Hal, thank-you for the apology. Kieran, I’m not reassured by …

Comment on Only firefighters decide on how to deal with individual fires by Mike Gillam.

Hal, thank-you for the apology.
Kieran, I’m not reassured by what I see in your image of a burnt out giant bursting into new life. The lightweight dead branches on the ground are highly combustible and a potential threat to the regeneration that is now taking place. They should be mulched. The larger tangle of logs are acting as “bollards” and are providing some protection for new growth and so we should be cautious about what is removed and how.
In coming weeks we will notice conspicuous new growth on damaged red gums everywhere but many will develop as a shadow of their pre-fire glory days. For some, the hardwood (dead skeleton) of the tree has been so completely burnt out that only a weakened outer layer of living tissue remains. And some fires have continued burning well below the surface. Re-growth from this fragile rim is likely to result in multiple smaller trunks that are unstable and even more prone to future fires. And so the future fire threat continues to elevate.
I have photographs of mature trees that were reduced to basal re-growth a couple of years ago. This has now been converted into standing dead timber and the next round of post-fire re-growth has appeared. Clearly we are going backwards.
River red gums are long-lived and maximum ages of between 500-1000 years are quoted in the literature but unfortunately not everyone realizes the fragility of that legacy. We are seeing hundreds of years of growth being wiped away in the historical blink of an eye and much of this is preventable.
The giants that were smoldering in the river a couple of months ago were already impressive trees in 1888 when Constable W. G. South intervened to protect the trees growing in the Todd River. His actions in a frontier settlement are a remarkable high point in the story of the Todd River but I suspect that 2011 will go down in history as one of the low points.

Mike Gillam Also Commented

Only firefighters decide on how to deal with individual fires
Hal, You put your finger on it when you said: Work! The Todd River is a natural system, albeit disfigured and weed infested. Dredging sand from the channels is financially costly and given the nature of rivers, temporary. The Town Council would achieve more if it addressed the causes including the practice of grading and denuding sub-divisional drains so they keep dumping silt into the Todd.
Sand mining /dredging is a sure way to further reduce the already low germination rates of river gum seedlings and is unlikely to do much for the fire threat under discussion. If the Council wants a source of fill / sand then it should install traps in the barren drains for that purpose. The river is not a construction site and needs to be managed with care. But I see very little evidence of proactive land management. If Council lacks the resources or skills to manage fuel loads including the removal of buffel grass then they need support to overcome these deficiencies.
Finally, I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make about “cultural demarcation disputes” and its relevance to the current management of the Todd – unless the registration and protection of sacred sites somehow impacts negatively on those entrusted with managing the river. That possibility beggars belief.
Does mainstream recognition of the Todd River gums on Greening Australia’s Register of Significant Trees somehow diminish the importance of the river to Arrernte people? The Todd River is a special place with many layers of history, significance and meaning. The river corridor is zoned “(CN) Conservation” and I believe that most residents of Alice Springs would like to see a professional land care approach replace the current crisis management that is failing our river. In this regard I can find very little that separates the expectations of informed people whether they are custodians or ecologists, black or white.

Only firefighters decide on how to deal with individual fires
Bob, I won’t gloss over the unacceptable tree damage that has occurred but I do have some sympathy for the frustration that fire-fighters must be feeling as they battle with the consequences of deliberately lit fires and the near absence of fire-prevention. The inconsistent ‘follow up’ to put out still burning trees is very difficult to explain away. How much of this is due to a lack of resources, training, competing priorities or a desire to get back to the station and be at the ready for emergency call-outs? It is virtually impossible for an observer to say. In the past I’ve observed a mixture of great professionalism and on occasion, fire-fighting ‘tactics’ that make little sense to me.
There is much room for improvement in every direction of this tragic story but most of the unrealized gains are yet to be made through land management / fire prevention.
The apprehension of one person who was allegedly lighting fires is also very good news and recent increases in penalties will help. But the community should expect more arrests in a river corridor that is barely 200 metres wide in the future.
Perhaps we could all be more vigilant. We should definitely find our voices and make sure the authorities understand the high value this town places on the Todd River and its trees. ‘Fire-bugs’ come in all forms and we don’t condemn their immediate family, colleagues or the wider community for the actions of individuals. Or do we?

Recent Comments by Mike Gillam

Melanka building would obscure unequalled backdrop
While I broadly support the views of the writer, I’d like to correct what is clearly a typo.
The building height limit in the CBD is 14 m. not 8.5m, and for the record, I won’t be making a submission to the NT Planning Commission, a Statutory Authority advising the NT Government on planning matters including building heights in Alice Springs because I don’t regard the public consultation process as genuine.
Recent calls by the Chief Minister for expressions of interest in the development of land at Whittaker Street, just outside the western boundary of the CBD and in an area with a LOWER height limit, makes a mockery of this public consultation.
The artist’s impression shows a building that dramatically exceeds the stated limit for this area, from memory, not even 14 m but currently 8.5m.
Of course, the nature of legislation, regulations and town plans may be subject to the extraordinary powers granted to the responsible Minister who can always find some justification.
In closing I would give credit to the NT Planning Commission for its recognition of the value of protecting some critical east west sight-lines across the CBD.
However the town’s future shape and collective massing of buildings will be determined to a large extent by the uncoordinated actions of individual developers and politicians in the decades ahead.
Ultimately this is a game of chance and DESIGN, that elusive collective vision for Alice Springs, appears to be taking a back seat in the process. As a struggling tourist town we can and should do much better.

Festival broadens ambitions of Alice Cinema
At a time when the town’s commercial centre is under great stress we are very fortunate to have such dynamic and progressive people directing the cinema complex.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the tip …
Delightfully zany, elegant, rigorously conceived and resolved, an asset to the landfill and the town. Congratulations to the artist for her uncompromising effort and those on the Town Council who placed their faith in her and dared to make this happen. I hope the obvious quality of this public art has raised the confidence of decision makers and they feel vindicated to do it again with equal rigour. Perhaps in time, as the town’s artistic side is further highlighted and revealed we may regain some of our reputation as a tourist mecca.

Dancers take over after dark
Not denying there is an equivalent need for the hard core stories but surely this is the Alice Springs News at its very best.I’m kicking myself for missing the event.

Residency is at risk, says heritage group
Hal, where to start…If you peddle misinformation some readers might hyperventilate. But I think you’re ignoring the elephant in the room here…no-one likes their time being wasted and that’s how I feel trying to unravel your torrent of opinion and innuendo. Time prevents me from responding to more of your posts. It’s not simply that you distort reality by describing The Residency as “…current inactive state…” or that it’s preposterous and insulting to say, “Have you considered that Heritage Alice Springs’ dogmatic approach to these matters contributed to the Old Riverside not being given Heritage listing?” What an outrageous example of shoot the messenger by some-one who has not seen the nomination by HAS. But wait there’s more, “…I often think the heritage crowd exceed their brief…” Really? They’re the main reason you can cite the example of the Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame at its fantastic heritage location. And again, “…We don’t have very many buildings worth listing. Too many tin sheds, and who really cares…” Your regard for vernacular architecture including sheds is out of step with rising national interest and ignores much of the development history of Alice Springs.
PS Re. leasing the Residency for use as a cafe, I reiterate the issue of onsite car-parking. From memory, 6 parks are required for every 100m2 of net floor area and any alfresco dining areas – so I’m guessing this site would have to at least double the existing parks – this reasonable condition may be waived by the Minister BUT it’s in the best commercial interests of cafe owners to provide viable parking to lessen the impact on the street during periods of peak trade. And no, the idea that a new venture would be allowed to free-load on existing public car-parking is unlikely to win much support. The RFDS has it all, why try to replicate that experience with less at the Residency?

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