September 9, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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CBD mostly 5 storeys

Another year in the life of our tired town centre, another report, or two.
These, if adopted, would see building height limits go to five storeys throughout most of the “central activity district” (CAD), incorporating up to 1,273 dwellings, a mix of one to three bedroom apartments, some of them “affordable housing”.
The reports have been prepared by the Melbourne-based Design Urban Pty Ltd, the same company that undertook the urban design audit of the Alice Springs released in August last year.
One, the Built Form Guidelines, is dated November 2009; the other, the Residential Capacity Report, is dated January 2010.
The Residential Capacity Report makes clear it was commissioned following “a number of landowner enquiries regarding mixing of land use to include residential land use and the possible relaxation of the current three storey height limit over the CAD”.
Both documents were posted on the government’s Future Alice website last Friday and are open to public comment until October 1 –  less than one month away. They are part of a government process that started with the Planning for the Future Forum of June, 2008. Since then there have been:-
• a consultancy led by Professor Paul Carter, the final report of which has never been released, although a limited report, titled the Alice Springs CBD Revitalisation Design Options Framework, finally was;
• an action plan and creation of a steering committee to implement it, co-chaired by Mayor Damien Ryan and Minister for Central Australia, Karl Hampton, which has never reported to the public;
• the above-mentioned urban design audit;
• the announcement of $5m for revitalisation of the CBD, which has yet to be released but watch this Araluen by-election space;
• four proposed, rather generally-termed projects on which to spend the $5m;
• conditional approval of an “exceptional development permit” for a mixed residential and tourist  development on the old Melanka site, 15% of which will go to five storeys (the media release announcing the approval does not say what percentage will go over three storeys);
• and planning scheme amendments which paved the way for residential development on AZRI land south of the Gap.  
The essence of the Built Form Guidelines is to “require buildings to contribute to an overall townscape”, taking the planning emphasis from land use control to built form control.
This does not mean prescribing their design, but rather having them observe key principles, including zero setback from the front boundary of the property and 80% active frontages, limiting the extent of blank walls onto the public realm.
There is no argument advanced around the necessity of going to five storeys and indeed it seems that an in principle limit to three storeys will be retained, enforced in some places to conserve certain key vistas, but elsewhere “relaxed” if conditions are met.
These include avoiding heritage buildings and areas, but how they will be ‘avoided’ is not spelt out.
Another requirement is that an equivalent of 20% of the area built above the 3rd storey must be built as affordable housing, or an equivalent financial contribution made so that this may be built on other sites within the CAD.
Buildings should also be designed to ensure that neighbouring buildings are able to receive sufficient sunshine for potential solar hot water or solar energy production.
Roofs, which are highly visible from surrounding hills, should receive special attention – roof gardens and terraces could be considered.
At ground level no more than 70% of the building frontage should be glazing – a shopping mall aesthetic that is “inappropriate” for a town centre.
Walking is envisaged as the main mode of travel – “a feature of all successful towns”.
“The quality of the pedestrian experience has been shown to improve the overall economic performance of town centres and result in greater social activity,” according to the guidelines.
“Streets are the most important spaces in Alice Springs, and all development should support quality in streets and support pedestrians as a priority.”
Streets should, of course, have seating, weather protection, more trees and so on. (How many more times and by how many more sources will this be said before we actually get some?)
There should also be safe and regular crossing opportunities. The sites for these are identified.
The guidelines propose prohibiting large car parks in front of buildings in the CAD, accommodating larger public parking areas “intra-block” (behind active frontages), including in multi-storey carparks. It’s envisaged this will bring  additional parking capacity to a total of 6,220 parking spaces.
“Key future links” are to be “strengthened and maintained”.
These are specified: the thoroughfare alongside the Post Office, between Parsons Street and the carpark, and the one between Todd Mall and Hartley Street. (Gone is the more ambitious idea of an east-west corridor, from the river to the western edge of the CAD.) 
The Residential Capacity Report suggests that the government and Town Council develop housing diversity targets and affordable housing policies for the CAD, linked to relaxing height limits.
The benefits of having people live in the town centre are numerous, says the report, and include improved safety, especially at night, and improved economic performance as the CAD becomes more active and vibrant, a focus of community life.
Again in this report there is no discussion of the merits of going to five storeys, except as a trade-off for other possible benefits.
The report identifies the sites most suitable for redevelopment, with retail and offices at ground floor and residential storeys above.
These include:-
• the western side of Railway Terrace, from Stott Terrace to Parsons Street, maximum three storeys;
• much of the block containing the Westpoint building, opposite Billygoat Hill (currently undergoing renovation) and the Kmart carpark (bought by Yeperenye Pty Ltd in June), a mix of five and three storeys;
• much of the block occupied by Coles and Telstra, five storeys;
• the Civic Centre carpark (pictured), facing Todd River and Annie Meyer Hill, maximum three storeys (potentially a significant revenue earner for the Town Council, as would be the next example);
• significant parts of the block occupied by the council-owned carpark at one end and the Post Office at the other, five storeys.
A benefit of this last would be the creation of a new urban park, in the area directly behind Adelaide House extending through to Hartley Street.
It is envisaged that parking on this site will be generally below ground. Nowhere in the report is flood risk addressed.
Interestingly, the development sketched in this proposal includes buildings to five storeys on the site of the old Commonwealth Bank, reported in the last Friday’s Centralian Advocate to be the subject of a six-storey redevelopment plan.
The proposal’s impact on the heritage buildings in proximity – The Residency and the Old Hartley Street School – is not discussed.
The government building on the corner of Leichardt and Gregory Terraces and the Greatorex Building carpark are also suggested for five storey redevelopment.
Apart from the additional residences that all this redevelopment would bring, the report estimates it would provide an additional gross ground floor retail area of 8,030m2 and an additional gross office development area of 7,900m2.
The dwellings would bring an additional estimated residential population of approximately 2500 people, says the report, which would have “a significant impact on the social, economic and environmental performance of the town”.
There is no discussion about the demand for such residences in the context of the south of the Gap housing developments, or the demand for office and retail place in the context of current supply and vacancies.
The report says the redevelopment would also allow the removal of carparking from the Todd River “to facilitate the restoration of this important natural and cultural landmark”.
It does not say just how much of the redevelopment would be necessary before this was done.

Candidate's strong views on housing, grog abuse. By

Channelling profits from government land sales into interest free housing loans for first home buyers, mandatory custodial rehabilitation for habitual drunks under a three-strikes policy and blocking the handover to Aboriginal interests of The Centre’s three major parks: these are part of the platform of business woman and former alderman and Deputy Mayor Robyn Lambley.
She has been preselected for the blue-ribbon Country Liberals seat of Araluen, following the resignation of Jodeen Carney for health reasons.
Mrs Lambley, 17 years in The Alice, mother of two and running Mad Harry’s with her husband Craig, was opposed by public servant Brenda Elferink and real estate agent Eli Melky.
Mrs Lambley spoke with Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA.
NEWS: Two precedents show that the NT Government is valuing native title at 50% of the freehold value of land. Is that a good system or does it need reform?
LAMBLEY: I’m not prepared to answer questions about this at the moment. I haven’t done a huge amount of research on it and I don’t feel comfortable commenting.
NEWS: The NT Government is opening up the AZRI block south of town for residential development. The government has said the blocks will be sold at market value which at the moment is prohibitively high.
LAMBLEY: That would exclude low income earners. It could end up being a development for the top end of the market, high income earners who could build homes there and charge exorbitant rents. That would not resolve the housing crisis. We would need to include affordable land and the next part of that equation is to look at how can we can build houses which are affordable. I’ve just finished building my house and I know how hideously expensive [building a home is]. I can’t see how people on low incomes can benefit from land releases without some building relief scheme. We need to aim at housing our workforce and providing young first home buyers with affordable homes.
NEWS: The land at AZRI is owned by the government and that means by the public. It costs $50,000 to $60,000 to develop a residential block. Is there not a case for selling these blocks at the cost of their development, given that the public owns the land anyway?
LAMBLEY: Yes, and added to that you can make blocks available only to first home buyers.
NEWS: At $50,000 they could easily afford a block.
NEWS: Market value is now about $300,000. Would you advocate for the land to be sold at the cost of its development?
LAMBLEY: That could be an option. Perhaps somewhere in the middle, between market value and the cost of development, is a good place to negotiate.
NEWS: If it’s somewhere in the middle, who would get the profit which would still be around $100,000 a block?
LAMBLEY: It would go into the government coffers. You could argue that the profit could be used for interest free loans to people breaking into the first home owners’ market. That would be a neat little package, really.
NEWS: For decades the government have been tinkering with alcohol management but not much progress has been made in coping with this major problem.
LAMBLEY: I would like the government to clearly identify those people who are the problem. We know habitual drunks, through the court systems, police work and health records. These people should be given chances. The three strike rule sits comfortably with me and ultimately they should be placed into mandatory custodial rehabilitation programs, not a sit down process or a talkfest. It needs to be a true rehabilitation process, where people get new skills, they are trained, so when they come out of the program they can be active members of society, contributing to the community. In Alice Springs all we’ve really got is CAAAPU [the Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit] which has a long history of struggling to survive administratively. I’m still hearing stories that their programs are not engaging their clientele, that they are coming out and re-offending and going back to the grog.
NEWS: Should the treatment be mandatory or voluntary?
LAMBLEY: Both, but after breaching the third strike rule it would have to be mandatory.
NEWS: Flood protection is becoming more urgent with climate change. Currently there are major floods in Australia. A major rain north of the town would place it in grave peril. Should a dam in the Todd be considered again?
LAMBLEY: I think the idea of a dam has been visited and revisited many times. There does not seem to be any support for it from the traditional owners. That’s a stumbling block that’s not going to go away. It wouldn’t hurt to put the idea back on the table but I guess it would more than likely be knocked back again. We just have to do the usual flood mitigation, strengthening the levies, the banks, deepening the channel, allowing the river to flow freely when it does flow.
NEWS: Is that an adequate response to the threat?
LAMBLEY: It’s been an adequate response – the only response, really – for the last couple of decades that I’ve been here. We just have to do what we’ve been doing. It has been effective. We haven’t had a one in 100 year flood which is due basically now. I guess when it happens then the issue will come back into focus.
NEWS: Most of the national parks have been handed over to Aboriginal interests but the three major ones – the West MacDonnells, Finke Gorge and Watarrka King’s Canyon – have not. These handovers are a joint issue between the Territory, which is driving the process, and the Federal government, because it involves the Land Rights Act. Would you seek to block these remaining handovers?
LAMBLEY: I certainly would. It’s been done in a very sneaky, underhanded way by the government. People haven’t been informed step by step of what the government is doing. Given that some parcels have been handed over, I think we need to sit back now to see how those parks are managed, and to see whether they can be managed as effectively as they have been. I would definitely be in favour of stopping the handover of those three parks if we came to government in 2012. In the meantime I would keep this issue before the public as I have in the past. It’s obviously not a popular decision which the Territory and Federal governments have made.
NEWS: What’s the major thing you want to achieve in Parliament?
LAMBLEY: A safe town, and a more prosperous town, where people can come, be housed comfortably, consider staying and bringing up their families. A town in which we’re not all going to sleep wondering if our car is going to be vandalised or our house broken into.

Big agenda for bush schools. By

A non-government organisation with impressive achievements in the Top End providing education in remote areas over 10 years is having a hard time getting started in The Centre.
The Tiwi Land Council, for example, devoted most of the earnings – some $180,000 a year – from its timber plantation to establishing a college with the aid of Education Transformation (ET), a private foundation dedicated to partnering remote communities and supported by philanthropic foundations and individuals.
This self-help initiative attracted Commonwealth finance, and in 2008 the Tiwi Education Board finished up with a school, a residential and catering facility, airfield, roads, power, water, sewage, a football oval and a soccer pitch, worth $17.5m, forged out of the bush by a not for profit construction company employing local people.
By contrast, according to Andrew White, executive director of ET, the Central Land Council (CLC) “sank” a similar project at Yuendumu, which grew out of an initiative of the Northern Territory Christian Schools Association.
He says although the CLC is administering “massive” royalties from the Newmont gold mines at and near the Granites, it declined an application for funds from the Warlpiri Education Board, which had been examining options for a private secondary college at Yuendumu for some three years.
Mr White says the CLC commissioned a report by a consultant.
He found “varying visions” – according to Mr White – for education in the area, but advised against accepting the ET scheme because the NT Education Department – whose performance in the bush is notoriously dismal – did not support it.
That, says Mr White, is no surprise: the department appears to frustrate ET initiatives wherever they pop up.
The department gave no support to the Tiwi project except “the usual contribution made by the Territory government to any non-government school”.
Says NT Minister for Education Chris Burns: “Education is a key priority of the Territory Government and we are investing more in bush schools to improve outcomes for the students.
“The Territory Government provides support to all non government schools by meeting 21% of the cost of educating each child at those schools.”
Mr White says about the consultant’s report commissioned by the CLC: “The Warlpiri Education Board  totally rejects the consultant’s report, and questions the quality of the research, as well as the conclusions. 
“The CLC officers who run these funds have limited vision.
“The land council’s rights agenda has failed the Warlpiri people.
“The CLC has had a lot of power and control over the past 30 years, yet things keep getting worse.”
CLC staff has a “pretty limited” understanding of the community’s needs, funding “low priority things” but failing to match the “audacious vision of Warlpiri families who want a quality start in life for their children”.
CLC managed funds are rarely applied to “dramatically effective solutions”. 
But the Warlpiri Eduction Board has chalked up a “minor victory”: it has just received $35,000 from the Granites Mine Affected Area Aboriginal Corporation (GMAAAC).
That corporation’s most recent financial statement on the website of the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations is for 2009, showing an income of $6.2m, “community purpose expenditure” of $2m, a surplus for the year of $4m and accumulated funds of $23.8m.
Mr White says the $35,000 grant will be used by the board “getting them mobile, getting them wise and informed,” a chance denied to the board previously by the lack of funds.
They will now meet more regularly with people in Nyirripi, Lajamanu and Willowra.
And that’s how ET likes to operate: usually over a number of years, getting a hunch of what’s missing in education, giving locals a voice, and having them work out what’s best.
ET is merely “the email address, the person who can write a letter”, says Mr White.
Such community-driven education initiatives are not new: it’s been done that way for years in New Zealand, Canada and the US as well as in Western Australia, and community management is the only strategy that brings success, says Mr White.
Over 10 years this approach has been bringing results in the NT.
It started in Darwin with a “non institutional boarding option”: 10 houses each with 10 students and one set of house parents, 100 students are accommodated at a time.
The average attendance rate of these students at Marrara College over 10 years: 87%.
Says Mr White: “Good attendance and retention has resulted in a high number of students completing their NTCE.
“Twelve Indigenous students graduated in 2009.
“Over 80% of them now in training, further education or employment. 
“Many achieve vocational education certificates with the college being the first secondary school in Australia to offer full (Certificate III) apprenticeships in construction.
“Some 10 Indigenous students are currently undertaking construction apprenticeships.”
The need for change in Tiwi was dramatic, says Mr White.
There had been 100 youth suicides over 15 years.
“They were losing their young people – literally.
“The community was highly traumatised. It was tough.
“They could not get any response to the need to improve education outcomes from the government.”
“Research and advocacy” to convince the Commonwealth to help with money took two years
Then construction work started.
ET assisted, under contract to the Tiwi Education Board, with recruiting and staff training, and settling in a CEO. The first students began classes in January 2008.
“Now it’s their gig. They own it,” says Mr White.
As for academic progress, it’s early days (see MySchool information below).
The Gawa homeland on Elcho Island is a harmonious community, the kids are not traumatised, dogs are banned because they are suspected of causing illness, and there is no grog, “really no grog”, says Mr White.
But there was no school, just a government “learning centre” without trained, full time staff like so many others in the Territory.
ET established a fully fledged school with university trained staff, “woven into the life of the community and families,” says Mr White.
It has “excellent facilities, full internet access.
“All kids have access to laptops.”
ET’s approach to its tasks is quite the opposite to that of the fly-in-fly-out instant experts, notorious in the bush.
Mr White’s connection with the Warlpiri goes back to 1980 when, as a teacher at the Mt Evelyn Christian School, he took students on bus trips to Yuendumu every year for 10 years.
They had all been learning Warlpiri language and culture for a year prior to the trip.
One of the kids was Liam Campbell who later came back to live and work at the community and has written a book about community leader and painter Darby Jampijimpa Ross.
“Great things are possible,” says Mr White.
According to the Federal Government’s MySchool website, the attendance at the Tiwi school is 77%, compared to 56% at the state-run school in Yuendumu.
MySchool Year 7 scores in 2009 were (first Tiwi’s average, and in brackets, the average for all Australian schools, followed by Yuendumu’s average):-
Reading 269 (541, 355).
Writing 215 (532, 253).
Spelling 314 (540, 340).
Grammar & punctuation 219 (539, 235).
Numeracy 378 (544, 355).
In Yuendumu 94% of the students are in the bottom quarter.
For the Tiwi college these data are still below the reporting threshold.

Home at last. By

First home buyers Bek and Chris Axe signed up with Carey Builders in November 2008, expecting construction to take 16 weeks.
Today their 118 square metre house is still not fully completed.
In nearly two years of traumatic events they were let down by their bank’s policies (they don’t want to name the bank).
They paid all of the contract sum of $167,500 except for $8375 although the place was only 75% finished.
The NT Government did nothing to help except pay for a certifier’s report.
They had to spend an extra $45,000 (paid by Bek’s parents), and Bek’s father and uncle from interstate worked for little or no pay for several weeks, fixing up the mess left by Carey Builders which went bust in March.
This included painting, tiling, fixing the bathroom floor that sloped the wrong way, and re-installing the bath’s plumbing.
But there is a good side to this story as well: the legendary generosity of Alice Springs people came to the fore, with suppliers and tradies chipping in by giving big discounts or working for free.
And the couple’s mates from the Christian Community Centre lent a generous hand.
“They were donating accommodation, time, money and little bits and pieces,” says Chris.
“There were two working bees, cleaning up the yard and inside.
“Someone brought dinner for Bek’s dad and uncle almost every night.”
The businesses granting discounts or worked outside of normal hours included the tiler Darren Napier of Desert City Tiles; Taps, Tubs and Tiles; Gould Plumbing; Bradman’s Glass; Complete Fencing; Murray Pest Control, electrician Sean Heenan and carpenter Steve Shaw.
And a couple of weeks ago other victims of the Carey / Framptons debacle popped ‘round for a barbie, celebrating the issue of the Axes’ Certificate of Occupation and for reassurance of mutual support.

TOs and rangers join to to eradicate buffel grass.

The Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service and Traditional Owners of Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve have joined forces in a pilot program to eradicate buffel grass.
Ranger Pat Hodgens says they have been trying trying to turn the tide against buffel grass since Rainbow Valley became a jointly managed park in 2008.
“Controlling the impacts of the invasive weed is a critical issue in our national parks and early intervention is the best way to tackle buffel grass,” Mr Hodgens said. 
“Work includes surveying catchments, using GPS, mapping, recording of plants, removing seeds and spraying plants among other things.
“The control program started at Rainbow Valley 10 years ago and today with the traditional owners we are recording very few new plants in areas where there has been intensive management and this is a win-win situation because we are able to stop it before it takes off.
“It can take at least four years or up to seven years to control outbreaks of buffel grass so it’s important to have a long term eradication program in place.
“Buffel grass spreads rapidly and generates high fuel loads that result in hot fires that irreparably change our landscape, if we don’t work on this now it will become foreign grasslands.”
Rainbow Valley TO Peter Kenny has been a key player in the buffel grass eradication program which now employs three generations of his family.
“It’s a good chance for us to see country going strong, we like to get rid of the buffel grass and we also keep fit by walking around Rainbow Valley with the rangers,” Mr Kenny said.
Parks and Wildlife senior ranger Rick Hope said the aim is to expand this control program to new high priority areas while maintaining the control achieved so far.

Resilient Aboriginal art

In the past six years 10 new art centres have formed in Central Australia; two have disbanded.
Over the same period major new Indigenous art events have taken off: the Western Australian Premier’s Indigenous Art Awards (with a bigger purse than the Telstra’s, it began in 2008), the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (the first one was last year) and the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (started in 2007).
These facts are telling about the health of the Aboriginal art sector – estimated to be worth $500m nationally, and about $30m in the desert region – particularly when seen in the context of the global financial crisis and an average 80% failure rate of new businesses in Australia, argues John Oster. 
Mr Oster, executive officer of Desart, the region’s art centre advocacy body, spoke to the Alice Springs News on the eve of the 20th Desert Mob, the flagship annual exhibition of the desert art centres, presented in collaboration with Araluen.
In terms of the public’s enduring interest in Aboriginal art, he acknowledges the role of industry players – gallerists, dealers, curators, collectors, public and private.
“Their contribution is almost as great as that of the artists,” he says.
The sector is broad and good art can obviously be produced in many contexts, but in regional and remote Australia art centres occupy a special place.
Their resilience and growth is based primarily in Aboriginal people’s deep interest in them, says Mr Oster.
They see their neighbours at work, in their own country, making art and being supported to do so, and they want to make the same thing happen for themselves.
But from wish to fulfillment takes quite some effort.
Right now, for example, there are artists getting active in a number of small communities and outstations in the Barkly – Epenarra, Mungkarta, Mangalawarra.
Barkly Regional Arts is offering some support; so is Desart.
One way has been by extending to these groups associate membership and thus access to Desert Mob Marketplace, which has become a hugely popular outlet for low-priced works.
Producing a work is one thing, getting representation or an outlet for its sale is quite another: except for the rarest of talents “you can’t exist in this industry alone”, says Mr Oster.
Art centres can be auspiced by a body such as a shire, although in Desart’s experience the community government councils were better at doing this, especially when groups were starting off.
Shires are still in the formative stages, Mr Oster notes, and also have greater accountability requirements.
The other, and he believes best, option is to form an independent corporation. 
But it takes persistence and time before an art centre is established – “just like the growth cycle of businesses anywhere”.
“They’ll need to get an office, get good staff, and support, whether governmental, philanthropic or in kind.
“And they’ll need to demonstrate a capacity to survive.”
The biggest challenge for survival is “good governance” and that’s where Desart focusses a lot of its effort – not on monitoring behaviour (“that’s not our job”), but on “strengthening capacity” through training.
Work for the main exhibition at Desert Mob is selected by the art centres themselves and, while there’s always some great work to get excited about, standards vary widely.
Does Desart pay much attention to artistic development?
Mr Oster says the organisation is “fairly non-interventionist about art making”.
A “fine line” needs to be trodden in relation to influencing the art: “It needs to be a strong expression of Aboriginal skill and artistic vision and endeavour,” he says.
Nonetheless, Desart does hold some art-making workshops – five in the last year – with a focus on introducing new techniques or art forms.
These are always group activities; there’s no focus on individual artistic development, although an art centre may do this.
The hype in the industry is at the fine art end: there’s fierce competition to gain access to top-selling artists with consequent triumphs and failures.
A strength for the art centres lies in the production of “a whole range of products with a lot of different price points”, says Mr Oster.
“There are a lot of markets out there which the ‘fine art’ pigeon-hole misses out on.”
He points to the print market, the craft and jewellery markets.
Licencing of designs is not extensive in our region; he’s aware of only half a dozen agreements and says the return to artists is not very high.
He has noticed some inauthentic art, imported from overseas, being sold locally, but says it is a much smaller problem here than in tourist hubs in the major coastal cities and towns.
He declines to comment on ‘carpetbagging’.
Of Desart’s 34 member art centres, only five are financially independent.
Mr Oster declines to name them out of respect for their commercial operations, but they are all at the high end of the market. Two of them are also now accepting some government support around employment of Aboriginal art workers.
He says Commonwealth Government funding is vitally important to the broader art centre movement and is seen as an investment in communities, in capacity-building and enterprise development.
With that investment comes accountability, with requirements around the development of good governance and markets.
In recent years, in fact since the Federal Intervention and the changes to CDEP, there has been a big focus on developing Aboriginal art workers, as opposed to artists, to do the support and administrative work in art centres, with proper remuneration and conditions.
Prior to the Intervention there were 13 Aboriginal art workers in the region; now there are more than 60, and 76 people have participated in art worker training offered by Desart.
Mr Oster says retention is strong and in some art centres these workers have progressed to take on greater responsibilities.
Desart auspices five of these positions in art centres in WA; at present one is not filled, but the other four have been stable for over a year.
In all, if the 20th Desert Mob is an opportunity to take stock of the Aboriginal art movement in our region, Mr Oster sees it as marked by two things: the resilience of the art and artists, despite the ever present fear of a decline, and a more ordered industry environment, with the advent of the resale royalty scheme and the code of conduct.
The inevitable teething problems of the resale royalty scheme will pass, he believes, and it will become just part of the industry landscape, as the GST and BAS statements have.
The code puts in place a minimum set of standards around fair and ethical trade with artists, with a good percentage of operators already exceeding these standards. In the conduct proscribed – such as exploitation, bullying and paying for artwork with drugs or illegal goods and services – the code paints a picture in the negative of the darker side of the industry.
Mr Oster believes the current vigorous debate around who will or will not voluntarily sign up to the code will also pass, and its principles, complaints process and sanctions will move into the background as is the case with other industry or professional practice codes.
But meanwhile the whole process will have lifted the game of this incomparably unique Australian industry, where art from the desert takes pride of place.

Desert Festival: Freshness and heart.

Performing arts teachers and youth arts workers went talent scouting for up and coming musicians, singers, songwriters, dancers and movers to put together a youth arts showcase, part of the opening night of the Alice Desert Festival this Friday at The Pod, following on from the Sunset Street Carnivale.
They looked around at what was happening in the classrooms, at the Eisteddfod, in the bush schools, scraped together funds, including from MacDonnell Shire, “to give the kids an opportunity to shine and to get the audience support that you do with youth arts”, says coordinator Melissa Kerl.
They wanted to find work generated by the kids themselves – hence the event’s name, GeNeraTe – as well as performers with the skills and the dedication to see the process through, from rehearsals to finally getting up on stage.
Young people have also filled some of the behind the scenes posts: Steven Rosales designed the poster and the logo for t-shirts and caps; Rachel DeBrenni and Jessica Lena got involved in stage and event management.
They’ll bring us loud, beat-filled performances and quieter, soul-searching ones, pop culture homages and original compositions, raw exuberance and more finely-honed talent, freshness and heart, laying down the ground for events and festivals in years to come.

Flavours from the world and the bush on the menu around Alice this month.

Food from the wild, whether it’s introduced like camel and goat, or native, like kangaroo and barramundi, or quandongs and bush tomato – it’s all on the menu around Alice this month.
Some 16 restaurants and cafes have come up with 23 dishes – entrees, mains or desserts – to take food lovers on a taste journey (pick up a map from tourist outlets to guide you on your way).
Fusion tends to be the name of the game – taking an ingredient out of a traditional recipe and inserting a native one.
In this way there’s “not too much shock of the new”, says Red Ochre Grill’s David Salisbury.
His team has come up with gumnut-smoked emu Nori rolls – they have the crisp texture of tempura frying, with the smooth savoury taste of the smoked emu.
Mr Salisbury notes the rise of Asian food around town, including now an Asian foods supermarket.
“It’s something we should help grow,” he says.
He says chefs are delighted to get involved with the Alice Desert Festival’s WildBushfoods events: “We get to celebrate something we do every day.”
At Barra on Todd  they’re serving Pepper-crusted Kangaroo and Wattleseed Mash.
Head chef Ashish Batra thinks ‘roo meat is a very good product – “rich in flavour, low in fat, it should be everywhere”.
They pan sear it to keep in the juices, finish it off in the oven to a medium rare consistency, serve it atop creamy mash, infused with the coffee-like flavour of wattleseed, and the whole is brought together by a rosemary jus.
Another Barra on Todd chef, Sarika Shankar, will compete in this Sunday’s Iron Chef event, part of the festival’s Harvest Fare (at The Pod, Anzac Oval, from 10am to 4pm).
The participating chefs will each be given a box of identical ingredients from which to create a dish.
Although the ingredients are a secret, Mr Batra says he and Mr Shankar have decided to work with French-style cooking because “it’s more appealing to the eye”.
A chef must think first about the eye, then the nose and then the palate, he says.
“If it looks good it will go down well.
“A curry would be easier for us, but it’s harder to make Indian food look stunning.”
His whole team is taking part in the festival events: his second year apprentice Nathaniel Kotzur will be a judge of the competition, while his sous-chef Praveen Kumar will do a Master Class with visiting chef Andrew Fielke, founder of the Red Ochre Restaurants and an authority on Australian native cuisine.
At Flavours of India chef Digvijay Singh is embracing the curry tradition, using goat, a widely appreciated meat throughout the whole of the Indian sub-continent, says restaurant owner Sam Singh.
The goat is slow cooked on the bone with a tantalising array of Indian spices as well as bush tamarind and quandong.
Apart from Iron Chef, domestic cooks will also be competing in a recipe competition at the Harvest Fare on Sunday, and again a week later at the DesertSMART Eco fair.
Free from commercial pressures, the hallmark of this competition over the years has been invention and exploration of bush ingredients. If you’re lucky, there’s a taste of their delights at the end. – Kieran Finnane


A true percussionist can feel silence as much as they feel sound.
The drummer / percussionist enters a trance-like rhythmic realm, a mind space where the drummer becomes slave to a beat. If you watch this happening it makes for something beautiful to witness.
That smiling, sometimes drooling mask of comedy behind the drum skins, lost but in total control of a magnificent musical world.
Here in Central Australia there is this occasional drum and percussion programme called Ba Boom. Outside the musical community it has received little recognition, one of those brainchild operations that kicks up a fraction the accolades of what it is really worth. 
Last year’s festival saw one of Ba Boom’s creators, Shontal Klose, take the opportunity to teach a handful of kids from Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff) a basic drum and percussion program. The end result was the Wipe Out drum machine that marched the opening parade from Todd St to Anzac Oval.
Watching a video of these kids performing on stage after the parade, it was plain to see that Shontal’s achievement with them was nothing short of miraculous!
These kids hit the skins way beyond their years, with the audience watching on in mute amazement,  (the first few rows resembling those laughing clowns at the riverside carnival, or fish at feeding time).
This time around, thankfully, Ba Boom gets to ride its own coat tails a bit, with an invitation from Santa Teresa to engage all 120 students in a similar drum program.  The the two groups of children will amalgamate on Friday night under the youth performance banner, GeNeraTe (at The Pod from 7pm).
With all the glory of performance and musical achievement aside, there is a serious side to Ba Boom –  discipline and school attendance. Unless the children are present to bash away at the skins, they fall behind their peers!
This generates focus and involvement,  as well as the self-confidence that is visible as the kids perform on stage to a large audience. 

Harley thunder rolls across Alice. By CHRIS WALSH.

Nothing beats the sound of a big group of Harleys riding together with their engines rumbling like huge rolls of thunder!
The 15th Australia National HOG (Harley Owners Group) Rally set a world record in 2005, when 2000 riders encircled Ayers Rock before heading north to Alice Springs.
Locals may recall seeing the “thunder run” through the town and hundreds of bikes parked on ANZAC Oval while their riders and passengers enjoyed the Henley-on-Todd Regatta.
Although on a smaller scale, last weekend saw another influx of Harleys with the Alice Springs Chapter hosting the 2010 Northern Territory State Rally at the Heavitree Gap Resort.
A total of 130 registrations came from all over Australia as well as two from the US and four from New Zealand. Special guest for the weekend was Kim Williams, marketing executive for Harley-Davidson Australia and editor of the Australian and New Zealand HOG Magazine.
Although the weather wasn’t very kind in the days leading up to the rally, it was almost perfect by the end of the weekend.
Local HOGs and visitors alike were treated to a full weekend of entertainment including motorcycle games and competitions, a ride through the famous Bo’s Saloon and a small Showand Shine, before being farewelled at a closing ceremony attended by Mayor Damien Ryan.
HOG Alice Springs Director, Kevin Everett was very proud to be involved with organising the NT Rally but couldn’t have done it without the chapter’s hard-working sub-committee: John and Julie Dawkins, Marty and Elly Derksen, Loraine Dalwood-Mason and Sharon Everett.  Harley-Davidson first launched HOG in 1983 with some 33,000 members in the US and Canada.
Three years later Ladies of Harley was established to cater for the increasing number of women riders.  In 1987 HOG Australia was formed by Peter Stevens Motorcycles in Melbourne, as the first Chapter outside of North America and Canada .
The Alice Springs Chapter was formed in 1994  by when  HOG had 250,000 members internationally. Today, more than 1,098,000 members from Chapters in more than 130 countries make HOG the largest factory-sponsored motorcycle organisation in the world. 
In Oz there are some 44 Chapters and more than 18,000 members and the organisation shows no signs of slowing down!

NANCARROW ARROW: Misery tourists, politicians and other irritants.

Still fighting the flu this week, made a recovery – so I thought – then woke up at 3.30 this morning with a new ailment.
Last one was all head cold stuff, this one has moved into the throat and chest, so that’s the gig shot. I hope the HOG group had a good ride through Bo’s Saloon on Sunday, I wish I’d been there.
So, seeing as I’m grumpy and with an attention span that’s bordering on the non-existent I thought I would write about things that have been giving me the shits lately.
Suits my mood and I don’t have to think very hard.
These are in no particular order and not hate things, just things that are unreasonable, stupid or simply annoying to me.
I have also made the number open ended, that way if I get to nine when I said 10, I won’t get the shits trying to think of the last one. I may only do three, we shall see.
1. People who run red lights in Alice Springs, particularly Stott Terrace on a winter’s afternoon.
The sun is pouring straight in your eyes, you definitely can’t see what is coming and in a town the size of a postage stamp, it is utterly unnecessary.
Plus there are often well wrecked punters staggering across the road, unable to sprint out of the way as you charge through like a maniac. Don’t do it.
2. People who blow in from interstate, pontificate about how terrible the Indigenous people get treated here and then leave, with the intention of telling other uninformed people back home their version of events.
The situation is not good, that much is obvious to anyone, we get that, we live here and see the lives of people publically falling apart every day and deal with the anti-social behaviour. 
But there are a lot of people out there who are on the front line trying to make a difference, ambos, doctors and nurses, case workers – the list goes on. These people put themselves in situations where their personal safety can be at risk, just because they are trying to help.
I would include the coppers in this list, they do a great job in near impossible circumstances, but they have guns and Tasers and stuff. 
I do not include with these front row heroes politicians, politicians’ minions or people whose livelihood relies on maintaining the status quo .
Squatting down in a camp for a photo opportunity does not generate meaningful change and just how long is it going to take Wozza to actually achieve something permanent and positive for the less fortunate souls in his electorate?
Twenty years plus so far mate, look around you and tell me what you see.
Don’t bluster and quote statistics, tell me what you see. Not good enough! 
Truth is, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink – not when there is a bar open for your discretionary spend at 10 in the morning.
Here is another truth too, throw all the money you like but if people cannot see how to change and don’t get help to do so they won’t – also pretty obvious.
If these misery tourists really care, not just superficial, inner city air kiss care, get out there, work with the disadvantaged and make a bloody difference.
3. Japanese whale hunting for scientific purposes. What are they testing, how many whales they can kill and consume before next season?
More rubbish, just say we want to KILL them and EAT them, not nice but not bullshit either. Goodness, just barely made it to three and how very grumpy indeed. Sorry for the rant but I do feel a little bit better.
Hopefully I’ll be well by next week and write about puppies and sunshine …

LETTERS: Golden Pig award.

Sir – Surely Anthony Albanese and Warren Snowdon must share the Golden Pig award for pork barrelling with their announcement of the airport land release, just as Gerry McCarthy must receive the Myopic / Opaque Spectacles award for short-sighted planning.
The Alice Springs Water Resource Strategy 2006-2015 on page 5 makes the recent planning announcement farcical.
It states: “The strategy should be developed and managed through equitable representative community participation that maximises local determination.”
It should have read “maximises political expediency”.
The public consultation supposedly held for eight weeks late last year, never mentioned the airport land. They think we are all mushrooms.
Years ago there was a proposal put to the NT Government via Infratril, the airport owners at that time, to create a high tech research facility on that airport land, based on solar research and arid zone water utilisation, including non-water waste disposal systems.
This was never implemented in the form proposed, but the original concept produced good results elsewhere. I invite your readers to look at Fraunhofer Institute website to see what is possible, then to ask why is it not happening here.
Germany has just announced a 2% quarterly increase in their national GDP due largely to exports of products developed from their solar research, and associated areas. Now because of lack of sunlight they have moved their research to the US. I doubt they were ever approached to do their research here.
Once there was an Australian company (Memtec) that developed great water filtration technology which, for want of encouragement, also moved to the US where they now purify water for US armed forces.
Now with the housing estate planned, another golden opportunity will be replaced with a Macquarie Fields, or Elizabeth North look-alike to greet our Southern visitors. They don’t come here to see that.
Germany also has the latest environmentally sound technology on public display in a complete village, which attracted 60,000 tourists last year. I hope that the Macquarie Fields type cheap housing development at the airport will do the same for our tourist industry here.
Any new development should take place close to the infrastructure, all of which is south of the airport. Water and electricity are now coming from that region and it is only a matter of time before sewerage will have to move as well. Is Alice Springs the only arid region in the world where expensive water is treated as a waste product? 
This area is where an eco friendly housing display village development should take pace. Planning department officials tell me that this is impossible, mainly because that land overlies the aquifers that supply the town, and yet both the airport development and the AZRI overly the same aquifers, which are deeper and overlaid by the outer farms basin, and effluent from the airport is discharged underground into the same aquifers, but well out of public sight.
We in the rural estate nearby draw water from the same basin! 
Trevor Shiell
Alice Springs

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