September 18, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Uphill land battle. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Given our dramatic land and housing shortage you’d think blocks in Ron Sterry’s Coolibah Tree Estate in Ragonesi Road would be selling like hotcakes.
They’re not – at least not yet.
The project, 84 blocks in stage one, is lurching from one crisis and obstacle to the next, most of them, says Mr Sterry, caused by the Town Council and NT Government bureaucracies.
One major issue is the headworks, the electricity, water and sewage mains running to the edge of the development.
Mr Sterry says in the Mt Johns Valley project, now under way in Stephens Road between the golf course and the MacDonnell Ranges, headworks are being supplied by the government.
Native title holders are involved, as was the case with the Stirling Heights development in Larapinta, at the western edge of the town.
Mr Sterry says it is also normal, or frequently the case in Darwin that the headworks are supplied courtesy of the taxpayer.
The NT Government denies this.
Spokespeople for both Lands Minister Delia Lawrie and Essential Services Minister Rob Knight, responsible for the Power & Water Corporation (P&W), are saying: “In all land developments, the costs of headworks and upgrades to headworks are met by the developer – in this case, Mr Sterry.”
And: “The same process applies throughout the Territory.”
But: “In the case of the last land releases at Larapinta, Government paid for the headworks as the landowner was the Crown.”
This invites some number crunching, comparing private with public land development, bearing in mind that Stirling Heights will almost certainly be the template for Mt Johns Valley.
This is one of the town’s growth areas, with up to 1000 blocks of land once some curly access issues have been resolved.
In terms of land costs and headworks, what does it cost Mr Sterry to turn off a block, and what does it cost the Crown?
The headworks cost for Stirling Heights $1.95m, or about $23,000 per block, paid by the taxpayer.
Half the land – complete with headworks – was given to native title holders as compensation for allowing the land to be used for residential purposes.
That means a special interest group got free of charge $1m worth of headworks, a handy edge in a competitive market.
As only half of Stirling Heights was bought from the Crown by developers, for $1m, the taxpayer subsidised that development to the tune of $900,000.
Mr Sterry, on the other hand, had to buy his land and settle sacred sites issues. (He is not affected by native title as the land is freehold.)
The Crown, of course, owned the land a Stirling Heights.
The Crown has access to an experienced team of public servants to deal with engineering and administrative issues.
Mr Sterry had to engage private consultants to do the job, with varying degrees of competency, to put it politely.
Mr Sterry says the Crown is a developer who has the luxury of giving itself the necessary approvals.
Mr Sterry gives no evidence that the Crown – as a developer – is getting away with things others wouldn’t: it is compelled to meet requirements from local government and P&W.
True, the Crown owns P&W, but there are no indications that it is exploiting this relationship.
But it seems obvious that the Crown and its public service have an edge over a private applicant when it comes to navigating the maze of regulations.
At Stirling Heights, says Mr Sterry, what the developers obtained (the native title holders by way of compensation, and the others by paying $1m) wasn’t just a bit of dirt.
They also got all utilities at the gate, all approvals in place, and development plans drawn up.
The Crown lost almost $20,000 a block at Stirling Heights. No such subsidy for Mr Sterry.
Mr Sterry says he’s invested $3.5m so far in Coolibah Tree Estate, $42,000 per block. And he’s paying the current punishing interest rates.
Still thinking of going into land development?
Mr Sterry says P&W are seeking more than $600,000 for his 84 block first stage for a water pipe upgrade outside the development area, although it seems the existing facilities are adequate for both water and fire protection.
What’s more, P&W is forcing Mr Sterry to construct inside the subdivision a sewage system with only one pumping station, so that P&W doesn’t have to maintain two of them when the project is finished.
Mr Knight’s spokesperson says P&W “has approved the installation of one pump station as part of this headworks upgrade”.
That means Mr Sterry has to dig sewage pipe trenches up to six metres deep, spending an additional $200,000.
It’s all money that the buyers of housing blocks will ultimately have to come up with, casting doubt that a price tag of $180,000 for the blocks, average size 1400 square metres, will be sufficient, says Mr Sterry.
The Town Council isn’t bending over backwards either to make it easy for Mr Sterry and – by extension – frustrated home buyers.
“Bringing Alice up to the 21st century” has become the starry-eyed motto.
Firstly the council decreed that sheet flow drainage, as it exists on the sloping land at the moment, isn’t an option, although with the right design of streets and landscaping it could have easily been viable, says Mr Sterry.
A complex and “horrendously expensive” drainage system now has to be built, to a standard capable of coping with a one-in-100-years flood.
Nowhere else in Alice Springs is there such a high flood protection standard: one-in-20 is the typical benchmark in Alice Springs, although new developments must meet the “Q100” standard.
The consequence has been that a barely discernible usually dry creek is now a massive artificial drain, to be lined, bottom and sides, with mesh encased boulders.
The bill: $2.5m more than the cost of sheet flow drainage which would have inflicted much less scarring on the landscape.
Mr Sterry says there seem to be no requirements at Stirling Heights nor Mt Johns for “detention” on the land of the additional quantity of rain, (around 10%) that flows off roofs and sealed roads.
Mr Sterry has to build dams to retard that flow before it is allowed to escape into the Todd River.
Talking about roads: Mr Sterry says they are another, interstate consultant-inspired, quest for excellence at his (and the land buyers’) expense.
He says “99%” of roads in Alice Springs are the cheaper two-seal variety.
But the town council has ordered Mr Sterry to use hot-mix throughout, not just for the main arteries, but the side streets as well.
The cost is an extra $1.5m overall.
Nerves of steel and an impressive property portfolio around town are keeping Mr Sterry going.
He’s got 30 buyers on the waiting list.
He won’t sell any blocks until they’re finished, fully serviced and ready to build on.
The selling points?
Firstly, exclusive protection against a 100 year flood, which counts more each year as global warming makes ferocious storms more likely, and the government continues to procrastinate with the only effective flood protection for the town, a dam upstream from the Telegraph Station.
Secondly, a nice view, good-sized blocks and the MacDonnell Ranges as the back yard.
And thirdly, no public housing – usually the first matter potential buyers are wanting to be assured of.
No comment from the Town Council was to hand at the time of going to press.

Council wants to head off a Thirsty Thursday for Alice. By KIERAN FINNANE.

n an effort to head off the introduction of one or more take-away grog free days in Alice, Alderman Brendan Heenan wants the Town Council to come up with some new initiatives to deal with the town’s grog-related woes.
Initially at Monday night’s committee meeting he spoke to his fellow aldermen about pushing for a rehabilitation farm, suggesting government-owned land at Owen Springs as a suitable location.
In discussion Ald Liz Martin said she’d been approached by people who’ll call themselves the “Responsible Drinking Lobby” and will fight the introduction of grog-free days.
This comes in response to Licensing Minister Chris Burns’s announcement last month that alcohol restrictions in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek will be evaluated by the Menzies School of Health Research, and alternative strategies such as grog free days “will also be looked at”.
Both Alds Heenan and Martin said they had already done quite a bit of their own research and wanted council to invite organisations such as CAAAPU to discuss the issues with council.
Mayor Damien Ryan said he supported the concept of a rehabilitation farm but wanted to see it include a voluntary component.
He didn’t see why a compulsory facility wouldn’t have a revolving door like gaol does.
Ald Murray Stewart was of the view that chronic alcoholics would not submit themselves for treatment voluntarily.
Ald Heenan later withdrew the part of his motion calling for council to lobby for a rehabiliation centre.
Aldermen, with the exception of Ald Stewart, then supported his call for council to instigate a meeting with CAAAPU and other relevant organizations to discuss in the first instance where the gaps are in treatment services for alcohol and other substances.
Ald Stewart thought the need for a “tough love” rehab centre was obvious and that council should push ahead with it.
Ald Taylor was not sure whether the issue was core council business.
Ald Heenan argued that it was, as the social problems arising from excessive drinking affect the whole town.
Council needed to define what has been happening, what has not been happening and tell the Territory Government what needs to happen, he said.
Mayor Ryan said council needed “strong facts and information”.
“Flying off the handle” could result in the town getting a “Thirsty Thursday” and that would be “bad for our tourism industry”, said Mayor Ryan.
Meanwhile, NT Senator Nigel Scullion (Country Liberals) is calling for custodial facilities in major bush communities, to which “habitual drunks” can be committed by court order.
“We need to consider putting detention and rehabilitation facilities into the communities where the offenders live,” he says.
“Going to Darwin or Alice Springs doesn’t seem to improve their capacity to rehabilitate or reconcile with the victims of their crimes in their own communities.”
This would also take the pressure off the two major centres.
“Let’s face it, the biggest challenge in Alice Springs is from Indigenous people. If you take them out of the community, police would almost not be needed,” says Sen Scullion.
And , in Tennant Creek, for example, he believes there are just 72 people who “need help”.
“[Police]spend nearly all their time cycling these people through the system.”

Let communities decide on permits: Call by alderman. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The permit system should be optional, with communities choosing whether or not they want it, according to the Town Council.
Aldermen on Monday gave unanimous support to a motion by Alderman John Rawnsley that council call on the Australian Government to reconsider blanket reinstatement of the permit system and consult with communities to find out which ones want to remove it.
He expected that some communities might want to retain the system, giving Mutitjulu as an example, because of the community’s proximity to a major tourist resort.
But other communities may want to encourage visitors, suggested Ald Rawnsley, pointing to the economic opportunities that have developed in Ntaria (Hermannsburg) and Finke where visitors are welcome without permits.
He suggested that the beautiful country in the Papunya, Haasts Bluff, Mount Liebig area might also benefit from such opportunities and these communities may wish to remove the permit system.
Economic opportunities in the bush would bring alternative pathways for Aboriginal people, “not just the one pathway of urban drift”, said Ald Rawnsley.
Reintroduction of the permit system, abolished by the Howard Government last year, is being considered in the Senate this week.
NT Senator Nigel Scullion (Country Liberals) told the Alice News the permit system makes the difference between the “real economy rather than a welfare economy” in bush communities.
He will be voting with the Opposition to block its re-introduction.
“I’m working very closely with the cross benches to make sure they understand the issues, about equity and access,” he said.
Sen Scullion said in fact the permit system has never been stopped, because of the “arrogant” refusal of the current Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, to bring in early this year regulations ordered by the previous Parliament.
He described Hermannsburg as “quite a go-ahead community, enjoying the benefits of free access to its communal areas. 
“There are shops, there are tourists, it’s a wonderful town, a lot cleaner,” says Sen Scullion.

Centrecorp: moment of truth. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Opposition Senators will use the estimates process to get to the bottom – at last – of where the Centrecorp millions are, who controls them and what benefit they produce for Aboriginal people, according to NT Country Liberal Senator Nigel Scullion.
This is intended to break down the wall of silence thrown up by the Central Land Council (CLC). The probe will examine whether it is lawful for the CLC to have a majority shareholding in the Aboriginal investment company which is thought to control assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including commercial real estate, a half share in the Peter Kittle Motor Company and in the L J Hooker franchise in Alice Springs.
The CLC and Centrecorp have for years resisted demands from Aboriginal people, including prominent members of the CLC executive, to be transparent.
Sen Scullion says the estimates process, whose next round is due to start on October 20, will look at the extent of the assets, “who controls the money, who controls the dividends, where the dividends have gone, who controls where they are going, and what’s the percentage return”.
Senator Scullion says the CLC is an “arm of the Commonwealth of Australia in the same way as Centrelink is.
“Is it lawful for a government department to be making investments of that nature?
“We need to know what exactly the investment of that government department is, the rationale under which they made that investment, and to ensure there is some transparency, on a monthly basis, particularly for those people who come under their jurisdiction.”
Questions have been raised that the CLC’s share holding, three fifths, in Centrecorp may be in breach of the Land Rights Act under which the CLC operates. (Tangentyere Council and Congress, respectively, hold the other two shares.)
The Act says land councils may “assist Aboriginals ... to carry out commercial activities ... in any manner that will not cause the Land Council to incur financial liability or enable it to receive financial benefit”.
A spokesperson for the Federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs told the Alice Springs News: “It is the Department’s understanding that Centrecorp is not a related entity at law to the Central Land Council and the CLC is not at risk because of any commercial activities of Centrecorp.”
The Minister, Jenny Macklin, would make no further comment.
But an aide to Sen Scullion says: “I have recieved advice that it would appear that the CLC and Centrecorp meet the requirement of being related entities. 
“Cross share ownership and directors in common meet this requirement.
“As for the possible breach of the Land Rights Act, this is still being considered.”

Hospital the last resort for NT’s ‘skinny kids’. By KIERAN FINNANE.


The heart-wrenching problem of the “skinny kids” – the children of The Centre who “fail to thrive” – does not fit the research done into the problem elsewhere.
It’s a “fourth world” problem in the heart of a “first world” country and in persists despite many efforts.
Our resources are relatively “amazing” and we are “well-intentioned” yet “all our efforts have done very little to impinge on the lives of these children”, said paediatrician Tors Clothier, speaking from 20 years experience at the Alice Springs Hospital.
Dr Clothier, together with some 80 health professionals from Central Australia, attended a seminar, “Making Sense of Failure to Thrive”, held last Thursday at the Centre for Remote Health to mark Child Protection Week.
There was general agreement that Failure to Thrive (FTT) is a little understood phenomenon, although organiser of the seminar, Nettie Flaherty, says the situation in The Centre today is better than it was.
She said: “Thirty years ago kids were dying, and they don’t now, and rates of underweight, stunting and wasting have improved, though they are still two to three times the national rate.
“It is extremely rare (if ever) to see conditions such as kwashiorkor [extreme protein deficiency] which clinicians saw 25 to 30 years ago.”
The popular assumption is that FTT concerns only Aboriginal children, and indeed the prevalence among them of stunting, the result of chronic malnutrition, is 11%, the seminar heard. 
There is no comparable population level data gathered for non-Indigenous children but Dr Clothier says you can find children failing to thrive across the population though there’s a strong correlation with poverty.
To the Alice News he commented on the “burden of ill health Aboriginal children endure”, stating his personal view that the most important determinants of health would be “Aboriginal people earning a bigger slice of the economic cake and Aboriginal women’s empowerment”.
“We know FTT diminishes with improved living conditions,” he said.
Ms Flaherty, a social worker formerly practising in the area of child protection, now teaching and researching with the Centre for Remote Health, said socio-economic status of parents constrains their choices but does not necessarily lead to neglect.
Some parents in disadvantaged circumstances are “truly heroic”, she said, while most are “good enough”.
In the cases where they are not good enough – that is, able and willing to give priority to children’s needs – practitioners need to make difficult decisions about when FTT becomes a child protection issue.
They need to work with timelines, said Ms Flaherty. 
Child neglect doesn’t change greatly from day to day so the practitioner has determine when the next step will be taken.
She argued against a national child protection system (recently mooted by the Federal Government), preferring the development of strong local models of service, with collaboration between agencies.  
Social worker Susan Grant, a speaker at the seminar, has recently undertaken a quality improvement project for the Alice Springs Hospital on the issue.
In 2006-07 financial year the hospital treated as in-patients153 children for FTT. Only three were non-Indigenous.
Ms Grant said 70% of the 153 were from remote communities, with almost the same proportion admitted for treatment of another condition, such as a respiratory infection, FTT being a “secondary diagnosis”. 
The majority of these were suffering from “mild to moderate malnutrition”.
Ms Grant said she was not confident that staying on the ward is the best form of treatment for these children but the alternative services are not there.
The exceptions are in the areas covered by Aboriginal-controlled services, such as those of NPY Women’s Council and Nganampa Health.
NPY’s Child Nutrition Program is now in its 12th year.
A doctor who works on the Pitjantjatjara Lands gave the program the thumbs up, saying he had been treating eight children with severe malnutrition who were showing little sign of improvement until one of the program’s teams turned up.
They conducted all kinds of activities around nutrition for a week, in various venues, with various formats and age groups. He remarked upon the celebratory atmosphere that the team created.
In the following weeks he saw its positive effect when six out of eight children began to gain weight.
He urged that the approach to FTT be demedicalised, that there be “less weighing of babies” and more of this type of nutrition education work.
Dr Clothier also told the News that feeding, the base response to FTT, should not be medicalised.
“All it does is take money away from primary heath care,” he said.
There was general agreement that hospitalisation makes for “a very expensive meal”.
But, as Ms Flaherty told the News, “clinicians know that they may be able to achieve catch up growth in the hospital, and feel compromised in discharging children to impoverished circumstances.
“They feel less driven to do this with non-Indigenous children (by and large) because those kids don’t face the same infection load that living in overcrowded houses and ‘dysfunctional’ communities provides. 
“The challenge is to develop and support community based programs that can provide the level of support, assessment and intervention that the hospital endeavours to, but closer to home.
“This would be cheaper, and also less disruptive to families.”
There was a lot of agreement in discussion about the importance of working with mothers.
“It’s difficult for any mother when their child is not doing well,” said Ms Grant.
“Building positive and respectful relationships with them, not being judgmental, can improve things.”
In discussion there were also some strongly expressed views around the Territory Government not fulfilling its responsibilities in the provision of services in areas not covered by Aboriginal-controlled services, not only in the area of nutrition, but “psycho-social” services that can work in depth with children and their families.
There was a lot of agreement around the need to understand FTT in context and to do something about its contributing factors, not just treat the symptoms. 
Lisa Balmer reported that 45% of the children seen by the NPY Women’s Council program were affected by domestic violence; 42% had contact with the child protection system; 23% were seriously affected by extreme substance abuse in their immediate environment and of these, 23% had been diagnosed with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; and almost 10% had one or both parents with a mental illness.
In relation to domestic violence, she said that children often use food in an attempt to control their environment: “In an environment out of control the only control you have is to refuse to eat.”
She said no family is the same; services must assess every child individually to come up with the right strategies to help them.
 The importance of this was also stressed by other speakers.

The town was rocking! By DARCY DAVIS.

The opening weekend of the Alice Desert Festival saw the finest display of Central Australian music in quite some time.
Bush Bands Bash was a roaring success. The bands were sounding tighter than ever thanks to the music development program offered by CAAMA Music over the past months.
And the crowd did not need even a whiff of alcohol to get the atmosphere going.
The bouncers had firm control over those entering the area. “Nah you’re drunk, you’re drunk... you too, off you go, come back tomorrow,” said the bouncer.
These guys did not complain, in fact, they hung their head in shame and walked away.
Thunder Boys from Nyapari, had driven the nine hours to town and practised in any available space in the lead up to the Bash. “Dance to the Reggae Music All Night Long” was a favourite with the crowd.
The North Tanami Band from Lajamanu were a stand out after recording 12 songs over the past two weeks with two interstate producers.
Sunshine Reggae from Ikuntji kept the night rocking. There was a great festival atmosphere at the Bash – everyone was moving to the music and crowds of black and white danced and sang together.
The final act of the night was the Tjupi Band, who invited the mob for an encore.
Once the crowd had made up their mind though, that was it.
“Should we play one more... Nah, it’s orright.” 
All these bands are now attending workshops in preparation for recording the Bash Bands Bash compilation CD.
Home Brew was also a terrific success.
Yung Warriors put on an impressive display of Indigenous Hip Hop – “I’ve got my culture to hold and my people to show”.
The Apostles were very tight and sang songs with plenty of political and cultural significance.
 Tennant Creek band Unbroken Expanse brought out the old school punk rock with tonnes of enthusiasm. “Thanks Alice Springs, thanks for having us in town. We love you.”
South East from Santa Teresa truly rocked the house and had most of the crowd on their feet – an unexpected delight for most.
With a band name like the Human Canvas Project, you wouldn’t be blamed for expecting naked body painting, but it was a refined set from Tashka Urban and Phil Bartholemew with dancing by Kael Murray and photo projections by Ronja Moss.
“This next song is about all the different types of hippies, like the hobo hippy and the hippy who does a poo you can’t flush,” said Tashka Urban during her performance. And like and stuff, yeah she was like, pretty good and stuff.
Numb With Fear brought the house down with a thunderous set of original desert metal hits. My favourite song was “Maggot Infested Carcass”.
One dreadlocked local was so into the tunes that he took to holding his head over the band’s fold-back monitors and head banging to the sound waves.
By the time Numb With Fear had finished their set you had forgotten these kids were 15 and 16 year old St Philip’s students but were reminded when their last words were “See you all at school tomorrow!” 
While the main stage at the Hub Space has now been packed up there are plenty more activities for your eyes and ears.
Friday is The Gypsie Trail World Music Night with live music, DJs, drumming and dancing.
Saturday night is the High Voltage Love Parade Party, also at Witchetty’s featuring Sam Chen, The Chanfloozies and Johnny Skidd, Dr Strangeways, The Moxie, Cat’s Meow, Human Canvas and DJ Chocolate.

Faces and stories from four corners of the globe. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Alice Springs draws people from all over the world, as visitors, of course, but also as residents. 
“Beautiful Faces Amazing Places” is an exhibition, showing at the Public Library, that tells some of the stories of residents from diverse backgrounds.
The stories have also been collected by a range of people, making for a really enmeshed community exchange.
The idea came from artist and performer Franca Barraclough who began her wide-ranging “Stories from the Tea-Cup project” when she conducted an artist’s residency in the Victorian town of Bendigo.
There she sat in a gallery window, dressed as Alice in Wonderland, with a beautifully laid out tea table, inviting people to have a cup with her and talk about their experience of time.
She was nervous that people wouldn’t respond, but they did – “they loved it”.
Since then Barraclough has imagined herself in a Tardis, landing here and there with her tea-drinking paraphernalia and setting in train all sorts of interactions with people around her.
The second Tardis landing in Alice, called “Tent Mirage”, gave rise to “Beautiful Faces Amazing Places”.
The owners of the faces, from all corners of the globe, were photographed in “the sacred space of the tent” (pictured) set up at the Beanie Festival and at the Todd Mall markets.
They each provided an image that expressed something significant about their cultural background.
In the exhibition these images provide a background overwritten by  text derived from interviews with the various participants and are paired with their photographic portraits.
The whole provides an engaging experience, the next best thing to meeting these people face to face, revealing interesting, at times moving, perspectives on the migrant experience:–
Abdul Dawlatyar from Afghanistan, who spent three years in detention on Nauru, says he misses “everything” about his homeland.
“And I don’t think that feeling will ever finish.”
Iria Kuen from Austria reflects on her family’s mystification about her decision to leave her homeland – “How can it be that you love a place so passionately?” they asked.
Chris Raja, who arrived in Australia from India aged 11, talks about what a “full on” experience it was for him– “the emptiness, the quietness, the lack of people”, such a contrast to the crowds, action, social life he was used to.
Although Alice is a small place, he likes it because it “does have more social interaction”. 
A reservation I have about the exhibition is the relative lack of attention to the quality of the writing: the texts I read contained several spelling errors and mis-transcriptions and generally needed some good editing.
If photographs were out of focus or too dark, for instance, they would not be presented in an exhibition. 
So why are the texts not expected to be of similar quality?  Shows until October 13.
Barraclough’s  “Stories from the Tea-Cup project” will culminate at the Art at the Heart conference in October.

Now that’s a party!

Dressing up, donning disguise, drumming, dancing, the d-words dominated at the Alice Desert Festival parade last Friday evening.
But there was also flag bearing, banner waving, uni-cycling, trumpet blowing, lantern lighting, guitar strumming and whistle blowing to add to the fun.
Great groundwork had been done to involve people in the parade, particularly in working with school students who were out in force, from the brilliant young drummers of Drum Atweme to the cast members of Centralian College’s musical, “Mulan” (which shows this Thursday and Friday).
Yirara College students gave the occasion a great sense of ceremony, with their flotilla of screenprinted red flags held high on long staffs.
A range of community groups lent colour and spirit – from the vivacious grass-skirted Filipino women and their fierce-looking men with blackened faces to the ever-energetic “Better Active than Radioactive” mob.
The brilliantly named Weapons of Mass Percussion, led by Shon Klose, beat out their joyful rhythms, while local bands The Moxie and Dr Strangeways, on separate road trains, did their bit to raise the decibel level.
There were the madcap elements – the Circosis uni-cycling trio, the exuberant “mature age” marching girls, the White Rabbit together with Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter – and the more lyrical, like the host of children towards the end in the soft candle light of their handmade lanterns.
It was a great show put on by what felt like a vital, thriving community and kicked off a full weekend of music, in particular, but also other artistic and culinary ventures. More on inside pages.  

LETTERS: Developing the Kurrajong area would make Alice Springs a true adventure destination.

Sir,– I would like to show my support for Jack Oldfield’s proposal to see development of a recreation park for cyclists, runners and walkers in the Kurrajong area (Alice Springs News Sept 4).
The tourist industry in Alice Springs is flat, here’s a shining light.
As the owner of a business that services the outdoor market in Central Australia, we field a lot of enquiries from tourists and new arrivals in town about what outdoor activities there are to do around town.
It would be fantastic to be able to hand them a map of mountain bike, running and walking tracks in the bush close to town and send them off for an experience they won’t quickly forget.
There is little doubt about the quality of the experience to be had in the area and its uniqueness in a world context. Locals have been enjoying the use of this area for many years.
In recent times several locals who cut their teeth on the local tracks have gone on to become competitive mountain bike cyclists on the world stage. But as far as tourism is concerned it’s the towns best kept secret.
The trouble is most visitors to town are totally unaware of the opportunity for these sorts of activities, are not equipped and haven’t allowed the time anyway.
The first step in addressing these barriers is to formalise the area for the proposed activities.
Enhance the quality of the experience by linking tracks to form meaningful loops, add a little more variety, rehabilitate and protect eroding areas, regulate use of powered vehicles, and develop signage, maps and interpretive information. Then tell the world it’s here and it’s great.
There are many kilometres of wonderful single track (as mountain bikers call them) in the area, an asset which would cost a fortune to create from the public purse.
These tracks also make rewarding cross country running; another rapidly growing sport. It’s time to give them some value and start looking after them.
We’ve got the Larapinta Trail which is already attracting a new category of tourist, then we’ve got the much loved Simpson’s Gap bike path, now let’s add a world class recreational park for mountain bikes, cross country runners and walkers.
Later we can link them together; the Telegraph Station, Wallaby Gap and the Desert Park forming hubs for radiating rides and walks, short and long, hard and easy.
There are already some places to relax and purchase refreshments; add some opportunities for overnight camping along this network of tracks and Alice Springs can then stake its claim as a real adventure tourism destination with plenty to do for locals also.
Simon Reu
Alice Springs 

Sir,– There is an underlying nastiness in David Price’s letter (Sept 12) regarding the Intervention and the rally proposed for September 30.
Perhaps he is sensing the groundswell of opposition that is now happening amongst the people affected by the racist legislation.
For his information, the call-out for a convergence on Central Australia came from Aboriginal leaders in Central Australia. Support groups from around the country have been invited to come here to show their support.   Students have also been invited to come and meet people from prescribed areas and hear their stories firsthand.
The voice of people on the ground is not being heard, either here or around the country.
Mainstream media continue the mantra of the so-called “leaders” such as Pearson, Langton and Mundine who are all making major amounts of money from Aboriginal business.
We’ll ignore the nasty undertones in Mr Price’s letter (his inference that people who speak up against wrongs and support the disempowered in our community to speak out and voice their concerns are not “good” citizens, the inference also that activists don’t work, and his sanctimonious attitude).
Most members of our Action Group are in paid employment and give their spare time voluntarily to continue the work in helping people who are struggling to understand the Intervention and deal with it as best they can considering the Racial Discrimination Act has been set aside and the implementation process was and is appalling.
The Intervention is not sustainable, either economically or socially, and is not having the intended outcomes. The 97 recommendations of the Little Children Are Sacred report need to be put in place immediately.
I wonder what’s really bugging Mr Price?  Perhaps it’s the fact that he and his wife are actually making money from the Intervention and don’t want to see it stop?
Marlene Hodder
Intervention Rollback Action Group
Postscript: If people in South Africa hadn’t spoken out, Mandela would still be in gaol.
Rare earths processing should stay in Centre

Sir,– News concerning the establishment of a Rare Earths mine at Aileron is fantastic for Centralians, offering employment and growth to our region for some 20 to 30 years.
I am, however, appalled at the seeming indifference shown by community leaders, pollies and bureaucrats to the announcement that the major infrastructure associated with this mine, namely the processing plant, is to be located in Darwin!
Yes, I know, all the usual arguments – Alice is too small, there’s not enough land and not enough electricity. Is that really accurate? Let’s look at that argument, how well does it stand up?
The Federal Government is just beginning to grapple with the massive decline in the nation’s inland development and infrastructure over the past 30 years, with the dawning realization that the vast majority of Australia, the part that produces by far the majority of the nation’s wealth, has virtually no one living in it, leaving it unoccupied and vulnerable. Simultaneously we pour our nation’s wealth into infrastructure on an already overdeveloped coast line, the same coast line that according to the theory of global warming, will disappear under the waves in the next 50 years.
Doesn’t it make sense to take a broader view?
The facts are, the electricity generation required by this plant will require massive investment in generation facilities. There is absolutely no reason why that generation capacity couldn’t be in Central Australia.
In fact, when you consider our proximity to huge gas supplies, Hot Rocks, and our fantastic potential for solar generation, where better could you put it??
Centralian gas already powers Darwin’s electricity generation, so why not generate the electricity and send that instead.
The CLP is once again spruiking the “Darwin North Queensland power line” to power this project and others. Shouldn’t we, as an aspiring state, be developing our own infrastructure??
Wouldn’t the Territory be much better served by a “North South” power line servicing all our centres? 
Taking advantage of The Centre’s vast reserves of energy to generate not only the Territory’s future electricity supplies, but also creating a whole new industry for the centre of our continent, bringing long term employment to the region, would extend long after the rare earths mine is gone.
The facts are that wherever this plant is built, it will require land, workers, electricity and transport. Why shouldn’t Alice be in the box seat?
After all isn’t it us that gets left with the hole in the ground?
We have the land, we have the transport (and in fact refined product is much cheaper to transport). Employees are no more difficult here than in the north.
Territorians, with a vision for the long term health, wealth, and prosperity of not just our region but of the nation, get behind this concept, push like hell, lobby your representatives, industry and media.
Demand that our region gain the maximum benefit for the selling off of our mineral wealth. If we don’t push for this project and others we’ll once again be left the poor cousins of the Territory and will see our region plundered to feed the lifestyles of our ever fattening cousins in the north.
Steve Brown
Alice Springs

Get real on grog

Sir,– After reading about grog running over the last couple of years, I can’t understand why the government and police haven’t worked out the obvious way to intercept alcohol leaving Alice Springs.
Alice Springs is located in a valley. There are only four exits from the town. It would be very easy to man a check point at MVR in the North, Undoolya Road in the east, Flynn’s Grave in the West and at Heavitree Gap in the South.
Then all cars leaving the town could be checked with a minimum of manpower and great results. Other vehicle and license checks could be carried out at the same time to improve safety on the roads and reducing the death toll on our remote roads caused by alcohol and unsafe vehicles.
The cost to place more police in remote communities to intercept alcohol would be extremely expensive and, to be frank, a total waste of resources. There are just too many communities where police are needed and too many ways grog runners have worked out to drive into them undetected.
Stop the problem at the source rather than trying to catch the grog runners once they have left Alice Springs and have potentially hundreds of back roads to use to bypass the police.
Legislation should also be enacted to be able to get a refund from the suppliers of the alcohol if it can be shown that they have sold more that the daily alcohol allocation to runners.
For too long people have been making a lot of money out of the misery of people in our remote Aboriginal communities and it is time to get serious about stopping it.
Let’s run a six month trial of setting up the four intercept points and see how much grog can escape the town then.
John Heller
Alice Springs.

Sir,– [Regarding a car being confiscated because 13 cans of beer were found in it, Alice News, Sept11.]
Thirteen cans of beer? Seems to be, “Much ado about nothing”. Have you set your clocks back a hundred years?
Virgil Dotson
Las Vegas, Nevada

ADAM CONNELLY: The Territory where simple means stupid.

The Territory is seen by those in states around this country as a politically simple place.
They look down their noses at the way we do things and they smirk and roll their eyes at the actions of many of those we elect.
It’s not like we’ve made that sort of behavior difficult. Ministers throttling journalists, members of parliament expounding their sexual virtues at public functions and occasional general biffo is all fodder for those in the café set on the east coast.
To my mind these criticisms of Territory politics are not only foolish and naïve, they also have the added insult of not looking closer to their own homes before having a swipe at the “hicks” from the Territory.
In New South Wales the premier just resigned leaving the running of Australia’s largest state to a guy named Nathan Rees. Don’t think yourself simple if you haven’t heard of him. People in his own electorate were asking “Who is this guy?” just two weeks ago.
The fact that the biggest economy in the country can be lead by a bloke so unknown that his wife calls him “the guy I live with” should make us here in the Territory roll our eyes at those backward city folk.
Premier Rees is sacking ministers and parliamentary secretaries left right and centre for behavior straight out of the Territory politician’s scrapbook.
Behavior that makes you wonder if the notion of more developed, more mature, more sophisticated politics is nothing more than the propensity for wearing an expensive suit.
It’s my belief that the parliament in the Territory has a distinct advantage over those in the states. Our small population makes the parliament more available to the people they represent.
With a smaller bureaucracy, the parliament can adapt to the will of the people without massive hassle. Well … in theory anyway.
Premier Rees, like many of the premiers in Australia, is now fighting a battle with factions from within his party. The left is jumping up and down screaming to be heard over the rumble of the massive New South Wales right faction. This fighting between the left and right of the Labor Party could well be politically damaging except for the fact that the opposition can’t even figure out how not to run against each other.
Left and right factions are the vinyl records of Australian politics. Things might sound better but no one is buying them anymore. The success of the Liberal Party in the late ‘90s in working class suburbs and Kevin Rudd’s appeal to traditionally blue ribbon areas shows that voters are not identifying with left or right anymore. They aren’t buying into the game so entrenched in Australian politics.
It seems almost impossible to consider the notion that factions would be dissolved in places like Victoria or New South Wales. But here in the Territory there’s only 25 people in parliament. We can evolve at will.
Think about a place like Alice Springs. The Labor party has never won a town seat in Central Australia and by the way they went in the last election, it looks as though that trend won’t change for a while yet. But you wouldn’t call Alice Springs an affluent leafy suburb synonymous with the Liberal side of politics. 
Alice Springs has been leading the way in terms of political view points for some time but many in rest of the country wouldn’t know it.
There are some in town that will only ever vote for one party, but for the majority, they have formed a view of politics that only now the rest of the country is starting to grasp.
Liberal and Labor doesn’t actually matter. All we want is for parliament to shut up, listen. And give us just enough to get on with things ourselves.

Journey to the limits of endurance. By R. G. (Dick) KIMBER. Part 2.

The story of surveyor-explorer F.R. George.

In Part 1, in last week’s issue, the exploration party headed by F.R. George, travelling in extreme heat in the summer of 1905-06, were attacked by Aboriginal men in the Pitjantjatjarra lands, leaving two of them, Hall and Fabian, seriously injured.
By January 2, 1906, desperate for water, they had decided to head for a rockhole off their direct line of travel.
They were now, as George put it, “in a bad fix”, for the camels might be able to make it to Warman Rocks, but from explorer Tietken’s description of 1889, upon which George was relying, there was no certainty of water there. 
George decided that their best option was to leave Fabian, Hall and Barney, one of the Aboriginal assistants, “to look after the camp, with 30 galls. of water”, while the rest of the group  turned back and made for the rock-hole water. 
His intention was to fill all water kegs, return to Fabian, Hall and Punch, push on to the Warman Rocks, then head for the Treuer Range 400 km north-west of the Alice. 
This course of action was commenced. 
George and his small group travelled day and night, with the camels “frequently lying down”, necessitating the use of further energy in the extreme heat to get them up and going again. 
They passed Eba, the abandoned camel, who followed for a short distance but then refused to travel any further. 
When, on January 4, having travelled all night, they erected a tarpaulin shade on this “fearfully hot” day, the camels, which were “fighting for the shadiest spots” beneath nearby trees, attempted to take charge of the men’s shelter too. 
In their predicament George wrote, “I am extremely fortunate in the members of the party. They all recognise we are in a tight place and do their utmost without any murmur.” 
While the Aboriginal assistant Punch, having lost the outward camel pad in the darkness, set out to find it, the rest of the group continued in the relentless heat. 
The camels were now “in a pitiable condition” with Kooditchie “staggering like a drunken man”, becoming “quite mad”, and having to be abandoned to his fate. 
By forcing themselves on in the night they reached the water close to midday on January 5, the three bull and two bullock camels being, by that time, “terribly shaky”. 
Now concern was felt for Punch, for he had not yet caught up, so George rode back seven kilometres before finding him.  Punch reported that the camel Kooditchie was “nearly dead”, and George again recorded their situation as one of great difficulty. 
“We were thoroughly done up, having walked for two nights and the intervening days, being too hot to rest.  This is certainly the wrong time of year for this country ...” 
He was not wrong! 
On January 6, with the camels looking “wretched and like starved kangaroo dogs”, George realised that his plan was flawed, for the camels had so rapidly deteriorated in condition that not all could hope to instantly manage the travel back to the three men in their dry camp and continue to the Warman Rocks. 
His only option now was to split the party again, leaving Hutton and Treloar at the water while he returned with companions Edgington and Tommy to rescue Hall, Fabian and Punch, then reconsider their plans. 
After two more very hot days, with the flies “troublesome”, and further night travel, they arrived at their mates’ dry camp. 
With the original exploration objectives in mind, George then left the loading behind to give the camels a respite, and sent most of the group back to the water. 
Meanwhile he and Fabian rode on to the Warman Rocks.  They located them, but all except one of the waterholes were dry, and the “wet” one only had moist sand at the base.  There was nothing for it but to begin the long journey back to safety. 
On January 10, while returning to the rest of the party, he, Fabian and the camels had their first food in two days, a meal of quandongs, but the weather grew even worse. 
“All day a strong gale from the east prevailed; this was very trying and caused a painful dryness in the throat and nostrils which water – we had to use it sparingly – would not relieve.” 
Night travel was still required because of the continuing very great daytime heat.
When I had to do urgent work at the same time of year in the same general area 90 years later, I know it reached 50 degrees C in the shade.  
Given that there is precious little shade, George, his explorer-companions and the camels must sometimes have been walking, riding and working in sun temperatures of 50-60 degrees.  No wonder, then, that when George and Fabian reached camp at midday on January 12, he wrote: 
“The camels require a few days rest, and I also require a rest after the travelling, anxiety and trouble of the last 10 days.” 
After a meal he slept for most of the next 21 hours, then rested from physical exertion while he wrote up his journal and checked various copies of earlier explorers’ plans.
He had another day’s “rest” by climbing the near range to check the direction of major geographical features, and on January 15 set out again with Hatton to look for water that would allow progress north. 
The heat and flies remained wearing, and now George also developed a severely aching tooth that “affected throat glands, ear and eye on that side”, and prevented sleep. 
He recorded such things clinically, without a sense of complaint. It is probable that all of the men had developed a stoic attitude, for being so far from treatment of any ailment there was nothing one could do but bear it, or use a bushman’s common-sense remedy. 
NEXT: Fruitless search for water.

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