May 26, 2011. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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Big plans for Owen Springs, Henbury Station? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Well informed sources say the NT Government and the Central Land Council are in discussions about the management of the Owen Springs reserve south of Alice Springs.
One source, who spoke on the condition of not being named, says the discussions are about putting non-Aboriginal ranger coordinators of the Tjuwanpa Ranger group on the park to manage it and remove Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) staff.
The source names two senior PWS staff as pushing for the move.
A PWS spokeswoman says "there are no plans to change the current operations or management of Owen Springs Historical Reserve which is undertaken by NT Parks and Wildlife Service rangers".
However, she indicated a further comment may be made later today.
Our source also claims that RM Williams is negotiating to buy the adjoining cattle station Henbury.
A person on the station told the Alice Springs News she did not want to talk about this, but two pastoral industry sources say negotiations have taken place, with no result as yet.
"The original idea was for Henbury to be managed as a conservation area, joining Owen Springs and Palm Valley," says our source.
"Apparently they've got some pretty serious agreement about CLC ranger groups managing the area. No problem with Aboriginal rangers managing the area but CLC will just make it another part of their estate."
The CLC had not responded to our enquiries at the time of posting.
The News has also asked RM Williams for comment.
Owen Springs Reserve of 1780 square kilometres, was formerly Owen Springs cattle station. It was acquired by the Northern Territory Government in 2000 and opened in 2003 for public enjoyment.The area protected within the Owen Springs Reserve is steeped in Territory history. The main access track through the Reserve closely follows John McDouall Stuart's route through the MacDonnell Ranges. His explorations between 1860 and 1862 opened Central Australia to white settlement.
According to an NT Government website for almost its entire course through the reserve, the Hugh River has considerable scenic and recreational appeal. There are numerous, attractive stretches of river with broad sandy banks lined with shady River Red Gums. In several places large waterholes remain long after rain and present outstanding opportunities for camping, picnicking, birdwatching and swimming.

Update 1530 CST May 26:
From PWS: In regards to Owen Springs, yes, we are in discussions with CLC regarding sharing management resources of the park and involvement in management programs however no plans or firm commitment have been made at this stage. In regards to Henbury as far as we’re aware no sale of a pastoral lease has been made.

Posted 1200 CST Sunday, May 29:
On February 22,
independent MLA for MacDonnell Alison Anderson asked Parks Minister Karl Hampton in the Legilative Assembly: "Is it true, due to a lack of funding, Parks staff are now discussing whether to operate all Central Australian parks at a very low level or whether some Central Australian parks should be closed? Can you please advise this House which parks are being considered for closure?"
Mr Hampton replied:
"I am not aware of this government closing parks. We are committed to working together with traditional owners and native titleholders jointly managing these parks."
Ms Anderson later told Parliament that on March 12 "we received an anonymous e-mail from a concerned Territorian which stated [that] Parks and Wildlife is underfunded to the point that operational costs cannot be covered; Parks and Wildlife have been told that Ranger Stations may be closed [and] iconic parks like Kings Canyon are understaffed and struggling. These are serious allegations. Is it true that NT Parks is on the brink of collapse?"
On March 29 Mr Hampton replied to Ms Anderson: "Joint management has many benefits in how we go forward with biodiversity, managing feral camels, and fires. We are putting in many resources to improve and upgrade our parks. As the minister, I will ensure that Parks and Wildlife, the staff, the rangers, are adequately resourced and staffed to what they need."

More bang for patrol bucks. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Alice Springs must be fast moving to being one of the most patrolled towns in Australia. Yet still the popular view, in the wake of every worrying incident or spate of incidents, is that we are not patrolled enough, that the police are not there when you need them, that the various day, night and youth patrols don't do their job.   
Perhaps the answer lies in better coordination of all the effort; the Federal and NT Governments think so to the tune of $389,000 over two years. This money, from the Alice Springs Transformation Plan budget, is going to the NT Police to fund the position of a Patrol Coordinator.
Senior Sergeant Peter Dash
(at right), with 17 years in the force, 15 of them in Alice, was appointed to the role in April. It gives him oversight of not only police patrols – social order, beat, and mounted – but also, Tangentyere Council's day, night and youth patrols, the private security patrols in the CBD (conducted by JASP and funded by the NT Government), the Congress After Hours Youth Service, and the Youth Street Outreach Services of the Department of Children and Families. (His responsibilities don't include the special operation underway at the moment, targeting late-night assaults.)
The role involves "lots of meetings", says Sgt Dash. These include a regular fortnightly meeting with all services, where issues are discussed, hot spots identified.
The focus has been particularly around dispersing groups away from the town centre, ensuring that each patrol is delivering the service it is being paid for.
Says Sgt Dash: "If children are located wandering the streets, especially after dark, they will be engaged and a conversation had as to why they're doing this.
"It may be a case that they have popped out to catch up with friends or that they don't feel safe at home. 
"If it's determined that they're not receiving proper care then they'll be referred to the Department of Children and Families in order for them to receive adequate care and access to other services."
Sgt Dash says there are "no major gaps" in the delivery of patrol services. It is simply inevitable that "things will happen", that police will not be able to get to every single job within five minutes, however much they may want to.
He says there is no coordination of rostering between the various patrol services: "People would soon get savvy to that and know what to expect. It's better to work on intelligence about hot spots. Our Intelligence Section continually monitors and reports on what is occurring on the streets, identifies why this may be occurring and whether it will become an issue later. If it's expected to develop and cause concern then patrols will be dispatched in a proactive role to offer a presence and to deal with the issue." 
The News asked him about what seems to be the mostly unattended police beat office in the mall. Sgt Dash is unapologetic: "I expect the beat patrol to be on the beat, highly visible, and not sitting in the office."
(The office, near the Alice cinemas, was opened to the usual fanfare in mid-2009. Chief Minister Paul Henderson said then it would mean "two extra officers patrolling the CBD and a staffed office, for two shifts per day".  Why the office was seen to be necessary, when the main police station is a mere block away, has never been clear.)
Sgt Dash says there is a minimum of two police officers in their "hi vis" vests on the beat in the CBD at all times, and sometimes, like on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, there are three or four (these numbers don't include the social order police in patrol cars). He says feedback from business-owners is that they are feeling more confident with the more obvious police presence. Meanwhile, other officers can attend to their core business – dealing with domestic violence, assaults, car accidents, drink driving and so on.
What happens when officers on the beat make an arrest and are off the street, doing their paperwork?
Sgt Dash says it doesn't happen often: "High visibility reduces the number of incidents that they might have to deal with."
The News asked Sgt Dash about the often heard calls from the community for "zero tolerance" policing. He says there are times when "zero tolerance" is appropriate, just as there are times when "community" policing –  working with people and their circumstances, with other agencies, taking preventative action – is the way to go: "Police live in this community, they are part of the solution."
A good recent example of agencies coming together to ensure a good 'law and order' result was the collaboration between Tangentyere patrols and personnel from MacDonnell and Central Desert Shires during the Lightning Carnival on Easter weekend. Each patrol worked within a zone, taking in known hot spots that had been identified with police. The shire personnel were able to share information about people who had travelled in for the footy. They had also talked to those people about where they would be staying, the necessity of having accommodation, not camping rough, of respecting Alice Springs, and when the footy was over, of returning home.
Sg Dash says there was "a vast improvement": crowds quickly dispersed away from Traeger Park and the vicinity, in contrast to past years, and "police jobs were definitely down".
He says the same model will be
used for Show Weekend in July.

Mixed reception for aircraft graveyard. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan has welcomed the announcement that the Alice Springs airport will get an aircraft graveyard where up to 300 planes at the end of their life will be parked.
But Ald Brendan Heenan says the Town Council has not been consulted, and while it has no power over Federal Government land, it would have been common courtesy to ask or invite comment. 
The "aircraft storage and recycling facility" was 18 months in the making.
The dead planes will cover 100 hectares adjacent to the main runway and opposite the terminal building.
A media release from Ross Baynes, Director Property of Northern Territory Airports, says the Alice Springs airport presents ideal conditions for such an operation to be effective: “This facility is an exciting step for aviation in Australia and represents the first Asia-Pacific based alternative for customers with aircraft based or operating throughout the region.
"Aircraft have historically been ferried to the west coast of the United States for storage purposes.
"The [Alice] facility will provide a local alternative and deliver significant fleet efficiencies and costs savings for aircraft operators."
Says Mr Ryan: "This is great news for Central Australia.
"I congratulate Katie Cooper and the NT Airports team who have being working hard in the community lately with their commitments to solar energy and now this good news.
"It will bring jobs, an exciting new facility and is the first of its kind in Australia, so a big win for Alice Springs!"
Member for Braitling, Adam Giles, says: “This significant diversification of our economy will provide new jobs and new career opportunities for Alice Springs residents.
“The ‘boneyard’ is expected to prove extremely popular with companies in Asia, which is the world’s fastest growing region for air travel as populations become more affluent and mobile."
Picture: An aircraft graveyard in the USA.

The great parks robbery? Not, says Melky. By KIERAN FINNANE and ERWIN CHLANDA.

Alderman Eli Melky says he could name parks where he thinks surplus land is available for possible subdivision and redevelopment and that his proposal is budgeted, but at present he is bound by council confidentiality.
The council newcomer, elected in a by-election in February, has drawn flak, including on Twitter, for suggesting that council could generate income from the redevelopment of some of its park assets. He tweeted yesterday that he would announce his policy on parks at the Rotary Stuart Park at lunchtime today. Only the Alice Springs News turned up to hear him. Another person might have been deflated but not Ald Melky – one thing he can't be faulted on is enthusiasm for his task.
He explained to the News that his intention is only to shave off areas of under-utilised parks. (Such a strategy – selling land that was surplus to requirement – was used by the Golf Course to develop its facilities, creating the Golf Course Estate.)
Ald Melky rejected the suggestion by resident Hal Duell, at last week's council committee meeting, that it's important to retain even under-utilised areas as open space to cater for a future larger population. Ald Melky sees such areas as a threat to neighbourhood security: "Show me the house alongside a park that has a low fence. They all have enormous high fences because of the security issues."
He argued parks in Alice should be developed with all the expected amenities – toilets, drinking water, shade, picnic tables, play equipment for all ages, even statues. In his view, a dusty bit of ground with a few straggling trees does not qualify as a park. When pushed, however, he suggested that only up to four 'parks', out the 96 so designated, would have surplus land that could be redeveloped. These do not include the Rotary Stuart Park. He said this park is one that needs some attention: it's beautifully located but has next to no facilities. "If people come down here and their little kid wants to go to the toilet, what do they do?" he asked.
He said people reacting against his proposal have misunderstood if they think all Alice parks are under threat. He said if councillors refuse to even consider the revenue-raising possibilities, they are being "complacent".
Apart from the improvement of remaining parks, funds raised by redevelopment of some parcels of land would go towards a larger ranger unit – an increase from the current eight to 20. The News asked what this figure is based on. Ald Melky said it is not a "willy-nilly" number; it is based on his understanding of the rangers' current workload and his assessment that they need to double their capacity to more comprehensively enforce by-laws.
"It would be money well spent – we'd get happier tourists, improved business in the mall, a better town."
Ald Melky is a businessman dealing in real estate, but would declare a conflict of interest as necessary.

YOUR SAY: Which four parks?

Has Alderman Melky conducted his own audit of our park lands? If he has, and if as a result of his private audit he has identified four of our designated 96 parks as having no value to Alice Springs as parks, would there be a breach of confidentiality in naming them? Wouldn’t he only be expressing his own opinion, something I thought Aldermen were allowed to do.
Or has he conducted an audit at Council’s behest after the full Council discussed selling off some of our park lands in the fastness of one of their confidential meetings? If that’s the case, he would be bound by Council confidentiality.
I’d like to see the names of these supposedly excess-to-requirements areas in the open so we can all know which parks might be nominated for rezoning. That was the question I asked at the last meeting of Council’s Finance Committee: “Through the Chair, will Alderman Melky please name which of our parks he plans to nominate for rezoning and subsequent property development? “
At that meeting he indicated my question was premature. Does he still think so?
I wonder what percentage of houses in Alice have high fences. I know mine does. The one along the park is for privacy, and the one along the street is for security.
Perhaps Alderman Melky would consider generating a revenue stream (and a letters-to-the-editor stream) by suggesting Council enter into a corporate sponsorship to assist with the maintenance of our major sporting venues. This year’s first State of Origin rugby match will be at Suncorp Stadium [Brisbane]. I wonder how much dough was raised when Suncorp won the naming rights to what used to be called Lang Park.
Could the Alice Springs Town Council do something similar with Traeger Park?
Hal Duell, Alice Springs

Gallery expands its range. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Non-Indigenous art will become a regular feature at Muk Muk Fine Art, says managing director Mike Mitchell. The new direction for the Eastside gallery, which until now has focussed on Indigenous art, was launched last Friday with the opening of Jasper Knight's The Fast and the Furious.
The choice of artist was a good one for making a splash in Alice. He is rated as "highly collectible" and had never been shown here before. He also created a body of work tied to the Territory, materially and culturally. His subjects are relics of the motor industry, reaching back to the 1940s. His expressive graphic style endows them with personality and who better for them to 'speak' to than car-mad Territorians?  
The Alice audience can feel flattered too that the show premiered here before it gets an outing in Darwin. There Muk Muk will install it at Sprout Creative – a multi-media work space, not a gallery, suited to this kind of "edgy" exhibition, says Mr Mitchell.
The next non-Indigenous artist in their line-up is Adam Cullen. Readers will remember his portrait of actor David Wenham, which won the Archibald in 2000, and he was a favourite in some quarters to win this year's. Another collectible star, he'll show at Muk Muk in late September, with a Darwin outing to follow in October.
Before then however Muk Muk will return to Indigenous shows. Among them, to coincide with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards in August, they will exhibit work by past winners. And in early September they will launch an artist with whom they've been working for the past three years. In her late forties, her name is under wraps for the time being; she's exhibited work in group shows but has not yet had a solo.
Mr Mitchell says his commitment to Indigenous art and artists has not lessened. He continues to focus on identifying and nurturing emerging talent, as he has done with Margaret Loy and Eva Nelson, but he says "Indigenous art is extremely well represented in town, while there's very little representation of non-Indigenous art". He was aware of avid local collectors who were sourcing their work from southern galleries and decided to offer something to them and to the wider local audience that he's sure exists for non-Indigenous art.
His interest is not limited to high profile interstaters. He says he's open to any artists and his schedule of exhibitions is not limited to what he can show in Alice.

Mauled Missy. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Sometimes the people living next-door to each-other are the ones furthest apart. The story of Mary Rose Hall and her "baby," a small Jack Russell called Missy, is a case in point.
Next-door lives the owner of two medium-sized dogs, one a German Shepherd. They dug under the fence to Mrs Hall's place and the German Shepherd savagely mauled Missy's back.
Mrs Hall took her to the vet: a major patch-up job had to be done. Ongoing treatment is still necessary, costing $200 a pop.
Complication number one: the neighbor is a Town Council employee and the Town Council is in charge of controlling animals. Will they deal with the issue fairly?
Predicatbly, there are two sides to the story.
Mrs Hall lives on her own and Missy is her main companion. She says she is now scared of the neighbor's dogs when she walks out of her yard. She does not have a car. She is on a modest wage and the vet bills are leaving her short of food and cigarettes.
The neighbor has paid part of those bills but not all of them.
The council, she says, has promised to cover all the vet bills, or to ensure that the neighbor pays them, but is now reneging on their promise. To add insult to injury, the council has pocketed the $2000 it fined the neighbor.
They are making money out of our misery, she says. The money should have gone to her.
The manager of the council ranger force, Kevin Everett, puts the neighbor's case.
(The neighbor himself appears communicationally challenged, threatening the Alice Springs News, when it researched the story, with a report to the police.)
Mr Everett says senior council staff, including the CEO, spoke with both Mrs Hall and the neighbor. There was no denial that the German Shepherd mauled Missy. On the other hand, Mrs Hall made threats to the neighbor and council staff, prompting a report to the police.
(Mrs Hall replies her threats were not directed at the neighbor nor the council staff, but the neighbor's dogs.)
Mr Everett says the owner is remorseful. The council mediated between the neighbor (its employee) and Mrs Hall, with the result that he paid vet bills amounting to $1553.33. Mr Everett says no promises were made by the council beyond that.
"I would be derelict in my duties if under the circumstances I did not issue fines. All this is clearly very upsetting to Mrs Hall but I have no authority to pay the fines to her."
As – taking into account also repairs to the fence – the neighbor had now coughed up nearly $4000, including two council fines of $1000 each, for failing to contain an animal to premises, and allowing an animal to attack another animal, and considering that Missy is alive and more or less well, the council considered withdrawal from the matter was now in order.
Mr Everett suggested it was a civil issue between the two neighbors, about an unhappy event in the "animal kingdom" at its root.
Mrs Hall is taking out a small court claim. It will cost her a $80 filing fee. The vet bills are mounting up. Court action could take months to be resolved. Peace is unlikey to return any time soon to that Larapinta Drive neighborhood.

I may not be a cavewoman ... MOZZIE BITES with Ronja Moss.

When I kick back and look into my suburban lounge room potbelly hearth, I imagine the first, prehistoric, stories being told around fires in craggy caves. I can see so clearly men and women divulging to young ones tales of wooly mammoths and glaciers whilst sharpening stone tools.
In the year 2011 we often convey happenings remote from each other’s presence – in emails, texts, Twitter, Skype and Facebook. But I love that in Alice Springs I can remove myself from aloof technological encounters and effortlessly roam into the bush, connect with timeless land and be present with whomever, whatever is at hand. Whether it's going for a walk on the outskirts of town with a friend, or moving further afield for camping, the ability to just get up and be immersed in this desert has brought me solidarity many times.
My favorite spot to be under the stars is actually only ten minutes from town. If you drive out past the Eastside borders, over the cattle grid and head left just before the Undoolya Station trespass sign there is a little riverbed called Pevril Creek. I've been camping there since I was a baby and have even on occasion ridden my bike there, with just a backpack for the night. To know that on any given evening you can decide to camp under the great big sky gives you a feeling of freedom that cannot be described to anyone who hasn’t already experienced it.
When I was traveling through the UK people found it almost impossible to believe that I lived two days' drive from any other major town. The spaciousness, the horrifying beauty of the expanse boggled their minds.
A camping trip in most places, even in many parts of in Oz, means pre-booking months before, sharing a ground with two dozen other families, a post office around the corner and a café on site for morning coffee.
I was chatting to my friend Darcy Davis, who was also born and raised in Alice, about the prospect of moving to a city at the end of the year. Weighing up the pros and cons, we both agreed that being completely surrounded by buildings, even in a place "as cool as Melbourne", could be soul-destroying at times.
In the sunshine and comfort of his backyard I asked him what the advantages had been for him of growing up in a town where you could so easily get to the bush.
 “There's a certain mind state that develops from living in such a vast part of the country," said Darcy. "You drive five minutes out of town and you're out bush, so you get this subconscious sense of possibility and potential. I think this is what makes Alice such an inspiring and creative place, you're not rendered insignificant by swarms of people, ever-expanding suburbs and congested traffic like in the city. We have the space out here to dream big.”
He also mentioned that instead of teenage house parties, he and his friends used to head out of town and sleep out. I could easily relate to this. I’m really proud that my 18th birthday celebration, and many others, was an outdoor campout. Though my friends and I still drank, partied and were quite irresponsible, the simple fact that it was under a clear sky and miles away from anyone else gave it a certain purity.
To be swimming naked in the safety of night out at a place like Ellery Big Hole, with a million stars above and a history to the place unknown, and then to roll into the comfort of a canvas swag, is truly special. I may not be a cavewoman, but I know how to tell a good joke or scary story around a warm campfire. I know how to make a good mug of milo with powdered milk. 
Even with the Melanka ‘more than three storeys’ dilemma, the refurbishing of many town camps, the new suburbs to the North and the prospect of a uranium mine/ dump, Alice could never lose its raw touch. Of course we need to respect this place, but it’s vitally important to acknowledge that, whilst Global Warming maybe very real, out here in the Centre we can have little effect on this country’s eternal and massive presence. All we can do is enjoy what it has to offer in our short time here.

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