October 2, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

More development strife. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The NT Health Department seems bent on scuttling a 91 block rural residential subdivision in the Emily Valley Estate over requirements for sewage that would blow out the cost of the project by at least $3.5m.
This is despite the availability of satisfactory and cost-effective solutions being put forward by Coffey Geotechnics, an international ground engineering company working in more than 60 countries, retained by the developer, John McEwen.
Yet Kevin Murphy, of the Department of Health in Alice Springs, in a letter to Mr McEwen’s project manager (dated June 20, 2008), rejects the proposal without putting forward any supporting evidence for his decision.
But on Monday the department revealed that it had engaged Environmental Consultants, Whitehead & Associates, “to independently review the proponent’s land capability assessment report,” because it “was not satisfied with the additional information concerning land capability assessment that was provided by the proponents in late August 2008”.
The Whitehead report was due last Friday.
This week the Health Department said it would call a meeting with the developers to brief them.
However, John McEwen (pictured), speaking for Emily Valley Estate, says he had not been informed that the department had commissioned the Whitehead report, and nor had the developers given permission for anyone from Whitehead to enter the land.
Mr McEwen says it is unclear how a review could be done without going onto the land.
Coffey, of course, had done work on the ground, says Mr McEwen.
Meanwhile the new MLA for Braitling Adam Giles, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, says the NT Government “does not have a plan for housing in Alice Springs”.
He says issues such as urban drift, release of new land and affordability need to be resolved urgently.
Commenting on “restrictions and restraints” from the Town Council and Power & Water Corporation (P&W) raised by developer Ron Sterry (Alice News, Sept 18 and 25), Mr Giles says they are a “drain on the supply of housing”.
Mr Giles says to ease “challenges of housing demand, affordability and some of the social behavioural issues that come from lack of housing the government should look at providing headworks – power, water and sewage.
“There has been much investment in infrastructure in Darwin with roads, schools, sports stadiums and convention centers.”
Mr McEwen says communications with the government are slow and frustrating.
He says he’s been told by P&W, wholly owned by the NT Government, that it would take up to five years to evaluate one of the sewage schemes under consideration.
Mr McEwen spoke out after Ron Sterry, battling P&W and Town Council over his 260 block development next door, lamented the NT Government’s refusal to provide headworks – power, water and sewage – to the edge of his development, while at the same time providing them free of charge for the native title organisation in Alice Springs, Lhere Artepe, at Stirling Heights, on the western edge of the town, and at Mt Johns Valley, between the golf course and the MacDonnell Range (Alice News, Sept 18 & 25).
Asks Mr McEwen: “How come they get the services delivered to the door and we don’t?”
The wrangle over sewage at Emily Valley involves four options:-
• Septic tanks, costing about $8000 per home, common in other rural residential subdivisions (the blocks at Emily Valley are about half a hectare).
• Mini sewage treatment systems, costing about $10,000 per home. These, generally, have chambers for primary treatment, aeration, sedimentation clarifier, chlorinator and a pump-out chamber, and the effluent is suitable for watering trees and vegetables. In this way some 40% of the waste water will be disposed of by evaporation.
• High pressure sewerage systems in use throughout the world since 1950s. These connect to the town sewage system but require only a small diameter pipe. This option is no longer favoured.
• A conventional reticulated sewage system – by far the dearest option.
It would cost no less than $3.5m but this could blow out to many more millions if the extremely deep trenches, up to nine metres, need to be dug through rock.
Being forced into this option will almost certainly ring the death knell for the development, says Mr McEwen.
Coffey, one of the top 300 companies on the Australian Stock Exchange, has identified two areas, roughly the same in size, on the development site, which is between the MacDonnell Range and a lower range of hills, just to the north of Baldissera Drive.
One area is suitable for septic tanks, the other for mini sewage systems.
There are two blocks not suitable for septic tanks, because the land is stony and has a steeper than 8% gradient; these are where the mini sewerage systems are recommended.
Coffey says it has been assured by a reputable plumbing firm that these systems “will not be constrained by slopes, stoniness or profile depth”.
Although Coffey says its report is “meant to be used as a planning tool at the subdivision level, and is not mean to be used as a means by which every lot ... is specifically assessed” it is unclear what the Health Department’s problem is.
It has the option of granting development consent subject to, at the point of sale, to block by block assessments as to which option – septic tank or mini system – is appropriate.
Yet Mr Murphy chooses to pour out the baby with the bath water.
He says: “Given the complexities of the issues that affect the onsite disposal of wastewater, it is considered that the more appropriate solution ... is the installation of a reticulated sewerage system and this has always been our preferred option for this subdivision.”
And on Monday the department said “Environmental Health Officers are concerned about the long term sustainability of individual onsite wastewater systems for each of the proposed 91 lots at Emily Valley Estate.
“The Environmental Health Program has consistently advocated for the whole subdivision to be sewered to minimise any future potential public health risks.”
Emily Valley Estate stretches over 320 hectares.Stage one is 65 hectares. 
Together with Mr Sterry’s subdivision it would bring major relief to the medium-priced real estate market currently starved for land.
It would entice home owners in town to move up-market, freeing up dwellings in town for first home buyers.
If a string of mining ventures come to fruition, even more land will be needed.
On the other hand, blocking the current ventures, and the employment opportunities they entail, would continue the town’s stagnation or send it on a downward spiral.
Mr McEwen, who’s spent 25 years in the local real estate trade, says the giant Inpex gas project will syphon the few remaining trades people to Darwin.
The bullish prediction of the Housing Industry Association is that the $23 billion Ichthys development “will assure the future of the residential construction industry in the Northern Territory for the next decade”.
HIA’s Bryan Winslade says the estimate of 2000 additional jobs during the construction stage of the project could mean an influx of up to 8000 people into the Top End.
He says: “We note the Government’s plans to accelerate the release of up to 3700 new blocks of land at Palmerston and Darwin’s Northern Suburbs, substantiating HIA’s long called for need for more strategic and proactive land release to maintain affordability levels."

Planning, get real: Ald Samih Habib. By KIERAN FINNANE and ERWIN CHLANDA.

After two weeks of stonewalling enquiries from the Alice Springs News, Mayor Damien Ryan and Director of Technical Services Greg Buxton were forced to discuss council’s dealing with developer Ron Sterry after a fiery quizzing at Monday night’s town council meeting by Alderman Samih Habib.
Ald Habib challenged, for example, council’s requirement that Mr Sterry use a “hot mix” seal for roadworks, saying it would “drive this poor man broke”.
He said “hot mix” is four to five times more expensive than the alternative “cool mix”.
He referred to his own experience as a developer, saying Baldiserra Drive was sealed with a “cool mix” eight years ago and is still in good condition.
He insisted he was not “defending” Mr Sterry; his concern was over affordable land release.
Council should look to its “wisdom” and “conscience” as well as its knowledge of  “new engineering methods” to help the developer “get on the road”, said Ald Habib.
Mr Buxton said the council is not responsible for design; council’s role is to comment on a developer’s design with respect to its compliance with the Planning Act and relevant codes.
It appears Mr Buxton was overstating his case: The NT Planning Scheme says rural subdivision design “should” (not must) follow certain guidelines, including one relating to flood protection.
Yet Mr Buxton said council would be at risk of litigation if it approved designs outside of the Act.
He said the Act requires one-in-100 floodwater management.  That means developers must, at their expense, provide protection against floods likely to occur only once in 100 years.
Meanwhile the government, with the town council’s tacit consent, continues to deny the town the only measure that can avert a catastrophic flood – a dam upstream from the Telegraph Station, while making developers jump through hoops, and saddling the home buyer with costs that many may regard as unreasonable.
Mr Buxton said Mr Sterry’s is a major development, requiring careful planning. He said if Mr Sterry has “over-designed”, he needs to reassess his design from a commercial point of view.
Mayor Ryan said a meeting he organised with Mr Sterry on Friday, September 19 (the day after the appearance of the Alice News’s first article on the subject) discussed only stormwater drainage, contrary, he said, to what Mr Sterry told “the press”.
He said Mr Sterry had approached him.
He said council was now waiting, as agreed, for Pat Coleman, acting on behalf of Mr Sterry, to come back to them with alternative stormwater ditch options.  He said Mr Sterry did not ask about the bitumen seal issues at the meeting on September 19.
However, Alderman Brendan Heenan commented “hot mix” lasts twice as long and that the road would be carrying “big machinery” involved with Stage Two of the development.
Ald Heenan said Mr Sterry had shown himself and Mayor Ryan around his property, explaining what he hoped to do.
Mr Buxton said some of the delay Mr Sterry has experienced has arisen because of changes in his design; he said Mr Sterry was “now up to his third engineer”.
He said, for example, council had waited from February to the end of August this year for Mr Sterry to come back to them with a design complying with the Planning Act.
He reiterated that council is obliged under the Planning Act “to insist on a compliant design”.
He said the Planning Act is a “prescriptive”, not a “descriptive” document, that allows for “deem to comply solutions that are leading edge” provided that they are accompanied by engineering certificates that back up compliance and protect council from litigation.
But Development Consent Authority chairman Peter McQueen clearly sees the council in a far more assertive role.
The Alice News suggested to Mr McQueen that the current town planning system “does not provide for an independent arbitrator to mediate between developers and the all-powerful (when it comes to making the rules) Town Council and P&W”.
“We don’t have the authority to direct P&W or the Town Council,” said Mr McQueen. “We cannot look over their shoulder.”
So, under the present system, a developer may put forward a succession of plans, and the council and P&W may reject them all, without explaining what it is that they need.
Meanwhile the shortage of housing and residential land goes on.

Outback Way: small fish in big Aussie road pond. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Outback Highway Development Council was in Canberra last week, lobbying in support of its bid for $50m over five years, to take the upgrade of the iconic road to its next stage.
The Outback Way, as it is called, runs for 2800 kms, 1700 of them unsealed, between Laverton in WA via Alice Springs to Winton in Queensland, crossing three state / territory government and seven local government jurisdictions.
With the Rudd Government overhauling its approach to regional development, the bid has gone to Infrastructure Australia, which makes us “a very small fish in a very big and competitive pond”, says Alderman Liz Martin who represented Alice Springs in the round of presentations and discussions.
Also in the group were Patrick Hill, the councillor from Laverton WA who has been the main driver of the project for the past 10 years; Helen Lewis, OHDC Executive Officer; Rick Britton, Mayor of Boulia, and Peter O’May, Boulia CEO.
Ald Martin (pictured) says the road’s iconic status and the diversity of its economic and social benefits gives the bid “a bit of a chance”, especially if OHDC can get state and territory governments to support its application. 
She says a positive to come out of the Canberra trip was the recommendation by Territory Senator Trish Crossin that a Parliamentary Committee be formed, called “Friends of the Outback Way”, which will lift the profile of the project.
Ald Martin understands the Western Australia and Queensland Governments are on board to give the road priority but the Territory Government has yet to commit fully, although they have contributed $8m towards the upgrade of the Plenty (a section of the Outback Way) “which is a great start”.
Mr Hill says he has written to Territory Infrastructure Minister Delia Lawrie three times without receiving a reply, despite her offer to organise a Memorandum of Understanding between the three governments around the priority status of the road.
The $50m, to be matched dollar for dollar by the three governments, would improve the highway to a level three all weather gravel road, raised above ground level, formed, compacted and sheeted, with drainage for water run-off.
The upgrade would also widen the road to nine metres, allowing for two directional traffic and overtaking heavy vehicles.
“This will stop the shoulders from collapsing which is a major cost in ongoing road maintenance in regional Australia,” says Ms Martin.
To date $20m has been spent on improving and promoting the Outback Way. The last of this, $1.7m, will be spent on works to a section of the road between Yulara and Docker River, urgently needed, says Mr Hill.
“There have been no capital works on that road for the last five years, only maintenance grading,” he says.
He says Laverton and Ngaanyatjarraku Shires in WA have each spent close to $8m on roads on their side of the border but the Northern Territory side has been sadly neglected.
Permits issued by Ngaanyatjarraku show a tripling of tourist activity over the past two years, says Ald Martin.
“This will explode as the Outback Way becomes known as a safe and reliable new adventure,” she says.
“It doesn’t matter which way they come or even if they only do half of it, there are enormous flow-on benefits to Alice Springs and the whole of the Northern Territory and Central Australia.”
The OHDC has recently completed a $500,000 Integrated Tourism project, to be launched in Alice Springs on November 6. It has made the Outback Way the world’s longest “geo-caching trail” (like a vast outdoor treasure hunt), produced a variety of brochures, signage and general information about campsites, fuel and points of interests, and provided a carbon offset program.
Industry sectors besides tourism will also benefit – pastoral, mining, transport and agricultural.
The way is being used increasingly by both livestock and mining machinery hauliers, says Ald Martin, as it offers a shortcut of some 1600 kms between Alice Springs and Perth, compared to using the Stuart Highway and then crossing the Nullarbor.
The downside is the impact of the rough road conditions on vehicles, machinery and livestock.
If this were overcome, the Outback Way would offer huge savings in operational costs such as fuel and wages, she says, and would remove some of the heavy transport from the more congested coastal roads.
She says Alice Springs is in the ideal location to expand its role as a transport hub, allowing better use of existing infrastructure such as the north-south railway and improved connectivity to other transport hubs at Kalgoorlie and Winton.
There will obviously also be significant wealth creation opportunities as well as social benefits for those living along the Outback Way particularly in terms of reliable service provision, including, most basically,  “reliable food supply, which is taken for granted by 99% of Australians, but cannot be guaranteed to some  of the communities along the way,” says Ald Martin.
At press time NT Infrastructure Minister Delia Lawrie had not replied to a request for comment from the Alice News.

Desert Mob: The art goes on. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Old art centres renewing themselves, dormant centres reawakening, young centres exploring the possibilities, a new centre beginning – whatever the social upheavals in remote Indigenous communities over the last year and whatever the angst about their relationship with the art industry, their art making does not appear to have missed a beat.
If anything, Desert Mob 2008 exudes an aura of confidence, a sure-footedness that has not always been a dominant impression.
This is in part down to a tighter selection of works but it is clear that artists with the support of their art centres are making some fine decisions about the direction in which their work is heading.
Artists with Maruku, for example, are combining to beautiful effect their trademark burnt wire decoration of carved wooden forms with painting on small “Walka” boards, presenting them in vertical combinations, variously exciting, intricate, elegant.
Locals should be delighted with Araluen’s acquisition of the most impressive of these, Tjunkaiya Tapaya’s Tjitji Manku, for the public collection.
Also striking is the Warlukurlangu showing, with highly individualised canvasses sharing an almost overwhelming blood-red intensity. (Passionate reds are also finding favour with artists from the smaller centres of Tjungu Palya and Watiyawanu. Particularly memorable is Wentja Napaltjarri’s pulsating Rockholes near Kintore, from the Watiyawanu showing.)
Ernabella continues its journey with ceramics, producing richly coloured glazed and inscribed terracottas, with the public collection benefitting from the acquisition of Alison Carroll’s Ngayuku Walka.
Other Ernabella artists maintain their assurance on canvas, with a standout painting by Ungakini Tjangala, Alalkala Minyma Kutjara – elegant and wonderfully sensual at the same time.
All of these art centres have long histories: Ernabella has the proud status of being the oldest Aboriginal art centre, celebrating its sixtieth anniversary this year, while Maruku is 24 years old and Warlukurlangu, 23.
At the other end of the spectrum is Desert Mob’s baby, Martumili Artists from Newman in WA, exhibiting for the first time this year. The centre itself is two years old but some development work with artists has been happening since 2001. This is obvious in the centre’s confident showing, with one work, the rosy red, expressively painted Balfour Downs by Bugai Whylouter, acquired by Araluen.
This year’s exhibition asserts itself as an impressive measure of the resilience of Aboriginal desert peoples’ creativity, an assurance of its succession, and of the successful black-white collaboration that is the art centre movement.
It is worth noting too the welcome end of the Myers-style rush to buy work, sometimes without even sighting it, that has characterised the always highly anticipated opening of Desert Mob.
The solution was clever and simple: a removable tag alongside the work that the interested buyer had to take with them to the sales desk, and a delay of 15 minutes before the sales desk was open. The opening was still abuzz with excitement but that came from engagement with the work rather than frantic queuing.

Storm lessons: What trees should we grow? By ALEX NELSON.

It’s an ill wind that blows no good, as the old saying goes, so what lessons can be derived from the wind and rain storm that struck Alice Springs on September 22, the cusp of the spring equinox?
Two well-known long-term Alice identities, Geoff Miers and Mike Gillam, offer plenty of fodder for thought.
Both believe the often-quoted wind speeds of 110 to 120 km per hour at the storm’s height significantly understated the actual velocity – more likely to be 150 km/h or more.
This subjectivity highlights the need to establish a weather station within the town itself rather than rely on the Alice Springs Airport some 20 km south.
No one is in any doubt of the severity of the storm, one of the worst seen here excluding major floods, as the clean-up and repairs continue more than a week later.
But why did the storm wreak so much havoc on the town’s trees, and how could the impact of such an event in the future be mitigated?
Mr Miers, one of the Centre’s most experienced horticulturists, observed that most of the trees in Alice Springs have never experienced such an extreme wind velocity. Very few species were spared from damage.
He said the storm’s effects were exacerbated by the pre-existing drought conditions, with many trees relying on relatively more saline groundwater for survival. These stress factors would lead “to a lot of trees being more brittle than they would normally be”.
There are other pre-existing conditions to be taken into account. For example, the extraordinary amount of damage inflicted on river red gums reflects the nature of these trees, normally prone to wood-rotting fungal attack and termite infestation creating the hollows and dead timber that contribute so much to this species’ “character”. 
Said Mr Miers: “We know about them.”
The storm revealed inherent weaknesses with numerous Western Australian eucalypt species that were widely planted for shade and gardens 20 to 30 years ago. They are subject to borer and termite attack, which they would normally survive but the severe wind gusts added too much strain, breaking branches. Jacarandas and white cedars were similarly affected.
Mr Miers noted that many large trees had “moved”, having been pushed by the wind to lean at angles different to how they had grown. They are likely to be a problem in future, and he recommends that home-owners consider removing them. Injured trees need to be treated.
Damaged limbs should be pruned back, and ideally the cuts treated with a copper-based fungicide to prevent fungal infection, which also helps to deter insect attack.
Mr Miers emphasised the need for maintenance of trees, right from seedling stage: “Of all the plants – which can be hundreds – that are planted at the start of a garden, only four or five trees will be the most important: “Trees are a huge investment, worth many thousands of dollars – they need to be looked at as an asset.”
When planning landscaping consideration has to be given to localised environmental conditions and species selection. For example, river gums are not suited for hillsides; instead, consider such local native species as hakeas, whitewoods and bloodwoods.
The siting of trees is critical – a great cause of disputes between neighbours are trees planted along fence-lines; it is preferable to plant fewer trees in more centralised positions within a garden and common sense dictates not to plant trees to close to houses.
The method of watering trees is also important, given that we are in drought and moving rapidly into warmer weather. Mr  Miers recommends giving trees “big drinks” once going into summer and again coming out of the summer period – this means running sprinklers for six hours or longer to mimic a heavy rainfall. This is much more effective than the common practice of more numerous but shorter irrigation periods.
Irrigation was highlighted by Mike Gillam, too. He noted that many toppled trees had shallow root systems, possibly due to inadequate watering that encourages tree root systems to stay too close to the soil surface, providing insufficient anchorage against gale-force winds.
Mr Gillam, a passionate campaigner for planning, heritage and environment, and well known for thinking “outside the frame”, advocated a solution for prevention of wind-damage in future that might seem counter-intuitive – plant more trees!
However, he stressed the obvious need to be smarter in how we go about it, learning from observations from the storm.
The predominant wind direction here is from the southeast for much of the year, but the really damaging storms invariably travel in from the west or northwest.
Trees exposed to the direct impact of the wind suffered considerably more damage than those on the leeward side – this was particularly evident along the west bank of the Todd River closest to Leichhardt Terrace.
The establishment of windbreaks featuring a “structural diversity” of groundcovers, shrubs and trees will afford much greater protection from high winds.
Mr Gillam noted that individual trees, especially soft-wood species such as whitewoods, were prone to being “smashed” but that the same species growing in groups or clusters were virtually unaffected.
Similarly canopy mass (foliage density) had a direct bearing on damage – plants with thick canopies tended to suffer more damage than those with sparse foliage, which offered less resistance to the wind.
Mr Gillam highlighted the rare and attractive Central Australian “Eucalyptus thozetiana” (Thozet’s Box) as being remarkably resistant to the wind, and suggests this easily grown species would be ideal for many gardens.

LETTERS: Is Senator Scullion saying he didn’t say what he was saying?

The Anti-Discrmination Commissioner:
Sir,– Senator Nigel Scullion’s statement (Alice News, September 18) that:  “If you take them (Indigenous people) out of the (Alice Springs) community, police would almost not be needed” is inflammatory, based on false assumptions, and most unbecoming for a politician of his stature.
It is false to assume that alcohol is an Indigenous, rather than a Territory-wide, problem.  It is also false to assume that all Indigenous drinkers are problem drinkers.  Most problems are caused by a small minority of repeat offenders. Is Senator Scullion suggesting that the countless Indigenous people who make a significant contribution to Alice Springs should be removed from the community?  Alice Springs would become a ghost town.  Politicians are supposed to represent all their constituents.  Isn’t it better to tackle Indigenous disadvantage by devising methods of embracing and reconciling with Aboriginal people rather than isolating and ostracising them? Any more ill-considered remarks and the Senator may become a Nigel by popularity as well as a Nigel by name.
Tony Fitzgerald
NT Anti-Discrimination Commissioner

The Senator
The quotes which were attributed to me in that article were only a small part of a 20 minute interview conducted with you [Alice Springs News editor Erwin Chlanda] several days beforehand.
You recorded the entire interview and supplied me with a copy of the full interview. I was curious to note that someone else’s by-line appeared on the story.
I was gravely concerned when I read Mr. Fitzgerald’s letter, as I knew that I had not said anything in the interview to suggest that intoxication in Central Australia was either exclusively or even predominantly an Aboriginal issue or that I had made any comments that could be construed as discriminatory.  As you are aware, I did not at any time make reference to ‘Indigenous’ people being drunks. My comments made reference only to ‘habitual drunks’ and the issues of many of them being ‘caught in the cycle of re-offending’ .  
I made personal phone contact with Mr. Fitzgerald immediately upon my office receiving a copy of his letter, to explain the context of my discussions with you and to have my office staff forward him a copy of the audio of the complete interview.
During a second phone call to Mr. Fitzgerald, he explained that he had not yet had time to listen to the audio, but that he would listen carefully to it at his earliest convenience and consider either withdrawing the letter or writing a follow up letter clarifying his first letter.
I am relieved that Mr. Fitzgerald and I were able to speak personally and work towards resolving any concerns he may have initially had about the comments attributed to me.
I, like the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, am particularly concerned when anyone in a position of power or influence expresses discriminatory views. I fully support all the efforts of Mr. Fitzgerald and his organisation to confront any individual or group seeking to act in such a manner.
NT Senator Nigel Scullion

The Alice Springs News
Any inference that Senator Scullion was misquoted is rejected. What was attributed to the Senator was done so accurately, and in a manner he was aware of ahead of publication.
It’s not clear why the Senator finds it “curious” that his remarks on alcohol should be attached to a story on that subject. I asked the Senator about a proposal made by Alderman Brendan Heenan. The Senator’s comments then became part of a story by Chief Reporter Kieran Finnane about the town council’s discussion of Ald Heenan’s proposal.
The Senator’s words appeared as I had emailed them to him two days ahead of deadline.
It’s a privilege few journalists afford their contacts; we do it as a matter of routine to ensure accuracy.
Our coverage, over 15 years, of alcohol issues in Central Australia has been accurate, informed, fair and detailed.
We did not quote the Senator, as Mr Fitzgerald suggests, as saying that all indigenous drinkers are problem drinkers.
Neither did we quote him as claiming “that intoxication in Central Australia was either exclusively or even predominantly an Aboriginal issue”.
The “20 minute interview” was in fact 17 minutes and only three of these were devoted to the alcohol issue.  The interview was mainly about the permit system, and the Senator’s intended examination of Centrecorp. That story ran on top of page three in the same edition, under my by-line.
It is inevitable with a weekly newspaper that some interviews are conducted “several days beforehand”.
We stand by our story and our professional processes.
Erwin Chlanda, Editor,
Alice Springs News

... and now, to other letters:

Sir,– While the debate over the Intervention continues, the Senate is making up its mind on whether or not to re-impose a blanket permit system.
As I understand it, under current Federal law, permits are not required on main roads, air strips and the main town centres. 
In short, the requirement for permits was removed over the main communication and transportation arteries servicing the Indigenous Homelands.
However, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs has apparently decided that regulations from her office are sufficient to counter that law, and permits are still necessary. 
This could be setting a precedent that a future Minister working to a different agenda might use, and I wonder if local powers might someday rue the day that precedent was set.
But whatever the legal standing of permits, the need for them is causing the new shires to jump through hoops before they even get started. 
For councils and shires to hold meetings that have any standing in law, they must be open to the public. 
Permits are restrictive and contrary to the open accessibility required of all three tiers of Australian government. 
So now we have the absurd situation in which the new shires are bargaining for suitable chambers in free Australia so their new participation in local government can mean anything.
If the Senate is to re-impose a legal permit system, perhaps the suggestion from Alderman Rawnsley that individual communities be allowed to opt out of the system could be looked at. 
A community that did not require permits would probably be in line for Shire offices and the right to host a monthly Shire meeting.  Once that happened, I wonder how long it would take the others to think twice about their self-imposed and self-defeating isolation?
Hal Duell
Alice Springs
ED – MacDonnell Shire CEO Wayne Wright says “all MacDonnell Shire Council and Committee meetings are scheduled to be held in Alice Springs until the issue of permits has been resolved”.
Central Desert Shire CEO Rowan Foley aims to have every second council meeting in a community. The process proposed is for the Shire to advise the CLC of upcoming meetings, the CLC to send the Shire an approved notice under s4(8) of the Aboriginal Land Act waiving the requirement for a permit to attend the meeting, which the Shire can then use in advertisements notifying the public of the meeting.
The Local Government Act (s65) does require  meetings to be open to the public “as a general rule”.

Anti-Interventionists ‘rent-a-crowd ferals’?

Sir,– By the time this reaches print the anti-Intervention rally will have been and gone. It will have gone with a bang or a fizz.
So, on the radio, there was Adam Giles dismissing the supporters of us anti-Interventionists who (hopefully) will turn up in large numbers from interstate as “rent-a-crowd” ferals.
Well, it so happens that we anti-Interventionists don’t have the resources and access to the Task Force’s well oiled propaganda machine. We are grateful for whatever support we can get.
I suppose it would be unfair to designate the 800 or so public servants whot have been brought into the NT to implement such bizarre schemes as Income Management as “rent-a-crowd”? The rent is certainly a lot higher!
And “ferals” doesn’t describe them either, “parasites” more like it.
Allen Steel wrote (in last week’s Alice News): “My many friends from these communities tell me that they now have respectable pay packets for the work they do.”
Am so happy for the communities he refers to. Our previous Intervention-appointed “Community Employment Broker” didn’t get a single job for anybody on Yuendumu, and then he wasn’t even able to hang on to his own! His contract wasn’t renewed. His successor I haven’t seen. Come to think of it, haven’t seen our GBM (Government Business Manager) either for a couple of months. Do we still have one?
Or is the NTER mob running out of funds?
They are rumoured to have spent nearly $1,000,000,000 (that’s a billion to you) so far.
From where I stand I don’t see much for it.
Frank Baarda

Keep Kurrajong for locals

Sir,– I would not like to let it go unsaid to Jack Oldfield (Alice News, Sept 11) that not everyone is in favour of his plans to develop the Kurrajong bush area into a “recreation park”.
Why is it that people always feel the need to think of ways of making money out of beautiful places?
I, for one, chose to live on Kurrajong drive for precisely the reason that it is adjacent to quiet beautiful country where I can walk safely and freely with my (very friendly, non kangaroo or bike chasing) dog.
This area is enjoyed by many people, bike riders, runners and walkers, most of whom treat this area with respect.
Some though unfortunately drop rubbish, break trees and even mark rocks and trees with spay paint to mark paths.
I know this because I am out there every day. Whilst I’m sure Mr Oldfield has environmentally sustainable development in mind, how can we be sure tourists will treat this area with respect? Mr OIdfield, I do not want to see buildings at the site you have proposed, or marked signposted tracks or loads of international mountain bikers tearing up these tracks. Is there anything wrong with leaving the locals to utilise a place they love? Do we need to “show the world it’s here” so tour operators can make a cash benefit?
What do the local residents and indeed the custodians of this land have to say?
Given that you have not spoken to them yet, Mr Oldfield, I take it that is not your concern. If you spoke to these parties, Mr Oldfield, I’m sure you would find more than a little opposition to your plans.
K. Sherwood
Alice Springs  
ED –  Jack Oldfield replies: Yes, it would be nice for the area to be kept for a chosen few.
Personally, however, I would prefer to see it used by many, in a sustainable manner – to be enjoyed by all, like the Simpson’s Gap Bicycle path. Thousands of tourists and locals enjoy it every year without devastating effects to the environment.
I have yet to meet directly with the custodians however I have had verbal “positive” (off the record) comment from organizations that control this area. This has yet to be recorded formally.
I personally wanted to get a local reaction from sporting groups and community organizations who will benefit from the park’s facilities and from likes of yourself who may disagree.
I take all suggestions and opinions as helpful and beneficial, hence why I am going public with the proposal.

ADAM CONNELLY: Knowledge mobs need to start new industries.

There is an economic theory that suggests that the occasional natural disaster is good for a country’s economy.
The theory states that while natural disasters are unpleasant, the necessary rebuilding which occurs stimulates economic growth. It’s like a bush fire regenerating the forest.
The extra money from insurance combined with government spending on infrastructure can in the long term be a benefit to the community.
Sometimes nations try to manufacture these conditions. A synthetic natural disaster if you like. Governments tend to call these wars. Wars too are great for the economy … if you win. New industries are developed and new technologies that sometimes have benefits far wider than the theatre of battle.
GPS was invented with a military application in mind but now it helps me get to the shops without getting lost.
Air travel would have been significantly retarded if not for both World Wars. It sounds like a sad indictment on humanity that our finest moments often come when we are trying to obliterate ourselves.
Nevertheless if the theory is true then Alice Springs can enjoy a small boom in the coming months.
What was that hurricane that hit last Monday? Like Alice Springs needs to be a bit harsher.
I was at the Kittles Car Yard when it hit.
I thought I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in the car wash. Wave upon wave of water pounded our little town and we all witnessed the devastation it caused.
Fortunately you all have power now so you’ll be able to read this column to the kiddies as they go to sleep. (What do you mean, you don’t?)
But as the theory goes, there will be a significant percentage of the community that will benefit from the calamity.
Sellers of chainsaws and fences and sun sails will be doing quite well this week. Those folk that fixed the broken power lines will be justly rewarded for all their hard work with overtime in the pay packet and those crazy enough to climb Anzac Hill and take some pictures will be selling them in galleries at a handsome profit. For some it is an enforced lesson in lemonade making when the town was given lemons.
Of course it isn’t as though we can sit and wait for another event like the one we endured last Monday.
Nor do we want to. Industries plan for economic growth through good business, not selling their soul to the weather gods for the chance of a tornado.
I’ve been thinking about new industries for Alice Springs a bit lately. Yes, I know that is a poor reflection on the state of my mind, but Alice is a unique place. A blank canvas of potential. With the influx of people coming in from communities, the tourism industry fighting well above their weight in a battle with our dollar, fuel costs and interest rates and a community not over the moon with the idea of digging ore holes around the place, maybe a new industry or two might be the tonic.
I reckon we should get the smarties on the South Stuart Highway, the knowledge mobs, to put their heads together and come up with a couple of plans. What can we do better than somewhere else?
Industrialised old cities around the globe have been faced with a similar problem. Big factories packed full of smelters aren’t in vogue anymore.
Technological advancements mean that things can be made cheaper, faster and safer than the old ways. So cities based on old technology need to adapt.
Some went the silicone path. Others developed scientific hubs.
Others still became centres of military training.
What about Alice Springs? What can we become? I must be honest with you, I’m not the guy to decide. I have as much business acumen as an American sub prime lender. The best I’ve come up with is making stubby coolers for NT Draught bottles.
They’d be perfect for the tourist market. But I am the first to admit that if we relied on my ideas for the prosperity of the place, we might want to start praying for a flood.

CAMERON BUCKLEY reviews a new release AC/DC DVD, No Bull.  

The latest bullet in the arsenal for Australian Music hall of fame inductees, AC/DC, is the DVD release, No Bull.
Welcome to a musical world where a slow driven back beat creates a raised fist attitude towards the outside world.
Just like the ‘mullet’ hairstyle that refuses to die, AC/DC have never let their sound that was created over 30 years ago sail too far down the river. It proves the point that you can achieve fitness running around the same block.
For the past four decades, unlike many other super groups that seem to reunite on the echoing musical dregs of their past glory, AC/DC will still draw a crowd spanning different age groups.
The proof is here as the Plaza De Toros De Las Ventas in Madrid, Spain, is filled to its drunken pillars with a new wave of cheering “black and flannelette” appreciators.
Rock and roll inspires youth in us all, from the semi-legible scrawl on your office space furniture to the alcohol-fuelled mischief performed on the completion of a show.
AC/DC remain one of our country’s largest grossing entertainment exports, second only to the rolling juggernaut, The Wiggles. 
This DVD package contains music that draws from the group’s entire career.  The event spans two hours and is a documentation of the band’s 1996 “Ballbreaker” tour.
It also offers the viewer a look into a colosseum, teeming with fans, all writhing with life, looking like a fire, being hosed down by dancing lights.
Unfortunately, this latest addition will offer little to entice newcomers to the band, but it will make an ample trophy for any serious collector of the band’s ever growing body of work.

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