April 16, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Alderman and developer says: Native title land deal not fair. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

There should be a level playing field in the development of real state in Alice Springs, says Samih Habib, a town council alderman and local land developer for some 30 years.
He was commenting on the agreement between the NT Government and Lhere Artepe, Alice Springs’ native title body, about the development of housing land in Mt Johns Valley.
Mr Habib says he had a meeting with Lhere Artepe in “the last two to three years” and the organization’s CEO, Darryl Pearce, had indicated the group “would be happy to help get the town out of the current situation” of housing shortages and high real estate prices.
“But the NT Government was very slow on the issue, and nothing came of it.
“What’s going on? We’re still waiting for the release of land.”
Prices of land and homes remain near the nation’s highest despite the recession, and land opened up for housing development remains scarce.
John Elferink, former Alice Springs politician and now Country Liberals Member for Port Darwin and Shadow Treasurer, blames the NT Government for a policy that is an “impediment to growth”.
While getting the “feel good factor”, the Territory is losing millions that could be obtained from the Commonwealth for the compensation of native title holders.
Mr Elferink says in the event of compulsory acquisition of native title rights, approved by the High Court if it serves the public good, the Commonwealth would pick up three quarters of the compensation bill.
The NT would pay one quarter.
He says the process would be much faster than the present drawn-out negotiations, while home seekers sit and wait: “Alice Springs has 1000 km of open space in every direction, yet land prices are exorbitant.
“And once people buy land at an exorbitant price, they want to see it protected.
“If you rule out compulsory acquisition in dealing with native title issues you don’t have any bargaining power left.”
Both Mr Habib and Mr Elferink say native title over the land in Mt Johns, between the golf course and the MacDonnell Range, should have been compulsorily acquired, clearing the way for immediate development and provisions for subsequent compensation to the native title holders.
Mr Elferink says while the NT Government is clearly disinclined to embark on what some would see as a confrontational strategy, native title holders would not lose out financially, and the long delays with the provision of housing land would be avoided.
The NT Government gave Lhere Artepe land in Mt Johns Valley big enough to accommodate 40 housing blocks in exchange for extinguishing native title over the 80 block site.
The government followed a precedent it set with Larapinta Stage Four, now known as Stirling Heights, in the western outskirts of the town, in April 2004.
Except with Mt Johns the government went a step further: it gave Lhere Artepe first option to buy, at Valuer General’s valuation, the land for the second 40 blocks.
That option remains open, apparently, until the development of the 40 blocks of stage one is nearly completed.
Both with Stirling Heights and Mt Johns the negotiations with Lhere Artepe took some three years. Land prices did not come down.
As things stand, workers, young people and the “middle class” aren’t in the race, says Mr Habib, and few people can afford the $600 to $700 weekly rents for a house. (The Real Estate Institute of the NT has weekly rents in Alice Springs, even at the upper end, at considerably less than this.)
The question of how to deal with native title remains at the top of the town’s development agenda: there are some 500 more potential blocks in Mt Johns, says Mr Habib, and 50 to 60 new blocks are needed every year.
He says the demand would increase further if nearby mining ventures go ahead, including the Cameco uranium project south of town.
Meanwhile, there is potential residential land not encumbered by native title, several hundred blocks at the Arid Zone Research Institute block on the corner of South Stuart Highway and Colonel Rose Drive south of The Gap, and on the vast airport land.
Mr Elferink says there is little doubt that both the Valuer General and the Native Title Tribunal, putting a value on native title in the event of compulsory extinguishment, will be guided by the Stirling Heights arrangement.
The government is at pains to claim it wasn’t setting a precedent, but this raises the question why it followed the Stirling Heights model so closely at Mt Johns.
Mr Elferink says the NT Government was “generous to a fault” with the native title holders at Stirling Heights, and now, for better or for worse, the value of native title in Alice Springs is half that of freehold.
Lhere Artepe intends to be the developer of the land as well.
At Mt Johns it will get land at half of the freehold value – half free, half at freehold value.
Mr Habib estimates blocks will be selling for $250,000 to $300,000, at current prices.
He says the government has already provided, at no cost to the developer, the headworks – water, sewage, electricity – to the edge of the development, something that normally has to be paid for by the developer.
He estimates the development costs will be $40,000 a block.
At his estimated sale price of $275,000 per block, each of them will return a windfall profit of $235,000.
That’s a total profit of $18.8m on an outlay of about $1m, if Stirling Heights is a guide.
Mr Elferink says native title holders would be no worse off under the compulsory acquisition model, except they would not be getting preferential treatment as the potential developers, compared to other bidders. This is how it would work:-
• Present scenario: The NT Government, currently the owner of the land, will get half the freehold value. Half the land they give away, the other half they will sell for freehold value. They will do so at “highest and best use,” a residential subdivision in this case. The land would be unencumbered because native title would have been extinguished.
• Compulsory acquisition option: The NTG gets full freehold value for the entire land, sold to developers, and pays to Lhere Artepe one quarter of the native value, that’s one-eigth of freehold. Canberra pays Lhere Artepe three quarters of the native title value.
Model 1: The NT taxpayer gets four eighths of the freehold value.
Model 2: The NT taxpayer gets seven eighths of the freehold value.
A no-brainer? Maybe, maybe not, says a source close to the NT Government. There are no reliable precedents.
What if a QC, sensing the opportunity for a case running over years, raises issues such as loss of spiritual values, and the distress cause by separation from traditional lands?
Prior to our legal system being imposed over the land, a traditional one existed. Would losses of those attachments not cause a great deal of pain, and to a great number of people?
What’s that worth in dollars? And what is the public good? Is it acquiring land for a hospital or a road, or residential real estate enjoying a sustained boom in The Centre?
We’re in uncharted waters, says the source, and the price for native title, at the end of the day, may well be a lot more than half of freehold.
Lhere Artepe did not respond to a request for comment.

A hidden treasure for Heritage Week. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The public will have a chance to see this hidden treasure of Alice Springs when the indefatigable Jose Petrick hosts a guided tour on Sunday as part of the National Trust’s Heritage Festival.
The mural which depicts the Christian story, from the Nativity to the Resurrection, adorns the rear wall of St Mary’s Chapel in the grounds of the Anglican children’s home on the Stuart Highway, south of the Gap.
It was painted in 1958 by visiting Hungarian artist Robert Czako and is notable for, apart from the vibrancy of its religious feeling, its confident modernist approach to figurative painting.
The scenes are not presented chronologically but according to a spiritual hierarchy around the central figure of the risen Christ, with the ‘damned’ properly at the bottom.
The major figures and scenes from the Bible are there, as well as a gathering of people of many backgrounds and nationalities, in worshipful supplication.
Some staff from St Mary’s are portrayed among the multitude.
Mrs Petrick has carefully researched the records around the creation of the mural as well as the career of the artist and knows every narrative and spiritual detail of the scenes represented.
It promises to be a very informative talk.
It was fortuitous that Czako came to be at St Mary’s.
The artist, who had come from Sydney on an outback adventure, had set up near the Heavitree Gap causeway and was painting a landscape scene when he was noticed by Rev Colin Steep, the second superintendent of the home.
Rev Steep took a liking to him and asked him for tea. The visit obviously went well because Czako was invited to stay on.
He lived in the large house used by staff and children and had a small tin shed at the rear for a studio. He travelled lightly, with just a swag, art supplies and a small suitcase.
He proposed the mural, asking St Mary’s to supply only the masonite boards, paints and brushes.
Born in Germany in 1929, the second of four sons, to a German mother and Hungarian father, Czako had grown up in Hungary and trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, specialising in the art of stained glass.
He was conscripted into the German army but escaped the horrors of war for life in a Benedictine monastery.
He left when the war ended but found himself, together with his brother Thomas, homeless and stateless.
The pair migrated to Australia and eventually Robert made his way into the outback.
After his stay he returned to Sydney and joined the staff of the Ars Sacra Studio, a firm which designed and produced many stained glass windows for churches and buildings throughout Australia.
Czako is responsible, for example, for the design of the 14 Station of the Cross windows in the church of St Peter Julian in Sydney.
He died in Sydney in 1965.
Mrs Petrick’s talk is on Sunday, April 19, 2pm. Meet at the chapel.

Pre-school garden a toilet, dump. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

Parents and teachers at Teppa Hill Pre-school in Northside are furious about having to clean up human faeces, smashed glass and other rubbish left by illegal campers and drinkers in the pre-school’s front garden day after day.
Angry mothers say the pre-school is not entitled to a grounds keeper because of its size and that the council will take no responsibility for the garden as it is regarded as a private area, even though the council cut the grass and remove the litter on the nature strip just two meters away. 
Night after night “juvenile delinquents” and groups of Indigenous people make themselves at home in amongst the bushes of the pre-school front garden.
Mia Cutrale, president of the Teppa Hill parents’ committee, says there is often human faeces in amongst the flower beds and on the path leading to the front door.
“And with all the food being left around there are a number of stray cats and dogs leaving their waste behind in the garden.
“There are all sorts of things the children can catch from the faeces, smashed glass and other rubbish we are having to clean up each day.
“What if our kids get hurt? You could turn around for a minute and your child could pick up a bottle of methylated spirits or something: “What if that happens, we don’t want there to be an injury or even a death,” says Ms Cutrale.
Bull ants are on the rampage because of the discarded chicken bones and food scraps.
“It’s hard enough keeping little black ants away. Your kids are lining up waiting get into class and they are all dancing around trying to stop the ants from biting them,” says another mother.
Parent Belinda Pedersen is worried, a lot of children who attend the pre-school have younger siblings who are more prone to picking up infections.
“We just don’t need it,” she says.
“The teachers are here to look after our children. They do a good job. Why should they always be out here tidying up?” she asks.
Many of the parents regularly clean up.
“There is no one else to do it,” says Mrs Pedersen.
Parents want someone, somewhere to take some action.
“We realize that the pre-school cannot be patrolled 24 hours a day.
“But we would like someone to be aware of the situation and make an effort to help put a stop to it,” she says.
The parents feel helpless.
“All we can do is tell the trespassers this is a kindergarten and usher them out of the grounds but then we are likely to have the property defaced for asking them to leave,” says Ms Cutrale.
During a committee meeting two teachers had their cars damaged by troublemakers.
It was the teachers that were originally responsible for transforming the dry patch of unused dirt outside the pre-school into a garden. Their intention was that the children could learn how to care for the plants.  
“The teachers planted the garden out the front off their own back, bought in the soil, spent their weekends getting it set up and looking nice for the kids and then they are the ones who have to go through it each day, clearing up the mess, making sure it is suitable for the children,” a concerned mother says.
“These are kindergarten kids, they are four years old, we are trying to teach them better than this,” says Mrs Pedersen.    
“The children love coming here and using the garden. The pre-school has a planting day, but with all the faeces, rubbish and broken glass it is unsafe.” 
Primary schools are funded for a grounds keeper. The parents ask why the pre-schools can’t have one too.
Mrs Pedersen suggests that the garden is an extension of the nature strip and as such the council could look after it: “I don’t know why the council can’t take it two meters further.
“I mean seriously, is it that hard? We pay our bills and our rates.”
Alternatively funds could be provided to the preschool to fence the area. 
But the best solution would be for people to not be lingering there in the first place. 
“We want some response, someone to help clean it up. We would like some help,” says Mrs Pedersen. 
The Alice News asked the Education Department to comment.
Braitling Primary School Principal, Sue Crowe, said the problem is relatively new, and the school is looking at possible solutions. “The school is keen to work with other groups in the community to address this issue,” said Ms Crowe.
Mayor Damien Ryan would not comment on the issues raised. He said the pre-school committee should come directly to him with their concerns.

New push for mountain bike trail. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

An international mountain bike trail is again being mooted for Alice Springs.
This time proponents are Corey Gerdsen, manager of the Ultimate Ride bike shop, and Tim Hill, formerly with Tourism NT.
They want to develop a 90 km, clearly marked cross country trail for use by visiting and local riders all year round.
Readers will recall a previous proposal from Jack Oldfield, long term resident, mountain bike rider and regular event coordinator, for a recreational park in the hilly land adjacent to Kurrajong Drive (see
Mr Oldfield wanted to see marked cycle paths that could also be used by walkers and runners, as well as amenities including toilet blocks, bicycle stands and seating. 
Mr Oldfield says he received support from a number of people and discussed his plans with Tourism NT two months ago.
Although this was a positive meeting, Mr Oldfield says it looks as though his project has fallen off the radar at the moment.
“I am not feeling negative about the situation. I just think it would have been a good idea. It could have been an asset to the Alice Springs community.”
The new proposal suggests linking some of the pre-existing, shorter, unmarked trails used by cyclists in the rocky terrain around the town, particularly on the eastern side.
The trail could possibly begin at Emily Gap, make its way through hilly country on the eastern outskirts of town, travel north to Wigley Gorge, and meander across to the western side before ending up at Flynn’s Grave. The route could be promoted to entice cycle tourists, just as the Larapinta Trail is to bush-walkers.
Mr Gerdsen says it’s “embarrassing” for Alice not to have a mapped out mountain bike trail.
His customers spend a lot of money on their bikes and “when they ask me the best places to ride I end up drawing them maps on scraps of paper”.
Mr Hill bought a new mountain bike about six months ago and was disappointed to discover that Alice Springs doesn’t have any marked tracks.
Like Mr Oldfield, the pair believe that Alice Springs has an opportunity, with the establishment of a marked trail, to tap into an undeveloped tourist market.
“Other Australian states have official marked tracks,” says Mr Gerdsen.  “Geelong has the You Yangs and there is Eagle on the Hill in Adelaide. We have fantastic weather and great terrain that we should be taking advantage of.”
Mr Hill says Mountain Bike Australia are supportive of the idea. There have even been discussions about Alice Springs hosting the Australian national championships, an event that regularly attracts between 200 and 300 competitors.
The Alice Springs Cycling Club has been operating since 1966. The club’s mountain bike coordinator, Laurie Berryman says they are “very supportive” of any efforts to have infrastructure installed on new or existing mountain bike tracks around Alice springs.
“We believe there is huge potential to improve and enhance tourism and recreation cycling for locals through having marked and maintained trails accessible from town, and promoted to locals and visitors,” says Mr Berryman.
The club has a calendar full of events, including the up and coming NT Track Titles and the Kings Canyon Cruise.
They also help facilitate the Anaconda MTB Enduro – Red Centre mountain bike event scheduled for May 25-29.  Already the race has attracted close to 200 entries, with a large percentage coming from interstate.
The event includes a 90km epic through the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges. However, the tracks have to be marked out each time.
The Gerdsen-Hill proposal is still in the early stages, but now that the weather has cooled down, the pair has been surveying the potential trail with the aid of a  GPS.
They are hoping to get Glen Jacobs to help with the design and construction as he has done with other world class mountain biking tracks in Australia.
Their first priority is to source between $5000 and $10,000 to cover his services.  They estimate costs for markers and signs at a few thousand dollars.
Mr Hill says that they have been in talks with National Parks and Crown land administration. Tourism Central Australia has also been approached. Mr Hill says they have received positive feedback so far.
At present it is unclear where the ongoing funding for track maintenance – between $30,000 and $50,000 annually – will come from. 

Thoughts from the round table. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

A survey of 360 young people aged between 12 and 25, from Darwin, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, found that they are “fairly concerned” about climate change.
The survey was undertaken by young local Katherine Chatto when she was on the NT Government’s Youth Round Table last year. She was assisted by relevant government departments who wanted to know how youth felt about climate change.
Recommendations from the respondents included:
• more teaching about climate change and environmental issues in compulsory subjects like science;
• improvements in public transport and bicycle paths;
• more incentives for ‘green’ infrastructure;
• more ‘carbon-neutral’ events such as Bass in the Dust.
Some young people also took part in a workshop where concerns raised included deforestation, future food shortages, increasing travel restrictions, housing and water problems, extreme weather changes, increasing sea levels and rising poverty.
To solve some of these problems they suggested eating more locally grown food, turning vegetarian, reducing fuel usage, having stricter building codes and encouraging more renewable energy schemes.
Miss Chatto will be keen to see whether any of the young people’s suggestions get taken up by the Territory Government in their climate change policy to be released soon.
She says if the government is serious about climate change, they must “actively engage youth”.
She says it was difficult to find any published material specifically relating to views of youth on climate change, something that should be addressed.
Her work on the issue has strengthened her own commitment and she’s now planning to attend the Australian Youth Climate Coalition’s first national youth climate summit, Powershift 2009, being held in Sydney in July.
Amy Smith’s time on last year’s Round Table was devoted to the work of a four-member team, Mind and Body (M&B).
Their report considers how youth well-being is impacted upon by lack of exercise, bad diet, alcohol, drugs and smoking, as well as the role played by socio-economic status, family, religion and entertainment in young people’s choices.
Recommendations include preventing increasing levels of child obesity through encouraging more young people to take part in sport and community recreation and to eat healthier food. This in turn would reduce adult obesity and its burden on health services.
Physical fitness can also influence a person’s mental state, suggests the M & B report, and becoming more active in the community helps youth gain more social skills.
The NT Government should set up a team of practitioners, youth representatives and experts in various sporting fields and continue to investigate levels of youth awareness about health and physical activities and determine what barriers limit youth participation in sport, the report recommends.
Government departments and community organizations should work together to promote more sport and recreation.
The report suggests that cost is not a big issue but many young people are unaware of the programs available.
More needs to be done to promote community activities and further research undertaken into current levels of youth awareness of the link between sport and mental health.
To help, M&B have produced a resource booklet called Hey You(th) Get Active.
It contains a variety of contacts, websites, and nutritional information.
Who will update the contacts and ensure that the booklet is distributed effectively is not yet clear.
Miss Smith, now at university interstate, says she would be disappointed if none of M&B’s recommendations are taken up.
“It was a whole year’s worth of hard work – it would be a shame for it not to be used,” she says.
“Sport is so important for a person’s mental state of mind. It is time more young people were made aware of this.”

No recession in Aboriginal art. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Under the almost full moon last Wednesday locals and tourists browsed artworks or enjoyed a curry and a glass of wine at Desart in the Park. 
Held twice a year at the Desert Park, this increasingly popular event offers an opportunity to purchase Aboriginal art and craft from right across Central Australia, with most items priced under $200. 
Although numbers were down compared to last October’s event, some stalls sold more than $10,000 worth of work over the evening.
Says Christine Godden, Arts Development Officer at Desart:  “Many people were pleased to see works from some of the very remote art centres available in Alice Springs, such as Tjala Arts from Amata or Kayili Artists from Patjarr. 
“Bindi had a stall that was an Aladdin’s Cave of beautiful tiny works by artists including Billy Benn, Billy Kenda and Kukula McDonald – some lucky people acquired some little gems at that stall.”

Heritage Week: The present catches up with the past.

The where and how of education in the outback is the theme for this year’s National Trust Heritage Festival.
The ‘Old Scholars’ of Hartley Street Primary School are getting together, a chance to catch up and hear how past classmates are going. Murray Neck and Heather Laughton are among the ex-students talking about their time at school, their mates, classroom antics and other memories.
At another gathering people will discuss education in bygone days, involving schooling on cattle stations, missions and the influences of governesses and School of the Air.
Pastoralist Jim Hayes and past tutors Olga Radke and Jan Heaslip will reminisce about what it was like to be student and governess respectively around half a century ago.
There is also a teachers’ meet and chat session with oral history possibilities a likely outcome.
Heritage Week will be officially launched at the School of the Air on Saturday, April 18 at 5pm. This is part of the school’s open day which starts at 10am.  Everyone is welcome.
There will be ‘self’ education possibilities during the week as well. Historian Dick Kimber and lawyer John Stirk will discuss the “Law, Law Makers, Law Breakers and the Building”, at the Old Stuart Gaol next to the current Court House on Monday, April 20, 5pm.  Stories will include how chains, trees and wagon wheels played a major role in early incarceration by police.
The Old Gaol will be open on Monday from 10am so have a look inside if you have not done so.
Historians Jose Petrick and Dave Leonard will take separate tours to historically significant sites around the CBD and wider afield.
There is also the picture night at the Pioneer Picture Theatre, now the YHA in Parsons Street, screening “They’re a Weird Mob”, that Nino Culotta classic of 1957, together with a number of short films. Sitting under the stars you can make believe you were at the pictures mid last century. 
The Residency, National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame, Royal Flying Doctor Service and other historic buildings and organisations are also involved during the week.
There is a ‘Gaol House Folk’ night at the Old Alice Springs Gaol, Stuart Terrace on Saturday, April 18.
And there’s even a session on preserving historic documents at the Alice Springs Town Library.
Check the advertisement in this newspaper, the Town Council web site, and official programs all around town for details.
The week wraps up with an action-packed night at the Old Telegraph Station on Friday, April 24. You can see skills now largely forgotten and taste food from the past. This is a free night and is loaded with features including the morse-codians still tapping out those messages.

High achiever turns 70.

Jan Heaslip was joined by family and friends at Bond Springs Station last Saturday to celebrate her seventieth birthday.
She said she didn’t know what turning seventy was supposed to feel like, so had decided to throw a party to find out.
People took the opportunity to pay tribute to her many qualities: she was remembered by daughter M’Liss as “the most beautiful woman in the world” when she was on her way to a ball, and honoured for her role in the School of the Air, the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association and the founding of St Philip’s College and for her contribution to tourism in the Centre, as well as for her friendship to many.
Jan arrived in Alice in 1957, like many visitors planning to stay only a year. She spent two years straight up as a governess at Hamilton Downs Station, before meeting and marrying her cattleman husband Grant.
They have four children – Brett, Tanya, M’Liss and Ben.
The trauma for the whole family when the children had to leave for boarding school prompted Jan’s involvement with St Philip’s, to work towards developing it from a student hostel to a boarding and day school with opportunities equal to those found in city schools.
At Bond Springs the family have survived more droughts than good years and fought endless bushfires but Jan still cannot think of a better place to live.

Nuclear powered art.

Alice Springs artists, poets, song writers, are being asked to creatively respond to the uranium mining and nuclear waste issues affecting our town.
Quality art works will be chosen for an exhibition called U-ART: OUR VOICE. 
The exhibition co-ordinator, Unanyntji Scales, says when a community is faced with emotionally conflicting issues, it’s important to express them creatively.
“Art bypasses the intellect and appeals to people’s senses. 
“This is a community run exhibition and is open to any artistic expressions and opinions.  However, we ask artists to be aware that the exhibition will be hung in a public area that children access.”
The exhibition will run from May 29 to June 26 at the Alice Springs Public Library, with an opening event on Friday, May 29. 
Poets, singers and performance artists will be encouraged to perform their works, as part of the  opening.
• Poets are invited to submit an original bush poem (meaning with good rhyme and metre) that captures the essence of Australia, Australians or the Australian way of life for the 2009 Australian Unity Bryan Kelleher Literary Award. Now in its second year, the national competition aims to honour and preserve the style of verse made famous by Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.
“Last year this competition received more than 300 entries, proving that the art of bush poetry is alive and well in Australia,” says Alan Castleman, Australian Unity Chairman.

LETTERS: Cameco water pollution in USA: judges yet to rule on contentions.

Sir,– I write in response to two letters received by the Alice Springs News from Katy Egger and Drew Haynes [see last week’s issue].
The letters referred to applications before the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (US NRC) with respect to Cameco’s Crow Butte mining operation in Nebraska.
The letters make vague reference to several scary-sounding issues and suggest the applications have been stopped by the activists who are opposing them. This is not the case.
The nature of the regulatory process in the US encourages a broad public airing of issues. Opponents of a project are able to raise “contentions” with a minimal requirement of factual information. These contentions are thoroughly reviewed by qualified experts through a judicial process which is still in the early stages with respect to the Crow Butte operation. 
The decision to admit a contention reflects the judges’ conclusion that a matter should be further investigated, not that there is any truth to it. Cameco is confident that the commission will ultimately find no validity to the contentions raised with respect to the Crow Butte operation.
I should note that both Cameco and US NRC staff who assure compliance with safety and health regulations on an ongoing basis have appealed the admission of many of the contentions. Rulings are expected shortly.
The letters also suggest that the Crow Butte operation has affected drinking water for the Oglala Sioux Indian community of Pine Ridge.
Again, this is not true. 
Pine Ridge is about 80 kilometres from the Crow Butte operation.
Due to the geology of the area it is not physically possible for our activities to affect well water at Pine Ridge.
Furthermore, water quality is regularly tested on and near the Crow Butte site as part of the facility’s ongoing monitoring program which is overseen by state and federal government agencies.
In the 10 years that Cameco has operated the facilities, no water-quality concerns have been identified as a result of this monitoring.
One positive that can be taken from the letters is the degree of public and official scrutiny that is applied to uranium mining activities wherever they occur.
The regulatory process is transparent and ensures a thorough review of all issues in full public view.
Full information on Cameco’s Crow Butte operation is available at  <>.  
Lyle Krahn
Director, External Communications
Cameco Corporation

Uranium mine poll doubts

Sir,– Community groups have cast doubts on the validity of a recent poll that found public opinion tipping in favour of a uranium mine at Angela Pamela [see Alice News, March 26].
Residents interviewed report that they were not directly asked whether they support a mine, and it is unclear how that figure has been determined.
Alice resident Tanya Howard says the questions were very biased in favour of a mine. She says she certainly wasn’t asked directly whether or not she would want a uranium mine to go ahead.
Cameco has refused to release a copy of the questions asked in the poll, claiming they are the property of the company.
I would be very surprised if the findings were accurate. In the mall, and at open forums on the issue, it’s very rare to meet a resident who wants Alice Springs to become a uranium mining town.
At an open meeting [on March 27] with NT Minister for Primary Industries and Resources, opinion was unanimously against developments at the Angela Pamela site.
The Minister faced an hour of questions about the health risks of a uranium mine, and the lack of consultation with local residents.
Emma Chessell
Alice Springs

Royalties before profit

Sir,– The social and environmental impact of uranium mining continues irrespective of profits.    
Allowing companies to postpone paying any royalties to Traditional Owners until they are making a clear profit is dangerous given the huge costs of establishing a uranium mine, and the extreme volatility of the uranium market.
It could mean that traditional owners are never compensated for their land and water that is permanently contaminated by uranium mining.  
We have seen real problems with the profit-based royalty regime in other mineral operations in the NT.   Some companies have cooked their books to show they have never made a profit, and therefore have never paid royalties.
This whole idea came out of Howard’s Uranium Industry Framework. This body is largely a cohort of mining corporations who have nearly completed a feat of regulatory capture.  
It is entirely inappropriate for this body to drive the policy agenda to secure profits at the expense of Traditional Owners and the environment. The Senate Economics Committee Inquiry into the Uranium Royalty (Northern Territory) Bill 2008 will table their report on 30 April.
Senator Scott Ludlam
Australian Greens nuclear spokesperson

Electric shock for battlers and others

Sir,– As the harsh reality of the global financial crisis hits home, the NT Government should not lose sight of the battlers as the Treasurer finalises the 2009/10 Budget which will be unveiled early next month.
We are dismayed at suggestions that the cost of power could increase by as much as 18% next year.
This would be a disaster for many families, who may consider leaving the Territory for locations where living costs are more affordable.
Even before today’s development, there had been reports of people leaving the NT because they could not afford to rent or buy on the housing market.
The government should rule out any increase in power costs in the short term.
NTCOSS members report receiving regular requests for assistance from working families who can no longer make ends meet.
These people simply cannot afford any further price increases.
While NTCOSS notes that people on pensions will not be affected by the changes, as they will continue to receive concessions, many working families will be worse off.  
Services that provide housing assistance, emergency relief, and counseling for alcohol and other drug misuse will see an inevitable spike in demand as the hard economic times bite.
It is critical that they are in a position to assist those who most need help.
The NT Government must ensure that community service organisations are well-resourced so that they are in a position to provide assistance to Territorians in the difficult months ahead.
Wendy Morton, Executive Director
Jonathan Pilbrow, Central Australian Policy Officer

Alice buffered from the worst

Sir,– The “Alice” has continued to prosper and change since I left the hospital in 1996. I am so proud that you and your newspaper have chronicled those changes. I see that you have been joined by family members in your endeavor with the newspaper.
I know that the Alice is not isolated from the economic rampage sweeping the world, but you have a God given “buffer” to its immediacy.  I miss the simplicity of simpler times – both in Central Australia, and in my own country.
Here in America, we are so hopeful that the Obama Presidency can restore fiscal responsibility, common International sense, a sense of responsible “partnership” with the Third World and western adversaries.
As you are aware, newsprint here in the US is undergoing a major competition for survival. The Washington Post and New York Times are among a few of the survivors.  I fear for humanity – uninformed. That includes the major share of my fellow citizens. Was not TV supposed to educate and inform us? Erwin, keep on, keepin’ on.
Julius Butler MD

Are we being smug?

Sir,– Last year I enjoyed the privilege of spending two months in Latvia, a small country on the east Baltic Sea coast.
By European standards Latvia is remote and under-populated (about 2.5 million people), and I found in several respects that nation shares a range of characteristics with Central Australia.
Even the contrasts rang a bell. For example, the height of Latvia’s tourism season coincides with that of Central Australia, and for the same reason – the delightful weather at that time of year. It’s just that it is summer over there while it is winter here.
Not many people know about Latvia (including many Europeans, I find); and when I arrived in the capital city Riga it quickly became apparent there was much more to see than I had realized (despite my Latvian friend singing her country’s praises to me for a decade).
I’m sure that theme resonates with any long-timer in Central Australia.
Despite that country’s obvious charms, the economy of Latvia is not large and (like many East European countries) is heavily dependent on income and investment from external sources.
Again, this is similar to Central Australia’s economic reliance on outside sources for investment and massive taxpayer funded welfare and bureaucracy.
It is here that a fundamental difference seems to emerge. Despite the world economic recession, in the Northern Territory we are constantly assured of how well we are faring compared to everywhere else and are confident of seeing out the downturn relatively unscathed.
By contrast, Latvia is now the worst affected country in Europe; just over a year ago it was one of the fastest growing economies but its national growth has now plunged by 12%. Latvia has received one emergency bailout from the International Monetary Fund and is now seeking another.
There has been social unrest and rioting in Riga, and recently the government was forced to resign.
The situation is so bad that the economy threatens to collapse, and it is feared if this happens it will trigger a domino effect through much of Europe.
That’s a frightening scenario because it’s difficult to see where it would stop. Given the huge level of indebtedness that major western economies are incurring (including Australia) in trying to kick-start economic activity that has crashed because of too much debt in the first place, it strikes me that the situation overall is precarious.
Beautiful Latvia, small and unknown by most, may suddenly find itself at the forefront of world attention for all the wrong reasons. The implications are profound.
What are those implications for us?
Maybe I’m drawing a long bow (I hope so) but if the world economic situation truly gets out of hand, I think our smugness in the NT will be shattered as our house of cards collapses around us.
If that does happen, I guess we will find that Central Australia really is rather similar to Latvia, for better or worse.
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs


Sir,– The Henderson Government has put politics ahead of the needs of ordinary Territorians with their cynical decision to construct a firewall between MLAs and constituents seeking help with housing issues.
Over the past nine years I have always been able to access the local Territory Housing office in an effort to resolve issues that affect constituents.
Whether this change was by decree or instruction isn’t clear, but over the past few weeks it has become impossible for me and other Country Liberals’ members to liaise directly with Territory housing officers.
What is certain is the Government has now created a significant paper trail and established sizeable roadblocks along the way to getting outcomes for constituents.
One of the jobs of a local member is to assist the people we represent through the labyrinth of Territory Housing and to take the leg-work for residents out of problem resolution.
Through my electoral office I have dealt with countless housing issues over the past nine years by directly contacting the Palmerston branch of Territory Housing.
Now, presumably as a result of his instruction, I must write directly to the Minister Rob Knight in an effort to seek resolution to constituent issues.
A constituent concern that once would have taken a phone call to resolve, can now take weeks while the letter is first processed by Mr Knight’s office, referred to the appropriate agency, prioritised, analysed and then acted upon.
It’s a pity Mr Knight and the Henderson Labor Government’s putting petty politics above the interests of Territorians.
Terry Mills
Opposition Leader

Voluntary exit

Sir,– Why is a lingering, painful and degrading death our only option when facing a terminal illness with no hope of a cure?  Perhaps it’s time to rekindle the debate on voluntary euthanasia.
In the hysteria that accompanies this debate, the key work ‘voluntary’ is so often forgotten.  First and foremost, there would be no proxy votes.  Unfortunate souls trapped in dementia, or any other condition that renders it impossible to make an informed choice, would not have the option to leave of their own volition.
But what of those who, with still full mental capabilities but with a hopeless physical condition, would rather put themselves and their loved ones out of a wholly unnecessary agony?
More and more of us are living into advanced years.  Some get caught in a situation which they would, if allowed, willingly and voluntarily leave behind.  Under current laws, their only recourse is equivalent to what used to be known as backyard abortions.  It’s both furtive and very lonely, as they are forced to act alone to protect their loved ones from the quite wrong charge of murder, or assisted murder. 
Sometimes the accusation of cowardice is leveled at those who choose to go.  This is  wholly bogus.  There is nothing cowardly about walking into that great unknown with head held high. 
On the contrary, the charge of cowardice can just as easily, and with far greater justification, be leveled at those who are too timid to consider, or allow others to consider, a voluntary exit.
Moralists also like to have their say, and often invoke gods in various guises.  With respect, as I do not seek to impose my thinking on you, please don’t seek to impose yours on me.
If I choose to walk out that door, who is anyone to say that I may not? 
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

IAD transparency

Sir,–  I welcome your rather reliable and refreshing report regarding our embattled institute  (April 9).
Unlike Janice Harris, who was employed as Director of IAD and who now heads up an illegitimate Management Committee, I am interested in acquainting your many readers with the material facts about the current unfortunate IAD battle.
To her credit, the Minister for Employment, Education and Workplace Relations, the Hon Julia Gillard, has responded appropriately [to an approach from our concerned IAD membership] with the engagement of Ernst and Young Auditors of Canberra to seriously investigate the financial affairs of IAD.
We have recently met with senior departmental officers and we are in the process of providing further particulars to Ernst and Young Auditors. We are looking forwarded to a thorough investigation and to confirmation of our concerns about IAD mismanagement, financial mismanagement and misuse of public funds.
It is apparent from your story that Ms Harris does not want to be honest or open about what is happening at our publicly funded Institute. Not only is Ms Harris apparently ignorant of the Journalists’ Code of Ethics, she is also sadly ignorant of what respect for Aboriginal culture means and she should know that respect for Aboriginal culture has nothing to do with your recent reporting of IAD issues. These are indeed matters of much public importance and accountability by an Institute, which is substantially funded by the taxpayer and must be accountable as such.
Indeed, IAD is as much accountable to the public or to the taxpayer as it is to the members who own IAD and to our local Aboriginal community, which is represented through the membership.
It is quite absurd for Ms Harris to suggest that IAD is accountable to its students and staff, when it is surely the other way round – its students and staff or employees should be accountable to IAD, the education provider and employer.
We will overcome and win this battle for IAD one day soon!
Neville Perkins
Concerned Member and former Chairman
Institute for Aboriginal Development

Bosom Buddies

Sir,– Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support Group, together with other partners, General Practice Network NT, the YMCA, and Palliative Care Association Central Australian Branch, would like to thank Alice Springs News, ABC, CAAMA and 8HA for their support in promoting and publicising the various education sessions conducted by Professor Robert Newton in Alice Springs in late March.
We are delighted that over 250 people, health professionals and members of the public, availed themselves of the chance to hear about research and evidence which proves that there “is no pharmacological intervention that holds a greater promise of health improvement than exercise”.
Professor Newton, Director of the Health Institute at Edith Cowan University WA, spoke of the benefits of incorporating anaboloc exercise (strength and resistance training) into a regular exercise program. Such benefits include a protective effect against a range of diseases, accelerated recovery and improved quality of life after surgery and during treatments for cancer, and improved quality of life and enhanced functional ability in ageing people.
It does not matter if the exercise is home based, or through a fitness centre – but the message is to have a program and stick to it.
Lesley Reilly,
Bosom Buddies NT Inc
PO Box 9099
Alice Springs

Calling all Viet vets

 Sir,– 17 Construction Squadron Workshop was a unit that served in Vietnam between April 1,1966 and November 25, 1971. 
The unit comprised of Regular soldiers as well as National Servicemen who served with the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME). 
The majority were tradesmen who maintained the equipment of 17 Construction Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers (RAE).
After the Vietnam war, many soldiers, particularly the National Servicemen, went back into civil life with some even denying that they were a Vietnam veteran. 
In October 1987, the Welcome Home Parade was held in Sydney. 
This was the beginning of the 17 Construction Squadron Workshop Association. 
From there our Association developed and since then we have held reunions in Canberra, Launceston, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Darwin. 
Our seventh reunion will be held in May of this year in Alice Springs.
We will be in the Alice from May 14 to 17. 
Many veterans and their partners will be enjoying the Red Centre outside of these dates by either arriving early or staying on after the reunion. 
There are 130 veterans and partners attending the reunion.
On Saturday, May 16 we will be holding a service and wreath laying ceremony at the ANZAC Hill Memorial. 
The ceremony will commence at 2pm and we would like to encourage all ex servicemen and women (especially Vietnam veterans)  in the area to attend. 
Saturday evening we will be attending a barbecue as the guests of Ted Egan.
Garry Whykes
President, 17 Construction Squadron Workshop Vietnam Association

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