NEW SUBDIVISION BRAWL. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
A proposal to develop a rural subdivision of 156 blocks in the picturesque Emily Valley, between the MacDonnell Range and Heenan Road, is running into determined opposition from local residents and the Rural Area Association.
Association chairman Rod Cramer says the "shoddy" application should not even have been accepted by planning authorities because it fails to clarify a string of issues required to be dealt with under planning laws.
But the promoter of the scheme, real estate agent John McEwen, who has asked the Development Consent Authority (DCA) to defer consideration, says matters of drainage and sewerage will be clarified.
Residents say they have settled near the pristine valley knowing that its zoning mostly did not allow the creation of rural residential blocks.
To change that would have an unfair and detrimental effect on their lifestyle: people buy land with clear expectations only to see developers move in and try to change it all.
Emily Valley Estates Pty Ltd bought the land from local identity Peter Hooper about a year and a half ago.
Mr McEwen says he part-owns the company but will not disclose the other partners.
The development, in Stegar Road, is proposed to have blocks ranging in size from 4000 square metres (0.4 of a hectare) to more than six hectares.
About one fifth of the land, its western end, is zoned Rural Living 1 (RL1), permitting blocks no smaller than 4000 square metres.
The remainder is zoned Rural (R), with a minimum block size of 40 hectares.
Both zonings allow one dwelling per block.
Mr McEwan says the town's Structure Plan, which proposes future land uses, but doesn't regulate current land use, suggests a Rural Living 2 (RL2) zoning for much of the proposed subdivision.
RL2 has a minimum block size of two hectares.
But this would come in force only if the DCA, or the Lands Minister, agreed to a re-zoning, to which opponents of the scheme are likely to object.
Another complication of the convoluted planning process is that a recent amendment has limited the DCA's power to vary block sizes in RL1 and RL2 zones: its discretion is now no more than five per cent of the 4000 square metres and two hectares, respectively.
This would rule out Mr McEwen's proposal to "mix and match" blocks, with various sizes throughout the development and across the zones, although a similar concept was approved recently on land owned by Ron Sterry, just to the west of Stegar Road.
There the DCA allowed various block sizes in the central section of the land, with open space around the built-up area, so that the total number of blocks - 264 - was in keeping with the maximum dwelling densities in the town plan.
Mr Cramer says Mr McEwen's application, as it stands now, seemed to put the onus on objectors to point up shortcomings of the proposal.
"Why should we be doing the developer's leg work?" he asks.
Mr Cramer says the proposal failed to explain the merits of the scheme, and its sustainability on the land and land nearby.
"There is no description of public facilities for open space, no assessment of potential impact of the development on the existing and future amenity of the area, no assessment of how public interest will be served, both so far as benefit and detriment are concerned."
He says it seems unlikely that the area can cope with 150 septic tanks.
A special concern is increased water run-off from roofs, roads, concrete surfaces and lawns.
Much of that water would flow though a gap in the chain of hills to the south of the development, onto land owned by Bob Kessing, his partner, Ruth Jones, and Kaye Kessing.
Between them they bought, for $200,000, 40 hectares adjacent to their three hectare block so that they could enjoy privacy and the block's diverse vegetation and bush foods - including quandongs, bush plums and mulga apple.
But Mr McEwen says the Kessings knew the land to their north would be subdivided in the future when they bought the extra 40 hectares.
"I was one of the vendors," he says.
That's right, says Mr Kessing. In fact he'd witnessed a subdivision by Mr McEwen to the east of his original block.
That land is also zoned R - requiring a minimum size of 40 hectares.
But the developers had obtained from the Development Consent Authority a "variation" to the minimum lot sizes - down to as little four hectares.
This raises several questions: What's the point of limiting the authority's size discretion in the RL1 and RL2 zones, when they have a free hand in the R zone, lowering the minimum size to one tenth of the originally determined size?
And what hope do Heenan Road residents have to block the new development, which is on land about four fifths of which is zoned R, and can apparently be chopped up at the unlimited discretion of the authority?
Mr Kessing says when the development east of his original block was mooted there had been a promise for underground electricity, and so he didn't object.
But then the powerlines were put above ground - a breach of undertaking, says Mr Kessing.
Now the Kessings are facing the prospect of a major development over their back fence, in a valley which Mr Kessing says is full of wildlife, including dunnarts, perenti, mulga goannas, euros, wallabies, echidnas - and many more.
Mr McEwen says there will be wildlife corridors in the subdivision, linking Emily Gap nature par, immediately to the east of the planned subdivision, and the main MacDonnell Range.
Mr Kessing says the valley could be a great nature park, for public use, on foot or pushbike, linking up with the Emily Gap park.
Mr Kessing also says a quarry is already increasing storm water flow, gouging out creek beds on his land.
This was likely to get worse if the subdivision goes ahead.
Mr Cramer says there are flooding problems on other blocks as well.
Mr McEwen says the town council isn't "happy with drainage and storm water issues" and this part of the proposal would be reviewed.
"Engineers have designed the subdivision to retain extra runoff on site, thus ensuring the rate of runoff to adjoining properties does not increase.
"Some people have problems with septic systems but that can be solved with environmentally sensitive, self-contained units."
He says if the "mix and match" approach to block sizes wasn't accepted he would stick to block sizes allowed in the present zonings. And he would apply for a rezoning to RL2 of the central part of the development.
But Mr Cramer says the R zoning - blocks no smaller than 40 hectares - should stay because that's what current residents in the area expect. He says the Rural Areas Association has about 50 members: not a single one has spoken to him in favor of the Emily Valley project, nor has anyone outside the association.
COUNCIL POLL: LITTER, CRIME MAIN CONCERNS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
He's 24 years old, works for the Office of Crime Prevention, is married with a three month old and a toddler, and is studying externally for a double degree in law and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies.
Is he sure he really wants to add town council meetings to all of that?
By-election candidate John Rawnsley's simple answer is, "I'm very ambitious."
He is quietly spoken, choosing his words carefully: "I think Alice Springs deserves an alderman who'll give all they have to make this town a better place."
That means cleaning up litter, making sure people feel safe. If both were achieved, there would be positive flow-on effects for business, especially tourism, says Mr Rawnsley.
Citizens need to be empowered to enforce anti-litter laws and by-laws, he says.
The "underlying issues" of unemployment and boredom, particularly amongst youth, need to be tackled to ensure greater safety and security in the community.
Alice should take a leaf out of Moree's book - the NSW town, once famous for its racial segregation, has recently made significant inroads on Aboriginal unemployment.
He's doing his own bit for boredom, as a scratch DJ offering free workshops in turntable-ism.
"I got into it in Canberra and I'm happy to pass on my skills. It's an avenue for young people to be creative, to feel better about themselves, feel involved." (You can call him on 8952 0906 to take this further.)
Mr Rawnsley spent his first nine years at Uluru, did most of his schooling in Darwin and some tertiary study in Canberra, returning to Alice and buying a house at Larapinta to bring up his young family.
"I would bring a young voice to council," he says, "making it more balanced, diverse and inclusive."
Safety and cleanliness and their links to business and tourism cropped up a lot in the Alice News's survey of candidates.
They were top of the list for Rosco Moulin, who has been in town for some six years, in the Territory for 11, has established a car hire business and whose fiancee runs Oscar's restaurant.
The couple intend to make Alice home.
A cleaner, safer town is essential for the "comfortable lifestyle" that people here are seeking, says Mr Moulin.
And if "local people have pride in where they are living", it's the best advertisement a town can have: "Visitors will tell other people what a great place it is."
Council should also ensure the maintenance and improvement of sports facilities in proportion to the numbers of people who use them, says Mr Moulin, pointing by way of example to the inadequate carparking around the netball courts, when 900 people participate in the sport.
He would push for decisiveness: "A proactive council is better than one that procrastinates. If you get something slightly wrong, you can always make adjustments and it's better than not acting."
He'd also like council to revisit recycling, asking whether a depot for recyclables at the railway station and transport south by train have been looked at.
Janet Brown also says crime is an issue for local government.
She says she knows people in town who lock themselves in at night, too scared to go out, to even look out when they hear a noise.
They are living in "high crime areas", Larapinta and the Gap.
She doesn't believe in big stick approaches.
The council needs to support people who feel angry and isolated and who take those feelings out on others.
This support would be shown by maintaining toilet and ablution facilities right around town; by investing in the Youth Centre, which she describes as a "visual disgrace".
She remembers it as a vibrant, fun-filled place during her own teenage years.
She wants to see council making it cleaner, neater, more welcoming and delivering skills to young people through recreational programs.
She see the roll-out of Opal fuel as a bandaid solution. She agrees with her husband Steve who says it's like finding your child has tried to slit their wrists and all you do is put the knife away.
She says council needs to put money into facilities for kids, not "close doors" on them: "If you've got angry kids, everyone suffers."
Mrs Brown is also studying a double degree in arts and law at CDU and is presently completing a Certificate IV in Youth Studies.
She believes in speaking her own mind and resisting intimidation, recently conducting a public campaign over what she saw as her unfair dismissal by a local clothing store.
She distributed 500 leaflets accusing the store of using personal information about her as a pretext for sacking her.
She says the action succeeded in embarrassing the store, her own form of "restorative justice".
In contrast to these three candidates' concerns about safety in town, Neil Smark sees it as "a safe place really", making it ideal for bringing up a family.
"Ask people from the cities and from the US," says Mr Smark, who works at Pine Gap.
"They all say there's great safety here for kids and lots of opportunities.
"Young people can start their careers here."
His own sons, 18 and 19 years old, got their jobs as they "just about walked off the street, whereas in the city they would have had to fight 300 other kids ."
Nonetheless, Mr Smark recognises that "crime is on everyone's lips".
Council can do their bit to combat it with a "carrot approach" - "make sure kids have something to do, get them off the streets, give them options".
Sports programs for the 12 to 19 year olds, the recruitment of development officers, the development of self-funding opportunities for sports, and equity between sports, are all things council could support, either directly or by lobbying the Territory Government.
"Netball and soccer need a lot of help," says Mr Smark, local chairman of the Football (soccer) Federation.
He is also "dead against the nuclear dump".
"We should be pushing the solar city concept, desert technology.
"The Federal Government should have consulted us over this and I'm worried about what they'll spring on us as the next surprise.
"I'm sure this is the thin end of the wedge."
Meredith Campbell is the "old hand" candidate. She's been an alderman before, resigning to contest, as an independent, the seat of Araluen in the Territory elections that swept Clare Martin into power.
She polled poorly and admits it was "a hard experience". But she prefers to remember her "heartening" victory at the council by-election on International Women's Day in 1997, when she was the only woman among five candidates.
"The electorate is obviously much more accepting of me at the municipal level."
She hopes to serve the community again under "the strong stewardship of Mayor Fran and CEO Rex Mooney", whom she sees as leading "the effective, sound management of the Civic Centre redevelopment".
Her basic credo is "respect, responsiveness, relevance", although these values "don't supersede" the classic council three Rs, rates, roads, and rubbish.
Council could have been more responsive, for instance, with its verge maintenance action at Schaber Road earlier this year, when residents opposed the clearance of self-seeded native vegetation from the verges.
Relevance "is something you work on every day".
"It encompasses the whole direction of the Civic Centre and eventual overhaul of the public library, which I'm sure will be included in future council business plans".
The swimming pool redevelopment tender is "of personal interest to me". The pool is a "community hub, especially in summer".
Council can be a major player in the Martin government's tourism strategy, "Taking the Next Step", doing its bit in partnership with the government and Aboriginal organisations to tackle "our image problem" especially with regard to litter and public order issues.
It could also back moves to open up the mall at night, with night markets especially for Aboriginal art and craft.
Ms Campbell supports council's current position on rejecting the nuclear waste dump.
"I'm very much prepared to put my energy into opposing the waste dump through forming alliances with bodies like the Australian Local Government Association.
"Council can take a role, especially with respect to transport of the waste through the municipal area.
"Other councils have declared themselves a 'nuclear free zone'."
To date, only candidate Hal Duell has declared himself in favour of the dump, with conditions (see our coverage in the issue of Sept 7).
PARKS HANDOVER NOT AN ISSUE FOR COUNCIL, CATIA. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney says she is opposed to handing over ownership of national parks to Aboriginal people, as proposed by the NT Government.
Neither the Alice Springs Town Council nor the tourism lobby, the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association (CATIA), have a position about the handover - be it for or against.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff says she is personally in favour of the transfer of ownership, and CATIA chairwoman Lynne Peterkin says she is personally against it, but isn't completely sure about that.
Says Ms Carney: "We will be working out how we address this."
She says she has been active behind scenes "to ensure it doesn't happen.
"The government has done its very best to hide the ramifications of the parks give-away."
The move was sparked off by a High Court ruling that one Territory park has been declared illegally because of native title rights.
This led to the conclusion that there may be problems with other parks as well.
The surrender of ownership, followed by a 99 year lease-back, now depends on a change to the Land Rights Act in Federal Parliament.
The NT Government has asked Aboriginal Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone to introduce these amendments.
NT Senator Nigel Scullion said last week Senator Vanstone is "considering her options".
Alice Springs News managing editor ERWIN CHLANDA spoke to Ms Peterkin and Mayor Kilgariff.
NEWS: What responses have you had about the parks ownership issue?
PETERKIN: There hasn't been any problem with the idea. Some members can see advantages from developing a stake for Aboriginal people in the tourist industry. The people in the parks service are saying, this is going to happen and we're going to make it work. CATIA is a diverse group of people. One large group of our members would be supportive and another large group would be against it. When you have 400 members, on issues like this there is never going to be a consensus.
NEWS: Are you surprised about the apparent lack of interest by the public?
PETERKIN: It's surprising how little has been said about it. There may well be an outcry but much too late. If we had any indication from our members that there was a huge groundswell against it, which we haven't, then we would take it as a matter to be discussed. CATIA is not in the job of making issues when they are not there.
NEWS: Has there been adequate consultation?
PETERKIN: It's like all this business about public consultations. People are informed through the media, or through their organisations such as CATIA. But the number of people who actually bother to read it, let alone make a comment, is miniscule. There has been adequate opportunity for public consultation. Whether the public have taken up this opportunity is another matter. I haven't heard any objections that have a real basis to them about the idea of ownership of the parks being handed over. Most people are looking at Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) which is working very well. If anything, tourist traffic to that area has increased to the extent that they might have to curb it.
NEWS: Do you have any concerns?
PETERKIN: Only failure by the government to maintain facilities, or renege on the undertaking of not having entrance fees, would be a concern.
NEWS: What do you know about the reasons for what the NT Government is doing?
PETERKIN: I don't know any more than what's been stated publicly. Joint management gives Aborigines some input and you hope that this translates into some pride in what you are doing and the opportunity to make the most of that asset. CATIA does not have a position on this. We've accepted this is something the government will do and we'll work with it. On a personal level, I honestly don't know. The reasoning behind it is that it makes everyone feel good, they're doing something for the Aboriginal people. But whether it's a good thing or not I really couldn't say.
NEWS: Aborigines in The Centre have broad opportunities to become involved in tourism, especially at the Ayers Rock Resort, King's Canyon and Glen Helen, yet they don't take them up. Does this fill you with confidence in the NT Government's policies?
PETERKIN: It's a problem that's not going to be changed in the short term, whether Aborigines own the parks or not. As owners they can have a share in the decision-making. It's a nebulous thing. The experience with Glen Helen shows that there are very few Aboriginal people who want to have this constant contact with strangers. They want to be involved in the background, such as the mala and bilby breeding programs and other conservation functions not based on "up front" contact with tourists.
NEWS: But these opportunities are available now. Indigenous Land Use Agreements are another option. Is it necessary to transfer park ownership to Aborigines?
PETERKIN: I'd probably say no, there are other ways of giving Aborigines rights, but I'm not necessarily completely against the handover either. It's a policy of the government and they think they have the mandate to do it.
NEWS: You were working with Ngurratjuta, the Aboriginal company that owns Glen Helen. You had a hands-on role in keeping the resort running.
PETERKIN: When we talked about getting Aboriginal people from the area involved, none of them wanted to have a bar of it. They found they didn't want to be bothered with the day to day management. So when they leased Glen Helen out, the advantage is that they get a regular payment every year, income for the Ngurratjuta trust fund. And that's what I mean by arm's length. It's a bit like all the property Centrecorp owns around town. No Aboriginal people are necessarily involved, but the profits go to trust funds for Aboriginal people.
NEWS: Isn't that just another form of handout? Money for no effort?
PETERKIN: It's a political thing. I'd rather see Aboriginal people getting money that way than being on the dole. Some may call it sit down money but people who are motivated would make good use of their opportunities.
NEWS: The government says it is transferring parks ownership to avoid legal action. Have you spoken to Aboriginal people who may have native title claims over the parks?
NEWS: Do you assume they will sue to get the parks?
PETERKIN: No, I don't assume that at all. Whoever said that is just putting it out to give the government reason for what they are doing.
NEWS: It's the government that's saying it.
PETERKIN: That's what I mean. It's an argument for backing up their action.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff does not see a role for the town council in the parks issue: "Council hasn't got a position on it," she says.
"It is outside our area of responsibility. It hasn't actually come up in council."
NEWS: The national parks are probably the biggest economic and social asset for the people of Alice Springs. Does that not give you a stake in the issue?
KILGARIFF: Not really. We have very defined areas of responsibility, and that isn't one.
NEWS: Almost all your commercial rate payers would be earning part or all of their income from tourism whose prime asset is the national park estate. It's the lifeblood of Alice Springs.
KILGARIFF: Council would be interfering in matters that are none of our business if we were to start negotiating with those traditional owners. We're not a party to any of those negotiations.
NEWS: Is the NT Government on the right track with its parks policies?
KILGARIFF: It's a realistic way to go, given that the parks have been declared illegally, to deal with it by Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA) with native title holders.
NEWS: Does that involve all the parks? And isn't native title always subject to proof?
KILGARIFF: I understood that the government has accepted that the ownership of these parks are a problem, right now, not only if native title claims are lodged.
NEWS: If it is found that native title rights exist then they can be dealt with in a variety of ways, for example through ILUAs. Why is it necessary to hand over ownership?
KILGARIFF: As I understand it, the government is seeking to avoid years of litigation and millions being tied up in court with 17 separate parks.
NEWS: How many years?
KILGARIFF: When the decision about native title in Alice was made, it was uncontested, yet it took a long, long time, many years.
NEWS: But the world didn't stand still as a result of it, life went on.
KILGARIFF: Yes, it did. It's not so much the length of time but the cost of the court battles.
NEWS: How much would it cost?
KILGARIFF: Oh well, I expect millions.
NEWS: Why would it cost millions? I've seen these claims being made on the NT Government's parks web site, but they are unsubstantiated.
KILGARIFF: Without a native title claim being fought out it's hard to say. But as a guesstimate, if there are QCs involved and the Native Title Tribunal and the rest of it, then it does sound pretty expensive.
NEWS: As I understand it, all this court action and cost would arise only if native title claims are lodged. It's really an issue between people in Central Australia, people you and I are likely to know. Have you spoken to them? What are their demands? Are they launching hostile court action? I'm not aware of any.
KILGARIFF: I don't know of any, personally, but I imagine that the native title owners groups, and I'm thinking specifically about the West MacDonnells, and the Eastern Macs, that they are fairly well identified. It's fair to assume that there are native title holders who have rights they are entitled to under the law, and they would take legal steps.
NEWS: Why do we assume they would take legal steps when there have been - so far as it's known - no attempts to reach agreement out of court? It seems clear that some rights are extinguished because all or most of the parks have previously been pastoral leases. Some rights, such as access, are available because there is free access to parks. Any remaining rights, if they can be proved to exist, can probably be satisfied by ILUAs.
KILGARIFF: One right you haven't mentioned is the right to compensation.
NEWS: If there is a right to compensation we should honour it. If rights are proven, their extinguishment can be the subject of a deal. That's how it worked in Alice Springs with the Larapinta subdivision.
KILGARIFF: I guess I just go back to my feelings, which are that I don't have a problem with the parks strategy. I think it's the realistic way to go. My concern in all of this is that the World Heritage listing of the West Macs goes ahead, and I feel with the precedent of Uluru and Kakadu, Aboriginal ownership will enhance the application.
NEWS: Would you urge Senator Vanstone to introduce into Federal Parliament the amendments to the Land Rights Act which will transfer ownership of the national parks, or would you urge her not to do so?
KILGARIFF: I'd say, do it.
ROTARY: WE'LL GET ON AND DO IT WHILE GOVERNMENTS THINK ABOUT IT. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
In an age when other service clubs are struggling, the Rotary Club in Alice Springs is flourishing. In fact, there are three separate Rotary clubs which work together for large events like Henley-on-Todd. But other clubs are down to single figures and say they simply aren't getting the support from the community.
"When I joined Rotary there were 25 members, now we're up to 43," says the president of the Rotary Club of Alice Springs, John Capper. "It's an even more impressive increase because this town is very mobile so we've actually gained more new members to cover our losses. "I'm fascinated by the assertion that governments should do everything for us. We believe that communities need organisations like Rotary helping them to achieve things."
Local events that the Rotary Club of Alice Springs is involved in include running the Bangtail Muster, an annual quiz evening, assisting with the Old Timer's fete, and a university scholarship each year worth $15,000 over three years to local students.
Earlier this month a mental health awareness and support project in Alice Springs was held as part of the nationwide Rotary health safari.
Other local projects include working with the Town Council on projects like the improvement of the local cemeteries.
But as well as fundraising locally, the Rotary Club of Alice Springs raises money for international causes.
"One very good example of not waiting for governments to do things is Rotary's efforts to eradicate polio worldwide," says Mr Capper. "Rotary International has raised close to $500m and Rotarians have set up immunisation projects in places like India and countries of Africa to ensure kids in those countries are vaccinated. Rotarians themselves do a lot of the vaccinations in association with medical professionals. "They go out with the professionals but don't need to be highly trained themselves and they go out in their hundreds, holding regular immunisation days.
"We'll get on and do it while the governments thinks about it."
Rotary International is currently providing aid in southern USA after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and continues with its work in areas affected by the Tsunami. The organisation has thought carefully about the sort of aid it provides for disasters. "We have our own niche. Other organisations and governments generally solve the immediate problems to which we also donate, but Rotary helps more with the infrastructure needs later on.
"With Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami, we are helping get schools back in operation, and hospitals organised. We do provide a considerable amount of money and materials straight away but helping to rebuild the infrastructure of towns and communities afterwards is what we concentrate on."
Locally, service clubs argue that without their efforts, tourist events like Henley-on-Todd and the Camel Cup wouldn't go ahead. Beth Mildred is a member of the Rotary Club of Alice Springs Mbantua: "We are forever trying to let people know that there is good news out there.
"Henley-on-Todd is an international event but it doesn't attract local people which is a pity because the funds that are made from it go back into the community.
"It's publicised a great deal in Europe, especially in Germany, and people come over especially to see it.
"I believe that people don't know what the service clubs are and the purpose of them."
Matthew Morgan, president of the Apex Club, agrees: "I don't think the community knows about us and what we do.
"We're here to help the community out and fill in the gaps that the government or council don't cover."
His club is down to just seven members although he says this isn't unusual compared with the rest of the country: "We're an average size for a club nowadays. Ten or 15 years ago we had 20 or 30 members but people have a different attitude to service clubs now."
Mr Morgan believes that people simply aren't interested in the fundamentals that Apex promotes like service, citizenship and fellowship: "People don't have the time anymore, people have two jobs or work long hours. And there are lots of other different organisations and service clubs that people are involved in."
Annual Apex activities include running security operations at the Alice Springs Show and the free ice-cream giveaway for children at Christmas. "People don't realise we do lots of community work if someone needs a hand, we give them a hand. Like if an old person wants their garden done and doesn't have any family to help, we'll give them a hand.
"We fill in the gaps that the council or government don't provide."
"There is a real threat that the Lions club will close," says Paul Barreau, a member of the Lions club for seven years, and president of the Camel Cup committee.
The three Lions clubs in Alice Springs had to amalgamate last year because of low numbers.
"The numbers have been dropping for about five years. Existing members are getting too old, and younger people who might have joined have got many more interests and commitments these days.
"But service clubs are important in the community we support a lot of small groups like Lifeline and Riding for the Disabled through money raised from the Camel Cup."
The Rotary Club of Alice Springs is boosting its numbers by attracting female members, and younger people.
Beth Mildred oversees the three Rotary clubs in Alice Springs and her club has seven women members: "Rotary welcomes both men and women and has done for the past 20 years. For me, being active in Rotary is very rewarding and allows me to give something back to the community through the projects we all do."
At 31 Nigel Slater is the youngest member of the Rotary Club of Alice Springs and thinks it's important that the club works hard to recruit younger people. "For us, age is an issue. People perceive that we're an older, male club but we're open to all.
"I'd like to see Rotoract and Interact [younger branches of the club] start up in Alice Springs."
Nigel says as a young person the club has given him the chance to develop skills to help his career "particularly public speaking and networking" and the opportunity to travel to Chicago for Rotary's centenary conference along with over 45,000 other people from 61 countries.
"It's taken me to places I would never have thought.
"It gives you a whole new network Rotary was originally started as a business club by a young lawyer in Chicago.
"At the conference my angle was to go to the seminars on how to increase membership and how to get youth involved in the club.
"In all honesty, most people involved in Rotary are in their later 30s and 40s after starting families but I've done it the other way. "I got to a stage when I'd bought a house, had a job and wanted to give something back.
"It's personal satisfaction, doing something to help at such a local level as well as national and international.
"There are so many projects to get involved with.
"It's a total giving-back feeling, you feel good about it."
NUCLEAR BAZZA SENSED CASH.
ALEX NELSON continues his historical perspective on the politics of uranium mining.
Economic necessity borne out of political circumstances influenced the CLP's attitude towards uranium and nuclear power issues in the 1980s.
Minerals and energy have always been the top earner for the Territory, ahead of tourism and primary production. However, the NT remains heavily dependent on the Commonwealth to fund services, capital works and infrastructure. When Federal Labor under Bob Hawke took office in 1983, the NT Government found itself unprepared for the realities of the new political scene in Canberra.
The Feds substantially reduced funding to the NT over a number of years, and new taxes (such as the Fringe Benefits Tax) also impacted heavily on the economy.
Paul Everingham, who for six years had been unassailable as Chief Minister, entered federal politics on a crusade against the Hawke government in 1984 but found he had no influence in Canberra.
He was replaced as Chief Minister by Ian Tuxworth, the Member for Barkly and formerly the Minister for Mines and Energy.
During Tuxworth's tenure as Chief Minister all of the big construction projects commenced during the Everingham years were completed and no new ones were planned.
It is a measure of the CLP's difficulties at the time that Tuxworth became the only Chief Minister not to go to an election while he was the leader; the CLP was embroiled in a crisis that lasted until the elections of October 1990.
It was within the context of this quite desperate situation that the CLP's attention was drawn towards the glittering bonanza promised through the nuclear power industry.
It started with the publication in 1985/86 of "The Nuclear Fuel Industry - A Responsible Approach" by Roger Watters and S. Chandra (see my article in the Alice News, August 17).
The next development was the promotion of Barry Coulter, Member for Berrimah (later of Palmerston and then Blain), as Deputy Chief Minister, Treasurer and Minister for Mines and Energy in May 1986. Coulter was a source of energy to rival other commodities in his own right - between December 1984 and June 1999 he held almost every portfolio that existed in the NT except Health and Education.
Ebullient, gregarious, humorous and displaying a marked larrikin streak, he was immensely popular with his constituents. He was the CLP's principal salesman, occasionally given to hyperbole, but he could never be faulted for his enthusiasm.
He held Mines and Energy for six years during which time he was a staunch promoter and defender of the uranium mining industry, especially of the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu.
He attained national fame in 1988 when he drank a glass of water scooped from one of the water retention dams at Ranger to demonstrate its safety.
Coulter was also at the forefront of the debate raging over Kakadu Stage 3, consisting of the former Gimbat and Goodparla pastoral leases that had been acquired by the federal government in 1986 for inclusion to the park.
Initially 35 percent of the properties had been excluded from the park because of their high mineral prospectivity "where BHP Gold and its joint venture partners believe there are gold and other ore reserves amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars" ("Kakadu report puts Govt under pressure", Centralian Advocate, Sept 16, 1988).
This area included Coronation Hill and El Sherana - the latter site was one of the richest uranium lodes in the world at the time of its discovery in 1954.
In 1988 the Northern Land Council published a report stating that Jawoyn traditional owners objected to any prospecting and mining in the area: "In the Aboriginal dreamtime, the area is pervaded by the essence or influence of the important and dangerous being Bula. Bula's manifestations remain dormant in the ground in a number of places within the sickness country, and if disturbed, could unleash the apocalypse of the world" (Centralian Advocate, Sept 16, 1988).
This was blatant nonsense for the CLP - Coronation Hill, El Sherana and a number of other sites in the "sickness country" had been mined for uranium in the 1950s.
Not all Federal Labor ministers bought this argument either - notably the acerbic Finance Minister Peter Walsh and the Minister for Energy and Resources, Gareth Evans, who famously described the region as "clapped out buffalo country".
However, politics dictated another course for Federal Labor, which was in danger of losing office at the next poll. In October 1989 the Labor caucus banned all mining activity in Kakadu Stage 3 as part of its bid to garner minor party preferences for the forthcoming federal elections (it worked - Labor was returned to office for a record fourth term in February 1990).
The CLP was outraged by these events but it had behaved in a similarly deceptive manner for the NT elections of 7 March 1987.
Given the circumstances, the CLP's result under Chief Minister Steve Hatton was outstanding, winning 15 seats to retain office. However, after the elections were safely over it transpired the NT Government was the only jurisdiction in Australia welcoming the prospect of a low-level radioactive waste dump ("Govt reacts to waste move - Centre most likely site", Centralian Advocate, 27/3/87).
This front-page story, which also briefly described Roger Watters' advocacy for storing high-level nuclear waste in Central Australia, was strikingly juxtaposed with a photo and short article about the derailment of two full crude oil tankers during shunting at the local railway station.
The irony was enhanced in the following edition, featuring an interview with Roger Watters about his proposal ("Nuclear waste dump for Centre: geologist", Centralian Advocate, April 1, 1987) - not an April Fools joke. Mr Watters "said the only area of risk which he could see was that of transport. Regardless of where the spent fuel rods were returned to Australia, they would have to be transported to Central Australia overland. Mr Watters suggests rail transport is 'the safest form of transport', he said".
The article gave a much fuller description of Watters' proposal which he had advocated for about ten years: "It is a billion dollar plan which would employ as many as 6000 people - if it was proceeded with".
"The Top End, where Australia's major uranium deposits are, would be the site for enrichment and processing before uranium is exported. This would employ some 5000 people.
"Central Australia Š would be the site for the disposal of nuclear waste returned from overseas, and for the reprocessing which would separate the high-level waste from the usable products. This would employ some 800 people".
The CLP took up this issue with great vigour over the next two years.
MORE TO COME.
OFFICIAL: WEST IS BEST. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Wests have won their second AFL Central Australian grand final in a row, beating South 8-10 (58) to 4-11 (35).
But the game was tainted by violence and verbal abuse by South players and spectators towards the umpires and administrators.
Following the assault of a West player and an attempted physical attack on Gary Learmonth, the manager of the AFL CA, two spectators will face a tribunal later this week.
A reserve grade and a league player will also face the tribunal on code of conduct charges.
Mr Learmonth said: "The Souths players have been disciplined all year.
"The actions of the crowd and two players on Saturday have destroyed that. It won't be tolerated."
Danny Fraser, the field umpire during the game, said: "It's very disappointing. I've never seen it like this before, it was very bad.
"It's undone all the good work done this year by the supporters."
But for Wests, nothing could dull their delight at victory. Despite the doubts poured on the team this season (especially after failing to make a dent in the minor premiership) the president of the club, Robert Weste, says the win wasn't a surprise. "We have worked hard for this all year.
"We were on track. We knew what we were doing."
Peaking at the later end of the season could have been due to the inexperience of the several under 17s forced to play up after the side lost some of their more experienced men.
But on the day when it mattered, Wests' attacking and running style ensured Souths didn't have a chance to show strength, resulting in the game's low scores.
For Wests, Kevin Bruce played a consistent game and was the team's top scorer with four goals and winner of the Everingham Medal for the best on ground.
Mark Bramley stopped many of Souths' attacking moves at centre half back, and young Danny Measures (who played centre) worked hard all around the ground.
At half time the score was just 2-4 to Wests and 2-6 to Souths.
It was in the third quarter that Wests got away as Souths looked ragged and frequently butterfingered the ball. Usually accurate, the side's kicking looked poor, reflecting their form in the semi-final game.
After three-quarter time Souths managed to squeeze another goal thanks to Darryl Ryder but they couldn't catch Wests, especially after they answered back with the final goal of the match to bring the score to 8-10 (58) versus South's 4-11 (35).
Dick Kimber was Westies' first-ever captain when the club was formed in the 1970s.
He acted as water boy during the match and was overjoyed with the win: "It's the first time we've won back to back for over 25 years.
"I'm really happy for the lads, it's their premiership. And good on the supporters who stuck with us."
For Souths' Darren Talbot, it was his last game at Traeger Park - but he still left on a high: "We're proud to get to the grand final. It can't get any better.
"We'll look back on this in training, see our mistakes and work on them for next year. We both put in during the first and second half but we lost it in the third. It was us not picking up."
SENSATIONAL SIXTH SEASON SUCCESS. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Sundowners AMEC have beaten Rovers to win the netball grand final for a record sixth year despite one of their players breaking their rib in the match - and, incredibly, playing on.
The final score was a desperately close 43-41. Kirsty Ray shone for the Sundowners despite a heavy hit in the third quarter which led her to call time in the fourth after not being able to breathe.
She spent Sunday morning in hospital.
"I've never seen her hold time before," said her coach, Mike Geppa. "She just doesn't come off. For a non-contact sport, the game was very physical," Geppa said. "But when the players' eyes are on the ball, people will run into each other. I spoke to Kirsty on Sunday morning and she said she felt sore and sick."
The game was intensely fast and physical, with both teams scoring within seconds of the opening whistle - and refusing to slow down for the whole match.
Suns looked strong for the first half, 11 points up after the second quarter. All seven girls worked seamlessly as a team, but young Tegan Pabst stood out as goal shooter.
But after the second break, Rovers gathered strength to catch up to just two goals behind. The consistent Aimee Rodda helped steer her team to better things, and the contest between Julie Phillips as goal defence and Sunnies' goal attack Tiffany Forbes, was exciting to watch.
Finally the Rovers romped to one goal up in the final quarter - but Sunnies' came through the clouds to take the match in the remaining minutes of the game.
Mike Geppa said he was "elated".
"It was what a grand final should be - good hard netball, with no one giving anything away. The girls played exceptionally well, and their team spirit was second to none. It's sensational to take the title for a sixth time. The reason we won was because of team unity, desire for success and working together."
Geppa, who took on the role as coach at the beginning of the season from Lorna Walker, says the club is uncertain if Walker will return from interstate for next year.
"If she doesn't, I'm willing to coach again. We had fun, it's been a good year."
Although runners-up, Memo Rovers say they're delighted with second place - and believe that the Sunnies' domination of netball in Alice Springs might be coming to an end.
"The difference between Rovers and Sundowners is that we have had four players come up from the juniors this year. Our average age is 21 compared with Sundowners' 24," says Leanne Southam, the coach for the side. "Hannah Cartwright, the Rodda sisters and Katie Pickett are the future of our club. The only way is up for us - and I'll coach them till they win."
In other results, Sundowners Desert Wave won the A reserve competition, beating Memo Rovers PABs 34-30. In B grade Memo Rovers Rots got 53 goals overs Sundowners 1's 22. In C grade, Federal Demons beat Neata Glass Giants C 45 goals to 18, and D grade saw Neata Glass Giants D defeat Federal D 41-36.
EVOLUTION VS INTELLIGENT DESIGN: INDEPENDENT THINKERS OR SHEEP? COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
When I was a child there was a children's program on TV about the adventures of a fictional character in a fictional world called The Pancake.
All I remember of it now is part of the theme song, "the earth is as flat as a pancake". A silly notion today, it was once the predominant view that the world was flat. The more we learn, the more we understand how little we actually know and how wrong we have been in the not too distant past.
The debate about teaching "intelligent design" as opposed to, or as well as, the theory of evolution in our schools has caused quite a stir.
It touches a nerve as essentially it is not about which theory is better but about freedom of thought and belief systems.
Although we humans are quite rational, as far as species go, we are also highly emotional beings. In dealing with the unknown, or not fully understood, tried and tested, we turn to our feelings. In trying to explain how the universe and our world began we are bound to blur the lines between what we know and what we think we know, or what we believe.
Our understanding of ourselves and our world is based primarily on what we have experienced and what we therefore can relate to. When the first missionaries got to the far north of Europe and tried to convert the Vikings and their cousins they had difficulties getting them to believe in a hell full of burning flames. Fire was something good in the cold, dark north, and the warmth from the sun life giving. How could heat be something bad?
The Vikings did not get as far as Australia but had they had the opportunity to experience a few summers in Alice they would no doubt have been easier to convince.
When our children are young and first go to school it is easy to define what we want them to learn. Our two priorities are literacy and numeracy.
As they get older their skills need to improve, but we also tend to throw a lot of facts at them and call it acquiring knowledge.
What we seem to forget is the most important skill of all, after learning how to read, namely how to think for ourselves. It is a difficult skill to teach, especially after years off "please be quiet and do as you are told".
To survive in the world we need to be able to decide for ourselves what we think about things.
We need to be able to question, compare and evaluate.
While we are young we can usually rely on others to guide us, but one day when we are on our own we might discover that our reality does not fit the picture we have been given.
Science is not static. New discoveries are made every day and theories adjusted or discarded. The scientific fascination with everything in our world is profound, the diversity found celebrated and marvelled over. Science does not have all the answers but keeps asking questions, keeps searching , keeps exploring.
Religion once dictated the reality in which you had to believe and still does in many places. It is not difficult to understand why a more religion-based view in the education system would scare many parents. We want our children to be able to ask questions and make up their own minds as they mature into citizens of the world.
Religion is more than meets the eye or is taught.
There is theology which asks questions, compares belief systems and investigates historic records and translations.
Some might like to think there is only one interpretation of the Bible, but that is not the case.
We need to ask ourselves what we want our children to be taught at school. Do we want independent critical thinkers or sheep?
Where does religion and spirituality fit in? How do we best provide the skills we need to cope in this world?
It is OK to admit that we don't know everything and for that we need to be able to think for ourselves.
FINANCIAL FREEDOM. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
One positive aspect of life in Alice Springs is that so few people harp on about their financial situation all the time.
This runs contrary to the national trend where the pumping up of the property bubble has only been matched by the hot air generated by people talking about house price inflation.
Suburban conversations in many towns are largely to be avoided these days. I would hazard a guess that you would need only five minutes chatting at a barbecue on the Sunshine Coast or the Central Coast of New South Wales before someone changed the conversation to that subject with which they are most comfortable. This means their mortgage, the value of their home, their investment portfolio or some trust fund that they have put aside for a reason that only they understand.
My experience is limited, but my time in Alice Springs has not included a single moment where I have wondered why other people's money is supposed to be a source of fascination for the rest of us.
Three cheers, I say. Let's play lawn bowls and exchange footy tips. Or spread our faded mulch and pull straggly weeds out of the gravel. It's much better for your peace of mind.
I used to be part of a group of friends who were just as boring about the way they had escaped the bonds of capitalist society by keeping all their money in a sock under their bed. All twelve dollars and fifty five cents. There was no way we were letting the evil stock market and the mobs of international speculators get their hands on it.
From time-to-time we would all stand back and admire our financial morality. If self-righteousness was an Olympic sport, we would have taken gold. In the meantime, the stock markets failed to quake at the loss of our support.
Some towns may be monetarily oppressive, but the Alice is a place where financial freedom, also known as liberation from other people obsessing about money, can be discovered.
But why should this be? I'll advance a few theories and you can tell me if I am theorising from the depths of my armpit.
For starters, in remote places everyone knows everyone else's business already. So why offer them yet more titbits to circulate around Gillen or the Old Eastside.
Gossip about other people is only fun if you don't overdo it. The details of the mediocre performance of the college fund for your highly-achieving offspring is way too much information for most of us, as well as being faintly embarrassing.
Another reason for the lack of local financial chit-chat is the survival mentality that pervades this part of the world. Central Australia is less complacent than some parts of the mega-burbs because there are plenty of other things to worry about.
Some are mundane and involve curtain-twitching ("What are the bush mob staying across the road doing now?"). Others are more serious, such as the "How do I get by until pay day?" kind of headache. If you have worries, droning on about your financial plans doesn't seem worth the effort. Then there's the fact that many folk in town have left some financial part of their lives elsewhere while they came to live in the Territory.
Owning a property in Victoria or the Gold Coast is not necessarily something you want to share with people around the sausage sizzle, while pretending that you'll be in town for ever and a day.
In the final analysis, if there is one point about which my earnest sock-hiding friends were right, it was that much of our future is in someone else's hands anyway.
So what's the point in claiming that our financial future is even partly secure. Just pass me another soya burger, please.
LETTERS: Evolution is part of science curriculum.
Sir,- So Michael Evans (Alice News, Sept 14) thinks that he knows who didn't create the world, and feels necessary to spring to Will Roberts' defence.
I don't know who, or how the world was created but I have an inkling that it occurred longer than the 4000 years ago that some fundamentalist Christians might believe. Paul Wilson, the Acting Headmaster of St Philip's, needs to look at page 343 of the NT's Curriculum Framework document to see that the evolutionary process is a part of the Science curriculum.
The issue that the Alice News highlighted for me was that a Humanities teacher who has some problem with discussing certain topical issues (such as abortion, euthanasia and trade unions) because of his strong religious belief might be better suited to teaching at a school with a less liberal approach to issues of spirituality and faith.
St Philip's has some wonderful staff who have a more secular view of the world, but are happy to support the "ethos of a Christian school", despite their own beliefs.
Two weeks ago I had to contact the College Chaplain to enquire about a Year Seven "Creation Booklet" that my son had come home with. Despite St Philip's saying that Religious Education is not an assessable subject my son got an "H" mark in his diary (ie, he hadn't completed some homework) for not doing a story about what he "saw" as the creation of the world by God.
The Chaplain's response was that "this term we are looking at the Christian creation story", which I took to mean that in the previous two terms they had discussed Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism.
Comparative religious studies have my support over traditional RE anytime! Upon questioning my son I discovered that, unfortunately, there had not been any discussion of other faiths' "creation stories".
Having taught at St Philip's for nearly 18 months I have to admit to being disappointed by the conservative nature of some of the senior staff, and the resistance to change and new ideas. I also have a feeling that someone should ask to see the receipt that Will Roberts got from St Philip's when he "rented" the venue for the creation science seminar.
One thing that St Philip's does exceptionally well is to present themselves to the community as an exemplary school. Until recently three staff were employed exclusively to handle media, PR and fundraising for this purpose.
I'm happy for Michael Evans and Will Roberts to follow whatever religious beliefs they might have if it is in the spirit of tolerance, enhancing social justice and fostering critical analysis.
Somehow I don't think that Michael Evans' letter and the creation science seminar run by Will were in this vein.
Sir,- I read with interest Gavan Breen's viewpoint on the mining of uranium (Alice News, Sept 7). I don't agree that most of the opposition to nuclear power is ill-informed.
For some people it is based simply on the idea that the potential dangers inherent in uranium mining, nuclear power generation and waste storage are too huge to play with. These ideas are all backed up by a great deal of scientific and political information.
Uranium mining, nuclear power and all that goes with it cannot be proven to be safe. It's a long shot, a gamble. It's like put your foot down, close your eyes and hope for the best.
Yeah, sure, huge effort and obscene amounts of money go into researching ways to make it all safe but there's no guarantees. Except of course to leave the stuff in the ground.
Nuclear power provides at best a short-term solution to the long term problem of energy provision for insatiable appetites. And the radiation will last for a long time after the world supplies of uranium have been used up and we'll be needing new sources of power generation anyway.
We need to be investing in long term, sustainable solutions that are far more cost efficient and far less risky. And that future generations can benefit from instead of having to deal with.
Nuke waste won't hurt tourism
Sir,- This is an open letter to Mayor Fran Kilgariff.
I feel that political forces far beyond anything the Centre can muster are about to insist we host the nation's nuclear waste facility.
I know you and the council have expressed opposition to this, and it is right that you have done so. There is not a town nor a city nor a community in Australia who would volunteer for this. No one wants it.
But someone is about to draw the short straw, and that someone is increasingly looking like Alice. The increase in rainfall alone makes me discount Katherine's chances.
If the green light is given, the only way we can have any influence at all on what facility we get is by taking the seat being offered at the table.
The lead for this will have to come from the NT Government, followed closely by you as the mayor of Alice Springs.
The Martin government will not slow down to listen to me, but they will listen to you. Can you please use the influence you do have to convince them that the time for knee-jerk rejection is closing and the time for engagement is now?
This engagement is especially important if we are to insist that ONLY uranium waste generated in Australia be stored at the site.
This fundamental proviso is of such paramount importance that any other considerations have to take second place.
One such other consideration probably weighing on your mind as our mayor is the impact such a facility will have on tourism. Alice's economy is fuelled by the tourist dollar, and we would be fools to jeopardize that.
But I feel the impact on tourism will be zero. The interstate tourists know in their hearts that Australia has to have one of these. They will most likely be quietly relieved that their community managed to dodge the bullet. Its presence won't stop them coming here.
And the international tourists already live in a nuclear world. To them a properly managed state-of-the-art uranium waste facility will sound more like a good idea than a bad one. Its presence won't stop them coming here either.
The primary other consideration is, of course, the environment. That concern will not go away as long as the waste remains toxic. Engagement again is the key.
We need environmental advocacy groups of all hues to join in addressing this issue, not to deny the issue exists by either keeping their heads in the sand or putting rocks in the road.
Australia's uranium waste will be somewhere for years too many to count. If it falls to us, let's deal with it.
Sir,- It is fantastic to see federal Labor supporting an increase in uranium mining.
They realise the potential export dollars and jobs that uranium mining could bring.
Clare Martin and Queensland premier Peter Beattie have signed a couple of agreements to work closely together but their opposition to uranium mining is ridiculous - just look at the figures.
A recent report from the NT Mineral Council said that the number of companies actively mining or interested in mining for uranium has jumped by over 50 per cent in the last few weeks.
Further, the ABARE Mineral Statistics Report said that national uranium export earnings are now at a record figure of $475m.
The decision by the Territory Labor government to give away its responsibility for uranium mining has resulted in a boom in uranium exploration in the NT.
The Federal governments' 'open for business' decision will encourage other mining companies to consider increasing mineral exploration in the Territory.
The Martin Labor government is simply confused about the whole issue of uranium mining.
On the one hand, the Territory Labor government continues to express its opposition to new uranium mines, but on the other, I am sure that it will not refuse any royalties that flow to it from the sale of uranium mined in the NT.
Member for Solomon
Scullion out of touch
Sir,- The government shamefully used every extreme ploy in their bag of tricks to gag debate in the Senate on the Telstra bills and any amendments.
Territory Senator Nigel Scullion voted to gag the debate and did not even try to speak on the Telstra bills to say how they would benefit Territorians.
This was despite funding in the Telstra sale package being way below the $5.7b Telstra is saying is needed right now to fix up the network nationally.
In the NT we need $250m now to bring the Telstra network up to standard, yet we have no assurance on what allocations will be made for the NT.
Senator Scullion is completely out of touch with Territorians views on the sale of Telstra and even the widespread opposition to the sale within the CLP.
He is putting blind faith in what his coalition masters have told him about the Telstra sale.
CLP Feds mum
Sir,- Federal CLP representatives put the Territory last in the final Telstra sale debate.
The Member for Solomon and CLP Senator Nigel Scullion did not so much as raise a peep about Territory needs and interests during intense debate throughout the year.
A single member of the National Party - Kay Hull from Riverina - had the guts to stand up and be counted for her constituents.
This attribute was unfortunately not shared by that matched set of lapdogs, the CLP's own Dynamic Duo in Canberra.
The CLP Senator has been wagging his tail over the offer of a very mangy $14m bone, which won't even make a start on remote community infrastructure.
But, like his counterpart in the House of Representatives, he had precious little to say during debate.
Instead, they have quietly acquiesced in a cold-blooded, ideologically-driven deal to snatch Telstra out of public ownership.
Most Australians didn't want it to happen and I've yet to meet a Territorian who thinks we'll be better served by a fully-privatised Telstra.
But now the deal has been done and the Howard Government has the right to sell off the taxpayers' share of this important national asset.
Territorians will suffer as they have been doing since Telstra stopped being a public utility.
Member for Lingiari
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