April 7, 2011. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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Native Title Holders pull the rug from under Lhere Artepe Corporation.

A group of 25 native title holders, including Rosalie Kunoth-Monks (pictured) is calling for a probe into "
performance issues of the management of Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation," the immediate appointment of an interim administrator, an investigation of "Lhere Artepe and its subsidiary companies" and "another AGM to legitimately appoint Lhere Artepe members, directors and officers".
The group also says the sale of Native Title land should be put on hold, including "all matters related to White Gate and families of White Gate and the land thereof".

THE STATEMENT: Ian Conway,  Native Title Holder, called a special meeting of Central Australian Native Title Holders on April 6, 2011. At this meeting 25 people gathered to  talk and tell of their concerns for their representative body: Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation Icn: 3991.
Mr Conway started the discussions: “Things that are going on at Lhere Artepe Corporation and related entities are not what Lhere Artepe was originally established for.
"Lhere Artepe  Members are asking questions about operations of Lhere Artepe  and not getting answers. "We, Native Title Holders and Lhere Artepe  Members don’t know what’s going on!
"Decisions are coming from one small group. We don’t know what the CEO is doing, even on a day to day basis."
Ms Kathy Martin expressed concern about how Lhere Artepe not operating to its objectives: “It’s not about money! Money is not mentioned in objectives. Part of one objective is ‘to relieve the poverty, misfortune, disadvantage, distress, dispossession and suffering of native title holders’.
"Lhere Artepe’s focus is on money for  greed, there is no mention of money in this objective.”
Ms Raelene Smith talked of an example: “The appalling conditions of White Gates camp, where our families live in tin sheds with no water, no heating. They are sick with pain and hurt. Lhere Artepe is not doing their job.”
Other questions asked included: Is White Gate a set up to move our families away so Alice Springs can build for others and not our people?
Lhere Artepe seems to be selling our most important thing; the LAND. Once we lose our land we have nothing!
Mr Baydon Williams at the meeting said he brought a message from the Elders. They are "angry". They are angry with Lhere Artepe not protecting the Dreaming Story shared between surrounding communities and Alice Springs.
The meeting showed considerable commitment to taking action and the actions included:
• Facilitation of an emergency meeting to probe performance issues of the management of Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation Icn: 3991 and all related entities.
• The Office of Register of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) to appoint, immediately, an Interim Administrator for Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation ICN: 3991
• The appointment of an  independent investigator to investigate Lhere Artepe  and its subsidiary companies to seek relevant information which will enable Lhere Artepe Directors (Executive) to be fully informed of the financial dealings of the Lhere Artepe   and its subsidiary Companies
• To reconvene another AGM to legitimately appoint Lhere Artepe  Members, Directors and officers.
Put a hold on the sale of Native Title land. This includes all matters related to White Gate and families of White Gate and the land thereof.
ED – The Alice Springs News points out that, according to a lawyer acting for Lhere Artepe Enterprises Pty Ltd, the various entities bearing in part the name 'Lhere Artepe" are not legally related entities. See Summary and Correction

Cow paddock to suburb of Kilgariff: Blocks for $250,000? By KIERAN FINNANE.
Kilgariff looking not so affordable
Posted April 7 1445 CST

The provision of affordable housing has been the main rationale in the push to develop a residential subdivision at Kilgariff, on AZRI land south of the Gap, 10 kms from the town centre.
Now the Kilgariff Enquiry By Design Forum, an intensive four day planning process, has raised questions about affordability.
While information presented to the public at the close of the forum was under the rider of "everything is hypothetical", the suggestion was that an 800sqm block would sell for $250,000; 600sqm for $195,000; and 450sqm, $156,000.
These estimates were based on indicative land prices for the blocks of $50,000, $38,500 and $28,000 respectively. (The land is government-owned.)
Add to this headworks costs at $20,000 per block irrespective of size (the cheapest in the country, the forum was told); internal development costs of $100,000, $73,000, $57,000 (very expensive compared to Melbourne's average of $35,000-$40,000); and developers' profit, estimated at 40%.
These prices drew the ire of Janet Brown, contributing from the floor. She said they would put the land out of reach of low-income workers, the very people that Alice Springs needs to keep its economy going. She said such prices would be "unfair to our children", indeed unfair to the town which is being devastated by housing shortage. She recalled the "great start" afforded to many in Alice Springs who in earlier decades had been able to buy government-owned housing. She said the scenario for the AZRI land seemed to have changed dramatically since the 2008 Planning for the Future forum.
Mrs Brown also decried the recommendation of the forum that there should be no "conventional Territory Housing", that is public housing, at Kilgariff in the short-term. Along with Jonathan Pilbrow, of NT Council for Social Services, she questioned "the judgment of people on welfare" that that implies.
A key objective for the forum was to make recommendations on the kind of social mix to be aimed for at Kilgariff. The short-term scenario envisages 860 lots in staged release to provide 1200 dwellings for a population of some 3200 people by 2030. 
Wendy Morris, the visiting planning expert who together with Stephen Bowers had led the forum, said that there had been a lot of discussion of this issue, with eventually a unanimous view being reached that excluding public housing in the short-term would encourage a "positive start" at Kilgariff and avoid isolating people with a high need of social services. However the forum supported the provision of "affordable" housing, and more of it than the 15% target figure suggested.
Mr Pilbrow suggested that the same kind of people as live in public housing would also be candidates for affordable housing.
Ms Morris said "not quite", referring to "more robust" candidates. Jan Berryman, a participant in the planning process, said these would be working people on low to moderate incomes with a car. There was also support for Territory Housing funds to be used in an "innovative" way to assist affordability.
Provision of some basic social infrastructure would require government subsidy, at least in the early stages. This was estimated at $3m for a corner store doubling as a community meeting place; $300,000 per year for a bus service; $.5m for a cycle path from Old Timers to the northern end of Kilgariff; and rebates for the installation of water tanks, necessary in part for stormwater control.
The return to government from the sale of the land should be used to fund these works, said Mr Bowers. ( A primary school is impossible to justify in the early stages, but there could possibly be a childcare centre.)
The forum had also considered the possible impacts of Kilgariff on the existing town of Alice Springs and recognised the need for a parallel process of revitalisation and intensification (infill) north of the Gap.
Ms Morris acknowledged the participation in the process of people with strong concerns about it. These concerns were around lack of demand, its remote location, the risk of limited community facilities, land suitability, and a preference for urban infill.
Domenico Pecorari, one of these people, said there was a real danger that Kilgariff would become "the main game" and draw funds and energy away from development in town. Ms Morris agreed. She said Kilgariff would not solve "the tourism problem" (no doubt referring to poor perception of Alice Springs for all the well-known reasons); for that, we have to "fix the existing city" and she said that would be a "strong message to government" from the forum.
Mr Pecorari commended the Enquiry By Design process but said that it had been applied to Kilgariff "in a bubble" and needed to be applied to the whole town. Ruth Apelt also questioned the resources put into planning Kilgariff compared with the single-day Planning for the Future Forum in 2008, which had only considered reports on greenfield development and had not looked at all at urban infill. On this basis the whole planning scheme had been changed and a decision made to develop the AZRI land. She said that if the recently approved residential development of the old drive-in site goes ahead, it will soften demand for the Kilgariff blocks and that the Intervention driver for urban drift is likely to change. She also said that the Kilgariff option now looks expensive and won't respond to the housing needs of low income workers and Indigenous people
She would prefer to see examined the potential redevelopment of the railway yards, which would have a revitalising effect on the town centre while providing for lower income housing.  Mr Bowers pointed out that, apart from the yards being privately owned, such conversions are typically very expensive as the yards have to be relocated and the land in all likelihood decontaminated before the project could proceed. Ms Morris suggested that "smaller morsels" could be bitten off first to revitalise the centre of town. (There is an existing residential capacity study focussed on the CBD – google 'residential capacity' in our story archive.)
Ann Jacobs, local head of the Department of Lands and Planning, said the dissenting message would be taken back to government, but Kilgariff "is a big project for us" – "it will be our first project that we'll be working on".
As previously reported headworks are underway; sewage and power will be completed by August / September, the forum was told, with roads, water and trunk drainage following, probably by Christmas. Recycled water from the SAT ponds will be used for watering public open space, but is unlikely to be reticulated to homes, as a "third pipe system" would add too significantly to the cost.
A Heffernan Road rural resident expressed great anger over the lack of consultation with existing landowners in the area and concern over the what she saw as the likely impact of anti-social behaviour on the blockie lifestyle.
Mrs Jacobs in reply referred to "quite a big buffer" between Kilgariff and the Heffernan Road blocks, and while the impact on the rural area was an issue to consider, the town's need for more housing was "what we are moving to".
The work of the forum will now be distilled into a master plan for Kilgariff and be made available for public comment.

Hampton: Costs by developers 'out of our control'

Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton attended the closing public session of the Kilgariff Enquiry By Design Forum.
The Alice News asked him for his view on the provision of public housing at Kilgariff.
He said  he doesn't personally have a view, that it is up to the community to bring their views to government, which is what the Enquiry By Design process had been about.
"Through that process government can make an informed decision on future land release," said Mr Hampton.
We put to him that there had been angst expressed in the forum about likely price of the blocks and asked whether his government would be committed to finding a way around such prices?
Mr Hampton pointed out that the prices "shouldn't be quoted" (they were estimates).
He said while it is possible that government can play a role in ensuring affordability "a lot of things are out of our control in terms of costs by developers".
Would government consider developing at least some of the land itself to keep costs down?
He said government needs to look at all options available.
Would he push in Cabinet for government to look at something like that*?
He said he is "not in position" to do that.
Why not, as Minister for Central Australia?
He said, not being Minister for Lands and Planning, he doesn't know detail of different models.
"It's complex, I would have to go away and look at what the different options mean."
* An alternative suggested in later discussion would be for government to ensure that two or three developers are involved, creating a competitive situation which would contribute to keeping costs down.

Cow paddock or suburb? By KIERAN FINNANE.
Posted April 4.

Creating a "community, not a subdivision" is the challenge for Kilgariff, the intended greenfield development on AZRI (Arid Zone Research Institute) land south of the Gap, said Lands and Planning Minister Gerry McCarthy yesterday.
He was speaking at the opening public session of the Kilgariff Enquiry by Design process, getting properly underway today. Interim designs – which some 40 individuals from a cross-section of Alice Springs will be developing under the guidance of trained "team leaders" – will be available for public scrutiny this evening (5pm at the Convention Centre). The full "outcomes" will be presented to the public on Wednesday evening (4.30-7pm).
David Ritchie, CEO of the Department of Lands and Planning, told yesterday's gathering of around 80 people that the growth driver for Alice Springs is its role as a hub for services to a wider region with an existing population of 18,000, three-quarters of whom are Aboriginal. In the past natural growth of Alice's population has been moderated by people leaving, but this changed in 2008, he said, with a rapid increase of some 600 residents. (He didn't say so but it is broadly believed that these are mostly Aboriginal people.) This is predicted to taper off to some extent but growth will remain higher than it has been.
Dr Ritchie said it is estimated that 75 new dwellings a year are required to meet demand, and "by any estimate" that requirement is unlikely to be met other than by greenfield (vacant land) development. Hence the AZRI / Kilgariff solution, where construction of headworks has begun.
Dr Ritchie said the "measure of success" of Kilgariff will be that, given a choice, people will want to live there rather than north of the Gap
What will it take to bring this about?
In the long term – 20 years hence – up to 1200 dwellings are envisaged for the site. In the short term, the "best bet" scenario, based on a modest growth rate, will see 75 houses a year built there over the four years from 2012, tapering off to 47 year up to 2021.
These figures were given by Wendy Morris, one of the two planning experts leading the Enquiry by Design process. She predicted 833 houses on the site by 2030.
It was suggested from the floor, by visiting academic Tarsha Finney, that a population of 10,000 is required to support community facilities. With an average house occupancy of 2.6, that makes for a population of just over 2000 in 2030. So how will 'community' be achieved?
Ms Morris acknowledged that there will be no school in Kilgariff "for a long time" – even drawing on the existing student population south of the Gap would not help get over the threshold required, she said.
She also said it would be hard to get retail onto the site, as a population of 750 is required to support a corner store, though on this issue the existing community south of the Gap may help.
In group discussion later it was suggested that a school of 100 students, in the tradition of small country schools, could be viable, especially if combined with childcare and pre-school. It was also suggested that the services could cater for the needs of the Desert People's Centre staff and student population. And it was argued that passing trade could support a service station and convenience store if they were located close to the Stuart Highway.
Ms Morris had earlier pointed to the interface with the Stuart Highway as a critical issue, and to walling it off, as has been approved for the old drive-in site, as no solution at all: "Do we risk creating an isolated and hidden residential estate?" she asked.
Ms Finney, playing devil's advocate, suggested that the scenarios of Kilgariff becoming a haven for "middle class white flight" or, alternatively, "a poverty sink" (a low income ghetto) had to be explored. A senior public servant acknowledged this as "the elephant in the room", and also said Kilgariff was a response to the needs of middle to lower income householders.
It had been suggested earlier, by Vicky Critchley who had carried out a consultancy looking at opportunities at Kilgariff for sustainability, that a target of 15% "affordable housing" be set, with a further target of 20% "adaptive housing" (designed with potential for remodeling to meet changing needs). Ms Critchley spoke of "key workers" being housed at Kilgariff, and under the heading of "economic sustainability" also spoke of responding to the needs of Indigenous business and workers, pointing to the very high rate of Indigenous unemployment in Alice Springs – 16.3% (34.9% if CDEP is included).
Ms Morris had also spoken of housing "key workers" and Indigenous students from the Desert People's Centre, and asked how a diverse social mix would be brought about without the problems often associated with public housing at present.
These are just some of the issues that will no doubt be teased out in the coming three days.

Will Labor profit from housing misery?
Comment by MLA for Braitling, Adam Giles

Suggestions that future land sales at Arid Zone could have a starting price of more than $250,000 for an 800 square metre block are ridiculous.
By the Government’s own admission, this land has been selected because it’s owned by the Territory Government and its proximity to essential services would allow for lower headwork costs and, as a consequence, cheaper land prices.
When the Territory Government presented modelling for potential land sales, they assessed the average headworks cost per lot at $23,500.
That included water, sewer, power, stormwater and roads. How can they now want to charge $250,000 per block?
This cost estimate is particularly concerning when compared to other potential blocks to be developed at Larapinta priced at $140,000 per lot, South Sadadeen $34,500 and Mt Johns $35,000.
A new stage satellite suburb in Undoolya was also costed, not on a per lot basis, but at approximately $14,000 per person for a population of 15,000.
Centralians have every right to question the proposed $250,000 per lot for the AZRI subdivision. There is nothing affordable about it.
Government should be stimulating the local economy through release of low cost land not price gouging Centralians and profiteering.
I again call on Karl Hampton to stand up for Centralians and stop Labor pocketing the money of Alice Springs families to fund election promises in Darwin’s northern suburbs.

Alcohol ID system a dud? By ERWIN CHLANDA

The alcohol ID system, under which buyers of alcohol must present a photo ID which is scanned and processed under government legislation, is seriously flawed, claims a liquor merchant in Alice Springs.
He says the system malfunctions three to four times a day because the data are transmitted over a wireless system which frequently cuts out.
The source says he has been told the government will not spend money to go to a landline method of transmission.
A Department of Justice spokesperson says: "A handful of licensees are experiencing network connection issues with the current Alcohol ID system in Alice Springs. 
"Network congestion and signal interference is the major cause of this issue.  
"Disconnections are detected by a service provider and the Licensee is contacted in order to manually reconnect.
"The Department of Justice, in conjunction with the service provider, has successfully trialled a more reliable communications device that will automatically reconnect thus eliminating the need for the licensees’ staff to do so manually.
"These devices are expected to be deployed shortly."

Risky main character for Alice author's second novel. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.

Alice Springs author Jennifer Mills has been brave in the choice of main character in her second novel, Gone, recently released by UQP. The character adopts the name of Frank but so deeply uncertain is he of who he is, of the past that made him and of his connection to the world around him, that the reader wonders if he even knows his given name. In any case we never learn it, or if we think we do, the possibilities are frightening.
There is an unnamed boy who figures in his memory. The novel opens with this boy being forced by his father to go into a water tank fouled by a dead possum. This is a potent piece of writing and sets an expectation of what is to come – that the book will be pervaded by the overpowering stink of death and fear.
But what follows presents a terror of a different order, that experienced by someone who has only the most tenuous hold on a sense of who he is and his place in the world. This is not easy material. How do you engage readers with someone who is literally falling apart, constantly slipping away from himself and from who and what is around him?
He has a photo of a place that he thinks may be his childhood home and a vague notion that it may be somewhere in the west. On his release from prison (or is it escape, as he is still in prison garb?) he heads westwards, thumbing rides.
This gives the novel its structure, each chapter corresponding to a day on this journey. With each day 'Frank' comes into contact with people who give him a ride. They introduce a certain texture to our experience of this journey, but so closed is Frank to relationships with others, that nothing much happens in the novel for a long time. We have sketches of a panoply of characters dotted across the less than engrossing landscape of the Sturt Highway, interspersed by the memories of what we presume is Frank's depressing, often cruel childhood.
A change occurs about a third of the way in, corresponding with Frank's turn northwards from Port Augusta. All who have made this journey will know the sense of entering another country as Port Augusta is left behind and Mills's book lifts with this emergence into the desert. Her descriptive powers have richer material to work with. Indeed the desert and its summer heat take on a dramatic presence as powerful as any character's.
At the same time the childhood memories become more scarifying and a great sense of unease sets in. We become less and less certain of what has actually happened to Frank, but whether real or not, past or present, his experience is one of cruel abuse, neglect, abandonment and utter aloneness.
Despite all this, Frank reveals a certain amount of grit and determination. He has small triumphs to counteract to some extent a lot of despair. There are acts to which he will not stoop. He survives.
We leave him somewhere in the north-west, around the Halls Creek area. It is possibly his destination or was, but what he expected to find is no longer there. There is a suggestion that this will free him, that it offers a new beginning but this comes in the last quarter page of the book. I am not sure Mills has given us enough here to relieve the overwhelming impression that life will defeat this man.
Mills is a woman in her early thirties who leads, from what I know, an unconventional and adventurous life, her well-earned opportunities as an emerging author taking her frequently away from Alice Springs, interstate and overseas. This is the second novel  for which she has chosen a central character living on the margins of their society (somewhat so for May in The Diamond Anchor, utterly so for Frank) and who is not a strong actor in their fate. Things are done to them, and Mills's focus is on how they survive with their wounds. I have found both novels rather depressing and, if other readers react in the same way, this is a big risk for Mills as a writer. I wonder what would happen if she began her next work from the point she wishes for Frank at the end of Gone – starting with the moment of shaking free from the past and beginning anew.

In her father's footsteps

American woman Elken Maxwell, now residing permanently in Australia, was in the Red Centre last week retracing the footsteps of her adventurous father.
Back in 1955-56 Ted Bumiller was the first man to travel around the world in a Jeep. A recently graduated architect, he used his own savings to buy the Jeep that would become wheels and home for the next 12 months. En route he met Elken's mother, Gunhild,  in Denmark – a fruitful encounter as, before the end of his 45,000 mile odyssey, she let him know that she was expecting their baby.
Apart from his first child, Ted also brought home film and slides, from which he made his first film: By Jeep Around the World. He went on to make 17 more films, taking them on screening and speaking tours around the USA.
He and Gunhild would have four daughters, Elken being the youngest.
However the three younger girls would never have been born but for the action of Aboriginal people in the Australian Outback. Ted was often travelling in remote country without roads and somewhere along the way he ran out of fuel. He left the Jeep behind and set out to get help, carrying only a small canteen of water. Help was a lot further away than he expected and eventually he passed out from dehydration. He would have died had Aboriginal people not found him.
In the 1980s he came back to Australia to try to find these people but was unsuccessful. He passed away five years ago. Elken's pilgrimage to the Centre was in memory of him, to relive his strong sense of connection with this land and to be grateful to it and its first peoples: "If not for them, I wouldn't be here today."
 – Kieran Finnane

Nancarrow's Arrows: Keeping the balls in the air

I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the pace of my life and the juggling I have to do trying to keep all the balls in the air. Trouble is I can’t juggle, two balls is all I got – I am speaking about my metaphorical balls by the way.
I am a believer in signs and portents and I see them all around me now, reflecting my sense of things stalking in the shadows. Then the moment arrives when I know that some one is out to get me.
I get to the railway crossing at 8.05 in the morning to see the boom gates 'for my safety’ are down and there is a sodding great freight train going ever-so-slowly through Alice. Are the people who plan this total numpties? Or are they just so bloody arrogant that they can’t be arsed about the disruption they cause? My thought is, either they live a long way away and don’t really appreciate how infuriating they are being, or they are already at work at the train station and don’t give a shit.
Living in Alice means we don’t ‘do’ commuting, everything is less than 10 minutes away and when we get held up for 10 minutes, we are 10 minutes late. If I wanted a 25 minute commute I would move somewhere else where there would be bill boards to read on the way and so on.  Oh dear, it’s going to be whingey column again, I can feel it.
What's the go with the swimming pool? I kind of expected to be swimming in the nice new bit after couple of years of digging stuff up and dust (and more recently, mud). Now it turns out they have broken the old bit and the whole thing is a shemozzle. (Hells bells, the spell check let me have 'shemozzle' without the angry red line of non-conformity – I never knew it was a real word.)
Hmm, what else? Guy Sebastian, yep that works.
Why have a go at Guy you might say? Well for starters I’m not – I haven’t met him, so I can’t say what he is like. Or can I? Seeing as he likes to have his two bobs' worth in the media, I guess I can comment on that.
 Sebby was having a whine in the papers a while back about how other long term Australian musos had mocked him at the APRA awards and how he was better than them cause he'd sold more records than they had, so there.
It was at this stage that I started to laugh – he had completely missed the point. It wasn’t about who sells more songs than who. Integrity and credibility do not always walk hand in hand with success and to people who don’t have a manufactured ride into the charts, his very presence is annoying. Let alone when they hand out awards and free grog, bitchy singers in tight black jeans put down their guitars and sharpen their claws for war.
Which I can understand.
Not long after I started gigging I played on an album that had potential to ‘go places’. Joe Camilleri produced it and we recorded in Sing Sing studios in Melbourne, which is one of the classic rock studios in Australia. Vikka and Linda Bull both guested as did Joe. We were promised wonderful things at the record label.
What happened to us, this fledgling band of brothers and sisters? The record sank like a stone never to be seen again. The key person who was our go to guy left and his successor wasn’t interested – we weren’t his baby.
So to every muso whose album stiffed, or whose record label blew smoke up their bottom whilst preparing the knife for the back, I get it. And to Guy, a message of wisdom from my dad about the industry. Don’t start believing your own bullshit.

LETTERS: How can there be ORDER if there is no LAW?
Posted 1350 CTS Wednesday

Local businessman Steve Strike sent this email to members of the Territory Government, including Chief Minister Paul Henderson, and many others, at midnight. By 1pm today he had no answers from the Government. Members of the Opposition contacted him this morning. Police are saying they will respond tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6.21pm – A very distressed women from The Thai Room Restaurant informs me that some youths have gone on a rampage in Tuit Lane next to Todd Mall in Alice Springs and trashed her new Honda CR-V. On inspection I find garbage strewn about Tuit Lane the windscreen completely smashed in and panel damage on her car. It appears that the offenders continue their rampage into Todd Mall. Who knows what is happening there.
6.25pm – I call 131444. It's that police phone number that never works! No one there but a lengthy recorded message stating what a wonderful job police have done lowering crime in the last 3 years.
6.31pm – Still no answer, so I call 000. I get an operator in Adelaide who after statutory requirements transfers my call to Casuarina [Darwin]. The operator is not interested in my call unless I can see offenders or someone is being murdered. I hang up.
6.33pm – I try 131444 again. Same Government SpinSpinSpin. No one is there.
6.48pm – I finally connect with a human. Another operator in Casuarina. That operator states they cannot transfer me to Alice Springs Police. They need full particulars of the incident and they will file a report to Alice Springs Police. Alice Springs Police will dispatch a unit as soon as possible.
7.30pm – Still no response from Alice Springs Police. I have been standing in Gregory Terrace now for an hour hoping to flag down a Police Unit. There are no Police on the streets.
7.35pm – One of the staff from the Thai Room physically drives to the Alice Springs Police Station to report the crime.
7.51pm – Police unit finally arrives.
One and a half hours for an on the ground police response on a Tuesday evening. Is this good enough? Why cant the people of Alice get a local response from local people? Why do we have to physically drive to the Alice Springs Police Station to get a response?
How does a tourist get help in situations like this? What if the crime is more serious? Ringing 000 does not guarantee you will get help. The operators dont even know where Alice Springs is. Once transferred to Darwin by the 000 operator that operator has no knowledge of Alice Springs either.
As far as communications are concerned there is a shield that physically prohibits a caller from connecting directly to the Alice Springs Police Station at this time of the day. Should a community that is in dire straights with Law and Order tolerate this? Is it good enough?
After a week of political spin doctoring in Alice the pressure is off, the Darwin Brigade goes home and everything returns to normal!
Alice resumes as a town in crisis!

What makes youth gangs tick

Sir – Youth gang activity, like we see in our streets at night, has a long history and is currently found throughout the world.  The precursors are always the same; they include lack of parental control, non attendance of school, and belonging to a minority group whose members have limited employment opportunities.

We all have human needs – self respect and the respect of others, challenges that we can meet with success, belonging, and a personal control of our own lives.  We, the broader community, fulfill these needs by going to school, holding a job, raising a family, and getting along with our neighbors.  With street kids that’s not the case. 
They don’t cope with school; few in their family have jobs; marriages and family relationships are often brutal; and they feel despised by the broader community. 
During the day they wander around town, with no money to spend, being moved on from place to place by security personnel or police, not belonging, looked down on, and controlled. 
But at night they own the streets.  They are in control.  They belong to the group (gang).  They have self respect and they gain the respect of outsiders at the point of a knife.  The challenge of breaking in, stealing, and outwitting the police is fun and exciting. Winning is great, and loosing is no big deal, as they have learned the ropes of the criminal justice system, and they are not threatened by it.
For us youth gangs are a problem, but for the gang members it’s not the problem, it’s the solution. 
So how do we stop it?  We don’t. As long as the precursors exist (minority groups with no school, no jobs, and no life) it will continue.  
However, as with all crime, it can be controlled by the police at an acceptable level, and maybe this is the best that we can hope for, because until we help them to become a part of us, they will continue to be seen by us as "them", outsiders in our community, outside the law, and outside of our control.
Jerry Flattum
Alice Springs

An unintended consequence of slowing trains?

Sir – The construction of the railway to Darwin, finally achieved in 2004, was a long-awaited development anticipated by many to derive much economic benefit to the Northern Territory. The railway has yet to fulfill this dream but there are certainly many more train movements, of freight as well as the Ghan passenger service, through our fair town.
In recent weeks there’s been some grumbling about the length of time trains travel through the rail corridor in town, and it’s transpired they are proceeding more slowly. The inconvenience for motorists is not the only effect of slower rail movements – it’s also killing gum trees along the rail corridor.
At a time when Central Australia is so green it almost hurts your eyes, sick and dying vegetation stand out in stark contrast. Recently I’ve noticed from casual glances when traveling along Telegraph Terrace and the Stuart Highway south of town that there are a number of chlorotic (yellowing) and defoliating trees along the rail corridor. This intrigued me, as I’m familiar with trees displaying symptoms of poisoning (I had been involved with a tree herbicide trial on Alcoota Station in 1987/88, when working at AZRI).
My first suspicion was that there had been an over-zealous application of herbicide along the rail line for weed control. An excellent example of this kind of mishap occurred in the summer of 1997/98 when several trees on the AZRI boundary along Colonel Rose Drive began to sicken. Discreet enquiries with my former work colleagues revealed that a staff member had misread the label for a herbicide used to treat the firebreak, and had applied the chemical at ten times the recommended rate.
It was very embarrassing and never publicly revealed but of course nobody lived on that land so there was no need for the public to know, was there? The dead trees remain standing along Colonel Rose Drive.
However, closer inspection of the trees along the rail corridor, extending from St Mary’s Creek to Larapinta Drive opposite Billygoat Hill, reveals a very different cause of poisoning. Herbicide can be ruled out as there are stretches where trees are dying yet the undergrowth (mainly buffel grass) is green and healthy, or vice versa.
More telling, however, is that not all tree and shrub species are equally affected. Eucalypts and corymbias (bloodwoods, including ghost gums) are by far the worst affected in closest proximity to the railway, followed by beefwoods (Grevillea striata).
In contrast the wattles (Acacias) and she-oaks (Casuarinas) are barely affected at all – I observed only one of each type that was sick. Significantly all bar one of the ironwood trees (Acacia estrophialata) near the railway are healthy – this species is usually highly susceptible to herbicide poisoning.
However, the eucalypts of all types and species are subject to massive and rapid die-back, and the apparent cause is the exhaust fumes of train engines as they pass by slowly – this seems to have tipped the balance against these trees. There are some examples where the cause is clearly evident, as the canopies of the trees are worst closest to the railway but comparatively healthy on the opposite side.
Many of the sick trees were established in a major beautification project along the rail corridor in the 1980s. Ironically, in recent weeks there has been another big beautification project with hundreds of young trees established along the rail corridor by Telegraph Terrace, and the overwhelming majority are eucalypts. These trees are unlikely to flourish in the short term.
Other dying eucalypts are naturally occurring trees, and some of these are very old. Several large river red gums display clear signs of distress, most noticeably a cluster of tall trees by the turnoff to the causeway at Heavitree Gap.
Interestingly the river gums by the road and rail in Heavitree Gap itself show no signs of ill health; it appears they are saved because the Gap acts as a funnel that amplifies wind, and also being in shade for much of each afternoon means the air is cooler, which lifts the hot exhaust gases from the trains out of harms way for the foliage.
There are also several old Coolabah trees in the rail corridor in proximity to Billygoat Hill that display dieback; and this has potentially serious legal implications as these trees are considered sacred by Aboriginal traditional custodians.
The sudden recent manifestation of this problem means that at present very few trees have actually died; it’s very obvious, however, that many of them are close to perishing and more are just beginning to display symptoms of ill health.
If nothing is done to resolve this problem it’s likely the overwhelming majority of eucalypts, and a few other species, in close proximity to the rail line in and near town will be lost by year’s end.
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs

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