August 20, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Sacred sites authority: huge fees for permits to remove dangerous trees. By KIERAN FINNANE.

There’s disagreement between the Town Council and two government agencies over paying the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority’s fee to process the fire management plan for the Todd and Charles Rivers.
An estimated fee of $43,910 was reported to council on Monday night, an amount described by Deputy Mayor John Rawnsley as “unfair on Alice Springs”.
The authority has since told the Alice Springs News that the correct amount is $37,710.
While council “values” having so many registered sacred sites within the town – “a much larger concentration” than Darwin has – the authority’s “user pays” system impacts on council finances, said Alderman Rawnsley.
However, the authority’s regional manager, Andrew Allan, says he has already indicated to council that the authority will endeavour to “minimise the charge”.
“We will only charge actual costs as required under the regulations,” he says.
He says the NT Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act, which governs the authority, requires it to “recover a  portion of costs”, but the authority is “open to discussion with the council over costs and has offered significant reductions in costs in some recent applications”.
He also says it is important to understand that the rivers are “areas of significance to Aboriginal custodians” and that work must be done throughly to “ensure there is no damage”.
Ald Brendan Heenan described the charge as “a bit ludicrous” when council is “trying to do the right thing and protect sacred trees”, stressing the danger to the trees from surrounding couch and buffel grass. 
Ald Liz Martin, who had reported a fire in the river last Wednesday night, said the fee was “amazing”.
Ald Rawnsley asked what could be done to change the fee.
Council’s director of Technical Services Greg Buxton said the authority is unable to move because of the size and complication of the fire management plan application.
He also said that the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and the Fire Service, both part of the application, have said they won’t contribute to the fee.
The council has “care, control and management” responsibilities for the rivers.
“Council is stuck in the middle,” said Mr Buxton.
Ald Rawnsley said council should approach the issue at ministerial level.
The Act is administered by the Minister for Indigenous Policy, now Malarndirri McCarthy.
CEO Rex Mooney said both government agencies involved had been asked to provide written advice regarding the fee.
There would be a further report to council before any approach to the Minister.
He described the issue as “a matter in the public interest with public authorities at a Mexican standoff”.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that council currently has no certificate from the authority to cover emergency situations.
The former certificate expired in February 2006 but coverage was extended while council prepared a new application.
Once the application was lodged coverage lapsed.
Mr Buxton says the authority has advised council to use their discretion in an emergency – for instance, if a tree in the river was on fire.
A bad decision, however, could cost council a $10,000 fine.
Mr Allan says the authority “works closely with council to address considerations of public safety – we have a good working relationship with them in that regard”.
Mr Buxton had given an example of this relationship: after the violent storm on September 22 last year, a tree in the mall became unstable. Mr Allan inspected the tree with Mr Buxton, saw the immediate danger and allowed the tree to be removed, said Mr Buxton.
Council’s application to remove two sacred trees from Traeger Park which have died is “active” with the authority, said Mr Buxton.
Mr Allan says the authority has taken “independent advice” with respect to the application.
It also waived all fees for it except for the statutory $50 application fee.
Meanwhile, day-to-day work on any tree native to the Centre within the municipality requires an individual certificate from the authority, “which can cost up to $3000”, says Mr Buxton.
The authority is reluctant to “give blanket cover – they want to inspect each tree”, said Mr Buxton.
Mr Allan says a certificate provides council with legal indemnity from prosecutions regarding damage to sacred sites.
Council can choose or not to apply for a certificate – “a form of risk management” for the applicants.
Council has just commissioned a report from arborist Geoff Miers on the state of all trees within the CBD and will make a single application to the authority to cover all the recommended works.
Mr Buxton estimated the cost for this application at $15,000 to $20,000.
Mr Allan declined to comment on the cost as the authority hasn’t received the application.
After assessment of over 600 trees, Mr Miers recommended the removal of 19 trees, and heavy remedial pruning of a further 50.
Once works proceeds the removed trees will be replaced as quickly as possible by twice their number, in line with council’s two for one replacement strategy.
Mr Miers’ report notes “Trees of Significance”, most of which require treatment for termites and monitoring, with some requiring dead wood removal.

Voyages sells King’s Canyon, Alice resorts. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Voyages has sold its 46% interest in the King’s Canyon Resort and its wholly owned Alice Springs Resort.
The company’s flagship, the Ayers Rock Resort, is still on the market, for a rumored $400m.
The King’s Canyon interest has gone to the US firm Delaware North.
The buyer of the Alice Resort has not been named but it is “an Australian-based investment group who have other interests in tourism related assets in this country”.
The purchase prices have not been disclosed.
Voyages have also sold resorts in El Questro Wilderness Park (Top End of WA), as well as Lizard, Heron and Wilson Islands.
The five properties fetched $84.9m.
With nearly 1000 beds the Ayers Rock Resort before the sale made up more than half of Voyages’ capacity.
Current occupancy rates are not available but a spokeswoman says there is high demand for the camping grounds at the Rock and the luxury accommodation Longitude 131 whose room rates are  $2100 per night. Industry speculation put the value of the Voyages resort portfolio at $860m before the recession and $660m now. 
A spokeswoman says Delaware North Companies Australia has been established for more than 20 years and “is one of the country’s leading hospitality companies, managing extensive food and beverage operations across a number of major tourist destinations, venues and transport hubs across Australia, including Melbourne and Werribee Zoos, Sovereign Hill, all capital city airports, Sydney Central and Southern Cross Railway Stations, Melbourne Park and Etihad Stadium in Melbourne”.
Delaware North has also been operating in parks and resorts in North America since 1993 and is known for operating in some of the most spectacular places in the world, including Niagara Falls, Yosemite National Park, the Kennedy Space Centre and the Grand Canyon.

I did not damage Rainbow Valley, says Noel Fullerton. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Noel Fullerton is rejecting allegations by a Territory parks official of having caused environmental damage to the Rainbow Valley national park (Alice News, Aug 13).
If it were not for him the spectacular rock formation would in all probability not exist, says the legendary camel man.
He said the red sandstone bluff was under a mining lease, set to be “blown up and cut into small pieces”.
But he and Terry Karger, the lessee of Orange Creek station, on which the formation was, asked MLA Roger Vale to intervene.
The then Member for Stuart did, and the NT Government bought back the lease, “for 12,500 pounds, I think”.
A conservation reserve was declared which, for decades, was one of the jewels in the crown of tourism in The Centre, until recent access restrictions have diminished enjoyment of the park.
Di Calder’s photo of Mr Fullerton, on a camel, galloping down a sandhill about a kilometer from the rock face, went around the world many times, adding to The Centre’s romantic and exciting image.
The photo was on the cover of an official NT Government publication and the motif on Territory lottery tickets.
But now the current NT Government, following a deal with Aboriginal interests, has closed some 90% of the park, limited access to the rock formation to just one brief walk, and deny access to what Mr Fullerton describes as the most beautiful sections, including the striped stones giving the place its name.
And last week Chief District Ranger Wayne Gaskon said Mr Fullarton’s camel activities, among others, had contributed to the erosion of the sandhill behind the bluff, the spectacular feature that makes Rainbow Valley such an alluring landscape for visitors.
Mr Gaskon’s allegations made Mr Fullerton see red.
“Rangers think parks are for rangers.
“They have a green pole mentality.”
Mr Fullerton says his camel tours, highly popular for decades, were carefully organised to avoid environmental damage.
He says the parks service should be aware about the movement of sand in the area: “Any marks in the sand we made were soon completely filled in with sand.
“The fluctuations of the level of sand could be as high as one metre.
“Rangers put in benches and tables and one time they were covered in sand and had to be dug out.
“We didn’t create any tracks.
“Cattle did.
“We made sure our camels walked spread out, not in line.
“They cannot walk in cattle tracks. Their feet are too wide.”
He says he avoided one of the clay pans which features rare plants.
Mr Fullerton says over the years most of his staff were “coloured people” with some knowledge of traditional lore.
But he says he also had contact with “full bloods” who shared sacred knowledge with him, in detail and accuracy well beyond the knowledge of people currently involved in land rights deals.
While he says he welcomes Aboriginal people getting an income from tours of Rainbow Valley, that should not be to the exclusion of others.
And he questions whether people taking part in the process of taking the park from public ownership have appropriate traditional knowledge.
“Are they initiated? Have they had tjuringas issued to them,” asks Mr Fullerton.
“I’ve never been stopped by full blood people.”
He says he has been shown, or has discovered himself, sacred sites, including caves with paintings, which his tours avoided, as well as Aboriginal “sites of significance” which his groups visited but respected.
He offers to advise the parks planners about areas to be avoided: “I can show them the sacred sites.
“And then leave the rest of the park open.”
Mr Fullerton says he has never removed sacred objects from the park but says it’s possible items disappeared when a road was built.
He says the way authorities deal with sacred sites is hypocritical.
“Why don’t they close Heavitree Gap in Alice Springs?” he asks.
“It’s the most sacred site in the Stuart Plain.
“Men coming in from the south had to have a custodian with them and were not allowed to look to the left as they walked through The Gap.
“And women had to climb over the range.”
The Alice Springs News endeavoured to contact Ricky Orr, the traditional owner who runs Rainbow Valley Cultural Tours, but had not heard back before going to press.

Chopper pilot returns to charge over Kings Creek fire death.

A man wanted in relation to the death of Canadian tourist Cynthia Ching, who died from burn injuries she received at Kings Creek Station in 2004, was arrested at Sydney airport last week, after arriving in Australia from New Zealand.
The Alice Springs News was the first to report Ms Ching’s death nearly one year after it had happened, when no-one had yet been charged, the police investigations were incomplete, and it was uncertain whether a coronial inquest would be held (
The inquest was finally held in March 2006, but the Territory Coroner did not make any findings.
The police have provided the following account of the events leading to Ms Ching’s burns:
“On April 15, 2004, the victim was among a group of people drinking at the staff quarters at the [Kings Creek] station.
“The woman was injured when one of two improvised lanterns was being refilled.
“The alleged offender was pouring aviation fuel into a sand-filled beer can when the fuel caught alight, causing him to drop the jar which then splashed over the victim and caused severe burns.
“The woman was medivaced to Royal Adelaide Hospital where she died on May 27, 2004.”
A media release from Territory police this week said that “an arrest warrant was issued for the alleged offender on March 2005”.
This date does not correspond to their release of August 19, 2005 announcing that they had issued “a summons for the appearance in court of a helicopter pilot involved in an incident that resulted in the  death of Canadian tourist, Cynthia Ching on 27 May last year”.
Their release of March 30, 2005 – the same date as the Alice News breaking story – described the police investigation as “continuing”.
By the time the police issued the summons the alleged offender had left Australia for New Zealand.
According to the police media release of last Friday “there was no reciprocal offence existing in New Zealand at the time [so] he could not be arrested”.
“An alert was placed on the man’s name by the Department of Immigration  so police would be notified should the man try to re-enter the country.
“Detectives from the Casuarina Investigations Unit received notification from the Department of Immigration [last Thursday, August 13] that the man was being detained at Sydney Airport after arriving from New Zealand.
 “The man appeared in the Sydney Magistrates Court [on Friday, August 14] where he was bailed to appear again on August 28 at which time Northern Territory Police will make an application for extradition.
“The man was required to relinquish his passport.”

Government deal: Golden opportunity gone west. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Unlike our rich cousins in the Top End, The Centre is getting exactly what it deserves from the extraordinary political deal making last week: very little.
When the horse trading was at its peak, when all was thrown into the melting pot, when a new future was being forged, when history was begging to be made, where were our leaders?
Nowhere to be seen.
Oh, to be sure, when it was all over, the outrage was just gushing, the disappointment crushing: How could they do this to us?
Well, they did, and we allowed them to.
A better opportunity could not be imagined: Alison Anderson, a politician with a most unusual amount of courage and vision, pulled the pin on a government that had become a joke a long time ago.
All the balls were in the air, all bets were off, use any metaphor you like, there was no better time to make a deal.
Blind Freddy knew that the key players were Paul Henderson, Terry Mills and Gerry Wood: Where was our pitch to them on behalf of The Centre?
Stuart MLA Karl Hampton turned his back on Anderson and obediently sided with his party.
No matter, there were plenty of people left who could have made a difference: Anderson, the three Tory MLAs Jodeen Carney, Adam Giles, Matt Conlan; the Town Council; plus the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Central Australia, between them representing more than 500 of the region’s most productive people.
What a force it could have been – had it been assembled.
True to Alice Springs form, of course, it wasn’t.
The result is a bonanza for the Top End locked in already, while we are now playing catch-up.
Says alderman Liz Martin, regretfully: “We are not proactive. We are reactive.”
Independent Gerry Wood, the reluctant pivotal figure in the drama, is at pains to say Alice won’t miss out.
But while his electorate has reaped a bonanza of specific projects (see box this page), all he can – at this stage – offer Alice is benefits from Territory-wide initiatives, such as planning reform and release of residential land and review of the bush housing fiasco, SIHIP (which will benefit mostly the Top End, if it ever gets going).
Were any of the Central Australian MLAs in touch with him prior to last Friday?
Mr Wood doesn’t clearly say so, but the answer is obviously “no”.
“Look, that’s exactly what I need to do now. 
“In no way do I want Central Australia, Tennant Creek and all these other areas to not be part of what we are trying to do.
“That would be the last thing I want.”
He wants to “get down to, in the next couple of weeks, get down to, say, Alice Springs, and hopefully even, if these people want me to, attend a public meeting, and put forward proposals, for them to give me input.”
What this indicates without any doubt is that Mr Wood is determined to include Alice Springs in his agenda.
But how regrettable is it that Alice Springs didn’t give him the ammunition while there was still a sitting target – a Chief Minister prepared to hang on to his job at any cost.
Now we can still ask for what we need – but it will be cap in hand, as usual.
“The whole idea is to try and change the process of government around, to make the government less about spin and more about the realities of what we are doing,” Mr Wood said in an interview with the Alice Springs News on the weekend.
Most would wish him luck.

The Wood agenda: Extracts from Independent Member Gerry Wood’s speech in Parliament last Friday.

In relation to the prison location [formerly proposed for Wedell], we will establish an expert review panel to review the location.
It will examine alternative options to one large prison. We will investigate prison farms for Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine, and Darwin.
We will introduce caravan park legislation – at last – to protect the permanent tenants.
We will look at property law reform, which I have been pushing for, for about the last five years.
We are going to address pricing and availability of land especially for first homeowners. For too long, nothing has happened – young people cannot afford to buy a block of land.
The government ... will look at the subdivision of the forestry land in the rural area [south of Darwin]. Where possible, they will expedite native title issues and housing proposals for the Howard Springs forestry land to overcome residential land shortage. There is a possibility of 400 blocks that could be developed very quickly.
We need to look at the industrial land – review Glyde Point as a potential site and detail other options. We need to review and update the Humpty Doo District Plan with the view to encourage housing opportunities. Humpty Doo has been stagnant for years.
We need to investigate development of the Girraween district centre.
We need to look at the establishment of the city of Weddell.
There will be a competition to be announced by November 2009 asking for architects and town planners to design a visionary plan including sustainability principles for the new city of Weddell.
We need to look at the future development of Middle Arm, where future approvals will be dealt with by the existing Litchfield Development Consent Authority – something the government took away.
The government is prepared to put it back, with the exception – it is out of my hands – INPEX has been approved. That has happened.
However, the rest – at least Middle Arm – has gone back to the Litchfield Development Consent Authority.
I have asked for a town planner – and this has been agreed to.
They will appoint a qualified experienced town planner to provide direct advice to the minister.
The Darwin Regional Land Use Structure Plan will be reviewed and updated following public consultation.
Also, issues with traffic from the Robertson Barracks to the northern suburbs via the Knuckeys Lagoon area will be addressed.
Regarding public housing; public housing waiting lists are too long. The government will now set goals to reduce waiting lists for public housing by type, by region each year, and work towards these reductions over the next five years.
In regard to national resources and environment and the national radioactive waste repository, the Northern Territory government will continue to call on the Australian government to repeal the Radioactive Management Act 2005, and for the site selection of the national repository to be based on scientific evidence and allow for appropriate consultation in approvals.
If the Commonwealth government picks the Northern Territory based on scientific approvals, I will immediately ask the government to repeal its own law, not allowing that to happen.
There will be continued commitment to the implementation of the container deposit scheme.
There will be the establishment of three heritage parks, especially for World War II heritage.
The Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program [SIHIP] will be referred to the Council of Territory Cooperation for inquiry and report back to the parliament.
Youth clubs will be developed based on the old Police Boys Club model in urban areas in Casuarina, Palmerston, Katherine and Alice Springs, to be managed by police or non-government organisations.
The [Darwin] rural area, for far too long, has missed out on, I believe, a fair input from the government.
I am asking the government to investigate a sewerage system for the Howard Springs commercial area to allow for existing demands and future growth; the adequacy of a water supply system to support future development of the Howard Springs commercial area; sewerage infrastructure for the growing Coolalinga shopping area; replacement of private water mains with Power and Water Corporation mains where appropriate; support Freds Pass Reserve by funding greater capital and operational funds on an annual basis.
Freds Pass Reserve is a major recreational centre for the whole area and, yet, its funding is so poor it has struggled and still struggles.
It is time the government appreciated that we must support our young people and that is why I put that in here. The big bucks have gone in town, the little bucks have gone out in the rural area.
We need to develop an aquatic centre for the rural area, and work on improving relationships between the Northern Territory government and Litchfield Council, or commence construction of bicycle paths in the rural area in conjunction with preserving the old railway corridor, and it is something that has fallen off the books, the regional waste facility – review and expedite the development of a regional waste facility in the rural area.
In regard to special education, I believe the government has said it will investigate and report on delivery, and investigate and provide plans for infrastructure upgrades.
Agriculture – there will be a new emphasis placed on primary industry in the Territory as a key industry driver of regional economic development and employment.
The Ord River – the Northern Territory government will have an ongoing relationship with the Western Australian government and Kimberley Development Commission into matters concerning development in the Ord River Project, especially those areas in the Northern Territory.
Beef roads – further upgrades of beef, commercial and community roads, such as those in the Douglas / Daly region.
Land clearing / native vegetation – include a native vegetation act to provide clearer guidelines for vegetation preserving and clearing.
Local government – local government reform – refer to the Council of Territory Cooperation for enquiry and report to the government.

Heated meeting fails to resolve council by-laws. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Concerns about restrictions on personal rights dominated time at last Wednesday’s public meeting about the Town Council’s draft by-laws, while a lot of heat developed in the discussion of by-laws some claimed were targeting Aboriginal people, culminating in an angry outburst from Alderman Sandy Taylor.
The exchange between Ald Taylor and Harold Furber pointed to a common problem with the draft by-laws causing most concern, that is, their apparently broad reach.
Mr Furber had asked if one of his relatives asked him for “a few bucks” and he responded, would that be illegal.
“Am I part of the problem?”
This kind of scenario is not one that council wishes to target with its begging by-law and it clearly irritated Ald Taylor.
“We all have relatives who ask us for money, Harold!” she retorted.
She then attempted to clarify the intent of the begging by-law: “We’ve heard this from Aboriginal people, through our traditional owners, and they’ve said that they don’t like the fact that people are humbugging on the streets ... Harold, you are making a distinction between our relatives and people who continue to make a public nuisance of themselves.”
“The people I’m talking about are traditional owners,” countered Mr Furber.
This remark didn’t take the discussion forward. It would have been good at this point to try to tease out what is meant by “humbug” and whether humbugging behaviours can be more tightly targeted in the by-laws.
However the meeting by now had gone well over time and tempers were fraying.
Ald Taylor let fly. She said “some of these people make more money than you and I” – a comment in line with one by David Price in these pages (Letters, August 6).
After further exchanges and provocative heckling she also said, or rather shouted: “Why don’t people go to bloody school, get a frigging job and have a bloody house and get on with their lives!”
She then left her seat at the front of the meeting and went to the back of the room – she did not leave the meeting as has been reported – where she continued to talk to Mr Furber.
Ald Taylor’s outburst may seem beside the point but it is in line with her approach to life in general and Aboriginal affairs in particular, that is, that people need to take responsibility for themselves and advantage of the opportunities on offer.
She has since told the Alice News that she has apologised to Mr Furber for the anger she showed.
She says she does not want to contribute to any further division in the community but she is frustrated by people “portraying Aboriginal people as victims” – “we’re survivors, now let’s get on with our lives”.
And at Monday night’s council meeting Ald Taylor told other aldermen that, although they are “trying to do good things”,  the message from the public meeting was  “loud and clear – we don’t have the [by-law] wording right”.
At the public meeting CEO Rex Mooney, who had been valiantly trying to restore calm, attempted to answer Mr Furber’s question. 
He said it was an entirely different matter if the person asking for money was a relative. He said the begging by-law is for “extreme situations”; an element of pressure or intimidation needed to be involved; he mentioned the example of “humbug at ATMs” (elaborated on by Ald John Rawnsley in these pages, July 30).
The problem, however, remains that the text simply says: “A person must not beg or solicit money or goods in a public place.”
And a person who does so “is guilty of an offence”.
How is the public, not privy to detailed discussions with council, going to know what is in council’s mind?
How is discretion going to be exercised by “authorised persons” around identifying “extreme situations” where they might intervene?
Eric Sultan asked if a workshop could be conducted around rewording of the by-laws causing concern.
Ald Rawnsley, who chaired the meeting, said rewording suggestions could be included in written submissions to council, which close on August 28.
Again and again members of the public called into question the broad framing of the by-laws.
For example, bl 22, “Distribution promotional material”, and bl 23, “Placing or affixing promotional material”, require a permit for these activities, and a permit generally involves a fee.
A question was asked about the expense involved for not-for-profit activities, such as fundraisers with a community benefit.
This is in fact not a new by-law and council’s director of Corporate and Community Services, Craig Catchlove, said that “in reality” there would be no cost.
The public was being asked to discount the letter of the law in favour of the practice of a benign administration. 
It was an ask that many in the meeting were not comfortable with.
More controversial was bl 24, “Promotional material on private premises”, which in its text requires a permit for such material if it is “over or in view of a public place”.
The public were assured that material deemed appropriate would not be affected – “We don’t want inappropriate signage,” said council’s ranger unit manager, Kevin Everett.
But a woman wanted to know who deems what is appropriate or inappropriate.
Again it is a pre-existing by-law and, said Mr Catchlove, for the last 22 years it has not been used to control freedom of speech.
Its target, rather, is commercial advertising; it allows council to control, for example, the proliferation of billboards.
What is appropriate would be up to council administration, with the possibility of appeal to elected members.
Council was again challenged from the floor by several speakers about the discretionary wielding of such broad powers and was asked to remove the by-law or make its wording more explicit.
This lead to the first angry outburst of the meeting. Graham Tjilpi Buckley brought up the instance of political advertising at the end of the mall – a reference to a banner raised during Ald Murray Stewart’s mayoral election bid, controversial at the time and already dealt with by council.
When Ald Stewart took the microphone to explain this, Mr Buckley shouted him down.
Ald Rawnsley, who had warned at the outset that he had the power to close the meeting, threatened to exercise that power. 
From the floor Lisa Stefanoff asked for a show of hands on exemption of political advertising from the by-law.
Ald Rawnsley wouldn’t allow this.
Mr Catchlove said signs on private property would be assessed on an individual basis, taking into account things like size and neighbourhood amenity.
Ms Stefanoff pressed for criteria to be made known.
Mr Catchlove said so many factors would need to be taken into account, it would be impossible to write them all down.
Wayne Thompson, representing the Dyson group of companies, wanted to know whether signs promoting events such as school fetes, placed in the back windows of school busses  would need a permit.
Yes, they would, but there’d be no charge, said Mr Catchlove.
Hal Duell from the floor got explicit about the type of sign that was no doubt on the mind of many in the meeting – the “Keep Alice safe, no u-mine” signs that have proliferated since the licence for exploration of the Angela Pamela uranium deposit was granted. He has such a sign on his fence; he’s received no complaints from his neighbours.
“Will I need a permit?” he asked.
“Technically, yes,” said Mr Catchlove, but he also said council would not pursue the matter unless they received a complaint.
It was Lenny Aronsten, a Greens candidate in the last council election, who turned the discussion towards by-laws seen to be targeting Aboriginal people.
He said he was “finding it hard to have respect” for the council, referred to the “on-going war on the Aborigine”, asked for the withdrawal of unspecified by-laws, referring to the NT Legal Aid Commission submission, and concluded – “you know what I’m talking about and you should be ashamed of yourselves”.
This was greeted with loud applause.
Ald Rawnsley reminded the meeting that it was a question and answer session, not an opportunity for making “political statements”.
Mr Furber objected to Ald Rawnsley’s threats.  Ald Rawnsley overruled him. 
Don Coffey from the floor asked for the “no camping in a public place” by-laws to be removed until accommodation alternatives were in place.
Where should people go, he asked.
Mr Catchlove said council understood fully “the lack of suitable accommodation” and lobbies on the issue in all the “appropriate forums”.
He also emphasised that council is “at one with Lhere Artepe [the native title holder body]” with the 24/7 ban on camping.
This point appeared to penetrate little.
Ald Melanie van Haaren later took it up, asking people to reconsider their opposition to the by-laws that the traditional owners would like to see introduced – “get behind the traditional owners of this country”.
From the floor Jimmy Cocking wanted to know what the problem is with “sleeping rough”.
A man describing himself as an activist and “an educated blackfeller” suggested the by-law was telling Aboriginal people “you can’t maintain your culture and come and camp here”.
He described Alice Springs as “our natural habitat”, and said the by-law would “restrict our freedom of who we are”.
He received strong applause for these comments, despite the very clear message from Lhere Artepe that they do not want people to “camp on sacred sites, including the Todd River” – one of the nine “DON’Ts” identified for visitors to “Central Arrernte Country”.
Among the nine “DOs” are calls to “respect the cultural landscape” and “respect our wishes”.
Ald Brendan Heenan pointed out that the by-law also targets people in campervans, especially those without toilets on board, who camp in carparks and on public land, for instance around the garden cemetery, and “make a mess”.
Ald Liz Martin challenged the apparent assumption that she, as a white woman, has never been affected by homelessness or alcohol and drug abuse.
Mr Mooney said the “litmus test” for the by-laws is in “how they are administered”.
He said he wasn’t saying “trust council” – though this does seem to be what he was saying – and referred to council’s “good track record”.
Mr Everett attempted to explain the problem with camping in public places. He talked about people burning trees, leaving thousands of tons of rubbish behind, and “a myriad of things they shouldn’t do”.
He said rangers are “not bastards”, that they try to “refer people to help”, even more so if there are children involved.
“We don’t hand out fines, we try to assist,” he said, describing the ranger team as “highly motivated”.
And he denied that rangers “burn” people’s belongings.
He said the rubbish is taken to the tip, while blankets are taken to Tangentyere Council for cleaning.
Faith Graham, an Indigenous woman who works on town camps, asked about rangers’ training and whether they undergo police checks.
Mr Catchlove described the various training programs, which include cross-cultural awareness, and said council will be ensuring that all rangers undergo nationwide police checks.
Regarding the enhanced powers of rangers, Mr Catchlove said at present they are powerless to do anything about, for example, a drinking party on the Civic Centre lawns and that this is not an incident for which police, who are “run off their feet”, will attend.
Eric Sultan wanted to know whether council employs Indigenous rangers.
Ald Taylor said she would “love Aboriginal people to apply”.
Mr Catchlove said council has employed three Indigenous rangers in the last five years, and there is one at present.
“We are desperate to get more,” he said, adding that council is working with Lhere Artepe to identify good candidates.
The graffiti by-law (44), requiring property owners to remove graffiti from their premises within 14 days or face a penalty, also drew comment.
Rodney Angelo from the floor suggested replacing unsightly graffiti with quality graffiti art.
A representative of Incite Youth Arts referred to their aerosol art projects as an alternative strategy.
Mr Cocking saw the problem with this by-law as one in common with others – a “zero tolerance” approach that has failed elsewhere.
Mr Catchlove said council “strongly supports” authorised aerosol art and is developing anti-graffiti kits to assist ratepayers to comply with the by-law. These may consist of vouchers for cleaning products.
Ald Martin wanted to see more assistance given to people, such as the elderly, unable to do the physical removal work themselves.
The ban on swimming and bathing in public places without a permit was also challenged.
When a young woman suggested lifeguards as an alternative she drew the ire of Mr Thompson (of the Dyson group): “Have you seen the river in flood?” he demanded, several times.
A man said he understood that the river in full flood is dangerous but what about when the flood is abating and he knows it’s safe, how would the by-law work then?
Mr Catchlove said without such a by-law council has no power to control the situation when it’s dangerous.
From the floor Hilary Tyler urged council to “say what you mean – you are making your powers too broad”.
Ald Taylor called on people to propose alternative wording in their submissions.
Making drunkenness an offence was criticised by Jonathan Pilbrow of NTCOSS as a backwards step and in conflict with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Mr Catchlove said council needs a by-law to be able to move drunks on.
Would rangers be stationed outside Bo’s in the early hours to move “white drunks” on, he was asked.
How would rangers know that a person was drunk and not mentally ill, he was asked.
And would rangers call in medical personnel?
Or would they lock up “a diabetic having a hyper”?
This last was shouted by the man who had earlier identified himself as an “educated blackfeller”.
It was a step too far for Mr Catchlove: “You really are the most offensive person in this room,” he replied, which earned him loud groans and heckles.
The ban on cycling in the mall was contested and there was a call to remove any by-law about cycling until council has completed its cycling review.
Mr Everett said council receives five to 10 complaints a month about cycling in the mall as well as regular reports of injuries.

Clark says sorry.

Alderman Jane Clark has unreservedly apologised to the Town Council for saying that she was “shouted down” over her views on the draft by-laws.
At Monday night’s committee meeting Mayor Damien Ryan sought an apology for Ald Clark’s “disregard” of council’s code of conduct during the meeting of July 27.
He saw her behaviour as a “low point in this council”.
He cited a section of the code requiring members not to undermine the trust the public has in the council and not to bring other members into disrepute.
He also referred to the Local Government Act’s code of conduct.
He took Ald Clark to task over not having availed herself of the opportunity to make her views on the draft by-laws known when standing orders were removed during the July 27 meeting – which would have allowed other aldermen to respond – while having already indicated her views in a radio interview earlier that day.
On this point Ald Clark said she had adhered to meeting procedure.
She said she had been given no notice of Mr Ryan’s intention to seek an apology and requested that he put his case in writing.
Mr Ryan pursued his points with some vehemence, suggesting that Ald Clark had used the chamber improperly, and said her allegation that she had been “shouted down” was an “insult”.
Ald John Rawnsley also said he had a “big issue” with that allegation and raised concern about the way Ald Clark discussed the by-laws on the social networking site, Facebook, promoting “misconceptions”.
Alds Liz Martin and Murray Stewart similarly objected to Ald Clark’s allegation of being “shouted down”.
It was then that Ald Clark, who remained calm under pressure, apologised unreservedly for her use of that expression. By way of explanation she said it was her way of saying she felt “shut down”. She had felt “intimidated” for having a “different point of view” but “you didn’t shout me down, you did give me an opportunity to have my say”.
Ald Brendan Heenan asked Ald Clark had she ever talked about rangers “burning blankets”. She was categorical that she had never suggested that.
Aldermen accepted the apology with a show of hands.

Abandoned blankets.

Abandoned blankets, if they can be reused, may be taken to Tangentyere Council for cleaning, and rubbish taken to the tip, but personal belongings  with any form or suggestion of identification are not touched, says council CEO Rex Mooney.
“Rangers use their discretion in all cases, “ says Mr Mooney. “They are mindful of what seems to be personal property.”
Tangentyere or other agencies are advised of the presence of the belongings. If there is a weapon present, the police are called.
The draft “abandoned items” by-law, with its apparent broad reach, is one that has stirred a lot of controversy but Mr Mooney says it is not possible to cover every contingency in a by-law.

Don’t like a by-law? Suggest your own!

Public submissions in writing on the by-laws have to contain some form of “constructive feedback” before they will be forwarded to aldermen.
Council CEO Rex Mooney says if all they say is “what a silly idea full stop” they won’t be passed on, as they “don’t give council any guidance at all”.
Council is hoping that if a by-law is opposed, the person objecting will suggest amendments or an alternative approach.
Submissions containing a lot of offensive language will “probably not” be passed on, but will be “minuted”.
Submissions that arrived at council before the publication of its official notice of the proposed by-laws (August 1) similarly will not be taken into account.
“A lot of insulting emails came in a rush” before August 1, says Mr Mooney.

Reviewers hammer grog report for NT Government. By ERWIN CHLAND

Evaluation of alcohol control measures in Alice Springs, conducted by the NT based Menzies School of Health Research and commissioned by the NT Government, has drawn scathing criticism in a review by academics of the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, in Perth.
The Alice News has obtained a copy of the review by Dennis Gray, who has carried out extensive alcohol research in Central Australia since 1998, and Tanya Chikritzhs, one of Australia’s leading alcohol epidemiologists and researchers.
The review, prepared for the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition in Alice Springs, says the Menzies report has been framed around the way supply restrictions and the use of alcohol are perceived by members of the community and stake holders, instead of examining the whole range of strategies that make up the Alcohol Management Plan (AMP).
The emphasis in the Menzies report, according to the review, is on the culture of drinking and the view that the culture and opposition to restrictions must be changed before any further changes to restrictions are introduced.
The review says this argument ignores the fact that legislation or regulation can be an effective means of changing culture. Some obvious examples are the introduction of compulsory seatbelt use and drink-driving legislation.
The Menzies report describes supply reduction measures, says the review, as “an emergency, interim strategy until a broad change in drinking culture is achieved”.
But the review argues that this view is “contrary to the national and international evidence that has consistently shown that restrictions on availability must remain part of any alcohol management package”.
In its recommendations, the Menzies report seems to have “ignored or forgotten”, says the review, that the national and international literature overwhelmingly demonstrates that supply reduction measures are the most effective means of reducing harmful alcohol consumption, even though the point is made early in the report itself.
The Menzies report recommended that the current restrictions regime be maintained, rather than pursuing the potential offered by adjusting the restrictions.
The rationale for this recommendation, according to the review, is that the restrictions are not popular with some segments of the Alice Springs “community”.
However, the review reiterates the common observation that what is popular does not work and what works is not popular.
The review also challenges the faith the Menzies report places in promotional work and education.
“While promotional work and education can be useful in raising awareness and increasing knowledge, their impact in reducing consumption and related harms, that is, changing behaviour, are marginally effective in the short-term and ineffective in the long-term,” says the review.
“Few studies have shown long lasting behaviour change for children and adolescents resulting from school drug education programs.”
The review also says the Menzies report does not understand the mechanisms of social marketing campaigns – not the same as education or raising public awareness – and gives no consideration to “the considerable resource required to mount an effective social marketing campaign”.
More importantly, though, the review says “the evidence for the efficacy of social marketing campaigns in the alcohol field is not strong and thus should not be considered a cornerstone recommendation”.
The review criticises the Menzies report’s methods for calculating alcohol consumption.
It says they fail to take into account that a significant percentage of alcohol purchased in Alice Springs is consumed by residents of the broader Central Australian region visiting the town, but whose numbers are not captured in estimates of tourist numbers. This results in an over-estimation of per capita consumption.
The review notes that the Menzies report comments that the government had not implemented the demand reduction and harm reduction strategies of the AMP, but does not discuss this nor give it “critical consideration”.
It says the Menzies report also makes no reference to a number of major national and international reviews of the evidence with regard to the prevention and / or reduction of alcohol-related harms – which the review describes as “key documents”.
And, in considering harms, it gave no consideration to road traffic accidents, although these contribute substantially to alcohol-attributable death and injury. 
Other points made by the review:-
• If the Alcohol Reference Panel (ARP) is to be a grass-roots committee, it would seem appropriate for there to be some input from the committee members themselves in setting their agenda.
Cohesion and agreement between the members of the committee may be difficult given the vastly diverse and in some cases opposing interests of the group. The Menzies report fails to give clarity as to the power dynamics operating within the group and how power to implement strategies would be divested from the NT Government.
• The Menzies report suggests that the NTG review the effectiveness of the night and day patrols. These community-operated services are not responsible to the NT Government (only one patrol is funded by the it), and it is not clear that the NTG has the authority to conduct such reviews. Furthermore, imposition of such a review would undermine the control the Aboriginal communities have in operating such services. This proposal demonstrates a lack of understanding of the services and contradicts the report’s recommendations with respect to community-based approaches to managing the issue of alcohol in Alice Springs.
• The Menzies report is unclear as to the functions of the various patrols operating in and around Alice Springs. For instance, it states that the night patrol operates between Thursday and Saturday when in fact it is funded between Tuesday and Saturday. It is the youth patrol that is funded between Thursday and Saturday. Furthermore, no mention is made of the youth patrol operated by the Tangentyere Council.
• The suggestion that the NTG should engage in more comprehensive negotiation processes with town camp residents and their representatives regarding the current “dry town camps” laws is worthwhile, given that they are perceived as a prohibition measure and discriminatory.
• There is brief discussion of the alcohol courts and their under-utilisation, “but the report fails to mention that offenders must ‘appear to be dependent on alcohol’ for referral”.
• “There are serious methodological problems with the report, including lack of technical understanding of appropriate techniques, and poor analysis of the consumption and epidemiological data.
“This is ironic given that the report includes a chapter on ‘Developing evaluation framework and a minimum data set’ and suggests that Menzies School of Health Research provides ‘over arching advice to local evaluators’.”

Blank walls, blank minds. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

For the past three decades two cities, New York and Melbourne, have emerged at the pinnacle of fine street art.
Although many will argue that the graffiti scenes in Paris and Berlin are equally compelling, NY and Melbourne have maintained a thriving culture based around this art. Virtual galleries of works span the entire city scapes, rather than being restricted to certain areas.
With the skyrocketing popularity of street artists such as Bristol’s “Banks” (2008 saw him sell a piece for a record breaking five million pounds) and mounting appreciation of ‘70s pioneer French stencil artist Bleak Le Rat’s works, the echo from this movement is  beginning to resonate within Alice’s vibrant artistic community.
A local paradigm of this viciously in vogue form of expression is the nuclear boot hovering above families gathered in the desert, to be found in the centre of our town (Todd Mall, next to Sounds of Starlight).
Given that the original painting, which now makes up the artwork’s background, was not more than motel art, this new addition to town is subtle – multi-layered and yet very accessible.
Street art erases the gap between demographics, and it can beat down the high walls of class separation. Whether or not you agree with this predominately misunderstood art form, there is no denying its interest.
Samples:”Give up whitefella we have you surrounded” emblazoned on a rock west of town.
“Yuendumu magpies only one best in 2009” and the like, tattooed on phone booths and power boxes around town.
Stencil art protesting over nuclear issues.
The petitioned graph pieces on shop walls.
And not to overlook the explosion of youth projects orchestrated by community groups such as “Head Space” that have given generations y and w (or whatever) the chance to turn brick walls into canvas.
Street art appears to be on a steady incline, in part due to many works attracting mainstream acceptance.
Rumour has it that Power and Water may employ the services of aerosol artists to decorate designated power facilities about town. This may have some pop cultural voyeurs thinking that now that this art form is bleeding itself into contemporary corporate culture, it may begin to lose a lot of its ‘cool’.
Alice Springs is lucky enough to have never been swamped by billboards, looking like giant train that doesn’t move, but the elements of control and  consumerism are still adamant, and this style will hopefully begin to make more of a home for itself here.

Fest just keeps on growing. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Aerialist Lil Tulloch gave a taste of what’s to come at the Alice Desert Festival, which launched its program last Friday.
She’s arrived in town to mentor the Cat’s Meow Cabaret in aerial and acrobatic skills as well as whip-cracking, joining several other performance professionals to build the skills of the caste – 120 of them at last count.
Cat’s Meow is but the latest signature event that the  eight year old festival has spawned.
Like Wearable Arts it has had sell-out shows since inception and this year will stage two to cater for audience demand – both in the main theatre at Araluen.
Young models in past Wearable Arts award-winning creations played hostess for the launch guests, while  traditional custodian Doris Stuart reminded all that Alice Springs has long been the site of celebrations and festivals.
One of the first occurred when caterpillar ancestors from the west met up with those from this place.
The dancing forms of the Coolibah trees in the swamp mark the site and event of this festival that occurred thousands of years ago, she said.
This year’s Wearable Arts Awards promises to be a big show with over 50 entries received in the categories.  There are now six awards attracting $1000 prizes.
The bushfoods competition is being remodeled this year, with two one-offs – on the opening and closing weekends, rather than a heats and a final judging.
The HUB space, which has undergone various transformations since its inception, will undergo another, becoming The POD situated at Anzac Oval.

LETTERS: Will the UN hear about the human right of Aboriginal women to live free of violence?

Sir,– Today there are consultation meetings being held in our town with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Affairs.
The meetings are being organised by the Intervention Rollback Action Group.
This is a group that has carefully excluded anybody with views different from their own, white or black, from the events they have organised in the past.
They have abused those with differing views, publicly burned our national flag and marched through our streets shouting obscenities.
They are in no way representative yet they are convening the “invitation only” meeting with the UN representative. There is a one hour open meeting later that day for community members and organisations.
Since I didn’t get an invitation I do hope that somebody mentions:
The inalienable human right of Aboriginal women to live free from the endemic violence of their communities.
The right of young Aboriginal men not to be trained to believe that they are inherently superior to women and have the customary law right to execute women for cultural reasons.
The right of Aboriginal children to live in a safe and secure environment and to have access to the mainstream economy based on a good quality education in the national language.
But given that this is the organisation that has gratuitously delayed the refurbishment of the town camps and the building of new houses, that has been happy to indefinitely extend the misery of town camp residents despite the overwhelming majority opting to cooperate with the government in these matters – I doubt it.
I hope, in memory of the 800,000 murdered souls of Rwanda, that the UN gets this one right.
Dave Price
Alice Springs

SIHIP review not till February – unbelievable!

G’Day Ed,– My brain is still in denial.
I have just watched Chief Minister Henderson on ABC Stateline blithely state that “the Auditor General will deliver a review of the SIHIP (Aboriginal housing) program in FEBRUARY”.
It’s f***ing August.
The interviewer asked why so long?
Henderson responded that the Auditor General sets his own timetable.
Surely the government appoints the AG.
Given that the whole debacle came about with former Minister Anderson’s frustration at the lack of progress, I would expect a report about the end of next week!
This piece of procrastination signifies bullshit as usual.
If Henderson cannot see the urgency, his resurrection will be short lived.
Not that I would like to see the CLP return, especially with the awful Elferink smirking in the wings.
I have campaigned hard for Anderson in the last two elections, and will be seeking an explanation for her defection.
In particular I would like to know why Anderson, Scrymgour, McCarthy, Hampton and a couple of others from bush seats (Gerry McCarthy, Lynne Walker?) cannot carry the day in the Cabinet. 
Charlie Carter
Alice Springs

Spin reigns

Sir,– Just days after signing a deal that included a clause requiring the government, public service and Parliament to become accountable and transparent, the Chief Minister refused to answer a series of straight forward questions as to how much money has been spent on SIHIP.
So much for the Chief Minister’s pledge to end his Government’s notorious reliance on spin, and so much for the agreement with Gerry Wood.
The Opposition have been asking for the details regarding SIHIP expenditure for months.
Yet despite losing a Minister over the matter, the Chief Minister still refuses to answer this basic question.
The scandal surrounding SIHIP has stained the entire Henderson Government, which has failed to deliver a single new home in the two years since SIHIP was announced and is determined to hide just how much money has been spent to date.
The deal struck with Gerry Wood requires the Government to break its addiction with spin and ensure an open and accountable government, public service and parliament.
The Chief Minister’s performance on Monday confirmed that won’t happen.
Terry Mills,
Leader of the Opposition

Alice out of deal

Sir,– The deal struck between Chief Minister Paul Henderson and Independent MLA Gerry Wood was a bad one for Central Australia.
The move effectively creates two Chief Ministers: Paul Henderson – who leads the Labor Party and Gerry Wood – who will now approve the passage of all legislation, effectively sidelining the remaining MLAs whether they be Labor, Country Liberals or independent.
As a result of the agreement the government is over a barrel every time it tries to pass legislation through the Assembly.
While MLAs represent specific electorates, governments are there to govern for the entire Northern Territory and oppositions are charged with holding governments to account.
Central Australia has been the Labor Government’s poor cousin for the past eight years and it appears this will continue under the new arrangements.
Despite the fact that broader issues such as alcohol rehabilitation, land release and prison reform have gone untouched, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect some focus on Alice Springs such as providing shade at Charles Darwin University oval;  oncology choice; community park upgrades or even the establishment of the Police Citizens Youth Club in Larapinta.
Unfortunately the Chief Minister dealt Alice Springs out of his negotiations with Gerry.
Instead, Gerry’s electorate in rural Darwin will receive a new multi-million dollar aquatic centre, bike paths, upgraded parks and sewerage.
The Government hasn’t made clear the impact of these projects on the Territory budget. In its May budget, the total debt for every man, woman and child in the Territory was $26,000 – Labor should explain the impact of these new commitments on the Government’s bottom line.
The Country Liberal Party was formed in Alice Springs, to stand up for Central Australians.
There are five Central Australian seats in the Northern Territory Parliament. It would be great if all five Central Australian members voted together to support the centre.
MacDonnell MLA Alison Anderson quit the Labor Party and became an independent because of  her frustration at Labor’s inability to deliver on its promises.
If voters in the electorate of Stuart also believe they have been neglected by this arrogant Labor Government and sold short in their parliamentary agreement they should convince Karl Hampton to also become an independent so the five of us can vote as a block for the greater good of Central Australia.
Meanwhile, Adam Giles, Jodeen Carney and Matt Conlan will continue to fight.
Adam Giles
MLA for Braitling
Alice Springs

Racist vitriol unhelpful

Sir,– Last week’s public meeting held to discuss changes to by-laws was seen by some as an opportunity to raise unhelpful racist vitriol against council members.
It’s about time that certain elements in our community got a grip on the fact that no matter if racial comments are made by whites about blacks or by blacks about whites, it’s still racism, just as hurtful and just as destructive.
I can’t believe that it was put to the meeting that the use of the terms “they” and “them” in the by-laws, was actually a veiled reference to Aboriginal people, and that the wording in the by-laws should be changed to say “Aboriginal”.
What a patently ridiculous idea, with its roots buried firmly in paternal racism.
The use of the terms “they” and “them” are, as they are supposed to be, race neutral even when it can be argued that individual by-laws may affect one race more than the other.
The terms “they” and  “them” are used because the laws are to be applied to all of us equally, regardless of who we are, or where we come from.
These by-laws are designed as a set of all inclusive community rules, standards, behavioural demands, that will assist all races to live together.
Separate sets of rules, or rules just applied to one group or the other, leave us with no standards at all!
It’s in the interest of all of us, the whole community, to make these by-laws work.
Also from the meeting, ABC Radio appeared to take issue with Sandy Taylor’s outburst calling it “unprofessional”.
I beg to differ. There is absolutely no reason in the world, why a fantastic, committed, hard working Centralian like Sandy, should sit there and take hurled racial abuse from an unpleasant group of drop-ins who have absolutely no interest in our community outcomes.
I congratulate Sandy on her stand. We should see a lot more genuine Centralians taking the same strong stance!
Our town will be all the better for it. Good on you Sandy!
The same radio station made much of speakers giving their length of residence in Alice, when giving an opinion. Should length of stay be taken into account at such meetings?
Of course it doesn’t always count for much, but in general 30 years’ experience would tend to rate over two weeks just about anywhere, I would have thought.
All too often in the past Centralians have been content to sit back and allow do-gooding blow-ins to formulate our future directions.
I think in waking up to this at long last, Centralians like to give their length of residence as a way of demonstrating their commitment to our town and as a way of saying that they are likely to stick around to feel the effects of the decisions they are making.
As such they are likely to give a good deal more thought to the outcome.
I’m sure there are many worthwhile contributions being made by newcomers.
However, as in all walks of life, it pays to wait until you know what you are talking about before venturing to express an opinion.
There wasn’t much evidence of that in the meeting the other night.
 Steve Brown
Alice Springs

Simple solutions dangerous for by-laws

Sir,– The public discussion on the proposed new by-laws hosted by the Town Council was more interesting and far more disturbing than I had anticipated. 
It was also marred by one angry soul who tried to hijack the meeting to air his own race-based opinions.  My advice [to him] is write a letter to the editor.  If they think you have a point and can express it, the chances are they will publish it. 
It is the case that our CBD is beginning to resemble the streets and parks around the doss houses in any major city. 
The drinking, the derros and the humbug have to be addressed, and I congratulate council for having the courage to do so.  But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here.
My problem with some of the new by-laws is that by using inclusive and  yet vague language the effect, if not the intention, will be to make far too many of us at least technically in breach of these new by-laws. 
It’s easy to recognise obscene or slanderous graffiti and obscene or slanderous political sloganeering.  By all means get rid of both the obscene and the slanderous but stop there.
To go further would threaten our basic freedoms of speech and expression that must take precedence over vague and lazy wording whose primary function would seem to be to simply make council’s work easier. The argument that the authority conferred by a new by-law is needed coupled with a promise not to enforce the new by-law is a very curious argument. 
It does little to allay community fears of repressive legislation. 
Assuming good faith on the part of this council, the danger lies down the track. 
If passed as originally drafted, another council with a different agenda could easily enforce these by-laws to the letter and do real damage to the open, tolerant and vibrant political and social life that we have come to know and enjoy in Alice Springs.
Our current Town Council has taken on the task of updating our by-laws, and again I congratulate them.  But hopefully they will not be persuaded to settle for a seemingly simple but inherently dangerous option.
Meanwhile, I knew the Christmas tree  story was simply too good to end. 
The artificial Christmas tree designed in Mexico, built in China and sourced in the US would have to cross the Pacific too many times and would still need a power transformer to work.  That deal is off.
Now the preferred option is made in Victoria, comes within budget and carries its own solar receptors.  Those green-nosed reindeer can put away their torches and their GPSs.  The way to Alice will be solar lit.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Camel cull blunder

Sir,– I wonder who stands to gain this time using the ‘emissions trading scheme’ with the camel cull.
The government would see this as a safe alternative to lower emissions without losing votes and upsetting its constituents.
The far greater threat may be to our livestock industry which may have to be ‘culled’ as well if they can’t justify spending $19 million on camels alone.
The real impact will come when they finely realize what a blunder they committed after they slaughter the strongest genetic camel herds (dromedary) in the world.
And the expertise of breaking and training these animals, learnt from Indigenous people who worked with the original Afghans to open up this country that you now live in.
Is this the only educated solution our government can come up with, for all unwanted, uneconomic mistakes from the past?
And because going green has helped the big polluters with carbon credits and the camel cull will no doubt benefit them as well.
As for knocking down million of trees for power lines and asking people to plant more, many people must be asking why vote at all, when politicians play games like this.
Lobbying by these big companies must be transparent, or governments will fall hard.
Go on treating your voters like idiots and you will go down in history as the biggest idiot of all.
L E Butcher
Santa Teresa

Another power hike?

Sir,– Territorians face another power price hike by an incompetent Labor Government that has already slugged them an extra 25% over the next two years.
In a worrying sign, new Utilities Commissioner Andrew Reeves refused to rule out on radio [last Thursday] further hikes in the price of power.
When asked whether further price hikes were inevitable following another review of the power system, Mr Reeves responded: “Look, it’s really too early to say.”
The Government should immediately rule out any further increases in the cost of electricity to provide much-needed certainty to Territorians.
I was surprised to hear the new Utilities Commissioner flag another inquiry into the electricity system.
Andrew Reeves has already conducted one review in response to last year’s disastrous blackouts that was just released in April.
Given the seriousness of the crisis, it’s very surprising that investigation wasn’t full and comprehensive and that now he’s holding another inquiry.
The Government should also explain whether Mr Reeves will live in the Northern Territory during his tenure as Commissioner and also the size of his salary package.
Terry Mills
Opposition Leader

Kind strangers

Sir,– With help through your paper may I thank two young Alice people, Zoe and Garry, for the assistance they gave to my husband and I when our vehicle broke down on the lonely Lake Eyre Halligan Bay Road.
They were so caring -– very welcome indeed when we were very stressed.
Thank-you again, we hope our paths cross again.
Glenys Pontin

ADAM'S APPLE: Thumbs up for our own Big Things!

My first road trip was from Sydney to Brisbane. For a kid from the city, the one thousand kilometre trip driving by myself was a journey to rival Columbus.
It was a real coming of age moment. I had never stepped outside my state boundaries before (the ACT doesn’t really count) and I had never ever driven so far in my life.
 I prepared well though. I had made several mix tapes for the trip and had given the old XD Falcon its first service for perhaps a decade.
I loved every single part of that trip. The waking up early, the less than nutritious food at the roadhouses along the way and even the massive trucks thundering past me on the mountain descents all made for an excellent adventure.
When people get nostalgic they never seem to yearn for the absolutely perfect. You never hear people fondly recalling the time when they drove along a perfect stretch of road to a perfect bed and breakfast and for the whole two weeks nothing went wrong.
All the stories about great trips that I have ever heard involve some sort of trial.
“Your Father nearly killed us taking the bend too fast. Of course back then the highway wasn’t there. We had to take the road through the hills. I nearly puked about a half a dozen times. Great holiday.”
 The Pacific Highway from Sydney to Brisbane was one of those roads. Not exactly well maintained but full of adventure.
It is also littered with that great Australian tourism ploy, the Big Thing. An ostentatious representation of the region’s main industry as an enticement to get you to pull over, take a picture and buy lunch at the bistro.
The most wonderful of these is the Big Prawn at Ballina. It is a giant pink eyesore, magnificent in its hideousness.
It meant that the journey was almost at an end. It meant that there was a toilet nearby and it meant that I should pull over, take a picture and buy food at the bistro.
There is a tragic end to this tale. The owners of the Big Prawn have decided that it is too expensive to maintain and are going to demolish it. Upon reading this my heart sank. A little piece of my history will lie in the pink rubble of the Big Prawn’s demise.
I wonder if Alice Springs could do with a big thing. Let’s be honest, Uluru is almost 500 kilometres away. What about a big thing here in town. I was thinking perhaps a big VB can. We can make it hollow and fill it with actual cans. That way when it gets full we can put it on a train down to Adelaide for recycling and it can pay the clean up levy instead of the bottle shops footing the bill.
Just an idea.
Places without big things to put on a souvenir spoon have other iconic events to unite the community and bring in the tourists. Birdsville has its race, Darwin has the beer can regatta, Sydney has Mardi Gras and my hometown has the fortnightly dole night violence.
Alice Springs has an embarrassment of riches in the iconic class of event. But which of these events is the most iconic? The Camel Cup is pure Centralia, but there are other camel races around the world. The Bangtail Muster is all that’s good about Alice Springs yet it is really just a parade. So is Mardi Gras. In fact when you think about it, both the Bangtail Muster and Mardi Gras have boys dressed as cowboys featuring quite prominently.
Finke is great but there are other bigger off road races. None of which can boast a higher consumption of rum, I’ll grant you.
There are only a couple of sleeps until the Henley on Todd Regatta.
 The most wonderfully ridiculous reason for people coming together. The Henley on Todd is a beautifully irreverent piss take on our complete and utter lack of water and the fact that we couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss.
These iconic events are so engrained in the Alice Springs experience that we measure the passing of time by them. This will be my fifth Henley.
So this is a plea to those that think they might have had their fill of the Alice Springs social calendar. Invite some of your non-Territory friends, head down to the river, and watch some well respected members of the local community act like kids.
With increases in insurance premiums and the Australian dollar, these events are getting tougher to hold. God forbid any of them should go the way of the Big Prawn. 

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