March 18, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Flood mitigation on agenda. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Town Council will seek a meeting with the relevant Territory Minister to discuss flood mitigation for Alice Springs.
Alderman Samih Habib wants the meeting to be public and, at Monday night’s committee meeting, said it would be “a good time to ask the government to build a flood mitigation dam”.
Mayor Damien Ryan supported meeting with the Minister but does not want the occasion to be “a circus”.
The decision to seek the meeting arose from discussion of repairs to the Wills Terrace causeway.
Permanent repair of its uneven and broken concrete has been put on hold while council considers other options.
Technical Services Greg Buxton said these include a possible new bridge, similar to the Taffy Pick crossing at Stephens Road.
This crossing, often blamed for contributing to local flooding when it becomes blocked with debris and causes water to back up behind it, is able to stay open in a 1-in-10 flood.
He said the bridge at Wills Terrace, the major connection point for Eastside residents to the centre of town, should be able to stay open in a 1-in-20.
Ald Brendan Heenan suggested such a bridge would be “asking for trouble”, causing waters to back up and inundate St Philip’s College.
If council asked for anything it should ask for a proper bridge, “something decent”, he said.
Mr Buxton said a bridge similar to the Stott Terrace one, able to stay open in a 1-in-100, would become “an island sticking out in the middle of a harbour” – the surrounding roads would all be under water and “you wouldn’t get a car onto it”.
Ald Heenan accepted the explanation but reiterated the need for a solution.
At other locations in the river Mr Ryan wants council to work with traditional custodians to take causeways back to the river bed level and to deal with the build up of sand.

5 kids and no house. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Caption for front page photo: Carey Builders’ failure to complete their home in Albrecht Drive has imposed a big financial burden on this family of seven: parents Trent and Amanda Abbott and sons Tyson (12), Keenan (nearly 10), Harrison (7), Devlan (4) and Ashton (1).

Alice Springs home buyers facing big losses with the collapse of Carey Builders Pty Ltd are increasingly looking to the local franchise of Framptons First National for compensation.
The real estate firm had drawn up a scheme to provide land, finance, design and construction but it claims the choice of builders was always “the client’s decision”.
But the Alice News obtained a letter sent by Framptons to buyers at the start of the scheme, believed to involve 17 buyers, giving them a string of assurances for supervision and management of construction, and a successful completion (see below).
For this Framptons would charge a 3% fee. The Alice News put to Framptons that these commitments constitute a contract with the buyer, but Frampton’s Director (Sales) David Forrest said he would make no comment about that.
Framptons concede that the builders used in the scheme were more often than not Carey Builders, and contracts with them were signed in the Framptons office.
After the Alice Springs News reported exclusively in its online edition on Wednesday last week that Carey Builders had been put into liquidation, Mr Forrest did the round of local media, saying he was feeling “aggrieved and upset” about the developments, but stressing that buyers would need to deal with the liquidator.
He denied that Framptons had any responsibility for damages. 
The principal of Carey Builders, Randal Carey, did not respond to phone messages from the Alice News, which early and mid last year reported that he was an undischarged bankrupt, and that he had quoted on at least one contract a builder’s licence number that had expired.
We also reported a string of other concerns from buyers and sub-contractors.
Early this week one of the buyers, John Stafford, said other affected home buyers were welcome to contact him on 8952 4003 “to talk about a possible way forward”.
Mr Stafford says Carey Builders’ strategy was to collect advance payments and then not finish the work.
He says in his case the company collected 95% of the purchase price but failed to provide any fencing, landscaping, a roller door, and some painting and tiling. 
Roofing and minor works were not completed, and no garden shed supplied.
Mr Stafford says he is out of pocket to the tune of “$30,000 and counting”.
At one point the suppliers of windows, who had apparently not been paid by Mr Carey, took them out of the building.
So far as Mr Stafford knows, only three of 17 houses (in locations including North Edge on the North Stuart Highway, and Albrecht Drive on the western outskirts of the town) were completed.
Mr Stafford says he is aware that in November last year, an arrangement between Mr Carey, who was unlicensed, and a Darwin based builder under whose license he had been operating, came to an end, and Mr Carey was then operating illegally.
Mr Stafford says he informed the NT Government’s Building Advisory Services about these issues but nothing was apparently done.
The NT Government disclosed that it had received the first complaint about Mr Carey in December 2008 but had still not decided what to do.
And the NT, unlike some states, has no scheme to compensate home buyers falling victim to failing builders.
The Alice News asked Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton for a comment on this but he did not provide one.
Mr Stafford says Frampton New Homes gave undertakings to clients about the construction of homes.
In a letter on November 19, 2008 Framptons said: “It is still our job to monitor the construction of your home on your behalf so should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact me.”
Mr Stafford says when later he raised issues with Mr Forrest, he said: “It has nothing to do with us.”
Following media inquiries the Department of Lands and Planning said in a statement last week that  it “received a complaint in December 2008 against Carey Pty Ltd.
“The Department has now completed its investigations and is deciding the appropriate action to take with regard to the investigation.
“Until this decision is made it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The statement also says: “Carey Pty Ltd’s practitioner’s registration expired in January 2009. 
“An application by Mr Carey to the Building Practitioners Board for renewal was refused on 31 August 2009.
“The Territory Government is providing affected families with information to work out how to get their homes finished.
“Affected families should call the Department of Lands and Planning on 8999 8985.”
The department says it is providing advice on:-
• what is currently happening with the liquidation process;
• the role of the liquidator;
• assistance that can be obtained from other building professionals such as quantity surveyors;
• getting legal advice;
• the role of their lending institution, and
• how to progress the completion of their homes (the building certification process and how the certifier can assist, documentation needed before engaging a new builder, options to put to financial institutions if further finance is required).
Mr Forrest and Mr Doyle say their scheme had been set up “with the best intention in the world to get something that’s not or not easily available in Alice Springs”.
Before entering an association with Mr Carey they had ascertained that he was listed on the NT Government’s website as a licensed builder.
They had also called the Housing Industry Association to confirm that he was a member.
They say there was never any contract between Framptons and Carey Builders.
The conduct of Carey Builders was “utterly disappointing”.
Mr Forrest and fellow Framptons director Andrew Doyle say they want to help the affected home buyers, but not having been party to any contract with Carey Builders, they don’t know the situation.
“[We are] concerned to learn of the recent liquidation of Carey Builders Pty Ltd, which a number of families have chosen to construct their home, designed with the assistance of Frampton New Homes.
“Framptons understands that there are a limited number of uncompleted houses, which will now be required to be dealt with by the liquidator where Carey Builders Pty Ltd was still the builder.
“We expect the liquidator will contact the owners to advise proposals going forward.
“Naturally, this will be a matter between the liquidator and the owners depending on the stage to which the construction of the dwelling has been completed.
“Notwithstanding the liquidation of Carey Builders Pty Ltd, Framptons continues to have great faith in the building and construction industry in Alice Springs which is well-placed to drive sustainable and secure growth in the housing industry.”
Late last week Framptons wrote to affected buyers, ostensibly to express concern, but stressing that Careys were “your builder,” and offering no compensation.
The letter said in part: “Like you Framptons is very distressed to learn about the recent liquidation of your builder.
“We appreciate the uncertainty the recent events have created, and offer to make ourselves available to discuss ways in which we may be able to assist you.
“Leading up to the liquidation of Carey Builders Pty Ltd it has recently been difficult to monitor the situation with the builder.
“Now that the liquidator has been appointed, we expect they will contact you in due course, as party to the building contract for the constrution of your house.
“If we can be of assistance in that process, or in any other way regarding the completion of your home, please contact [us] to arrange a convenient time to discuss those matters.
“David Frost and Andrew Doyle.”
The Australian Securities & Investments Commission website now lists Carey Builders Pty Ltd as being “under external administration and / or controller appointed”.
Three documents are quoted: “Notification of Appointment of Liquidator By The Court” and “Notification of Making of Winding Up Order” (both dated March 3) and “Report as to Affairs Regarding Court Winding Up” (March 9).

What Framptons promised ...

The letter from Framptons says “the total quote for the new home [will include a] commission for Framptons to oversee the entire project from start to finish”.
The real estate agency says it is providing this service because of the “obvious need for a link between the design process and the builders in this area.
“This process will allow a smooth transformation from sketch to concept through to design and construction of your new home.”
Framptons says it has a “good supply of land [to] suit all budgets and styles.
“All communications between the builder and you will go through the Framptons representative to ensure that variations to the contract forms are completed and costed by the builder for any charges over and above the agreed contract price.
“Framptons will inspect the building regularly during construction to ensure quality and accuracy are maintained.
“They will be there at progress inspections with the builder and lender to once again ensure your expectations are met. The final installment is paid on completion.
“Framptions will ensure that the house is not signed off as completed until you are totally satisfied with the result.”

Offensive drinkers can run but they can’t hide. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Membership of the Alice Springs Licensees Alcohol Accord now extends to roadhouses north of the town, Aileron, Ti Tree and Wycliffe Well, private clubs like the Police and Prisoner Officers Clubs, and to bottleshops like Woolworths Liquor and Heavitree Gap Store.
In all there are 28 signed up licensed premises who are members of the accord.
And the model has been taken up by Tennant Creek, with 13 venues creating their own accord, which again includes roadhouses – Threeways, Wauchope Hotel and Wycliffe Well.
The accords aim to promote “high standards of behaviour in and around licensed premises”.
To date the main way of doing that is through the threat and sometimes imposition of of “common barrings” – serious contravention of standards in one venue will lead to barring from all accord member venues, for one year or one year renewable.
Launched in October last year, the Alice accord has so far imposed common barring on just two people, both for being underage and on licensed premises. The barrings are for one year following their 18th birthday.
The accord was to meet again yesterday (Wednesday, after the Alice News had gone to press) to consider a further three common barrings, this time for one underage on New Year’s Eve (for which, as advertised at the time, a double penalty applies), one glassing and one other serious assault. 
There is CCTV evidence of the assaults, says Chris Vaughan, Bojangles’ licensee and chair of the accord.
All licensed venues trading after 1am are required to have CCTV and he says some other venues have installed CCTV anyway to assist in their management.
In the glassing incident, a person has yet to be charged, while the other assault charge is still before the court.
Though he is not yet convicted, Mr Vaughan says accord members are satisfied that this person is someone they don’t want in their venues and have proposed a barring of five years.
While the accord members are judge, jury and exceutioner, there are some formalities that go with the process.
Nominations for common barring are voted on.
The nominated people then receive “paperwork” by registered mail.
They have seven days to appeal, in person or in writing. 
To date none have appeared in person but two have sent written appeals against length of barring while also apologising for their behavior.
For a renewable common barring, there is also a right of appeal at the end of each year.
Mr Vaughan does not believe the system is open to abuse: over zealous security guards, for instance, can’t impose a barring; only a licensee can and it must be accompanied by the formalities outlined.
Any issue that a security guard may have with a patron’s behaviour must be recorded in their diary, a formal document, and referred to the licensee.
A licensee also cannot vote on a barring when the offence has occurred in his or her own venue and a quorum of one third of accord members is required to vote on a barring.
In some cases, the Alice News asked, could not the venue’s own behaviour be called into question?
Isn’t it possible, even likely that a person committing an assault in or around the licensed premises has been served too much to drink?
“How much is too much?” asks Mr Vaughan.
“One drink for some people is too much.
“We all metabolise alcohol differently.”
The affect of the barring, or its threat, is to put the onus on the drinker to monitor their own behaviour.
Mr Vaughan says it is “still early days” to claim an improvement in behaviour but the accord has created a “higher degree of accountability”.
The grounds for common barrings are all founded on criminal offences. An accord publicity campaign has dubbed them the “7 sins” that can be committed in and around licensed premises:
• being underage;
• failing to quit the venue;
• having illicit drugs in the venue;
• assaulting staff or patrons;
• criminal damage;
• drink spiking;
• breaching a domestic violence order.

Two for Country Liberals in Lingiari vs Snowdon.

The Country Liberals will field two candidates in Lingiari to fight sitting member Warren Snowdon’s two decade hold on federal representation.
The candidates are Top End-based lawyer Wayne Connop and Central Australian traditional owner Leo Abbott.
According to the party’s media release, Mr Connop is well known for his work as a lawyer in the Katherine area and was the Country Liberals’ candidate for Daly at the 2008 Territory election.
Mr Abbott is a traditional owner of Ilpurla, about 280km south of Alice Springs, as well as Wallace Rockhole. 
He was active in the campaign against Mr Snowdon in the last federal election. 
The media release says it is believed to be the first time two Indigenous candidates will contest a Federal electorate on a shared ticket.
Country Liberals President, Rick Setter, said: “Labor’s held Lingiari since it was formed in 2001, and there’s a real mood for change in the community.
“The sitting Member’s had more than 20 years to make a difference, and yet conditions for people in Lingiari have got worse, not better.”
Mr Setter said key issues in the campaign would be service delivery, economic growth, law and order and housing.
“These are all areas in which the Federal Labor Government’s failed to deliver.”
Mr Setter said the Country Liberals would also campaign on Labor’s mishandling of the Federal Intervention. 
“Federal Labor won office claiming it supported the intervention, but since 2007 it’s done nothing but roll back the work done by the previous Government to improve safety in remote communities.
“The Country Liberals will govern for all Territorians, whether they live in one of the major centres or the bush.”

A new take on the Namatjira story. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Albert Namatjira did not want to become an Australian citizen: he and his mentor Rex Battarbee protested the move, fearing that it would place intolerable pressures on him.
This is the kind of detail, going against the popular understanding of the artist’s life, that Big hART is working with, in collaboration with Namatjira’s descendants, to develop its new production, titled simply Namatjira.
Big hART is an “arts and social change company”, chiefly known to Alice Springs through its Ngapartji Ngapartji project.
The theatrical work Namatjira won’t be any kind of digest of already-recorded biographical detail and it won’t be about “guilt or blame”, says writer and co-director, Scott Rankin.
Rather it will be an exploration of the story – the life, art and legacy of “a remarkable entrepreneur” – and the way in which that story contributes to understanding the cultural relationships between today’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. 
Rankin sees in Namatjira a man able to recognise an opportunity in the new situation in which he found himself and to run with it, winning national and international acclaim for his landscape painting, responding to his fame with dignity, taking his family with him – to the extent that he was allowed to by the policies of the day.
“He supported 600 people – that makes him 300 times better than me!” says Rankin.
The sense of tragedy around Namatjira’s death, a few months after his gaol sentence for supplying alcohol to a countryman, has obscured the appreciation of his “entrepreneurial spirit” which Rankin sees as resonating with the language of contemporary Cape York Indigenous leader Noel Pearson – the way Pearson urges his people “to take hold of their destiny in the place where they are now”.
Trevor Jamieson will play Namatjira in the production, excerpts of which will be presented in Alice Springs in August before going on to Belvoir Street Theatre in Sydney in September.
He speaks feelingly of the way the Western Arrernte artist struggled between two worlds – “his traditional connection to family and culture and the arts world”.
“He was the first person who started that process – I’m still trying to master it.”
Jamieson’s stage career took off 17 years ago when he was cast as the lead character, Willie, in the original Black Swan Theatre production of Bran Nue Dae, though he says his performance training started well before that – as a baby, watching his grandparents doing traditional dancing in the bush.
His central role in Big hART’s Ngapartji Ngapartji, which had two incarnations in Alice in 2006 and 2008, at either end of triumphant interstate seasons, “put my profile up where I wanted it to be”, he says.
In working with Namatjira’s descendants he has sensed “the DNA of the art style he put out there – it still lives, you can feel it coming here”.
He has also seen “the nobility” and “the sadness about the way he was crucified”.
“He couldn’t win – as soon as he became a citizen, the government taxed him for the paintings he’d done before he became a citizen.
“He tried to buy land to raise cattle, to set his family up, but he wasn’t allowed to.
“The government gave him citizenship but not his wife and sons and daughters. It was hard for him to see the rest of the family not able to follow him.”
Working with the descendants is one way of restoring some justice to him and to them, says Jamieson.
But the production must go beyond anger and the injustices, he says. 
He wants to tell the story in such a way that Australians feel “we are all brothers and sisters under the sun”, to create theatre that gives “a bit more understanding of Aboriginal Australia, understanding the beauty of what they’ve got”.
That understanding is growing, he says.
“In the past five years there’s been huge awareness, people are wanting more, they are starting to see Aboriginal stories like Rabbit Proof Fence and Bran Nue Dae as part of the Australian identity.
“It’s wonderful, it’s what we’ve been trying to do.
“These stories belong to all of us – we’ve become closer to one another.”
That’s what Rankin also sensed about the Namatjira story.
“In Ngapartji Ngapartji, in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, when we’d introduce the artist Elton Wirri as a descendant of Namatjira there’d be an intake of breath – I realised there was a deep recognition of the Namatjira story, of its tragedy and its wonderful elements.
“All the Australians I know are longing for something better to develop between the two cultures,” he says.
There’s evidence that that is happening.
For example, in 1988 Namatjira was the only Indigenous person in a list of 200 eminent Australians promulgated as part of the bicentenary celebrations, says Rankin – such under-representation of Indigenous Australians would be unthinkable now, little more than two decades on.
Big hART is also striving to honour Namatjira’s art and artistic legacy.
A collaboration with Ngurratjuta’s Many Hands Art Centre will see an exhibition of the Hermannsburg School artists coinciding with the production, but they also want to capture something of the painting process in the theatrical production.
Namatjira descendants, artists Elton Wirri and Kevin Namatjira, willl create works live on stage.
The creative development the whole Big hART team is doing now includes painting workshops with the two artists as tutors, joined also by their relative, the painter Gloria Paanka. 
“Theatre is ephemeral,” says Rankin, “you rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, then you’re on stage and it’s gone.
“With painting, there’s this longer, slower process that produces something that lasts – combining the two forms is unusual.
“How do you weave the energy and movement of an artist like Trevor with the stillness of artists like Elton or Kevin?”
Someone who’ll be watching the process closely is Derek Lynch, who’ll play a number of roles of people present in the life of the young Namatjira. 
The theatrical aspirations of this young man seem boundless – he sings, dances, acts, but also wants to write and direct. He has an easy contact with people and a winning, slightly wicked, smile.
This is the second Big hART production he’s been involved with, having played alongside his mentor Jamieson in Nyuntu Ngali, written and directed by Rankin and co-produced by Windmill Theatre in Adelaide.
A well attended season in Adelaide last year will be followed a second season in Sydney, with the Sydney Theatre Company, mid this year.
Lynch was born in Alice Springs and spent his early childhood at Old Timers town camp.
He began primary school at Yipirinya, and sometimes went to school in Finke, before switching to Gillen Primary.
“I wanted to go to mainstream school,” he says. 
“I was 10 years old. It was my decision.”
In his first four years of secondary school at Yirara College he started to develop his music and performing skills.
A highlight came in the year 2000 when he was one of the young Territorians to take part in the Qantas commemorative CD recording, The Spirit of Australia.
He completed high school at Adelaide’s Woodville High, in the Wiltja program for Anangu students (Lynch is a Yankunytjatjara man).
“I wanted to go to school in the city, to do something artistic, find myself in the creative side, find what I can do in myself.”
While at Woodville, he started doing hip hop and contemporary dance.
After a year off from study, he spent two years at Adelaide University’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies and Music, at the same time taking up a traineeship in arts administration with Carclew Youth Arts, which he completed in May last year.
He credits this traineeship in particular with giving him the confidence to break through as a performer.
“I had the performance in me but something was missing – the traineeship filled in the gap.
“I wanted to learn how art works, from the creative development of a production to stage management, to know how to talk to people in the arts.”
Although his main focus was working with Carclew on the APY Lands “with the elders, building the confidence in young people about what they want to do in life”, a critical moment came with his participation in the 2008 Art at the Heart regional arts conference in Alice Springs.
Here he saw Jamieson perform in Ngapartji Ngapartji: “I was inspired.”
He didn’t know then that Jamieson was already aware of him from a video clip circulated by Carclew.
The Nyuntu Ngali role followed.
Life is fluid at the moment, Lynch is going where the opportunities take him. If there’s a base it’s in Adelaide but the thought of coming back to Alice is always in the back of his mind: “This is my home, my country, I was born here, raised here, my family is all here.”
What do family and friends say about what he’s doing now?
“They wouldn’t believe me unless they saw me doing it.”
In August they’ll have the chance – they’ll see Lynch following in Namatjira’s footsteps.

Tourism in Centre steady as she goes. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Tourism numbers and income in The Centre have remained steady in the wake of the global recession, unlike other Australian destinations where significant drops have occurred.
“We have a vibrant product,” says Peter Grigg (pictured), the general manager of Tourism Central Australia (TCA).
“We’re still the flavour of the month.”
He says TCA’s “grass roots marketing” is constantly adjusting to new challenges, from changes in caravan travel, flying the flag at consumer shows, new 4x4 trends and getting back school trips: “Tourism in The Alice was built on busloads of kids coming to town on educational trips.”
He says the resilience of international tourism in The Centre is the result of a greater mix of nations coming here: “Cairns was brought to its knees over night when the Japanese stopped coming,” says Mr Grigg.
Territory-wide, according to Tourism Minister Malarndirri McCarthy, 336,000 international visitors came during 2009 – an increase of 2.6%, despite the global economic downturn.
She quotes the International Visitor Survey, which says visitor nights in the NT increased by 12.9% and visitor expenditure grew by 7.1%.
“This means people are staying longer and spending, on average, $88 more.
“The Territory has also seen strong growth from the emerging French tourism market with visits up by 37.1% assisted by more 15-29 year old travellers.
“At the same time, our largest international market, the United Kingdom grew by 9.8% due to good flight deals and sales available throughout the year.”
Mr Grigg says the demise of the Tiger flight to Adelaide and Virgin’s by-passing Alice and flying to Ayers Rock Resort direct may not be all bad news.
Passenger numbers were insufficient to maintain the Adelaide run, but Tiger’s Melbourne service is sound.
“There are mixed emotions from locals, another example of flying over the top,” says Mr Grigg, “but it’s as feasible to do a fly-drive visit to The Centre from the Ayers Rock Resort as it is from The Alice.”
He says every month three car transporters ferry hire cars from Ayers Rock Resort back to Alice.
“It costs heaps.”
He says a couple of tour companies are now gearing up to hire these vehicle out at The Rock for roundtrips to Alice and other destinations in The Centre.
Virgin’s flights to The Rock are expected to bring 45,000 people a year into the region, a substantial new market.
Mr Grigg is working hard to put a good spin on strategies for coping with anti-social behaviour and violence in the town centre.
A new campaign will tell visitors “when you’re out and about, take a friend along.
“Alice is best enjoyed with a mate.”
Tour operators returning to town late are encouraged not to drop their visitors in the middle of town, but to take them to their accommodation.
“It’s a matter of duty of care,” says Mr Grigg.
Well-lit areas with public phones will be provided near smaller accommodation venues so people don’t need to wait for taxis in the dark.
Mr Grigg says caravan parks were booked out last year during the peak season of July and August.
There is a significant change in that market: people are increasingly “camping on the road” and manufacturers take this into account, with showers and toilets now fitted also in small “pop-up” caravans.
He says the length of stay of caravan travellers has remained “about the same, seven to eight days.
“They’re out bush for five days, and two nights in caravan parks, shopping in town, recharging batteries, swimming in the pool.
“We’re not losing them from the region, but they’re more selective about what they are spending money on.
“We expected a substantial downturn from 2008 but that did not eventuate.”
Mr Grigg says smaller operators – the mum and dad style businesses – did better than large operators headquartered on the eastern seaboard.
He says the motel industry has been adjusting to the demand from Federal Intervention staff for longer term accommodation.
That, and the loss of the Melanka beds, has created some bottlenecks, but the operators are coping by persuading clients to look at other booking dates.
“They still get them in but it might not be at the preferred accommodation, but at a similar one.”

Nightmare on Renner Street. Naturally with ALEX NELSON.

One effect of pesticide overuse is the rise of resistance to chemicals by surviving populations of targeted pest species; a good example is spider mite (two-spotted mites).
Spider mites are highly resistant to most pesticides; indeed, chemicals aid their survival by killing their predators, and by irritating them so that they move onto other plants and thus spread the infestations.
They prefer warm dry conditions but do not survive outside of urban conditions in Central Australia. They are a major pest of gardens in Alice Springs.
These near-microscopic arachnids (not insects) feed on the chlorophyll of plants’ leaves.
Chlorophyll is the green chemical which plants need to manufacture sugars, on which almost all life on Earth depends – it also liberates oxygen into our atmosphere.
Spider mites gather on the lower surfaces of leaves and on growing shoots, where they suck chlorophyll out of the plant tissues.
This feeding activity reveals their presence, as foliage becomes mottled and yellow in appearance, and plants seem listless and stressed.
Close inspection reveals mats of fine webbing under the leaves, and the mites can just be seen with good vision. Unchecked infestations kill or stunt most plants.
I first encountered spider mites when I moved into town in 1989 and found they were uncontrollable with chemicals.
In 1993 I decided to try biological control, ordering predatory mites from interstate. I released these into my unit’s small garden and within a fortnight gained 100% control – the spider mites disappeared for the rest of the summer.
However, the predatory mites died out – the next summer the spider mites returned.
Last year at my current address in Renner Street I noticed severe infestations of spider mites attacking numerous plants, including shrubs and trees, so again I ordered predatory mites which I released into the garden. Again they did the trick, eliminating the spider mites without using any chemicals, and at little cost.
But now another garden nemesis made its presence felt – mealybugs. Mealybugs are soft, white sap-sucking creatures that infest gardens in town (they too are restricted to urban areas).
They can be controlled with some pesticides but quickly re-establish because they persist in neglected gardens, street trees and weeds in laneways. Ants also harbour them on plant roots.
Late last year an extremely heavy infestation developed on some sunflowers in the backyard – the plants appeared as if covered in snow.
Mealybugs exude honeydew which attracts other insects that feed on it –notably adult fruit-flies.
Mealybugs have no effective natural predators in the Alice so I ordered a native non-local ladybird beetle, Cryptolaemus species, to attempt biological control. I released about 40 beetles into the sunflowers on January 14.
Initially not much happened but suddenly the beetles’ numbers exploded; by end of February the mealybugs were gone.
It’s the beetle larvae that do the damage – these tiny monsters look superficially like mealybugs but grow much larger and crawl quickly as they hunt and devour their prey.
The beetles have moved onto other mealybug-infested plants in the garden. I intended to spread them onto infested weeds in a laneway, until I found some already attacking mealybugs on plants 50 metres away.
It’s sporadic at present, as there are mealybug infestations on plants closer to my home unaffected by the predatory beetles. However, seasonal conditions are ideal for the beetles so hopefully they will increase and spread over the next few weeks. Maybe soon these little monsters will molest mealybugs in a garden near you.
Predatory mites and Cryptolaemus beetles are part of a range of commercially available predators of horticultural pests that are used in agriculture in Integrated Pest Control (IPC) programs. It’s very effective in reducing dependency on pesticides. Hmm, now let’s see, what can I do about buffel grass?

Musical Yin Yang  is coming. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

When you don’t hear some kind of new music each week, it feels as though your finger moves slightly from the pulse, your train is late for work.
And witnessing something new live is the only true way to gauge its new energy levels.
Thankfully on the March 28, Olive Pink will offer up Zulya and the Children of the Underground, a show promising the perfect hangover cure for Triple J’s One Night Stand the night before at Traeger Park (a drug and alcohol free event, by the way).
The Melbourne-based group  has been around for a long time but appear to have gone relatively unnoticed by a lot of local music enthusiasts.
The band bestows a festivity of sounds and, multi-layered like babushka dolls, this is going to be an accented rhythm caravan that crosses over many musical borders, and traverses vastly different soundscapes.
It’s not really the kind of music played on ipods by people running on treadmills. 
There are tempo changes both abrupt and subtle. Zulya’s voice moves between haunting and jovial. A soulfully rich texture of verse and sound co-exists.
In Europe over the past years there has been a massive surge in gypsy-affiliated music, with this movement washing up on our shores.  Cities like Melbourne have a vibrant swell of musical acts riding the crest of this wave – Vulgagrad,  The Tango Saloon and the Barons of Tang to name a handful.
All of these groups have very different musical and lyrical interpretations of this expanding genre, but all brandish deep brass and string tones with that omnipresent piano accordion sometimes operating as a kind of back up vocalist.
The Children of the Underground draw their influences from Zulya’s birthplace – Tatarstan in central Russia.
Their most recent album, 3 Nights (2007), won a prestigious ARIA award for the best world music album in Australia and   spent four months in the top 10 of the European World Music Charts in 2007.
The only other Australian album to come close to that was their previous, The Waltz of Emptiness.
So on days 27 and 28 of this month you’ll have a pop cultural Yin Yang solution to the weekend. 

ADAM'S APPLE: Cricket: it just ain’t American.

About forty years ago, Kerry Packer and a few of his mates sat around a table having a meal.
You can only imagine it as a bacchanalian version of the last supper, a scene not out of place in a Francis Ford Coppola film. The larger than life, gregarious Packer lording over his disciples, eating, drinking and talking about the issues of the world in a manner only people of wealth can.
At a perfectly timed moment during the meal, the big, brash ruddy faced king of all he purveys, clears his throat and says, “I reckon there’s a quid to be made out of this cricket caper.”  Like so many revolutionary ideas, World Series Cricket was born bloodless and in the backrooms.
For those of us who grew up with such cricketers as Bruce Yardley and Kim Hughes, cricket was about engrossing battles punctuated with moments of excitement. World Series Cricket made it a bit more about the spectacle with the likes of Viv Richards and Jeff Thompson.
The new Twenty 20 game is for some less about cricket and more like a night in front of a Schwarzenegger movie. In the present, cricket, like life, is all meant to be action packed.
For those who haven’t followed the Indian Premier League cricket, I have some news for you. It is about to take over the world.
If World Series Cricket was designed to thrill, the Twenty 20 format of the Indian Premier League was scientifically formulated to give the crowd an electric shock.
Three hours, 350 runs and more sixes than Shane Warne has sent text messages, that’s the IPL.
Perhaps for the conservative and traditional Australian cricket fan, the amount of support and the amount of money circulating through the IPL might seem absurd.
The first sign of the amount of rupees in the IPL is the fact that the teams are referred to as franchises. One franchise was purchased for US$93 million.
Players are paid millions each 45 day season and television rights have peaked in the tens of millions.
Twenty 20, a game which began as a slap and tickle charity concept, is really, really big business.
While the governing bodies of the game initially tried to dictate terms to the IPL, now a test or one day series between two countries would be doomed if it was scheduled in conflict with the IPL season.
Last year, the second season of the league had to be played in South Africa due to security fears surrounding the Indian general election. Without the massive home crowds a population of a billion people can provide, the IPL still turned a massive profit from advertising and television revenues.
The question on every pundit’s mind: “Is there anything that can stop the IPL express train?”
I think there is. In early January the chairman of the IPL Lalit Modi announced that the IPL was looking into holding some of their games in America.
It is a bold move from an organisation that so far has seen success in every venture in which it has endeavoured. America does have the largest population of Indian, Pakistani, English and West Indian ex-pats in the world so perhaps there is a market for Twenty 20 cricket. But I doubt the IPL will be keen on sufficing themselves with people from old markets. They’re much more ambitious than that.
And it is here that I think the IPL will fundamentally fail. America will never take to cricket. Never.
They may watch cricket. They may even go to a Twenty 20 game. But they will never take our national sport to their hearts. Not because they have short attention spans or because they lack the ability to understand the nuances of the game. Americans will never take to cricket because Americans love being American.
The Americans here in Alice Springs are a rare breed. While our American neighbours take an active interest in the goings on around the world, many of their country men and women couldn’t identify Belgium, the Northern Territory or even Afghanistan on a map.
We Australians often make the mistake of seeing that sort of ignorance as stupidity. It isn’t. The reason many Americans know so little about the world is because they know so much about being American. 
Think about it. American students can tell you about Jefferson and about Roosevelt but our kids won’t know much about Stanley Bruce. In fact the only thing an Australian kid might tell you about Sir William McMahon is that his son married Danni Minogue and played a demon on the hit TV series, Charmed.
For those who love it, cricket is a wonderful game. But it isn’t American football. It isn’t basketball. It especially isn’t baseball. It just isn’t American.

LETTERS: Shame job: MLA Giles on attack over public housing.

Sir – I have written to the Minister for Housing, Chris Burns, regarding Territory Housing properties.
The first house of concern is 62 Albrecht Dr, Larapinta.
This is a property that has appeared vacant for well over two months. It shouldn’t be too hard but could someone please repair the property and get it ready for another tenant and is it possible that the four foot grass that surrounds the property could be mowed at least.
The second house is one I have previously corresponded about on 22 Feb – 18 Heidenreich Ct, Larapinta, vacant since before Christmas.
I asked if the dumped mattresses which were mouldy and sitting in the front drive could be removed along with the rubbish and the grasses mowed, perhaps even getting the property ready for another tenant.
After much time and apparent trouble (with the Health Department being called in) the mouldy mattresses have been removed.  Would it be too much to ask if the rubbish could also be removed and the grass tidied up and perhaps the house become available for someone on the waiting list? 
I know my request for tidy yards sounds silly but it is the broken window policy.
If you let the Territory Housing properties, especially the dozens and dozens of vacant ones get overgrown, rubbish everywhere, dustbowls in the front yards, smashed windows or boarded up windows then it brings the neighbourhood down and everyone treats the area poorly.
Territory Housing policies are hurting the electorate of Braitling and town of Alice Springs.
Meanwhile, Indigenous Territorians in remote communities are being deceived as a result of the continued downgrading of the Strategic Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP).
The program commenced with a plan to build 750 new houses, knock down and rebuild 230 derelict houses and refurbish 2500 houses.
But because of massive cost blow-outs the program’s been revised so that the definition of ‘new houses’ actually includes one bedroom units.
It has also been revealed that any house ear-marked for refurbishment that costs $100,000 plus will be classified as a rebuild – effectively removing the need to rebuild 230 existing houses.
It would seem that it is actually in the government’s interest to re-classify a house that would have required an $80,000 refurbishment to the ‘rebuilt’ category through a cost escalation of $20,000 to avoid building a new house under the ‘rebuild’ scheme.
Considering the estimated average cost of a ‘house’ is $450,000 – including one bedroom units and duplexes and excluding the cost of land – it is surely in the government’s interest not to have to build a new home, especially on the back of reports that three or four bedroom houses can cost up to $1m in some locations.
This government is shifting money from costly re-builds to finance smaller houses less suited to the needs of Aboriginal people and removing the infrastructure component out of the project’s scope as a result of the cost blow-outs in consultation and administration.
Adam Giles
MLA for Braitling

The first language

Sir – In response to Hal Duell (Letters, March 11) while I agree with his final point about encouraging and supporting children to go to school, I take issue with his earlier comments regarding the acquisition of English for Indigenous children.
What many people fail to realise about bi-lingual education is that it is two-way learning. It is not in fact about teaching the ‘native’ language in school but instead is about allowing Indigenous children the same conditions that English speaking students take for granted in this country – the right and ability  to use their first language for cognitive purposes, to undertake the complex task of learning.
It is not purely about keeping language and culture strong in the home community, it is about not disadvantaging these students further by placing them at a linguistic disadvantage at school.
There is ample evidence in Australia, as well as globally, to suggest that for non-English speaking students to develop Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency a bi-lingual approach is what is needed.
Lisa Hall
Alice Springs

A foreign language

Sir – In reply to Hal Duell (Letters, March 11), yes, the optimum time to become bilingual is indeed in early childhood, and I am not suggesting that English not be taught in the early years.
It should be taught, but it should be taught just as any foreign language is taught, by a teacher teaching in the children’s own language.
That would surely be better than having the English-speaking teacher trying to teach English in English to children who don’t understand English.
Later on, when the children do understand some English, the teaching can be in English for subjects for which this is more appropriate.
Mr Duell says “it’s important to remember that Indigenous Australians are not Eskimos.”  I guess his idea is that this means that teaching in the national language from the start won’t be such a handicap for the Indigenous Australians as it is for the Indigenous Canadians. But how would he know that?
It might be that it’s a greater handicap, for all he knows (and for all I know). Really, I’d expect the situations to be very similar for both.
Mr Duell is worried about public criticism of the first-four-hours-in-English rule discouraging parents from sending their children to school.
 I think he should be more worried about parents not sending their children to school because the children are unhappy sitting in school all day with a stranger talking at them in a strange language.
Gavan Breen
Alice Springs

Mind your Ps and Qs

Sir – It was with dismay that I read what you made of my letter in reply to Frank Baarda and Gavan Breen.
I appreciate that as editors you sometimes have to edit for brevity.
 In this case a respectfully worded request containing both ‘implore’ and ‘please’ was turned into an abrupt demand. 
Abrupt demands are best kept for Warren Snowdon as in, Resign Warren!  You’re useless!
And before you go, dump Kevin and give us Julia.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs
ED – Brevity was our only concern as we were pressed for space in the issue; we felt the edits did not change the meaning.


Sir – Commiserations for our freshly imaged local MHR: He convened  anti NT nuclear dump protest meetings as our opposition MHR , now he is dumping his party hack pro dump vote from his big fat office.
Howard Davies
Alice Springs

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