June 23, 2004.


The spread of buffel grass may force the NT Government to choose either keeping sweet with the cattle industry or protecting assets of the tourism industry which is worth 10 times as much.
Peter Latz, Central Australia's most eminent botanist, estimates that buffel has already replaced native vegetation in 20 per cent of the West MacDonnell national park, just as tourism promoters are focussing on it as the region's key attraction.
A 10 year run of seasons such as the last three could wipe out native plant species in the park altogether, says Mr Latz.
But a spokesman for Parks Minister Chris Burns says: "The belief that buffel is set to create a monoculture in the West MacDonnells is not supported by any research evidence."
Replies Mr Latz: "Except 30 years of my research."
He grew up in Hermannsburg, published the seminal book "Bushfires and Bushtucker" and has had 10 plants he discovered named after him.
Mr Latz says the devastating impact of buffel is linked with the excessive heat it creates when it burns, destroying other plant species including trees, and its capacity to grow back quickly after a fire.
"Buffel loves being burned," says Mr Latz. "It just comes back thicker. No disturbance is what it doesn't like."
He says buffel is now far too widespread to be controlled by spraying or chipping, and he is calling for an urgent introduction of biological control with fungi or insects.
In 2002, when fuel loads were similar to today's, 17 million hectares burned in Central Australia, including a major fire in the West Macs, destroying an old corkwood forest.
One minor species of buffel was introduced first by Afghan camel drivers.
Later the CSIRO and the NT Government added more vigorously growing varieties to aid dust suppression and as cattle fodder.
Mr Latz says buffel is likely to take over no more than a quarter of Central Australia, depending as it does on areas high in phosphorous".
"It needs nutrients.
"You can forget about the spinifex country and most of the mulga country. They're safe from buffel.
"What it's going to take over are the richest bits, the nicest bits.
"In the West MacDonnells it's going to take the highest areas of biodiversity and turn them into areas of lowest biodiversity, namely buffel.
"It's just going to take over and crowd everything out."
How long will that take?
"It depends on the conditions of the country.
"If it's already buggered by cows or whatever then it will come in very quickly.
"All of the West Macs has been buggered in the past."
Mr Latz says the only answer is "some sort of biological control".
He has heard that buffel in Queensland is being attacked by a caterpillar and a fungus, although that's possibly in the wet areas.
"Nature loves monocultures," says Mr Latz, "because some insect or fungus is going to come along and say, beauty, this is great, I'm gong to have a go at this."
He argues we need to use whatever enemy buffel has already and introduce it to Central Australia.
"It's just got to be done."
Mr Latz says he's been fighting buffel on his own rural block south of Alice Springs, spending a year's solid work to keep it off 10 acres, by poisoning mostly and then "weeding on my hands and knees".
"I had to fence it because the euros followed me in and ate the heads off the native grasses before they had a chance to seed.
"The rabbits, the cattle and the native animals are forcing buffel to take over, because they don't like eating it.
"They'll eat everything else."
Mr Latz says the pastoralists are going to object "but they are going to be much better off" if they control buffel.
"The cattle feed and breed on the native plants.
"That's where the nutrients are. They are in the sweet grasses.
"Buffel is not much better than spinifex.
"Cattle eat it when it's green, growing actively like now, and then they won't touch it until they're actually desperate, in the dry times.
"Buffel is a fall-back, not much better than spinifex.
"If the pastoralists end up with just 30 per cent of grasses being buffel I reckon they will be in a really good position.
"They'll have both the native grasses to fatten and breed on and buffel to fall back on in the drought times," says Mr Latz.
"What the pastoralists don't realise is that buffel will take over totally in their richest areas, and they will just have this sour grass that cattle won't really do that well on.
"The Centre has always been known as the place where after rain, you get these sweet grasses that fatten cattle up very quickly."
But the Cattlemen's Association's Stuart Kenny says natural balances will occur rather than monoculture.
He says: "Long term experience in the pastoral industry both in Central Australia, interstate, especially Queensland, and overseas is that buffel provides a good diet for cattle and is particularly suited to areas with irregular small rainfalls.
"Cattle dietary studies indicate that cattle like eating buffel as part of their diet, with studies indicating up to one kg per head per day growth rates.
"Buffel significantly reduces any degradation from grazing.
"The benefits of buffel in soil conservation in this fragile landscape are significant, helping to minimise all forms of erosion but particularly wind erosion."
Mr Latz says the "enemies" of buffel – insects and fungi – will sooner or later come anyway, with or without human intervention.
However, accelerating biological control would be the only way to minimise short to medium-term damage which could be catastrophic for the tourism industry.
Central Australia earned $404.5m from tourism in 2002/03, according to CATIA, compared to $43.6m from the sale of cattle according to ABARE.
Mr Kenny says the annual value of the pastoral industry in Central Australia is estimated as $70m.
"Pastoralists are an important part of the backbone of the regional economy and they support regional economic development including tourism development.
"Many of the tourism products were pioneered by pastoralists."
Mr Latz says even without human intervention biological control of buffel will become a reality: "It will happen, anyway.
"These bugs are going to come across [from Queensland].
"But if we get in early at least this would save our national park from being totally taken over.
"Biological control will never get rid of buffel. It will reduce its severity, stop the severe fires.
"Look at the Finke flood out, for example.
"It used to have lots of castor oil bush, and there were real worries that it would take over the whole Finke.
"This caterpillar turned up, a really beautiful, colourful caterpillar. We don't know where it came from, and it chewed the hell out of it.
"Now you see only one little clump of castor oil bush per kilometre.
"But buffel is hardier than castor oil bush."
The NT Government is reviewing the weeds species list and is inviting comment.
Buffel "is on the agenda", says Dr Burns' spokesman.
"But this is not the time for knee jerk reactions, particularly in respect to biological controls.
"There is every indication that as CA moves into a drier period, predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology, buffel will revert to a less dominating and more manageable species in the Central Australian landscape."
Although rural road verges are choked with buffel, and the grass is continuing its infestation of the picturesque hills around The Alice, the Town Council isn't doing anything either.
Henry Szczypiorski, the Acting Director Technical Services, says the council is mowing, road reserves, drains, parks, laneways and open space.
But the council does not have an eradication program: "Buffel's stable root system has benefits," says Mr Szczypiorski.
"This may well be outweighed by negative things.
"We remain very interested in suggested options.
"No-one has come to us saying what you're doing is doing more harm than good."
Say Dr Burns' spokesman: "There is a view that winter rains and frosts will knock buffel about causing it to rot and die although a proportion of plants will remain.
"But other native species adapted to cold Central Australia with minor winter rains will tend to establish and compete successfully with surviving buffel plants."
However, Mr Latz counsels playing it safe: "Anyone who tries to predict the future in Central Australia is mad.
"It's got the most variable climate in the world.
"But the last three years have been absolutely perfect for the spread of buffel.
"If we had that sort of rain in the next 10 years the West Macs would be totally covered."
The worst case scenario is that ultimately the Centre's wealth of plants will disappear.
Even our majestic gumtrees will be reduced to stunted mallee bushes because ferocious blazes will kill them off well before they can mature.
And then, the best our tourism industry will be able to promote is yet another of the world's ecological disasters.


The Country Liberal Party's two heavies in Alice Springs say they have faith in the town.
And they're putting their money where their mouth is.
They are Andrew Maloney, the chairman of the party's biggest and most powerful branch, Alice Springs, and David Forrest, the party's vice president.
Companies they represent bought new offices in the CBD – one of the few recent private enterprise developments of this kind.
Mr Maloney's PFA Chartered Accountants, and real estate company Framptons, of which Mr Forrest is a partner, bought the strata titles of the two larger offices in the twin development by builder Mitchell Welsh.
The two buildings are on opposite corners of the Hartley Street and Stott Terrace intersection.
Mr Maloney says the price was about $2000 a square metre, including land, building and fittings.
"The value has already increased by about 20 per cent."
Mr Maloney says it was an easy choice to make: "I'm not going anywhere.
"I'll be here for the next 30 years or thereabouts, and PFA as a practice will also be here."
Mr Maloney says the repayments are "a lot" less than rent for similar premises.
Mr Forrest says Framptons – "desperately short of space" – had the option of trying to fit into an extended area of their former rented premises.
As rent and repayments were similar and the long term investment was attractive, the choice became "obvious".
Says Mr Forrest, who is one of several partners in the firm: "The town has sectors that aren't doing as well as they could but that just shows we have potential in those sectors.
"There is room to grow them.
"Government infrastructure works are going to get bigger, things like Desert Knowledge.
"We're still not too sure what Desert Knowledge actually is, but the fact is they're spending a lot of money there [in the Desert Knowledge Precinct south of the Gap].
"Even interstate contractors will come to work on it," says Mr Forrest.
"There's expansion in the tourism industry. Tourism groups are looking at that.
"We're going to get [residential] land, eventually. It will happen.
"[There was a time when] builders had to get blocks of land in a ballot.
"Shortage of land isn't a new thing for Alice Springs.
"We've learned to cope with that."
He says the real estate market is "still producing good results" but prices are "not continuing to increase as they did over the last 12 months".
"Sometimes vendor expectations have continued to grow while prices have reached a plateau," says Mr Forrest.
"And instead of selling in a matter of days or a couple weeks, it may take five to six weeks" to sell a house.
He says some people are leaving town but the majority of the sales are people moving around within the town.
"I'm selling homes to people moving into a different type of home, moving from a unit into a house, a house to a unit, a smaller house to a bigger house.
"You get a standard number of sales because people are leaving as their contracts are up. That will never change.
"We dwell far too much on people leaving town," says Mr Forrest, who says he is on his "third five year stint" in Alice.
"I've got several clients looking for major residential or commercial development opportunities."
Says Mr Maloney, who's been in town for 17 years: "When I first came here I was lucky to get six to 12 months out of a staff member.
"Now people are with us three to five years or more. At first we were all from somewhere else."
Mr Forrest says many of Framptons' staff are people "who've grown up in Alice Springs. They haven't left town to get jobs. Some of them now have kids of their own."


Desert Knowledge: what is it, who wants it and how much are they willing to pay for it?
Some 48 research projects, underway or in the pipeline at the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (DKCRC), should be able to come up with some answers.
The projects cover a vast field of interest, "a broad canvas to get a picture of the possibilities", says research director Mark Stafford-Smith, former head of the CSIRO lab in Alice Springs.
Because the concept of desert knowledge is so new (indeed, developing the concept is a project in itself), many of the 48 are "scoping studies", which will conclude at the end of the first two years.
The board will then choose where to place its main focus for the remainder of the seven year program.
"Basically, the focus will be on where we can make a difference," says Dr Stafford-Smith.
The idea of a cooperative research centre is that research is done in partnership with the people who will be able to make use of its results, whether they are in industry, government or non-government organisations.
The current program has four broad themes:
• Natural resource management.
• Service delivery to remote communities. "Remote" includes Alice Springs, but most of the projects are looking at issues in smaller, more isolated communities.
• Institutional development and governance.
• Regional business systems and regional development.
The emphasis is not necessarily on realising commercial possibilities but there is certainly an interest in that.
In the initial two-year phase, the board is trying to take "a balanced view", says Dr Stafford-Smith, and needs to first of all get an idea of what is out there.
To this end, as one example among many, they have supported a review, coordinated by CSIRO, of natural resource enterprise diversity across desert Australia: what's happening, what's the potential?
The examples probably number in the hundreds, with cattle, bush foods, on-farm aquaculture, use of native timbers, and trading in carbon credits among the more obvious.
Some are possibly "daft" but others will have great potential.
"We want to pick up on the natural experimentation that is going on and see what the possibilities are for further development and transfer of knowledge," says Dr Stafford-Smith.
In some areas, particularly in activity on Aboriginal lands, there are pulls in different directions. The development of bush foods is such an area.
One project, a collaboration between Curtin University, the University of South Australia and three Aboriginal communities including Titjikala in Central Australia, is called Plants for People.
Its community development focus is on a process driven by what communities want, bringing in scientific skills to support that process.
So far the work is about developing people's understanding of the chemistry of plants and their health value.
Producing a commercial product is not the principle concern, though if there is a commercial outcome that will be well and good. In contrast to "bio-prospecting" by external corporations, the project will seek to protect Aboriginal intellectual property and ensure that its benefits stay in the communities.
A second bush foods project, awaiting board approval at the end of August, has a clear commercial focus.
It wants to look specifically at the bush tomato and how to guarantee its supply chains between Australia and Europe.
Europe's insatiable appetite for new tastes provides an assured, potentially huge market, says Dr Stafford-Smith, but how do we get sufficient continuity of supply?
The project wants to work on a model that ensures the return of benefits to Central Australia and Aboriginal communities.
The research partners include universities, CSIRO, the NT's Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development, and interests in Central Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.
"We need to establish a brand that cannot be taken away," says Dr Stafford-Smith.
"We can't just develop a genotype that can be grown in hot dry conditions anywhere.
"The bush tomato that Europeans consume needs to be marketed as one that is managed if not harvested by Aboriginal people in desert Australia and you can't do that in California.
"This is a continuing debate inside and outside the CRC but my belief is that desert knowledge is about asserting desert people's intellectual property rights and making sure that the benefit of development returns to desert communities."
Profitable enterprise represents only one dimension of the potential financial benefit of desert knowledge.
A number of projects are focussing on service delivery in remote communities, among them one in partnership with ATSIC, looking at housing lifecycles.
At present the lifetime of a house on remote communities is six to seven years, compared to 40 years in town.
This puts intolerable strain on repairs and maintenance budgets.
If research can show how to increase the lifetime even to 12 years it will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars over seven years, says Dr Stafford-Smith.
Housing has been a perennial theme for service providers to Aboriginal communities, yet "more work needs to be done", he says.
"It is a subset of bigger questions, and these aren't necessarily Indigenous questions, but questions of remoteness.
"We need to understand what is an Indigenous or cross-cultural problem as opposed to what is a problem to do with living in remote communities.
"There are some genuine cross-cultural issues but many of the problems we see in Aboriginal communities are also experienced by non-Aboriginal communities in, for instance, remote western Queensland – harsh conditions, small populations, limited employment opportunities, expensive services.
"One problem is that service delivery has been supply driven. For example, houses have been built that are inappropriate for the conditions, both environmental and social.
"We don't have a good understanding of demand in remote communities and this is something our research will be developing."
Being able to demonstrate that we know how to live in the desert "sustainably and harmoniously" is essential to the marketing of desert knowledge – we need to live up to the "brand".
An area long needing attention is fire management.
A project called Desert Fire, linking Bushfires Council, the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment, the Central Land Council and Aboriginal communities in the Tanami, is bringing together traditional understanding and Western scientific understanding – "a collaborative approach is our explicit intention" – to develop fire management strategies for large areas.
Some of the strategies could potentially be exportable to other arid settings in, for example, southern Africa, western USA and inner Mongolia.
"They don't have exactly the same conditions, but there are bits we can all learn from one another," says Dr Stafford-Smith.
"One example of what we might have to offer in particular is our knowledge of remote sensing to manage broad, sparsely populated landscapes."
Fire management has the potential to offer some Aboriginal people livelihood opportunities, but the CRC is also looking at broader-based economic development.
"The challenge is to create integrated regional economies with critical mass to reach out to markets," says Dr Stafford-Smith.
Desart, the umbrella body for Aboriginal art centres, appears to be a good model, linking small operations in a cooperative network, gaining good reliability of supply, pooling resources for marketing, and, critically, retaining control at community level so benefits go back there.
Other activities in remote settings, such as bush foods and community stores, could benefit from similar models.
Meanwhile, the CRC wants to also hear from small desert businesses about what sort of research they might benefit from.
Most are very small indeed, with not much money or time to put into research themselves.
Dr Stafford-Smith says a recent meeting with members of the Chamber of Commerce led to a lively discussion. Possible areas for investigation are staff turnover, transport costs and the documentation of local expertise so that it does not leave town when individuals do.


Whatever your views on the war in Iraq, Australia's relationship with America, Pine Gap or politics one fact remains: Alice Springs is a key location for assorted defence purposes.
No doubt you know about the "Space Base", but there is another vital military placement in Alice – North West Mobile Force (Norforce).
Governor-General of Australia, Major General Michael Jeffery, was in Alice Springs on the weekend and attended a presentation by some of the town's 45 local soldiers.
General Jeffery was involved in raising Norforce's predecessor, the Seventh Independent Rifle Company, back in the ‘seventies, when he decided that surveillance of northern coastlines could benefit from a station in Alice Springs.
It was his pushing that got the idea approved and set up.
His son Craig was a recent operations commander of Norforce.
Last Saturday troops in Alice first escorted the General to their depot on George Crescent, where he was treated to a guided tour of several regional surveillance force vehicles (RSFVs), a Zodiac and a display of weapons and signalling equipment.
There was even a secretive show of army technical gear that the media photographers on hand were prohibited to photograph.
Later some reserve soldiers received promotions presented by General Jeffery.
Public relations officer Major Chris Delaney explained the significance of the Red Centre to military operations in Northern Australia.
He said that the 600 soldiers operating from the Top End of the Kimberly area and around the Territory conduct continuous surveillance of "external threats".
Alice Springs houses one of the four depots in this area.
The 600 soldiers speak a total of 119 different languages among them.
The surveillance monitors 1.8 million square kilometers (this accounts for one third of Australia's land mass).
Alice Springs's area of responsibility alone spreads to the Gulf region.
Of the entire network 60 per cent of all personnel are Aboriginal. Major Delaney emphasised the importance of the Aboriginal contribution.
"Aborigines know the land so they know when something is amiss," said Maj Delaney.
Sergeant Brett McNicholl said this has been the case since the days of the "Nackeroos" as early as 1941. He said that Aborigines possess skills such as tracking, hunting, and basic bush survival that are invaluable to the cause.
"Aborigines teach us their ways and vice versa, we're working together, as a team," said Sgt McNicholl.
Lance Corporal Shaun Evans, an Aboriginal soldier, said army life teaches "respect, leadership and pride". Maj Delaney said that the army would like to employ more Aboriginal women but that this is difficult due to various cultural issues.
Reserve soldiers in the surveillance regiment are given duties on 70 to 100 days a year for which they are paid, attractive in some Territory communities with up to 90 per cent unemployment rates.
This money doesn't come easy though. Sgt McNicholl said soldiers must "train for the worst" and "be the best".
Alice Springs's contribution is exclusively surveillance-related but soldiers are still expected to be up to the physical standards of their combat counterparts.
This includes handling weapons and in the higher ranks dealing with risk management and small aircraft operation.
Soldiers claim that the kinds of things the army teaches are things that can be taken into all aspects of civilian life.
Sgt McNicholl said these include respect, pride and, of course, discipline. He also said that a lot of the people who join Norforce do so for the "experience and adventure".

Braham in coward's castle. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Loraine Braham, the Territory Speaker, last week not only failed to ensure decent conduct of Parliamentary Members, she herself was in flagrant breach of it.
Using the House as coward's castle she besmirched me and this newspaper under the cover of Parliamentary privilege.
On Tuesday last week Madam Speaker referred to a photograph published on the front page of the Alice Springs News on May 7, 2003, on occasion of the sittings of the NT Parliament in Alice Springs.
In the photograph Mrs Braham is holding a placard with the inscription: "It's my town. I feel safe."
Last week she stated (according to the uncorrected Hansard): "Mr Deputy Speaker, the Opposition with the cooperation of Irwin [sic] Chlanda of course took that photo of me holding that plaque saying I love this town."
I would like Mrs Braham to take note that the photograph was not taken by the Opposition but by me, a professional journalist of 40 years' standing and the longest-serving journalist in Central Australia.
I was not cooperating with anyone.
She infers the Alice Springs News is in the pocket of the Opposition, an assertion that is both malicious and not very bright, given this newspaper's proud and broadly accepted 10 year record of independence.
The text running with the photograph, written by reporter Kieran Finnane, gave a detailed, balanced and fair account of the points made at the demonstration in which Mrs Braham took part.
I requested MLA for MacDonnell John Elferink to convey this to Mrs Braham in the House and he did so in the adjournment debate on Thursday, including a demand from me for a retraction.
By noon Monday she had not provided it.
Her attack on me is certainly a surprise. Soon after the photo was published Mrs Braham requested a copy, expressing to Ms Finnane her delight about its appearance on the front page of the Alice Springs News.
Another request for a copy of the photo came from Mr Elferink, who said he wanted to use it in his newsletter.
I obliged him as well. When the photo was later used by the CLP in party political propaganda I told Mr Elferink that I had not allowed him the use of the photograph for that purpose.
Mr Elferink apologised to me and I accepted his apology.
We at the Alice News won't lose sleep if Mrs Braham fails to apologise. But we'll certainly judge her by it.


Verdi didn't allow TDC to get into the rhythm of the game in A-grade soccer at the weekend, taking the game 3-0.
Their first goal was set up from the midfield when a Robin Yak through ball found a sprinting Nathan Goodwin who slotted the ball home in the 15th minute.
The midfield built up a phalanx of attack later in the half, which allowed Ross Arezolla to score a second goal.
In the second half Mark Mancini orchestrated a third goal for Verdi, leaving them undefeated and top of the table.
Federal strikers then notched up a much-needed win when they downed Neata Glass Scorpions 3-1.
A double to Adam Dickinson in the 13th and then the 31st minute established the early break.
Scorpions were able to get back in the game in the 52nd minute when Adrian Spitera narrowed the margin but late in the game an unfortunate own goal from Scorpions put the game beyond reach.
The B-grade Stormbirds lived up to their name by raging home to a 3-0 win over RSL.
In their strong second half they were able to score twice in a space of five minutes. Successful netters of the ball were Aaron Hester, Laurence Wilson and Pete Allsop.
In a game where Federal ran on undermanned, Central Falcons were able to force a 5-4 win.
A highlight of the game was the individual performance of Trevor Presley who scored four of Falcons five goals.
In the top of the table clash, the Neata Glass Scorpions were able to secure a psychological advantage by downing the Buckleys side 5-0.
In this game, a major goal scorer also emerged with Christian Huen notching a bag of four goals.
Dragons celebrated a sound 2-0 win over the TDC, after they got off to a shaky start to the season.
in C-grade, the young Gunnaz then came out and accounted for Desert Spinach 5-0. The game was not entirely one sided as at half time Gunnaz simply led by a goal but in the second half, the young guns blazed away, scoring four unanswered goals.
Edward Tikoft bagged three goals for the match and singles went to Tony Shilton and Kidir Calisir.
In the remaining game Scorpions proved too good for Stormbirds taking a 1-0 victory, thanks to a Marcus Becker goal.


The final weekend's racing before the Darwin Cup Carnival again gave punters some insight into the potential of local performers.
In the first race, the St Johns Ambulance Class 2 Handicap over 1200 metres, Karashim from Will Savage's stable, conducted business in a professional manner.
As favourite he jumped well for Garry Lefoe and led from barrier four, tracked by Trafford with Bysanto in close order.
At the turn Trafford felt the pressure and faded, with Karashim able to go to the line by four and a half lengths from Bysanto who ran on well with Here's Me Mate a length and a half away in third place.
The Tooheys New Class 3 Handicap over 1100 metres saw Edging Around repeat the dose leading all the way to the line, with Becant railing up in second spot.
In the straight the Greg Carige galloper took full control going to the post a winner by three and three quarter lengths from Becant with Burran remaining consistent in claiming third money.
The Garry Searle stable, on their way to Darwin, was encouraged by Spunky Funster's win in the 1100 metre Qantas Class B Handicap.
Spunky Funster led by a length early with She's A Card prominent and Miss Movie Star racing wide as a result of her barrier eight start.
The outside running caught up with Miss Movie Star, but Spunky Funster was able to maintain control of the race and went on to register a win by a length from She's A Card.
Half a length back was the ever-reliable Saratoga Boy, again running into the placings.
Not Abandoned kept his supporters keen, cleaning up in the Lizzy Milnes Memorial Trobis Three Year Old Class 4 Handicap.
Raced over 1400 metres, the visitor Pensee, again from Garry Searle's stable, joined front runner The Red Faced Rat in a charge that did neither horse any good.
Play Again Sam sat in third position with Not Abandoned was handy.
The Red Faced Rat found the going too demanding. Pensee felt the effect of the earlier charge leaving Not Abandoned to stride away in the straight to win by two lengths.
Blev came from well back in the field to take second place and Play It Again Sam filled the placings.
The last of the day was the Sportingbet Australia 27th Anniversary Cup over 1400 metres.
In a race with little pace, Mr Cardin, starting from barrier one, found himself at the helm from Furnish and Jubes.
In the running however Grey Desert became the horse to beat.
It may have been a case of going too early however as in the straight Smiling Eyes was able to put in a strong run to win by three quarters of a length.
Jubes battled gamely on for second, with Grey Desert a head away in third place.


Pioneer emerged victors of the draw card game with South on the weekend, winning 11.19 (85) to 9.7 (61).
In the curtain raiser West literally had a trot in the park, winning 32.22 (214) to Rovers 2.1 (13).
Although the Eagles had 30 scoring shots compared to Roos' 16, the game was entertaining.
Roos went to the first quarter huddle in charge of proceedings having scored 3.1 to 2.1. Dynamic play in the forward line had resulted in big Max Fejo being responsible for a goal and Charlie Lynch booting two.
In the Pioneer camp, Steven Hayes' name reappeared on the team sheet and he immediately proved effective as did Matt Campbell with a goal each.
Hayes' long and distinguished career, both in Alice and Darwin, could well be a huge boost to the Eagles' premiership pursuit.
Despite poor kicking in the second term Pioneer were able to turn things around scoring 3.5 to a goal and going to the rooms 5.6 to 4.1.
The battle between the runners in both sides was the determining factor and on the ground it was the efforts of Campbell, Daniel McCormack, Geoff Taylor and Gerald Wickham that made the difference.
While South had a forward line poised to do damage, their opportunities were restricted to a goal from Neil White, due to a lack of drive off the half-back line and through the centre.
Due credit should go to the Roos however as they hit their straps again in the third term. They clocked up 4.1 with Fejo adding two goals to his bag and Lynch another while Malcolm Kenny came to the fore with a goal.
Pioneer continued to be inaccurate adding only 2.7 for the quarter, thanks to veterans Shane Hayes and Trevor Dhu.
The run home was wide open with only three points separating the teams.
Experience proved itself in the last term with Campbell and Steven and Shane Hayes making every post-kick a winner and the defence reliably repelling Roo attacks.
In a disciplined approach Pioneer were able to score 4.6 to 1.5, and so finish 24-point winners.
In claiming victory Pioneer need to reflect on training together in order to produce their best on field.
The honours for the Roos went to Lynch, Kasman Spencer and Lloyd Stockman.
South should learn from the outing that they lack the sting the likes of the Maher brothers can add to a side and need to commit for 100 minutes.
The early game, a one sided affair from the outset, proved to be a percentage winner for West.
Of the 32 goals, Steven Squires scored eight of them.
The impressive Keith Durham scored five, and both Kenrick Tyrell and Peter Ryan were responsible for four each.
For Rovers it was Clifford Tommy who registered majors with one in the second and then the third quarter.
Looking at best players the Bloods had winners all over the ground.
Andrew Wesley again produced a class act.
The trio of Henry Labastida, Adam Taylor and Mick Hauser were characteristically there for the hard ball and Damien Timms put in yet another fine performance.
The debut of Luke Van Haaren, better known in swimming circles, was a point of interest in the Rover camp.
He transferred those qualities that make a champion to the footy field and although playing in a losing side, contributed well and will be a benefit to the Blues in their rebuild.
Others to put in were Hamish McDonald and Ryan Secker.


It's not surprising to find landscape and Aboriginal art dominating in the exhibition Directors Cut, which opened at Araluen on the weekend, part of the 20th anniversary celebrations for the arts and entertainment centre.
After all, the centre's directors – six since 1980 – who selected the works on show from the public collections held at Araluen, have all been "outsiders" and the country together with Aboriginal culture are what is immediately impressive about Central Australia.
The nice thing is that the selection is combined with short personal commentaries, which makes the show very viewer friendly: you can walk through it in a dialogue with the directors about responses to this fascinating place.
A secondary interest of the selection is the history of Araluen itself, which combines these self-same themes with a few appealing excursions elsewhere.
It is interesting to see works that I've never seen before (even if it's mainly to realise that there are still some unknowns in the collections after 17 years of viewing!).

No fight over discounts. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Someone from Mount Isa told me that when K-Mart first opened in town there were queues for days.
The whole spirit of the place was lifted, the economy enjoyed a boom and people who had never spoken exchanged pleasantries on the streets. It was as though a permanent Christmas had arrived. This may be an exaggeration, but the point is made.
The tale was repeated after I arrived in Alice Springs and took myself off to learn about the town. Faced with a library full of history books, with some relief I came across the lazy researcher's best friend. It was one of those chronological lists of events in a chart, now known as timelines for some reason to do with management-speak or computers.
The chart placed major events in order, including the building of the Telegraph Station, the wartime encampments and the native title agreements. The first traffic light was there, too.
Anyway, amongst the quaint and the cataclysmic milestones of Alice Springs I found "K-Mart Opens".
Not Woolworths or Murray Neck or any other retailer. K-Mart was singled out for a timeline accolade and a special little icon in the chart. Such stores offer a soft target for travel writers like Bill Bryson, who complained when he was in Alice that he couldn't see the MacDonnells when he looked out from his hotel because K-Mart was in the way.
Despite the scoffing of fly-in fly-out international writers, hardly a bad word have I heard spoken against K-Mart on my less ambitious journeys from Sadadeen to Elder St and sometimes even as far as Albrecht Oval.
This is why it was interesting to hear about the recent travails of Wal-Mart in the USA.
The story is that Wal-Mart has finished with country town expansion and now concentrates on the sprawl of desert cities like Albuquerque, which gobble up the arid lands in a way that makes Larapinta Valley seem like a collection of wendy houses. As the suburbs grow, so the giant discount stores move in like a modern equivalent of the corner shop, except that they take the whole block.
The growth of Wal-Mart hit a barrier in a place called Inglewood, where the company's plans to build a store the size of 17 football ovals met fierce resistance from local groups supported by national religious leaders and pollies. The Reverend Jesse Jackson called Wal-Mart an "economic Trojan horse" that has created an "uneven playing field for workers" by offering substandard wages and benefits. Leave the Ancient Greeks out of it, I say, but his message was clear.
In turn, Wal-Mart argued that influential outsiders were denying locals the job opportunities and shopping choices available elsewhere.
One side claimed that the store would generate revenue for small businesses nestled around it; opponents said local stores would fold.
In the end, a local ballot led to defeat for Wal-Mart by almost two-to-one. Everyone slunk away to lick their wounds and prepare for the next clash of corporate might versus home town America.
In an argument like this, I always fall into line against low pay and the pack of wolves that features Enron, Monsanto, HIH and the rest. But as I stood in the queue at K-Mart, the Inglewood rancour seemed a million miles away from the "No-I-don't-have-Fly-Buys" cosiness of the Alice Springs equivalent.
"Can I look in your bag?" asked the checkout operator. "Of course," I mumbled meekly, showing her my collection of old receipts and something that smelled like a dead squirrel.
No need for conflict about a new discount store in remote Australia. We'll just get out the bunting and enter it in the history books next to World War Two and the Ghan.

Not a hick town with tumbleweed. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

Earlier this year, at the end of our long hot summer, I was desperate to get out of Alice.
I finally did last weekend when I flew to Brisbane to visit my brother for a few days.
I had started to wonder if the rest of the world was still there.
I had imagined feeling free and relaxed, having only myself to worry about.
As it turned out I was quite stressed by the whole experience.
I was not used to the noise, car fumes, traffic and people and was overwhelmed by it all. I had obviously been away from the "real world" for too long and felt like I was from a different planet.
Stepping into this other dimension had a dreamlike quality about it. Everybody in it went about their business while I stood there looking in from the outside. I was there but at the same time I wasn't, and I knew I would wake up.
My brother and other members of our family would dearly like us to move east. They cannot understand how we can cope with living in such a small and isolated place.
To them it is too quiet. Not enough things to do or places to go to.
Even though I enjoyed shopping, visiting and hearing and smelling the sea, I missed the space and the dry crisp winter air of Central Australia.
Discussing my impressions of city life with my father-in-law, who also lives in Alice, he observed that most people he has met have favoured the place where they were living at the moment and how easy it is to get used to and like any place if you just live there for a while.
I don't question why my brother likes to live in Brisbane. Some people prefer the city to the country. But if you choose to live here, people from other parts of the world seem to need an explanation.
This may not be paradise but it is pretty good. At Araluen the other night, for the opening of the Directors Cut exhibition, the curator Tim said in his speech that this is a sophisticated place and how people who come here are surprised.
Because of its remoteness a lot of people imagine Alice to be a place untouched by the rest of the world, "the outback" preserved, hidden behind the ranges. A hick-town with tumble-weed blowing down the street.
A place is always its people and we are fortunate to have such an interesting and diverse population and to be able to get to know so many of its individuals.
In the city we get swept away in a tide of faces. There is constant movement and it can be difficult to focus and see the wood for the trees.
I have realised that for me it is important to know that I can get out. To know there is chocolate in the cupboard, even if I don't want any at the moment.
I'm happy where I am. Sometimes you have to get away to be reminded of what matters the most. I'd much rather have the stresses of life in a country town than those of the city. Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of Johnny Town Mouse" sums up how I felt about my trip to the city: "One place suits one person, another place suits another person. For my part I prefer to live in the country, like Timmy Willie."

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