have spent vast amounts of time listening to the radio while I paint walls, lay out new irrigation systems and, you guessed it, spread mulch.
More about this in the future (bet you can't wait).
I listened to a science program on the radio about changes in the body chemistry of teenagers that make them do strange things like stay in bed for 12 hours at a stretch or look at you like you're an alien.
It also helped explain why the phone is so hard to disconnect.
Imagine the umpteen times I've been sitting at the kitchen table with a homework book about the Roman Empire and an earnest desire to provide advice on Caesar's view of democracy, when the phone rings.
In these situations, what is suitable parental demeanour?
ADVICEThis is precisely when I need advice, like the kind in Dolly or Girlfriend magazine, but for middle-aged men.
Which of the following options should I choose?
1) Obey my head and watch the four hours of soccer coverage on SBS
2) Obey my stomach and have a cheese & hydroponic lettuce sandwich
3) Pretend to be angry and disappointed, demonstrating that it is not mature to make people wait who are trying to help you or
4) Shrug and be patient while reading about how Roman baths work (more interesting than it sounds).
The choice is easy.
Spanish soccer and cheese are both over-rated.
Anger never was my strong point.
So stick to the spa baths, I reckon.
Choose that option, and you're sure to be a cool parent with lots of funky friends and kids who know that they can walk all over you any time.


For the second successive week, footie spectators at Traeger Park witnessed very one-sided matches.
Pioneer 28.7 (175) defeated South 9.4 (58) and then West gave Rovers a hiding 37.19 (241) to Rovers 1.0 (6).
On-field, the challenges for both South and Rovers were insurmountable and no one can point the finger at the small band of dedicated players and administrators giving their best to resurrect the competition.
South should have run on against their arch-rivals full of vim, having downed the Eagles in the first encounter of the year and still confident after winning a premiership the previous year.
Instead they were noticeably short of key players including Max Fejo, Clinton Ngalkin and Sherman Spencer.
In contrast Pioneer have regrouped and built on their line up since the opening round. Lachlan Ross added yet more experience to the Eagle line up, assisting Graeme Smith, Craig Turner, Ricky Mentha and Trevor Dhu as the on-field mentors.
Pioneer took control of the game in the first quarter by neutralising the chip and run game of the Roos.
They outpaced the opposition and then looked to play a long-kicking game seeking the aerial supremacy of Turner and Ryan Mallard.
A five-goal buffer was established by quarter time with Pioneer scoring 7.1 to 2.1.
The Eagles scored six goals to South's three in the second quarter which put South further behind and their tails dropped, leaving them 37 points in arrears at half time.
In the second half South had little left to counter a slick exhibition of gaining possession and accurate delivery by Pioneer.
Mallard continued to be the competition's leading goal kicker, notching up 12 goals for the game.
The high-flying Clinton Pepperill booted 4 and Dhu enjoyed his game with a three-goal haul.
At ground level Pioneer was very well serviced by Wayne McCormack, Geoffrey Taylor, Kalem Ronberg and Matt Campbell, who ensured opportunities for the big boys in the forward line.
The problems at South were well illustrated when in the dying minutes of the game a stretcher was required and it was left to coach Cusack to instigate proceedings and attend the injured player.
Furthermore with the game over, the same man was left with the responsibility for seeing that match reports were completed.
The Roos were but a shadow of their former selves and really need to regroup if they see back to back premierships in their sights.
A loss by 117 points doesn't help their cause.
In the other game, it was expected that Rovers would be competitive at least in the first half but this was not to be.
Big Ben Whelan took control early in the air and had Clint Shaw at the fall of the ball to drive forward continually.
In front of goal, had Steven Squires not missed some relatively easy shots in the opening moments, the dominance by West would have been even greater.
At quarter time with a 10.6 to 0 lead, the Bloods were never going to be threatened.
Rovers, even with the services of Darryl Ryder (from Federal), were placed in a position no one enjoys.
As West kicked their hearts out at one end of the field, the Blues could only respond once a goal by Glenn Holberton late in the game.
West on the other hand, in claiming a 235 point victory gave the paying public an insight into their prospects for 2004.
They have been strengthened by good recruiting but the coming of age of both Damien Timms and Henry Labastida is also a strong point.
Timms as a schoolboy showed the potential to excel at various sports and he has gone from strength to strength with West.
Labastida, after a season with Glenelg, has come home a more powerfully built competitor who will never say die.
Add to this the ability of Kevin Bruce and the running of Adam Taylor and Michael Gurney and West have a side which is likely to be right up there at the business end.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Farcical football.

Sir,- What an absolute schmozzle the 2004 Central Australia Football League (CAFL) season is turning into.
There is just one word to describe the so-called "town" competition and that's farcical.
Last weekend's results saw one team kick 37 goals while their opponents managed a solitary goal!
In the other game, already the second replay of the 2003 grand finalists, it was a 100 point deficit for the losers.
The pattern of 2003, where one-sided results dominated, is continuing.
CAFL's pathetic answer to this was to switch the playing days of the town competition and the very successful communities competition.
After four rounds, what is the result?
Embarrassingly poor attendances on a Saturday for the town competition and a stark reduction in numbers attending the communities matches, now on a Sunday.
In previous years the communities fixture on a Saturday drew good support but in one misconceived move the CAFL has seriously set back football in Central Australia.
CAFL executives have treated football and the communities in an off-hand manner.
Town clubs rely heavily on community players in their sides to help make them competitive.
It is patently obvious that a major restructuring needs to take place if football in Central Australia is to make any headway.
For 2005 CAFL should abolish the town/community competitions and establish an A and B grade fixture.
I would propose an eight-team A-grade and also that a promotion-relegation system be implemented.
This would mean adding three community teams to the present five town clubs.
Some, no doubt, would argue that town clubs would struggle without community players but it should not be beyond their capabilities to move in a new direction.
Community players do put their community first. Evidence for this is seen in the Lightning Premiership weekend that kickstarts the season.
However, it would also mean that it would allow community teams to become more "professional" in their approach, not just helping competition to flourish but having a positive effect on community life in general.
Unfortunately the only positive I have witnessed this season is that there are far less people in attendance affected by alcohol.
Graham Buckley
Alice Springs


Rugby League's Warren Colletts is going beyond the call of duty to make sure the sport maintains its standing as the "greatest game of all".
Over the past fortnight he has travelled the length of the Stuart Highway with the under-15 Alice Springs team and later the under-18s.
The under-15s picked up three youngsters from Tennant Creek to join the touring party and went on to the capital where they played five games, losing only one of these by just two points, finishing the carnival in third spot.
Picked for the NT representative squad are Aaron Costello, Isaac Lotto and Mitchell Morgan.
In the under-18s, five lads gained squad selection.
Jarrad Torres from Central Memo and Damien Shelford from Vikings were selected while from West, Trent Nibbs, Russell Satour and Ruben Mack were named in the squad.
FOOTINGThis achievement at junior level puts League on a firm footing.
Saturday's under-8 and under-10 competitions are thriving.
Only two teams do battle at under-12 level but Colletts is seeking more players to create a four-team competition.
Four teams compete at the under-14 level while the under-16 competition has only two teams at present, but better days are ahead.
In a fortnight the under-16s will revert to playing on Wednesday evening, which will allow those who wish to play both League and AFL the chance to do so and so bolster numbers.
The swap to Wednesday night will also allow the A-grade competition to return to the traditional Saturday afternoon time slot after four rounds under lights on Fridays.
Last Friday night, despite the effects of influenza, Vikings were able to snare a 6024 win over Central Memo.
Vikings kept Memo from scoring until half time and added another 32 points in the second half.
West then accounted for United who for weeks now have promised plenty but not come up with the bacon.
Westies led the Magpies 20 to 4 at the break with the score 38 to 18 at full time.

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