November 24, 2004.


Traffic on Cavanagh Crescent emerged as the most tangible issue when Samih Habib's proposal for 12 apartments on top of "snob hill" came before the Development Consent Authority (DCA) – for the third time.
Both Mr Habib and the objectors to his plans – mostly from the Old Eastside – were using the street to support their conflicting arguments.
Mr Habib's architect, Sue Dugdale, announced he would pay for the widening of Cavanagh Crescent to seven meters.
This took a lot of wind out of the objectors' sails, and scored points with those who believe the project should get the green light only if there is a public benefit.
The objectors were seeking to lend force to their arguments against Mr Habib's project by painting Cavanagh Crescent as a veritable death trap, even without the additional traffic that his development would generate.
At the same time Ms Dugdale argued that Mr Habib's "commitment" to widen the street would fix the current as well as any future traffic problems, long ignored by the town council.
But even Mr Habib – if he gets the nod – will be able to widen the street only down to the bridge across the drain. Widening the few meters between the bridge and Giles Street is currently not possible because private land encroaches on the road on both sides.
The corner block on the western side of the Giles Street intersection with Cavanagh Crescent was, until recently, on the market for some considerable time.
However, the council failed to buy it which would have solved the long-standing traffic problems in a congenial manner.
Clearly, it was more important to the council to upgrade its own offices at a cost of more than $10m.
Meanwhile town council engineer Henry Szczypiorski conceded at the hearing last Thursday that there are "blind spots" on Cavanagh Crescent but they "can be made safe".
However, he said: "Council does not have aNY record that indicates that there are traffic problems in the area," a surprising statement given the comments made at the hearing.
Jenny Mostran, who said she had lived in Giles Street and Cavanagh Crescent for 29 years, claimed there are "definitely" two blind spots, and the need to make the street safe is urgent.
She said the development – with its 48 car parks – would create "chaos" in Cavanagh Crescent, a popular street for all kinds of users, from bike riders competing in triathlons to learner drivers practicing hill starts.
Chairman of the Eastside Residents' Association (ERA) Geoff Miers said: "There have been three accidents since Christmas," – and that's without Mr Habib's development.
Mr Miers said each bedroom in the proposed development would generate 2.7 car movements a day, resulting in a total of 119.5 additional movements (in fact 12 apartments times three bedrooms times 2.7 equals 97.2 movements).
Marg Bowman said Cavanagh Crescent traffic, in the last six months, was an "enormous problem".
Harry Osborne and Terri Layman said land would need to be bought to make the Giles Street – Cavanagh Crescent intersection safer.
Tanya Dann said if the project added one car every five minutes – described by Mr Szczypiorski as "almost a zero" – then it would be too much for her: "I've chosen to live here," she told the authority.
DCA chairman John Pinney told the 40 people making submissions, or listening to them, that he would be reporting to Lands Minister Chris Burns on what the DCA was being told.
Mr Pinney said Dr Burns had not asked for recommendations. He would now be considering granting an Exceptional Development Permit.
The two previous applications were for rezoning as a Specific Use Zone.
Mr Pinney said the Minister usually makes public the DCA reports to him.
Ms Dugdale said an Exceptional Development Permit would give the Minister greater powers of imposing conditions than an ordinary rezoning.
The controls and covenants imposed were more likely to stick whereas in the case of rezoning, once it is granted, "a developer can throw away the plans".
Ms Dugdale said the development would not create a precedent – that could be a condition noted in the permit. But Ms Mostran said it was "impossible" to enforce covenants.
ERA president Geoff Miers said covenants are "meaningless" because the authorities were not following up breaches, and because bodies corporate – proposed to be managing the Habib development – can change their rules. He said the Ilparpa subdivision covenants had been "useless as soon as the last block was sold".
Ms Dugdale said there was a strong "not in my back yard" element in the ERA objections: For example, none of the Eastsiders were objecting to the Larapinta development which was also adjacent to virgin land.
(Mr Habib's block adjoins the Telegraph Station Reserve.)
Ms Dugdale said she had letters of support from Eastside residents but gave no details.
She told the News after the meeting there had been four letters from three people. She said there would be some disruption during construction, but people driving up Cavanagh Crescent would not become aware of the development. (It is some 300 meters north of the turn-off from Cavanagh Crescent, and about 700 metres from the Giles Street turn-off.)
Ms Dugdale said there would be a slight increase in traffic but this would not be noticeable unless monitored. She said she had tried to engage the ERA in discussion but this effort was fruitless.
"I regret that was not possible," she said.
From that refusal to meet, an "adversarial" situation had emerged. Some people may be frustrated, she said, by being confronted with a third application, but the would-be developers were following the correct procedures.
Ms Dugdale said the "emotive language" about "profit making and greed" was out of place because many developments in Alice Springs are embarked on for profit.
And the rules did not oblige the developer to prove a public benefit, so long as there was no loss of public amenity.
Ms Mostran said the ERA had engaged very well in a dialogue, including writing letters and attending meetings with the developer, "but he does not want to listen".
She claims the public has been misled: both the Minister of Central Australia, Peter Toyne, and "an auction house" had claimed there would be no rezoning of the land.
(A spokesperson has since told the Alice News that Dr Toyne had made no such statement.)
"There has to be a community benefit and there is none," said Ms Mostran.
The Larapinta subdivision has been started and Mt Johns Valley would be next, so the housing shortage would be overcome soon, she said.
Mr Miers also rejected Ms Dugdale's assertion: he said she had met with the ERA and presented a case, but Mr Miers said it's not the ERA's role to "develop that proposal".
He said the developer had "made reference" to the objections (Mr Pinney said there had been 69 in writing), but had failed to "address" them.
The proposal is "beyond the reasonable expectations of residents," said Mr Miers. He and other speakers ranged far and wide in their arguments: The town was "hugely opposed" to high rise (the proposed development is one and two storeys, in order to minimize the "footprint"). Ridge top dwellings in the Emily Hill rural subdivision were "offensive," Mr Miers said.
Will authorities – the town council, the body corporate and or the department – ensure there will be open space? "I suggest none of them will," said Mr Miers.
Ridge top developments were also attacked by Rod Cramer, the chairman of the Rural Areas Association (the current zoning of Mr Habib's land has a rural zoning, RL2, one of only three blocks north of The Gap). Ms Dugdale countered that none of the Habib development would be on a ridge top.
That not all the objectors were in agreement on all issues was illustrated by Ms Mostran who is the town's ultimate ridge top dweller, living in a house perched on the very top of snob hill.
The proceedings were not without mirth.
Ms Dugdale asserted residential areas in general vicinity of the proposed development need not fear noise problems because "noise rises".
Peter Bannister, who deals with noise complaints on behalf of the Department of Infrastructure, said noise goes up as well as down.
Mr Pinney said he thought noise simply goes in "straight lines".
Ms Layman expressed concern that because the land is rocky and with little soil, site rehabilitation would take "20 years".
This was an odd assertion given that the land had been flogged for years when it was used for a horse riding business, and possibly earlier.
Its former lessee, Harry "Ossie" Osborne, told the Alice News after the meeting that before he leased the land it had been covered in buffel grass. At least his horses had munched away at the introduced species described by botanists as one of the greatest threats to Central Australia's flora.
In any case, all that's left now – Exceptional Development Permit granted or not – is a very barren block, carved up by trail motorbikes and a few bushes. The final word was given to engineer Will Cormack, appearing for Mr Habib, who said if Alice Springs wants to grow there will have to be new developments and all of them will have some impact.


Despite the Territory's vast land mass and extensive coastline, less than two per cent of its workforce is employed in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector – and numbers are falling.
Between 1998 and 2004, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, the workforce in that sector has declined on average by 11 per cent each year, compared to two per cent nationally.
Australia wide that sector employs 3.8 per cent of the workforce.
This statistical snapshot was presented to the Regional Outlook Conference by commodity analyst Richard Perry of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE).
According to the Department of Business, Industry and Research Development (DBIRD), the sector turned over $426m in 2003, representing 3.1 per cent of the Territory gross domestic product.
Mr Perry said most of the decline in jobs would have been in the beef cattle industry, which makes up 79 per cent of the sector, with about seven per cent of the nation's beef herd.
Mangoes are the most important crop, followed by grapes.
Territory mangoes contribute 23 per cent of the Australian total.
(The only forestry activity in the Territory – on Melville Island – has yet to go into production.)
The Territory beef industry differs from the national picture because of its focus on live export.
Half of all Territory cattle are sold to the live export market, but the north contributes far more (63 per cent of its total), than the south (eight per cent).
Initially the live export trade was dominated by the Territory, contributing over half of the national total between 1992 and 1994.
With the overall growth of the industry, the proportional contribution has declined to about 30 per cent.
South-east Asia – Indonesia and the Philippines – is the key market for the industry in the north, while the south sells more to the domestic market.
2003-04 saw a substantial slow down in numbers of cattle sold for live export, but total receipts from all cattle sales didn't change greatly. The drop in live exports was mostly due to the strength of the Australian dollar, high beef prices and competition from alternative cheaper meats, such as buffalo, imported from India.
Good prices on the domestic market mostly compensated for the drop in live exports and Territory cattle stations are able to switch fairly easily between markets, Mr Perry said.
The outlook for exports depends largely on resumption of beef trade between Japan and the USA, which came to a halt after the detection in the USA of a single case of mad cow disease in December last year. Overall, Japanese beef imports have contracted 33 per cent, however Australian exports now make up around 90 per cent of Japanese beef imports.
The trade looks likely to resume early next year, however Mr Perry said there were no guarantees. ABARE has assumed that it will resume, with small volumes traded initially but substantial recovery by mid-2005. That will lead to a fall in prices for Australian beef exports to Japan. Assuming this scenario, ABARE forecasts better returns in 2004-05, at average saleyard prices higher than the 290 cents per kilo achieved in 2003-04.
Cash receipts on many Territory stations are supplemented by non-agricultural activities, such as tourism, road maintenance and running stores for remote communities.
OUTLOOKThis is less significant in the south than in the north, with the cash from other activities accounting for 18 per cent and 38 per cent respectively of total receipts.
If more rain means a better outlook for Territory pastoralists, they will be heartened by the trend in that direction, confirmed at the conference by the Bureau of Meteorology's Graham Oakley, showing figures over the past 50 years.
However, much of the Centre's summer rainfall comes in thunderstorms affecting "discreet" areas, while others miss out.
In discussion at the conference, Phil Anning, Regional Director of DBIRD, pointed out the implications of this regional variability combined with the sparse distribution of weather stations providing reliable data: in 1994 and 1996 pastoralists in the region were unable to get drought relief from the Federal Government because weather data showed Alice Springs to be doing quite well.
Mr Anning also raised hope for improved employment prospects for Indigenous people in agriculture as a result of the Indigenous Pastoral Project, returning to production former pastoral leases now owned by Aboriginal interests.
The project is the result of a partnership agreement between the NT Government, the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) and the Northern and Central Land Councils, with funding by the ILC for the first three years.
First cabs off the rank will be Hooker Creek, Tanami Downs and Mungalawurru and and as part of the project an Indigenous Cattlemen's Workshop began today near Roe Creek.
Mr Anning also said the Central Land Council's company, Centrefarm, has attracted Federal funding and is planning horticulture ventures at Ali Curung and Ti-Tree.
Meanwhile, at Finke (Aputula) the community have raised money themselves by doing their own infrastructure maintenance and have invested it in a small grape plantation.
"The gains are small but steady so far and hopefully they represent building blocks for the future," said Mr Anning.


The contribution to the Territory economy of The Centre's cattle industry, given it's taking up half the land mass, is minuscule, roughly one third of one per cent.
This is how the figures stack up, according to an NT Government source.
The NT's Gross Value of Production (GVP) is $8918m.
The GVP is the total value of sales less costs ("inputs"), not counting labour.
Territory agriculture - cattle, fishing, horticulture and timber – contribute $276m (just over three per cent), including $125m from cattle.An estimated 24 per cent of the cattle industry is in Central Australia - south of the VRD and including the Barkly.
And that's worth just $30m a year, in GVP terms.


"Alice Springs will have to put up with us. We won't run again."
Robert is a convicted paedophile, due for release in February.
Olivia is his loving and loyal wife and they will be making their home in Alice Springs because running is even more frightening than staying.
This story acknowledges the victims of Robert's crimes, innocent children, but it is not about those victims or the offences.
It is about how the community of Alice Springs is going to respond to a guiltless woman and a man who has done his time and who desperately does not want to re-offend.
Olivia and Robert abhor the abuse of children for which Robert has been responsible.
Robert handed himself into the police and was convicted on his own admissions. This and the fact that he had been seeking psychological treatment served to reduce his sentence.
This is Robert's second spell in prison. He served three months in Victoria, well over a decade ago, also as a result of handing himself in.
His gaol experience in Alice Springs has been "quite good", says Olivia.
There have been no bashings (unlike in Victoria). He is in maximum security and the guards are "very careful".
"It's one of the nicer areas to be in; prisoners are long-termers, they're looked after a bit more," says Olivia.
"And the majority of prisoners are Aboriginal; they are not judgemental."
The real punishment will start when Robert is released and tries to pick up a semblance of normal life.
It's been a long time since he and Olivia had that.
Members of their own family identified Robert as a paedophile in the Victorian town to which they'd fled after Robert's first conviction. The couple learnt to live with the universal loathing but it became intolerable when sexual offences were committed by another person and the police investigation into them stalled."It took the police five weeks to catch the guy, and during that time everyone was pointing the finger at Robert.
"There was such hostility, including death threats."
Olivia had grown up in Darwin and remembered the Territory as a place where people lived and let live.
"It's not like that any more."
Tolerance of a paedophile is asking a lot though, isn't it?
"It would prevent more victims," argues Olivia.
She says Robert is not predatory. He has only offended when he has been deeply depresssed.
With the right emotional support and psychological treatment he can live an "offence free" life.
Olivia describes her husband as "a beautiful person".
"I love him for his wisdom, his kindness, his goodness."She says he has spent his life "doing good things for other people".
These included running a rehabilitation program for heroin addicts.
"He has suffered so deeply himself, there is no suffering he can't connect with."
What about the suffering of his victims?
"He himself was a victim.
"He was abused as a child, by a woman. That lies at the root of his behaviour.
"He is devastated by it. He has even asked if there is a surgical procedure that could remove that part of his brain."
The offences for which Robert is serving time now occurred last year, in the Territory though not in Alice Springs.
Olivia says had she been better informed she would have seen it coming.
He was unemployed – she says it is impossible for a convicted paedophile to get and hold a job – and had very low self-esteem.
On top of this the death of a close friend had left him deeply depressed.
"He was sleeping too much, drinking, his sex drive was low, he couldn't concentrate on tasks.
"He was in addiction mode and the first phase is denial. Whenever I brought up the possibility of offending he would get angry.
"I hadn't seen this in our relationship before. If I saw it again I would cart him straight off to a psychologist.
"I was desperately trying to work out what to do. I even thought about calling the police."He went to Alice to see a psychologist but he was worried that he would call the police. So he kept the truth to himself.
"I got a terrible feeling that there was more to it than he was telling me.
"When he did finally tell me, we knew what he had to do.
"He handed himself into the police, and then all hell broke loose.
"He tried to kill himself that first night in the cells. He despaired of being able to cope.
"When he was released on bail he tried again.
"We lost everything, our house, my job, our friends.
"I copped it too.
"People think I'm bad or mad, or that I think his behaviour is OK, which I don't!
"I insisted on my husband handing himself in but I'm not sure that I could do it again. Morally, I'd think yes, I have to, but humanly … no, though my husband would say always say, yes."
Even Olivia's daughter has broken ties with her. "It's just too big a subject, she can't cope."
Her son is more understanding. (Robert is not her children's father.)
"My son has seen life that's a bit rawer. His work has taken him to Kosovo, for example. He has coped with our situation but not easily.
"When he visited recently, he went to see my husband. But he is afraid of what the media might do."
Olivia has also found a woman who has taken her in while Robert is in gaol, but life is pretty well down to the bare bones. Even being able to have a break somewhere else is off the agenda. Robert has to report to police wherever he goes and that is too scary, says Olivia. "You don't know how they will react."
Hasn't she paid a big price to have this man in her life?
"My doctor said something like that to me recently and I said to him, ‘I have a good God, a husband I love, and a purpose in life. A lot of people don't have those things.'
"I have realised there are things that don't matter, and my relationship with Robert is extremely close. He knows me and loves me. We cling to each other.
"I'm a Christian and I believe in God's direction. I believe He wanted me to do what I am doing.
"In some ways it's the best thing that has happened to me."
Olivia is waging her own private campaign to raise understanding of paedophilia and to get relapse prevention programs in place, both in gaol and in the community.
"I asked God to give me an opportunity to help these guys.
"I only became interested when I learnt the depth of Robert's struggle, of his dilemma.
"When he sees a psychologist, he will be sick for days afterwards, with migraine and depression.
"He accepts it as you would chemo-therapy, something terrible but necessary.
"We made the mistake of giving up the treatment when we came to the Territory. We felt that it was all behind us, we had each other.
"You can't afford to ever forget. You have to be vigilant about living your life safely.
"People talk about paedophiles being given a ‘slap on the wrist'. They have no idea. The process is horrific.
"They don't understand the implications of being hated for the rest of your life.
"I can understand people's anger but not their ignorance. Why aren't they willing to try to find out a bit more about it?
"I almost wish the government would decide it was an offence punishable by death because that would bring debate out into the community.
"Society asks too much. They don't want to hear about the problem and what could be done to help.
"They just think Robert's a bastard and wish he would go and hang himself.
"If execution is necessary then society should have the guts to do it.
"There's social execution anyway. You can't live a normal life at any level.
"We try not to go to shops when it's likely children will be there. We try to avoid public places.
"I have to laugh when people talk about sexual predators. We spend our lives trying to avoid children.
"We would like to live in a childless world. It's just too traumatic for us to be around children.
"I say to people, all the hatred and negativity hasn't worked. It has harmed the process of what a rational debate could have achieved.
"Are we so precious that we can't hear about issues that are dreadful and do something about them?
"We've got to stop the offending, and so we've got to stop the hatred."
Note: Olivia and Robert are not the couple's real names.


The Minister for Heritage and Environment Marion Scrym-gour is unable to put a figure on the economic worth to the town of the Yeperenye redevelopment, although that worth is the reason why she rejected listing the Rieff buildings on the Territory's heritage register.
Her Heritage Advisory Council twice recommended the buildings for listing, but they will now be demolished to make way for the redevelopment. (See last week's issue.)
Ms Scrymgour says the redevelopment will "provide a significant long term boost to the economy of Alice Springs", apart from its $5m construction expenditure and 100 construction jobs.
David Cloke, general manager and a board director for Aboriginal-owned Yeperenye Pty Ltd, also cannot quantify the long term impact on the town's economy.
He says the return to Yeperenye in the short term would only be marginally above the bank lending rates, although it could improve as years go by.
He says the main objective of the development is to enhance the block, thus contributing to a CBD that is "up-market and attractive, something that people in town could be proud of".
He would not name prospective new tenants for the development but says that in the main they would be relocating from other areas of town, rather than be starting new operations.
"I don't know what the economic value to the town would be," says Mr Cloke."That would be hard to measure.
"We are going to consolidate and bring up to a high standard part of the central CBD. I think that is of significant value.
"It will probably also mean in the long term a few more ongoing employees."
The Minister says she sought a compromise solution between the owners and the Heritage Advisory Council (HAC).
"Six months was spent looking at and considering all the options.
"During this time I received five submissions supporting the heritage values of the Rieff buildings.
"However I also received letters from those not involved in the development but opposed to the listing."They included a letter from relatives of Frank King who operated Kings Furnishers in the period in which Simon Rieff owned the buildings."As Minister I considered the advice of all stakeholders. I visited the site several times and had the heritage values explained to me.
"While understanding the heritage values of the property I was not convinced that they outweighed the benefits of a full redevelopment."
She also says that the HAC is an advisory body – "its recommendations are not rubberstamped".
She says she must consider the advice of the HAC, but she must also consider the advice of the property owner.Mr Cloke says the board considered the possibility of incorporating the Rieff buildings but felt there were deficiencies that could not be overcome. He says commercial tenants Yeperenye was negotiating with indicated that they were not interested in going into the Rieff buildings.
He says Yeperenye also wanted to provide adequate car-parking.
"You can't put a carpark on top of a heritage building.
"And trying to wrap a redevelopment around it was not compatible, in our view, with a commercial development.
"We told the Minister we would not proceed unless we could do something we considered worthwhile," says Mr Cloke.
The Minister says the Martin Government is committed to "protecting the valuable heritage of the Northern Territory", citing increased funding by $1million this year for repair and maintenance on government-owned heritage buildings; the restoration of a dedicated heritage officer position in Alice Springs – a position that the CLP cut; a comprehensive review which will see new heritage legislation next year; and the listing of 21 heritage places across the Territory, including in Alice Springs the Araluen Homestead Precinct, the Telegraph Station and the Catholic Church Precinct.
She says: "The Government was aware from the start that there were some people in Alice Springs in favour of listing. The Government's role is to listen to their views, make and explain its decision but not try and force people to change their minds.
"We understand that not everyone agrees with the decision but we will not be reviewing it."
Last week the News reported that the lobby group Heritage Alice Springs Inc will appeal to the shareholders of the Yeperenye Shopping Centre to be "good corporate citizens" and retain the Rieff buildings.
The shareholders to date are the Central Land Council, Tangentyere Council and Congress.
Mr Cloke says the directors of Yeperenye's board are reasonable people.
If they receive a request that the shareholders look at certain issues, they will put it to them.
However, "the shareholders are not the board," says Mr Cloke.
"The shareholders appoint the board to carry out the commercial operations of a company.
"It is not usual for shareholders to interfere in those operations."
There are only two Alice-based board directors for Yeperenye: David Ross and Owen Cole. Others are, apart from Mr Cloke, who now lives in Queensland, Danny Masters, a solicitor, formerly of Alice, now in Tasmania; and Don Burnett (Sydney) and on the board for his expertise in property development and shopping centres.


Eco-services is the new desert knowledge buzz word: they're the kind of environmental services that nature provides, like water catchments and the absorption of carbon by trees.
They don't usually have an economic value put on them, but they cost a lot to replace with high-tech services if they become degraded.
Donna Craig, the first professor of desert knowledge at Charles Darwin University (CDU), gives an international example.
New York City was faced with a choice: pay US$6b to $8b for a water filtration plant (and another $300,000 annually to operate); or restore the upstream Catskills watershed by paying landowners some $1.5b to change their land management practices.
Not surprisingly the City chose the lowest cost option: the catchment landowners, the stewards of the watershed, are now compensated for the purification services they provide to the city.
Prof Craig, an environmental lawyer of international standing, says thinking along these lines could lead to exciting economic development in Central Australia, not on a grand scale, but at a community-level, providing livelihoods where people live.
Fire in our region's vast wilderness areas is an example of an eco-service (not only a threat) crying out for improved human management.
So are we talking about public money?
Not necessarily, says Prof Craig, again pointing to an American example.
Ducks Unlimited is a private non-profit organization responsible for protecting and restoring vast areas of wetlands in the USA since it was founded in 1937.
Its noteworthy difference from typical "green" organisations is that it is driven by waterfowl hunters, who want to maintain sustainable populations for their sport. .
Interestingly, at a time when environmental causes in the States are under real pressure, Ducks Unlimited have been able to attract legislative support and resources from the Bush government.
Prof Craig says hunters were also behind a lot of early European conservation efforts and are also active in African conservation.
Closer to home she sees Earth Sanctuary, in the Alice Springs rural area, as a good example of private enterprise meeting conservation goals, making its money from eco-tourism while promoting public education on the interaction between species and ecosystems.
Most productive outcomes are driven by the private sector, says Prof Craig, but it is important that the sector works in partnership with government in order to develop "triple bottom line" accountability – the three lines being society, economy and environment.
This is taking a stronger hold than you might think, according to Prof Craig.
For example, she says Westpac – the first Australian bank to use triple bottom line accounting – reported in 2002 that its portfolio of ethical investments had grown from $600m to $3b.
Evaluation – answering the question "How do we know if something is what it claims to be?" – is an essential process for triple bottom line accountability.
It represents a growing area of work for the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (DKCRC), focussed as it is on the issues of sustainable development in arid and desert regions.
CDU is a core partner of the DKCRC, and Prof Craig is a key figure in its processes and directions.
"As we mature we'll use our knowledge base to develop indicators of what is a sustainable enterprise," says Prof Craig, "and what are sustainable houses, communities, services, water supplies, energy systems."
Deep knowledge of sustainability is often held by traditional communities.
The DKCRC from the outset has built partnerships with Indigenous communities and organizations, but sometimes the point can be made more starkly by examples from elsewhere.The recent CDU Living Desert symposium heard from Indian journalist Sopan Joshi, deputy coordinator of the science and environment publication Down to Earth in New Delhi.
He told the symposium about the lessons learnt in a recent three year drought in the Thar Desert.
Community based rainwater harvesting using traditional techniques had protected drought-stricken villages from drinking water problems, and some even had water to irrigate their crops.
In contrast the ambitious Rajasthan canal, designed to bring waters from the perennial Himalayan rivers to the desert, is the source of communal conflict and rioting, has created environmental problems in the Thar, and is looking increasingly unsustainable.
Hi-tech is not always the solution, sums up Prof Craig.
Appropriate technology has to be part of desert knowledge's vision for the future.
The concept has been given currency in Alice Springs through the Centre for Appropriate Technology, though comprehensive practical applications seem to be lagging, given that organisation's 25-year life.
PARTNERSHIPSThe task is bigger than any one organization can manage, says Prof Craig, emphasising the value of partnerships in the desert knowledge processes.
A window onto potential new partnerships was opened at the symposium by her CDU colleague, Associate Professor Ibtisam Abu-Duhou (CDU).
The Palestinian Arabic-speaker, educated in Australia, gave a presentation on the desert-based universities in Israel and the Middle East, some of which have been engaged with desert knowledge since the 1930s.
Prof Craig herself has a relationship with the University of Kuwait, through its Arab Regional Centre for Environmental Law, arising from her work with the World Conservation Union, the planet's oldest conservation network, founded in 1948.
To date most of the DKCRC's international networking has been with American universities, such as the University of Arizona.
The desert environments of the Middle East potentially hold many lessons for Central Australia's desert knowledge, though sadly their greatest current threat is from war.
The focus of the DKCRC has been broad and exploratory; it needs to be, argues Prof Craig, because it is about a whole new rethink of the region's economy and education needs.
To the doubters she says: "Be patient – it's a good idea whose time has come and if we develop our national and international networks we can become really powerful."
She also promises a very practical and targeted theme for Desert Knowledge Australia's next symposium – Sustainable Living in a Built Environment.
"We are working towards a long-term vision of Alice Springs as a desert town like no other, using renewable energy, conserving water, with appropriate gardens and buildings – a different kind of community, visually and functionally."
FOOTNOTE: The ugly electricity poles at the Desert Knowledge intersection on the South Stuart Highway have been removed.
The new and freshly powder coated light poles now shine on that section of road, and the cabling is underground.


"Owning a second hand shop is like busking," says Robin Laidlaw, owner of Cockatoo secondhand shop on Hartley Street. "I'm dealing direct with people, it's the frontline of retail."
Working at Cockatoo and as an entertainer with an act he calls Alice Springs Desert Patrol is an usual combination – but then Robin is an unusual sort of person.
"Someone complained once about the price of a book, saying they could get it cheaper in another shop. So I ripped out the last few pages and said they could have it for free."
He came to Central Australia in the ‘seventies from near Edinburgh in Scotland, and still retains a unique brogue.
He began his secondhand business when he was headmaster at a school in the Aboriginal community of Finke. "The janitor of the school asked me to buy a secondhand cassette player on a trip into Alice Springs.
"I couldn't find one."
Robin recognised Alice Springs had a gap in the market he believed he could fill. He set up Central Secondhand which was based in Elder Street with his brother.
"It worked right from the start," says Robin. "I bought a furniture van in Adelaide and bought stuff from auctions like bicycles, TVs, kitchen goods – things people need. Then a friend and I drove it up to Alice Springs."
Cockatoo moved to its current premises a few years ago. When I ask him how he came up with the name of the business, Robin says simply, "I like cockatoos".
The shop is a trash and treasure trove, full of everything you never knew you needed, from ballet shoes to bike lights, saxophones, videos of royal tours, microwaves, blenders and bodyboards. Goods spill out onto the pavement, along with the bikes for hire service the shop provides.
Robin says he gets most of what he sells through people coming into the shop and selling to him direct, plus he sources items through lawn sales and wholesalers.
"The strangest thing someone brought in to me to sell was a pelican. The Todd River was in flood and a lady came in, totally soaked, with a pelican under her arm.
"I said at first it would be better to take the bird into the RSPCA, but when she wouldn't accept my explanation I bought it for $10 before ringing the animal welfare myself.
"She spent the $10 buying new clothes off the rack in my shop which she changed into there and then.
Robin says he's been approached in the past by people trying to sell illegal animals. "I've been shown a pillowcase containing poisonous snakes, and a leaf-tailed gecko."
"We get all sorts coming into the shop – from bush Aborigines to rich Italian tourists. I like that, and I like the fact that I make up the rules. I can wear what I feel like, I don't have to be nice to people who I don't want to be nice to – although I can be much nicer to people who I do want to be nice to."
Robin says the skills he's learnt from the business he uses through life, and in his work as an entertainer. As Alice Springs Desert Patrol, Robin has performed with his emu across the world – as well as using it to make political statements, most recently at Pine Gap protesting against the facility.
At one particular tourism conference in America, his show promoting the Northern Territory was so popular that the other states in Australia banned it because it was taking away so much of their business.
"It works because it's instantly recognisable as Australian. We've been to Asia, America and Europe and every country seems to get the visual comic humour – even Germans."
When asked how a Scotsman gets away with promoting Australia overseas, Robin indignantly explains he is Australian. "This is where I come from, I've been here since I was 17."
Entertainment has always been a love of Robin's. In the early ‘eighties he leased his shop for two years and went to Lismore to learn the saxophone and take singing lessons. "When I came back I set up a children's circus called Fruit Salad and a theatre company called ASPRO." Readers may remember such show delights as "Snow White and the Three Dwarfs meet Dr Who".
From this, Robin took his circus skills to bush communities and returned to his first vocation in Central Australia, teaching Aboriginal children.
"We went everywhere, teaching them tumbling, somersaults, juggling and tightrope walking. We had a double BMX bike which would go off at dawn and come back at darkness," he remembers.
Later, Robin changed the workshops to have a theatre focus: "There's only so much you can teach through circus skills in a few days."
"I remember doing Macbeth with kids from a community near King's Canyon. An English backpacker was Lady Macbeth and the Aboriginal children acted out the rest of the play. Tourists came to watch and the backpacker said it was the best thing she'd done in Australia," he laughs.
"I loved doing those workshops. I felt like Superman when I left the communities – everyone would wave me off and tell me to come back soon."
On the wall of Cockatoo is a newspaper clipping, from a couple of years ago, naming Robin as Central Australian Bachelor of the Year – I ask him to explain:
"The event was held on stage and I was surrounded by all these strong young guys. My plan was to get out as easily as possible without looking too stupid.
"One of the tasks was to pluck grapes from a female volunteer's cleavage with your teeth. All the other men were wildly picking the women up and grabbing the grapes but I spun my girl around, kissed up her arm and then gently removed the grapes.
"The audience went wild and I won that particular event, plus three others including a pole dancing contest.
"In the end I won the competition.
"But I'm still a bachelor," he smiles.


Some people collect teaspoons. ANN DAVIS, an Alice Springs ex-pat living in China, collects the charms of Chinglish. See her first instalment in last week's issue.

After settling in to my new home in Kunming, I travelled by train to a remote mountainous area in the north west of the country, to meet education staff and visit schools.
One of the village schools had a special project entitled "Bend, Bend. School more beautiful".
After eventually establishing this was a campaign to keep the school litter-free I noticed it was working – there wasn't a bubblegum wrapper or red plastic bag in sight.
Over the next few weekends I continued to explore the streets of Kunming, discovering the Just Noticed By Yourself women's dress shop, Nine Folds Snacks and Always Wedding.
I also noticed that Chinese people didn't seem to walk or sit on grass, and I wondered why such inviting stretches of lush green were not places to stretch out and relax.
One day I noticed a sign in a the park by Dian Lake, "Little grass is smiling slightly, please walk on the pavement." I was learning.
Our pleasure in lucky dip dining continued, when a "Western Style Food" restaurant opened next door to our block of apartments.
On opening day the shop front was festooned with flowers, giveaway ice-creams and a red rubber inflated arch across the entrance.
All the locals were there – the masseurs from next door, the hairdressers from up the road, the graphic artists, even the staff from the bowling alley. We were the only foreigners.
Everyone was curious, supportive, excited. The ground floor and mezzanine were packed.
There were only two menus in English but we were treated to a meal of linguistic and gourmet delights.
We'd tried Self Controlled Pisa (choose your own toppings) elsewhere, but Rural Scenery Pisa was a new surprise, and was Rory's choice. He also went for a serve of Oil Dried Meat Floss Toast of Spring Onions washed down by an Orange Juice Ice is Angry from the Ice the Vapour Type section of the menu.
For my colleague Bill, it had to be something from the Bomb the Category section: Brazilian Chicken's Wing or American French Fries. He chose the former, with a small bottle of cold One Hundred Majestic beer.
My preference was a glass of Old Wine of Sweet-Scented Osmanthus with a serve of Fragrant Fragile Peanut, followed by the Black Ox Willow Braise meal.
After such a delicious meal we decided to stay on to share a pot of Wonton Sweatheart tea.
Only Bill showed a preference for coffee and wanted to try Rub a Card of Coffee Graceful Specially Peaceful Coffee.
But sadly the waiter told us: "Sorry, no coffee".
I scratched out this story in a notebook that claims on the front cover to be "The most comfortable notebook you have ever run into. You will feel like writing with it all the time".
Who knows? It could be right. The only limitations could be its 48 pages and my need to slip next door for a Turnip Juice of the Delicious Calabash, or a Fever for Italy coffee. If they have one!

Between interesting tasks. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Boring is a word that is overused, especially by the teenage and pre-teenage children with whom I live.
So I have been searching for other words that they can use instead so that our conversation doesn't become too boring.
"Ennui" is one such word.
Ennui is the feeling of being bored by something tedious.
But it's also a useless word because you can't put it into a sentence in everyday conversation without sounding pretentious, which is a shame.
Given half the chance, ennui could have some powerful uses in everyday life.
It could challenge boring as a routine insult levelled at entertainers, social occasions, politicians and anyone who happens to be slightly unfashionable.
It is not cool to admit to anyone that you are overwhelmed by boredom.
If you're between the ages of four and fourteen, being bored is irritating to other people, but still acceptable.
But in my culture, adults are never bored in the way that actors are never out of work.
Instead, we are moving smoothly and in a planned way between interesting and essential tasks like mopping the kitchen floor or planting out a native garden.
I was brought up to believe that to be bored, you must be a loser.
Not only that, but you're a loser without a creative thought in your tiny head. This is where culture lets us down by having us pretend that we are busy people with a huge list of important jobs to be done, while all around us there is a pervasive boredom that never speaks its name.There is no reason why boredom should be more of a problem in a small remote town than anywhere else.
I make this point to my offspring all the time.
If you were living in central Melbourne, I say, then you would still be bored. Boredom is all in the mind, snap out of it, pull yourself together, when I was your age blah, blah, blah.
The way that I do this is irritating and totally unacceptable, but I can't help myself.
One symptom of being gripped by Alice tedium is when you become obsessive about your frequent flyer points.
It's like you are locked in the garden shed and the only way out into the garden is for someone to pass the key under the door.
Key means points.
Get the points, get out in the lush green garden for a while, which might only be Adelaide, but it's still lush.
Along with frequent flyer obsession comes a fixation on the airport and whether it looks good, works well, should be international and so on.
Yes, I know that we should care about these things but please, not all the time.
Consider another symptom of boredom; compulsive purchasing of southern newspapers.
I quite understand that if you come from Victoria it's good to read The Age so that you have something to discuss with your friends that is different from the weather in Alice Springs.
But it is so dispiriting to read about Melbourne's multiple consumer choices, endless sales at Myer and movies that might be shown here in 2007 that it makes me wonder how anyone can really enjoy the experience of reading The Age. Unless you are bored in the first place.
Satellite television, also known as rich person's TV, is yet another sign of the remote town malaise.
I use remoteness as an excuse to bombard our household with as much media as possible.
I now receive better coverage of English soccer than if I lived in England (true!).
I e-mail my friends with reviews of matches that they can't watch even though they live there.
But just to be absolutely clear, I am not bored.
I am just moving effortlessly between one important task and the next.

Books - for what they're worth. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

I spent Saturday morning at my daughter's school buying second-hand schoolbooks for next year and got everything we needed for less than half the new book price.
I was delighted and relieved.
It is a great idea to have a book swapping day where you can both sell your old books and pick up pre-loved new ones. It is recycling at its best. Nothing wasted.
Last year I went lawn-saling before Christmas and found lots of good Christmas presents for the children, or at least I thought they were good. My children were thrilled to see the number of gifts under the tree but except for the youngest were not as excited with what they were given.
It is interesting how we look at gifts and at things we own. A friend in real estate sales told me that it is difficult for most people to sell their own houses because it is too personal. Their houses are homes and extensions of themselves. Like a member of the family they are above criticism and worth a lot emotionally if not in real financial terms.Possessions and money are sensitive issues because of the personal aspect we give to them. I love a bargain or even better to get something for free. It makes me feel good about myself.
We tend to define our worth in possessions. I wasn't showing my children how much I love them by giving them gifts that were not brand new. Fancy toy equals true love. I have been a good girl if Santa brings me a Barbie doll from K-mart. The TV commercials like to encourage us to think that things will make us happier, freer, more content. They support the idea that your personal value is higher if you own certain things.
Yet for all the value we seem to give to possessions we constantly crave new ones and think less of something because it is old or has been used. We use things as emotional sustenance and until the emotional needs have been met will never be happy with what we have got.
Maybe it is telling that we tend to go overboard at Christmas because it is supposed to be a time when some of our emotional needs are met. We are supposed to love and feel loved, be with the family or people who are like family. What you are supposed to give is love.
The giving is symbolic of God's love for the world. The gifts should be a reminder of this love. Yet so many feel empty and unloved, and it is hard to give something you haven't got.
Unlike food, love is not a perishable. It won't get old-fashioned, dented or worn out. Getting together for Christmas we can do more than swap presents. We can remember the value of love and friendship and fill the void.
It is important to remember what something is worth. Things that are valued, kept and looked after turn into antiques. And let's add the Beatles song "All you need is love" to the Christmas carols.


The Traeger Park pitch is being given a breather and badly needed attention, after what has been a long campaign.
The Aussie Rules footballers like to see the ball bounced plumb in the centre during their season. Following the 20 plus weeks of wear and tear from spriggs, the Masters Games took its toll, and the boys in creams were on deck as soon as possible after the football grand final.
So this weekend the A Grade fixtures have been transferred to Albrecht Oval with a two day Saturday and a two day Sunday match scheduled.
On Saturday Wests went to the crease against Rovers and made full use of the conditions. Peter Tabart opened with Peter Ryan, and like Tom Scollay and Michael Clarke the week before, Tabart posted a century.
The openers set up an innings for West by enjoying a partnership of 76 before Ryan was trapped LBW by Gavin Flanagan for 20. Rory Hood then joined Tabart to post 40 before Flanagan struck again this time having Hood caught.
The partnership however was healthy pushing West up to 2/154.
Daniel Cook did his bit by adding 38 before he went with the score at 3/210 and then the century-making Tabart departed, caught Jacob Roth, bowled Darrel Lowe for 103.West was well positioned at 4/213 when Kevin Mezzone got among the runs to remain 59 not out at stumps. Partnering Mezzone for the most part was skipper Darren Clarke who compiled a worthwhile 26 in West's 80 over haul of 6 / 302.
Rovers shared the wickets around. Wayne Partridge ended the day with 2/73 off 17; Flanagan 2/48 off 15. Key components of the Rover machine, Matt Pyle and Jason Bremner were both unavailable, and so the Blues seem to be really looking down the barrel.The run making didn't slow down on day two at Albrecht when Federal posted 259 in their dig against RSL.
Both sides were short of regulars, with Feds' Michael Smith on employment duties and RSL lacking the presence of Geoff Whitmore and Luke Southam.Clarke's place as opener was taken by the experienced Jarrad Wapper who showed patience and picked the loose balls to score his 75. Partner Tom Clements was dismissed early for five when caught and bowled by Matt Forster.
Wapper however stayed at the crease with Rick Shiell to cement a partnership of 101. Wapper fell to a Schmidt delivery caught behind by Chris Krollie while Shiell compiled 70 before being bowled by Nathan Flanagan. Down the order it was Mick Mullins who then took to the RSL attack. He batted through the last half of the innings to record an unbeaten 31, and in doing so he had Marcus Becker put together 21 before being caught behind off Eglington, and then Chris Clements notch up 15 before succumbing to the same fate off Cameron Robertson.Two run outs late in the day completed the innings, with RSL invited to face one over. This also proved to be a benefit as Curtis Marriott enticed Graham Schmidt to slash at a ball outside off stump to find himself caught by keeper Chris Clements.At 1/1 off one over RSL have plenty of work to do this Saturday.


Another cool day in the Centre saw eventful racing at Pioneer Park where Terry Gillett saddled up two more winners and local hoop Tim Norton had to face the stewards, receiving a suspension of one week.In the 1400 metre Lasseters Hotel casino Class B Handicap Inca Miss started a particularly short priced favourite and saluted. With Craig Moon on board Inca Miss settled off the pace set by the infamous Sid's Eagle who at times led by three or four lengths before hanging on the turn.
In this way he gave the eventual winner space to travel along the rail to hit the lead.
From there it was expected that Inca Miss would run away with the race, but in real terms she came home with a comfortable two and a half length win, leaving Arouser in second place and Sid's Eagle able to hang on for third.
The Bacardi Lion Handicap was raced over 1000 metres for Class Four horses, and the Gillett trained Coniston Way showed in this run that good times lay ahead.
The last start winner, Coniston Way went to the lead from the jump and had Lady Archer on her flank early. Lady Archer weakened by the corner and left Tim Norton with the task of running the horse right out.
The resultant five length win had Coniston Way black booked by punters, but in the running the second placed Chigwidden did well to come from the rear of the field.
Lady Archer filled the minors but another pleasing performance came from Radison – formerly of the Steven Brown stable, now in the hands of Viv Oldfield– who finished fourth.
The Europcar Handicap over 1100 metres for Class Two performers was another event to have punters with fingers crossed.
The Tennant Creek trained Funtegic, starting at $16, gave plenty of cheek as the front runner and was only nabbed in the shadows of the post.
Funtegic jumped and led along the palings, maintaining control of the race by two lengths at the turn. Molokai Lad ranged up only to find the front runner with plenty still to offer. With 20 metres to go, Barry Huppatz got the required out of Molokai's Lad and he bobbed to win by half a neck. The favourite Spicy Sound finished third.
Tim Norton then found himself called before the stewards after the running of the Readymix Open Handicap over 1200 metres. Century's Gift led the field early but by the 600 had been joined by Pelt and Darowby Livewire.
Coming into the straight the front runners formed a wall for Tim Norton on Its Our Time, while Southern Renegade opted to travel wide and so took advantage of clear sailing.
Norton detected a possible gap in the running and surged, only to force Darowby Livewire to veer sideways. Down the outside Southern Renegade was able to take the money by a long head from the fast finishing Its Our Time, with Pelt a short neck away third.
Racing resumes in the Alice with a twilight meeting on Friday week.

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