November 25, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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Our lifestyle town?

A new park will become a meeting place in the heart of Alice Springs on land behind Adelaide House and the Uniting Church.
The park is part of the plans for revitalising Todd Mall, for which a contract has now been let.
A design team has been assembled and includes local architect Susan Dugdale.
A detailed budgeted plan for the works will be ready by June 2011, with $5m already allocated by the NT Government (promised in the 2008 election).
Much of the land for the park is owned by the Town Council and is currently used for carparking, which is likely to be undergrounded. 
There will be intensive public consultation on the plans in February next year.
All this was announced at the planning information session held at the Crowne Plaza on Monday night, but it was largely overshadowed by the pent-up frustration of many in attendance with the broader current planning issues in Alice Springs.
More than an hour of the four-hour meeting was spent on the presentation of ideas and examples of sustainable urban design from around Australia.
The presenter, Wendy Morris of Ecologically Sustainable Design, was entertaining and informative and described what looked to many like a highly desirable planning process.
Known as "enquiry by design", it develops, with community involvement and local expertise, multiple scenarios to test a wide range of planning solutions for a site.
This process has been applied to the proposed new city of Wedell in the Top End, and Alice will get its turn next year: trouble is, it will be applied only to the proposed subdivision of Kilgariff, on land till now devoted to horticultural and pastoral research by the Arid Zone Research Institute (AZRI).
Speaker after speaker from the floor challenged the logic of this.
Local architect Domenico Pecorari noted the contradiction of applying "enquiry by design" to a "fait accompli" such as Kilgariff, which has never been subject to detailed investigation.
He asked for the process to go back one step "“ to genuinely enquire into planning solutions for the town as a whole, involving the whole community (see Mr Pecorari's comment piece on page 9.)
Rod Cramer, president of the Rural Area Association, said rural residents had been "shafted" by the process arising out the 2008 Planning for the Future Forum.
He said they had made their property investments based on official planning documents going back to 1975, which stipulated no residential subdivision south of the Gap.
Were all those planners wrong, he asked.
Why do rural residents have to sacrifice their lifestyle aspirations for a "sudden backflip" on good policy? 
In responding, Executive Director of Strategic Planning for the Department of Lands and Planning, Sharron Noske, said she could not say why there had been a change in government policy.
A similar situation had happened in Darwin, she said, but now opponents to the change are coming on board.
She was strongly challenged on this response by rural resident Glenn Marshall.
"You represent your government", he told Ms Noske.
"It's beholden on you to clearly understand the decisions that have been made up till 2008 and take responsibility for what comes before you."
He said Alice needs planning autonomy; that the CBD plans had been talked about "for years" and "nothing has happened".
He said the lack of local planning controls makes our leading town planner, Peter Somerville (present at the meeting), "a lame duck".
He said he had not seen any "solid evidence" to support a subdivision on AZRI land.
He said the subdivision had become a "fait accompli" within "the first 10 minutes" of the 2008 forum and like others, he wanted the process to go back a step.
He suggested a big driver for the AZRI solution was people's nervousness about what happens in the centre of town after dark: they want to drive through the Gap so that it's not their problem.
The centre of town and AZRI are "all part of the same issue", said Mr Marshall, who expressed his horror at seeing razorwire being used to protect property in town, including on the new CLC building. 
Ruth Apelt, a member of the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) and the Climate Action Group, described the AZRI plan as "urban sprawl" and "hasty, ill-conceived and based on no evidence".
She asked for evidence of population growth, suggesting that the current housing shortage  has "artificial drivers", such as "government programs".
She argued that the town can accommodate new housing needs for the next 10 years within its current footprint, with over 1000 blocks available. (The Town Council has suggested, she said, that the town needs the release of 100 new blocks a year.)
She called on the government to immediately take up "the Sadadeen option" of 150 blocks.
She said the AZRI option, at least five years away, was acting as "a red herring, taking energy away" from the plans for the town centre and asked the government to concentrate on what they can bring on line "really soon".
Ms Noske said there was fairly detailed demographic data pointing to future population growth in Alice of 1% to 1.6% per year.
She did not see increasing densities in town and development of the AZRi subdivision as mutually exclusive.
Timing can be a problem with infill development, she said; people can agree in principle as long as it's not next door to them.
She said the government is looking to AZRI as a long-term solution to housing needs over the next 20 to 30 years.
Alex Nelson, who grew up on the AZRI land where his father was employed, said creating a subdivision there would represent a "monumental loss of opportunity" in terms of sustainability.
On the Todd River flood plain, the land is inherently the most fertile in the town area and four decades worth of horticultural knowledge referring to it is stored at the Institute, said Mr Nelson.
He said there should be a moratorium on the proposal until the town has worked out properly where it is going. 
The call for a moratorium was later reiterated by Mr Pecorari and supported by Trevor Shiell.
Ian Sharp said the inevitable trips to town by people living at Kilgariff would make for a "questionable ecological footprint in the 21st century" and wanted the proposal subject to "a closer look".
There were speakers in support of the AZRI subdivision: Alderman Murray Stewart asked people to be "positive" about it because of the the dire need to relieve the accommodation shortage.
Ald Liz Martin said she was "very excited" about it for the same reason but said she would like to see the concerns expressed by people at the meeting addressed.
Eli Melky underlined the housing shortage, saying that the joke in his real estate business is that they can get you $200 a week rent for a tent pitched in your backyard.
After all this, facilitator of the meeting, Stephen Bowers of Novus Urban Pty, could hardly avoid concluding that "it's clear that people have great reservations" about the AZRI plans and that planners need to know how to address those reservations.
The meeting also heard from Steve Thorne of the Melbourne-based consultancy, Design Urban Pty Ltd.  Mr Thorne spoke to the documents he has produced, together with Rob Adams: the Alice Springs Central Activity District Built Form Guidelines and Residential Capacity Report, both of which can be found on the Future Alice website.
He spent a good deal of time reading from the documents already widely known.
However the meeting was no doubt pleased to hear that the revitalisation plans, for which he has been contracted in a leading role, will be "explored in a very consultative way".
Part of the process will be to test the Built Form Guidelines, including the proposed increase to height limits.
Few would have argued with his assessment that our town centre is suffering from "death by a thousand cuts". If there was any doubt, its decline is reflected in stagnant property values, which "should not happen in a vibrant place", said Mr Thorne.
Meanwhile, the Territory Government has extended the period for public comment on the two documents to February 23, 2011.

"So the gun was pointed at the man and the trigger was pulled." By KIERAN FINNANE.

The man accused of shooting motor mechanic Paul Wallace at Junction Waterhole on May 29 this year will go to trial in the Supreme Court for attempted murder and the further counts of intending to cause and causing serious harm and recklessly endangering life.
He will be arraigned on January 31, 2011.
At the conclusion of the committal hearing in the Alice Springs Magistrates Court last Friday, Magistrate John O'Neill said he was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to put Reuben Abane Nadich "upon his trial".
Mr Nadich reserved his defence and was remanded in custody.
His mother had been in court all week in support of her son.
Mr O'Neill referred particularly to the evidence of the records of interview of Benjamin Gaff and Jason Corp, whom the prosecution says were in the car with Mr Nadich at Junction Waterhole, Mr Gaff driving and Mr Corp in the front passenger seat.
These records of interview were not played or read out or quoted from in open court.
Mr O'Neill also referred to the evidence given in person by witnesses Rhiannon O'Burtill and Matthew Waters, concerning alleged admissions by Mr Nadich.
Ms O'Burtill knows Mr Nadich and Mr Gaff as friends, and knows Mr Corp "briefly" through Mr Gaff.
She is a "close" friend of Tiffany Forbes, who is Mr Gaff's girlfriend and was living with him at the time of his arrest.
Ms O'Burtill gave evidence that she saw Mr Nadich on Monday, May 31 at the hospital and had a conversation with him.
At first she said she did not really remember the conversation beyond it being about "Ben's stolen car" and being "out bush".
Prosecutor Michael McColm asked her to refresh her memory by reading from the statutory declaration she gave to police on June 2, 2010.
After reading it, Ms O'Burtill said that Mr Nadich had told her they went out bush to test a gun and ran into people.
"There was an argument and then the gun was shot at the man."
What was said by Mr Nadich, asked Mr McColm.
"The man was swearing at the boys, he threatened to go get a gun out of his car, so the gun was pointed at the man and the trigger was pulled," said Ms O'Burtill.
(Shooting victim Mr Wallace has denied that he had a gun in his vehicle.)
Do you recall what Mr Nadich said about who fired the gun, asked Mr McColm.
"Yes, he pulled the trigger," said Ms O'Burtill.
In cross-examination Tony Whitelum, lawyer for Mr Nadich, asked Ms O'Burtill about Mr Nadich, on the night of the shooting, taking clothes from Ms Forbes for Mr Gaff who was at Tony's Auto-wreckers.
Ms O'Burtill said she did not recall. Mr Whitelum pressed her "“ did she know anything about clothes being taken for Ben Gaff on the night of May 29? She said "no".
Matthew Waters worked for Jason Corp, who at the time was manager at Tony's Auto-wreckers.
He gave evidence that on the night of May 29 Mr Nadich looked like "he was stressing about something".
He said he had asked him what was going on; he saw "something rolled up in a towel", grabbed it and hid it away.
He said he unwrapped it when he went outside and saw that it was "a 22 and a bag full of double Ds".
He put it in one of the wrecks out the back.
When he went back inside he asked again what was going on, telling them that he had "hid whatever it was away".
"They said they were going out shooting for a little bit," said Mr Waters.
When they were driving back "a bloke pulled them up and asked them what was going on".
He warned them not to shoot "around near us".
"Supposedly the bloke told them that if they keep going the bloke was going to walk back to his van, grab a gun and come back and shoot "˜em.
"Then they said Nadich wound the window down, whistled out and shot him.
"And Benny just drove straight off."
Mr McColm asked him who "they" were.
He said Jason [Corp] and Reuben [Nadich].
Mr McColm asked who said Mr Nadich shot the man.
Mr Waters said they both said it.
Mr McColm asked him if he had been drinking that night. He said he had been drinking, "quite a few actually"�; that Mr Corp had also been drinking, but Mr Gaff and Mr Nadich had not before they left in Mr Gaff's car.
When they returned he said he saw Mr Corp and Mr Nadich drinking Wild Turkey (bourbon) "from a bottle"�.
In cross-examination by Mr Whitelum Mr Waters said Mr Corp had asked him to move the gun and ammunition wrapped in the towel from the wreck where he had put it on the Saturday night to another spot "just before Detective Sharkey came"�.
He said Mr Corp told him to put it in a spot where the police "would see it as soon as they walked in"�, but "a bit out of the way of customers' eyes"�.
Ms O'Burtill had given evidence, under questioning by Mr Whitelum, that she had seen Mr Waters handle a gun, checking its barrel and wrapping it in a towel on the night of Wednesday, May 26 at the home of Mr Gaff and Ms Forbes.
She said he had put the wrapped gun in Mr Gaff's Landcruiser, though she had assumed this rather than seen it.
Mr Waters, under questioning by Mr McColm, said that on the night of May 26 Mr Gaff had shown him a  "Nerf gun"�, the kind that fires "foam bullets you buy from Kmart"�.
He said he had not been shown any other guns on that occasion.
Mr O'Neill said he was also satisfied on the basis of medical evidence concerning injuries to the victim that Mr Nadich be tried on each of the three counts charged. 
He said he limited his consideration to the injuries Mr Wallace received to the upper part of his body (see last week's report).
Mr Wallace's partner, Emma Salmon, who was at the waterhole with Mr Wallace when he was shot, told the court she could only see the driver, but she thought she could hear more than one voice coming from the vehicle that had approached their camp spot.
She said she could recall an "impression"� of the driver.
She said she had frozen where she was, rather than joining Mr Wallace, because of comments that were made.
The first was, "You're right mate, we thought you were blackfellers, we were going to shoot you."�
The second was, "Are you guys having a root?"�
"I felt uncomfortable and I was a little bit afraid."�
She also said she heard Mr Wallace say, "You've got a gun, have you?"�, but she said he sounded unbelieving.
She said after that she heard an apology: "You're right mate, you're right mate, our mistake, we're going."�
The car passed between her and Mr Wallace. She saw him fall over but she did not immediately understand that he had been shot.
She told the court of her unsuccessful attempts to get Mr Wallace into his car as the ambulance service had told her that it would be faster if she could drive out to the highway to meet them.
"He had lost a lot of blood, he was pretty delirious and he was in a lot of pain.
"˜I suppose I was hurting him, trying to get him into the car."�
She was worried because he was getting cold, clammy and very pale.
In the end she had to give up trying to move him and wrapped him in a doona.
The shooting had taken place shortly after 6.37pm. She could remember the time precisely because she had been tuning the car radio, above which there was a clock, when the second vehicle arrived at the scene.
She estimated that it was about 8.15pm when the ambulance arrived and she gave her first statement to police "in the middle of the night"� while waiting with Mr Wallace at the hospital.

Decades pass, problems remain. By ALEX NELSON.


The release of statistics by the Department of Justice showing an increase in reported assaults, house break-ins, vehicle and other thefts in Alice Springs for the past financial year might serve to confirm the fears of some people that crime and anti-social activity is out of control, or even the worst it's ever been.
The claim has been made numerous times over not just years but decades.
Two decades ago, in 1990, I was living in a unit in Chewings Street in the Old Eastside.
One early December evening I was walking home on the Wills Terrace footbridge when a young thug came from behind and king-hit me in the face, breaking my nose.
It was an attempted mugging but was thwarted because I was carrying no money. The thug fled while I dribbled a trail of blood on my trek home "“ there was no-one else around.For many others, especially Aboriginal people, violence is a "˜normal' way of life.
This issue came to national prominence in May 1990, when Aboriginal women from various communities, supported by senior men, converged on Alice Springs and staged a protest in Todd Mall against violence and alcohol abuse.
There was extensive media coverage, with journalists, cameramen, and various prominent identities and politicians at hand.
Chief Minister Marshall Perron consulted widely with the women and senior men from the communities. Crime, violence, alcoholism, and anti-social behaviour had reached crisis point and the NT Government (then CLP) was obliged to tackle these problems in a crucial election year.
On May 24 Mr Perron sent identical letters to Robert Tickner, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Senator Graham Richardson, Minister for Social Security, in which he sought the assistance of the federal Labor government to implement some of the proposed solutions.
The letter makes interesting reading, in light of contemporary efforts to deal with these issues.
"My dear Minister, Over the past few months there has been heightened concern about increasing public disorder in Alice Springs, which has focussed primarily on disorder associated with uncontrolled drinking by groups of Aboriginals either resident in or visiting the area.
"The public disorder is evidenced by unacceptable social behaviour, public drunkeness, incidents of violence, damage to property and the like.
"As an example of the measure of the problem, over five thousand Aboriginal people have been taken into protective custody or sobering up shelters during the past four months.
"Such a situation cannot, of course, be allowed to continue and my Government has recently set about measures to address the problem in the short term, while strategies for the longer term are established.
"In addition to the Territory Government, the Alice Springs Town Council, the Tangentyere Council, members of the Labor Opposition in the Territory and other organisations have been searching for ways to alleviate the situation.
"I am sure that constructive proposals can be agreed on and pursued locally. One of my concerns is that local solutions will not have the capacity to address all the problems.
"I wish now to seek your concurrence in a proposition that can only be fostered by the Commonwealth.
"It is fair to say that a large bulk of the money available to problem drinkers in Alice Springs arises from Social Security payments intended for the support of the recipient and his or her dependants to meet the basic living needs of shelter, food, clothing, transport etc.
"This, significantly, is now being voiced as a basic concern by members of the Aboriginal community themselves.
"I recently met in Alice Springs with Aboriginal women and senior men representing communities from all over the Centralian area.
"At those meetings I was told, in the starkest possible terms, of the family neglect, social dysfunction and breakdown of traditional values arising from the "˜urban drift' of Aboriginal people leaving their home areas in favour of accessibility of liquor in Alice Springs.
"People that I talked with over many hours pleaded with me to exercise a power I do not have to send the drinkers back to their communities, and even to consider a form of "˜prohibition' for Aboriginal people.
"The alternative proposition put to me, and which I now put to you, was that Social Security payments be available to recipients only at their home community.
"The reasoning is obvious when one considers the ease with which a recipient can change his or her forwarding address to Alice Springs, leaving dependants to fend for themselves or seek support from the home community.
"A related concern is the number of Aboriginal people who opt out of community based CDEP programmes so as to take the alternative of an unemployment benefit cheque to spend on liquor in Alice Springs.
"Since the adoption of a CDEP program is based on a community majority decision, there should be no ability for individuals to withdraw from a program in order to pursue the Alice Springs alternative and its consequences.
"Naturally, there would need to be provision for exceptions to both propositions in cases of extended absence from a community for legitimate reasons such as health care.
"I am sure that, in considering these proposals, your officers will be able to identify a number of reasons why they should not be implemented.
"Many of the reasons will be, or will appear to be, well founded on premises such as the "˜rights' of the individual."�
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

"˜Can do' council is the developer of 7-stage residential subdivision. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Alice Springs is not alone in suffering a housing shortage but we may have a lesson to learn about solving the problem from our neighbour across the desert, the mining city of Mount Isa.
Mount Isa City Council took over development of a 25.3 hectare lot as a residential subdivision rather than let the project stall when the original developer collapsed.
The land had been gifted to the city by mining company Xstrata in 2004.
Mount Isa calls itself a city, even though its population is only 22,000, somewhat smaller than Alice's.
It has suffered from "huge"� land and housing shortage over the last 10 years, according to Ross Thinee, formerly a real estate agent and auctioneer, now employed by Desert Knowledge Australia in Mount Isa.
The city council was reluctant to take a hands on role in development but "community need"� meant they could not let the project fail, according to a council spokesperson.
The council had called for expressions of interest, to which two external developers responded.
When they did not proceed beyond negotiation stage, and with no other interest forthcoming, council decided to become project managers and a contractor was appointed to undertake the engineering works.
This contractor fell over and council was then forced to take over that role as well.
The subdivision, known as Healy Heights, comprises 176 residential lots with open space and a park. 
Xstrata asked for 15 residential allotments be retained for their use.
The land has been released in stages, with the final stages 6 and 7 still to be completed.
Stage 1, 22 allotments, was released in March 2006, followed by Stage 2, 27 allotments, in September of the same year "“ just two years after the original gifting of the land.
The lots sold for an average of $75,000.
As of September this year, houses had been completed or were underway on 12 lots of Stage 1, and 21 lots of Stage 2.
A further 22 houses had been built in Stages 3 to 5, with covenant approvals gained for another 16 lots. Only 12 lots out of more than 100 remained unsold.
The covenants outline housing styles and standards as the area was designed for "executive"� living.     "Affordable"� housing will be built in the adjacent Gliderport area, the principal future growth area of the city.
The council has recently secured ownership of the land following lengthy negotiations with the State Government and the resolution of native title issues. Healy Heights was freehold land and thus unaffected by native title.
Mount Isa Mayor John Molony says the Gliderport development will not have any "onerous covenants"� and "people should be able to erect quality transportable homes in this area"�.
This means "˜kit style' homes, not demountables or "˜built in' caravans.

Town planning crossroads. COMMENT by DOMENICO PECORARI.

As we approach the end of the first decade of the new century, Alice Springs stands at a planning crossroad.
On the one hand, the town can continue with the "˜business-as-usual' model, based upon short-term opportunism but carrying with it the prospect of longer term costs, or it can join the many cities, towns and communities, both interstate and internationally, that are preparing themselves for a future that will minimise the unavoidable impacts of climate change and peak oil.
The "˜business as usual' option is best demonstrated by the proposed suburban development at AZRI and its future extension to the northern edge of the Alice Springs Airport.
My critique of this proposal, based on its lack of any detailed analysis of the environmental, social, cultural and economic consequences, has been reported on recently in these pages (articles by Kieran Finnane in the Sept 23 and Oct 28 editions).
There is an alternative vision, but preliminary survey work on the AZRI site is proceeding with such haste that we may have reached a "˜point of no return' by the time we come back from our summer break.  
The alternative involves accepting a future in which, most likely, we face increasing fuel costs for transportation, increased climatic changes and reduced funding support from increasingly more centralised federal and state governments.  
This option requires of us to accept a greater degree of self-sufficiency, especially as we are perhaps the most isolated town of our size in Australia.
We need to see the AZRI land, believed to be the most naturally fertile in our area, as vital to our town's future viability and to set it aside for a local horticultural industry we will one day need and not to be wasted on a poorly thought out, inappropriate suburban development.  
We need to move towards "˜future-proofing' our town through containing its growth within the present town's "˜footprint' and by consolidating future housing into our town's centre and towards building up neighbourhood nodes.  
The creation of more densely populated, well designed medium-density housing, located within easy walking and riding distance of the town's centre and our inner-most shopping centres such as Eastside, Northside and Gillen, would reduce our dependence on private vehicle use, as well as contributing to a healthier lifestyle and reducing the need to provide in-town carparking.
Environmentally, this reduction in car use and the average distance of car travel into the town centre would produce measurable reductions in carbon emissions for the town as a whole.  
Medium density housing is also significantly more energy- and water-efficient than the single house and better suited to a demographic group without children or "˜passing through' the town.  
Economically, it would help make Alice Springs a more affordable town in which to live and promote a more diverse range of socio-economic groups needed for the functioning of a society.  
Strategically locating these growth areas would also assist in rationalising our water, sewer, power and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as permitting a more targeted public transport system.
Socially, it would encourage a sense of identity and belonging that could contribute towards countering some of the anti-social behaviour currently plaguing out town.  That sense of identity has long been established in the Old Eastside, but it is slowly developing in the Northside area as well.   The clever use of public spaces within these neighbourhood hubs would provide places to meet for residents of all ages.
Culturally, it would promote a more sociable and interactive way of living, an alternative to the stand-alone suburban house which promotes social isolation and a dependence on the private car.  
Need for a Plan:
The above alternative is only a small part of a bigger picture vision, let's call it a Town Plan, which we should be considering and developing for Alice Springs.  This vision should integrate the environmental, social, cultural and economic aspirations into a viable and sustainable whole: a model that suits our town's and its people's particular conditions and circumstances and which, perhaps, will come to define our town for the outside world.
Coalition FAB Alice was recently launched with the aim of putting together such a Town Plan for Alice Springs, through collecting relevant recommendations from the many reports and studies of the recent past, seeking input from the body of expertise and experience within the town and giving anyone with an interest the chance to participate in the process.
The group has recently re-organised its mail-out system and is currently putting together a website which will include an on-line forum and the developing Town Plan, as well as seeking a publicly accessible space in which ideas can be received, presented, discussed and exhibited for public comment.  
Unlike the many great recommendations held within reports which are collecting dust on many shelves, the ideas generated by this process will go into creating a living document, one that reflects the needs and wishes of the community and which will provide the necessary guidance for the future development of Alice Springs.  
The process will not take long, as the required data and information is readily available, although presently dispersed, amongst the many environmentally, socially, culturally and economically focused organisations within our community.
It is believed that the final document, based on data and developed as it will be by the community, will have to be accepted by the NT Government and the local Alice Springs Town Council, by the sheer weight of community support.  A truly democratic process in action.                                                               
In the lead up to the summer break, I'd be willing to bet that our political leaders and decision-makers have their holidays planned to a tee: airline tickets purchased, tours and hotels booked, everything packed that would be needed for the holiday ... with nothing left to chance.  
Why then, I wonder, do they not see the need for planning the future of a whole town and instead permit the ad-hoc development so evident in Alice Springs?
Note: To be kept informed / become involved in Coalition FAB Alice, email us at

Cool hotrods & street machines. By CHRIS WALSH.

Have you ever seen the cool hotrods and street machines at the annual Show "˜n' Shine or just cruising around town and  wondered who they belong to?
It's more than likely that their owners are members of the local Aces and Eights Special Interest Vehicle Group with Peter Hondow (pictured) as the association's president.
Pete returned to Alice Springs in 2001 and couldn't understand why people weren't cruising in their hot cars on a Saturday night. He decided to organise an informal cruise night, starting with about six cars.
More people started to get involved and eventually it was agreed that they would meet at a central location such as Hungry Jack's before each cruise.
This allowed them to pop the hoods and publicly display their vehicles before the actual cruise and then return to somebody's house for drinks and nibbles.
On some occasions, the cruise would turn into a "shed crawl"� where the guys would get to check out each other's collectibles while the girls socialised. As time went on a few people left town but were quickly replaced with newcomers. 
Pete would organise runs every couple of months or so and the group gradually grew to what it is now.
The events were free of charge although sometimes they would have prizes which were donated. 
"Chris Vaughan from Bo's has always been really good,"� says Pete.
"He's always given little prizes such as clothing or meal vouchers.
"Once we had an hour's dyno-tune time donated by Dallas Tuxworth, which was fantastic."�
In 2007 Pete was encouraged to become the president and make the group an official club.
His main concern was that this step may take away a lot of the fun and he knew he would have to have some help.
It was agreed that the founding members would form a committee and have inaugural membership numbers allotted which would be permanently retained. They organised a constitution and applied for incorporation after choosing the name "Aces and Eights"� and the rest, as they say, is history.
Aces and Eights is a family club. They always try to provide activities for the kids and a lot of people turn up in their everyday vehicles.
On movie nights the club sells popcorn and hot dogs and they show cartoons before the main feature.
The cruises usually leave from Hungry Jacks if food hasn't been organised, or otherwise the Kmart car park.
Members sign in before each event.
There is a clubman champion trophy presented at the end of each year and the points for this are derived from the sign-in book. 
Points are awarded for attendance, outstanding vehicle, who set the vehicle up and anyone who has given help over and above the usual standard.
Pete says that at present, there are about six people on similar points who are all in contention for this year's trophy.
"We encourage people to try to keep the core group as hotrods, muscle cars, street machines and the like.
"We allow bikes as well, providing they're a bit different "“ modified, restored or of exceptional quality.  "And we do allow more modern cars at the discretion of the committee."�
 Associate membership is available for owners of everyday-type vehicles however the committee feel that if they let every XR6 or Commodore join in, then a few years down the track the club will be one of many Commodore or Ford clubs.
"We're looking for something that's a little bit different, not run of the mill,"� says Pete.
For example an old XD falcon might meet the age criteraion, but on closer viewing the paint may be scruffy, it may have horrible wheels, it may not be restored and the interior may shabby "“ that's not what Aces and Eights is about.
If on the other hand, the car looked brand new and was presented as a concourse-type car, then it would definitely be eligible.
Club registration plates are also on offer to Aces and Eights members, on approval for the committee.
Club rego requires a minimum three runs per year and the member must be financial for a minimum of six months before endorsement is given.
The club rego scheme allocates 90 days of use per year with 30 for personal use and it's preferable that the vehicle is not used to drive to or from work.
A few people abuse the system by using the vehicle as an everyday drive but the MVR is going to crack down on this in the very near future, says Pete.
He says vehicles may travel interstate providing they notify the club a month in advance, so that the club can notify the MVR.
A meeting between several local clubs and an MVR representative from Darwin was held in Alice Springs recently and some minor changes have been requested.
These changes are currently being reviewed at present and some amendments will be made.  
Pete's main special interest vehicle is a '36 Ford Tudor hotrod with a supercharged Holden V8.
Tt took him about 3000 hours over six years to build: by the time he'd finished he really needed some time away from it. It hasn't been on the road for some time but hopefully it'll be going next year.
He also has "Groucho"� "“ a '72 Holden HQ One Tonner ute with a 350 Chev motor and  9 inch turbo 1200.
Groucho has a leather interior, custom paint and some murals on it and Pete says he built it as an everyday work car.
He has an '88 FJ1200 road bike which was built from a basket case.
Now that it's going, it's become an everyday rider as well.
He has a '69 XW GT Falcon which he hopes to restore in the next few years; he's always loved that particular car from when they originally came on the market. 
Then there's the XY ute that he's been working on for several years although it was put on hold when Groucho came on the scene.
He estimates it will take another 500 hours to get it on the road. 
Peter smiles and says: "We've got to that stage in life where "˜one day' has come around and we're actually going to do it."�

Through a looking glass.

An exhibition by 36 local artists about "looking, listening and connecting to country"� opened at Araluen on the weekend.
It was co-curated by Doris Stuart, traditional custodian for Mparntwe, together with artists Dan Murphy and Lucy Stewart.
Murphy described Doris and her family as having provided a "looking glass"� into Mparntwe for artists taking part in an ongoing dialogue and cultural exchange facilitated by the artist-run initiative, Watch This Space, for a number of years now.
The exhibition, Pmere Arntarntareme / Watching This Place was opened by photographer MIKE GILLAM whose edited speech follows:

In 1936, before most of us were born, the last captive Thylacine died in a Hobart Zoo. And yet the Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger continues to occupy a place of acute longing and regret in our nation's consciousness.
This fact is evident here, in this exhibition, in our town, where many important features of the landscape have a connection with the ancestral Alhekulyele (wild dog / thylacine).
A few years back a famous old painter visited Doris's brother, the late Bob Stuart, and asked to be taken to several Alhekulyele sites (including Mt Gillen) to fulfill his quest to follow part of this song line, his dreaming, connecting his Top End community with Alice Springs. Such is the living culture of Mparntwe and the town of Alice Springs that overlies this special place.
So while the Thylacine is presumed extinct, the rich legacy of Alhekulyele lives on for those who have responsibility for Mparntwe, a place that was shaped by ancestral heroes and is the final resting place for many.
For me it's a great comfort to walk into this exhibition and sense the presence of the late David Mpetyane, son of Doris Stuart. While caterpillars and occasionally Thylacines featured in David's paintings, much of the great knowledge that shaped his work remains hidden to the public eye.
Like Doris, his words and poetry were far less cryptic when he examined the impact of the town's development on his family and the sacred sites they struggled, against the odds, to protect. I'd recommend a closer look at both of his works in this exhibition. His aerial view of Alice Springs for instance, reinstates a minor watercourse buried long ago, beneath the suburbs, its intermittent flows stemmed by sub-divisional drains.
For many years I've witnessed some of the relentless pressure placed upon members of the Stevens, Stuart and Rice families who continue in their role as custodians for this place.
I vividly remember a time 25 years ago when I accompanied AAP reporter Dave Richards and Arrernte custodian Thomas Stevens to Barret Drive where the tail of the ancestral caterpillar Ntyarlke had been cut off to make way for a road.
I photographed a defiant and distressed Thomas standing in front of the desecrated site holding his book aloft: "Damaging Our Dreaming"� was the title. I was bewildered over this lost opportunity for the town to innovate and highlight the presence of our amazing natural and cultural landscape. At the time, the government and much of the town's population seemed oblivious to the irony that Barrett Drive was a main access road to the town's premier tourist precinct. We can't bring back the Thylacine but we can take responsibility for this time and place. We can certainly show respect for the natural landscape and the sacred sites that are embedded within it.
As artists we can search for common ground between people. We can certainly pay homage to the landscape and by extension, to the heritage of those who came before us.
We cannot possess the heritage of another but we can help to defend it, and among our own culture, networks, families and friends, we can raise public appreciation for the cultural richness and diversity of this place. Doris showed a generosity of spirit when she took artists on tours of sacred sites in the town area and hopefully the artists will respond over time with equal generosity and respect. Perhaps through her collaboration with contemporary artists, Doris Stuart continues a process in this exhibition that will ultimately prove more enduring than any government marketing campaign could hope to be.

Alice raises $10,000 for victims of floods in Pakistan.

More than 200 people came together at Olive Pink Botanic Garden on Friday to support the flood affected people of Pakistan. A team of volunteers gave generously of their time, resources, and creativity to raise about $10,000.
Guests enjoyed music by Rusty and the Infidels, Emma, Jane and friend together with food from RT tours and desserts prepared by friends and served throughout the evening.
Mary Muldrum, Australia's first female auctioneer, got the crowd into the spirit of the evening and bidding for Pakistan on items donated by local businesses.
The night culminated in an Indian semi-classical dance performance, followed by a vibrant display of exquisite subcontinent attire.
Throughout the evening, guests felt the intimacy of Pakistan through photographs as they enjoyed Kam's coffee.
This event was a tribute to and recognition of the diversity of Alice Springs and its generosity, where our connectedness within the Centre and across the oceans was celebrated.
"“ Dr Farida Khawaja

Is IAD for Aborigines or for Arrernte?

It is not yet clear whether IAD language and cultural activities will be devoted exclusively to Arrernte or whether other Aboriginal language groups will be included.
This will be a decision of the Council of Elders once it is appointed. 
A special general meeting last Friday amended the constitution of the Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD) to allow the appointment of this council.
Elders will be recognized Arrernte Apmereke-artweye (decision-makers for Arrernte country) and kwertengerle (caretakers), and there will be a balance of females and males.
A group of Councillors will be appointed by Elders by resolution passed at an Elders meeting.
Councillors must be identified as belonging to one of eight Arrernte skin groups.
The duties of Elders and Councillors are to preserve and share their teachings of:
"¢ Apmereyanhe "“ The Country Ground;
"¢ Tyerrtye Apmere-arenye "“ People of the Land;
"¢ Anpernirrentye "“ Kinship;
"¢ Atnengkarre "“ Story and Language.
"“ Kieran Finnane

LETTER: Share our salad dressing.

Sir "“ It's difficult to be optimistic about the Building Our Museums and Art Galleries Sector consultancy which visited Alice Springs recently.
I observed that barely a minute was taken, much less a recording made of the consultation. I am reminded that there are people who, instead of listening to what is being said to them, are already listening to what they are going to say themselves.
Or perhaps the exasperation evident amongst the attendees for visionary leadership and immediate, practical assistance was perfectly translated.
In which case, you'd expect some urgency is applied to filling the positions of MAGNT Director (vacant for two years) and MAGNT Regional Museums Network Officer (vacant for five years) with passionate and capable professionals.
Elsewhere, cultural institutions are embracing the web 2.0 revolution with relish and applying innovative digital technologies and audience engagement strategies to great effect.
By comparison, MAGNT languishes a very distant last in developing the transmedia storytelling capacity of its own workforce and the sector it serves, and continues to contract creative industries services with procurement guidelines developed for building toilet blocks.  
The tourism slogan "˜Share Our Story' is likely to remain as salad dressing for a while yet.
Browse the collective wisdom of international museum thinkers at my blog:
David Nixon
Alice Springs

Pregnancy is a laugh, so long as it's not you.

Good news this week folks, a friend of mine is pregnant and I'm rapt for them.
Yes, I did go from the singular "a"� to the plural "them"� because apparently women don't have babies anymore, couples do "“ as in "we are having a baby"�.
This is modern parenting, apparently it shows commitment and love etc but there is one small detail that this does not cover. To whit, it is the lady who does all the work and sacrificing in order to bring the child into the world.
Granted, the other partner has to put up with mood swings that make Regan's turns in The Exorcist look light weight and self indulgent, as well as watching the birth from an angle the mother cannot appreciate due to circumstances beyond her control.
What mummies have to go through in order to get a card, a box of choccies and a well meaning but often inedible breakfast in bed once a year is incredible. Hats off ladies!
However, alongside the other obvious changes that happen are some other rather amusing ones, as long as it's not you of course.
I will cover my bottom here by saying not all ladies have this interesting side effect of growing children (that way if you don't like what I'm about to say, you don't have to kill me in a hormone-fuelled rage) but I have seen enough to think that it is not an isolated phenom. Quite frankly, they go a bit mental.
Which, considering the circumstances, is reasonable. If I had a parasitic creature growing inside of me I would be in denial as well, especially if I knew that the finale was going to resemble the gut burster scene from Alien, albeit with the exit point a little lower down.
The last few weeks are spent in a slight daze, punctuated by frequent toilet stops and tummy rubbing by complete strangers who think that it's OK to do so. It's like God has allowed some mummy drugs to take the edge off what is a fairly uncomfortable part of a woman's life. Then they say and do funny things.
Like a friend of mine who was already "˜blessed' with three boys under two (twins+1) and was expecting again. She was a bit tired and emotional one day late in the last trimester and was telling me that she would dearly love to have a girl to round out the tribe. She had always wanted a little girl, you see, and had even picked out a name while she was young and fantasizing about the life she would lead when she grew up.
What was the name of this fantasy child, I asked.
She had a spaced out, dreamy expression on her face as she said, "Ophelia"�.
That was all I recalled for about five minutes as I laughed until I almost threw up, crying, snot bubbles the whole bit. Then I got myself under control, looked at her pissed off expression and started laughing again.
Finally, and I do mean finally, I managed to point out she had married a Mr G. Cox and I didn't think Ophelia was a good choice of name in this case. The fantasy sequence hadn't included the last name and Ophelia Cox was never considered. It all came to naught in the end "“ she had another boy and disaster was avoided.
They can also get a bit funny and over protective of the unborn bub, like the lady who didn't want hard rock music playing while she exercised at the local gym. She didn't want the child "exposed to that sort of influence"� while she bounced its head against her pelvic floor as she strode out on the treadmill. I dunno, it's already a head banger "“ maybe she didn't want it coming out with little studded wrist bands too. I can see that.

POLLY POINTS: Um, is that down or up?

Delia Lawrie
(ALP, Karama)
New crime and justice figures show the number of assaults dropped by 15 per cent across the Territory in the June quarter "“ the lowest level since September 2009.
It's pleasing that in Darwin assaults have dropped 24 per cent, 17 per cent in Palmerston, 18 per cent in Alice Springs, 19 per cent in Katherine and 48 per cent Nhulunbuy.
However disappointingly alcohol continues to be involved with 59 per cent of all assaults across the Territory which remains too high.
That's why the Henderson Government has said Enough is Enough and is rolling out some of the toughest actions in the nation to reduce alcohol misuse and associated violence and crime.

Matt Conlan
(CL, Greatorex)
Central Australia
The 25% increase in assaults in Alice Springs over the past 12 months is devastating for a community crying out for leadership to end the cycle of violence gripping the Town.
There were more assaults in Alice Springs than there were in Darwin "“ a city with approximately four times the population.
This is a disastrous outcome that will be no surprise to the residents of Alice Springs. The Labor Government is in denial about this significant increase.
The 25% increase also highlights the failure of the Government's grog restrictions to make even the slightest difference to the rates of violent crime.
The Government admits that 66% of assaults were alcohol related "“ and yet it maintains grog bans in the town are working.

Terry Mills
(CL, Blain)
Opposition Leader
The misleading and deceptive use of the June quarter crime statistics by the Attorney General shreds the last of her limited credibility. The Attorney General's media release deceitfully ignores the meaningful year on year statistical comparison of criminal activity.
Instead she has grasped the statistically meaningless comparison between the March and June quarters.
The fact is in the Territory for the last decade assaults have fallen generally in the order of 10% between the March and June quarters "“ it's a seasonal inevitability.
The Attorney General should have been comparing assaults recorded in the June quarter 2009 with those of June 2010.
That figure shows a 6.5% increase from one year to the next which is part of a trend that has seen assaults in the NT increase by 73% in the last six years.
That includes increases of 87% in Alice Springs and 128% in Palmerston.

Adam Giles
(CL, Braitling)
Indigenous Policy
The Territory Government should tell Territorians exactly what is happening with the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP).
Transparency leads to greater accountability and improvements in delivery and will end speculation about performance.
On current estimates, more than $500m has been spent building just 88 SIHIP houses.
Government must also explain what difference SIHIP will make.
Many houses have already been trashed and are in the same condition they were in before they were upgraded.
Also causing concern among community leaders is that there will be fewer bedrooms when SIHIP ends than when it began [due to the number of houses being demolished and abandoned].
[Based on what I have learnt during this year's Estimates Committee and recent briefings] it appears the Labor Government will spend more than $1billion dollars on SIHIP for no net gain in bedrooms or houses.
It also means there will be no significant impact on overcrowding.
The tragedy is SIHIP was supposed to be an emergency to protect children by providing them with safe places to live.

Kon Vatskalis
(ALP, Casuarina)
Child Protection
The NT Government has acted swiftly and responsibly to the most comprehensive inquiry into child protection undertaken in the Territory.
Not only are we creating a dedicated "“ stand alone - child protection agency, but we have acted very quickly to allocate additional resources to address the Board of Inquiry's recommendations.
This includes funding for an additional 42 child protection professional workers "“ on top of the 76 positions funded in the last budget.
Non-government provider Lifestyle Solutions [has been] appointed to provide emergency residential care in Darwin for the next 12 months.
Since the Inquiry was handed down last month there had been ongoing advancement on the recommendations including:
"¢ Ongoing negotiations with AMSANT to establish the peak aboriginal NGO body;
"¢ The funding of a position at NTCOSS to coordinate and boost NGO capacity;
"¢ The announcement of the chair and members of the Reform steering Committee "“ the Government's commitment to external accountability in progressing the Inquiry's recommendations;
"¢ The secondment of 10 highly experienced child protection professionals from New Zealand who will be dedicated to continuing to reduce the investigation backlog.

Gerry McCarthy
(ALP, Barkly)
Arts Minister 
The Henderson Government has tripled arts expenditure since 2001 and we will continue to build and support Territory arts.
A vibrant arts scene makes the Territory a better place to live in and also promotes better education outcomes as well as reducing antisocial behaviour.
The Territory's per capita arts funding is $45.31 per person, which is $12.17 above the national average.
Annual funding increases since 2008 include:
"¢ $250,000 to the Indigenous program including $150,000 allocated to an Indigenous music touring circuit;
"¢ $200,000 for remote, regional and community festivals;
"¢ Additional funding of $100,000 for arts projects; and
"¢ Darwin Community Arts, Chambers Crescent lease 2008-11, $325,000 over this period.
The Territory Government also provides arts funding for other key areas such as Indigenous Arts, the Darwin Festival and public arts grants, and it was this Government that established the Northern Territory Film Office.

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