Keep in mind that there was a concerted effort to …

Comment on Todd River: Trees in, buffel out by Alex Nelson.

Keep in mind that there was a concerted effort to eliminate buffel and couch grass in the Todd River from the Taffy Pick Crossing to Heavitree Gap 15 years ago, which (if I recall correctly) was part of the Alice-in-10 program.
The project cost about $400,000 and involved Aboriginal workers. The grass was mainly slashed and sprayed with Round-Up.
There was also removal of sand and silt build-up at Heavitree Gap. This was intended to be the beginning of a program of systematic removal of exotic grasses and other weed species along the entire length of the Todd River from the Telegraph Station to Heavitree Gap.
Both my father and I commented in the media at the time this will prove to be a waste of public effort and expense.
Our predictions proved correct – there was no more funding made available for this work, other than sand excavation of the Todd River adjacent to the town centre combined with upgrading of the Wills Terrace Causeway in 2006.
There also was no follow-up to the grass control work near Heavitree Gap. Here we go again …
In reply to Laurie Butcher’s comment about Glyphosate (Round-Up and related weedicides), there’s no obvious long-term adverse impact on the environment from the use of these chemicals. However, there’s plenty of evidence (especially in Australia) that some of the target weed species are developing resistance to this chemical.
I first started using Round-Up for buffel and couch grass control in the early 1980s when our family lived at the CSIRO Field Station (now Centre for Appropriate Technology). It cost $30 per litre at the time. I achieved complete control of theses grasses in the area around our home but after we departed in 1988 there was no further management of that ground, consequently both grasses have returned to dominance exactly as they were before I controlled them.
Prior to living at CSIRO at Heath Road, our family resided at AZRI next door (then called the AIB Farm).
It was during this time that extensive work was undertaken by the Soil Conservation Unit and AIB Farm management to achieve dust control through the establishment of buffel grass.
This was mainly done for the benefit of passenger jet airliners at the Alice Springs airport which required clean air for safe operation (yes, we can blame tourism just as much as pastoralism for the systematic introduction of buffel grass in our region).
I started gardening when I was six years old (1969), and amongst the first weeds I had to contend with was buffel grass.
I recall at first I didn’t know what to do because everyone in those days thought this was a good plant – anyway, I can reasonably claim having the longest continuous experience with controlling buffel grass of any person in Central Australia.
If anyone wants to see a good example of what can be achieved with sustained control of buffel and couch grasses, both from spraying and chipping – and consistent follow-up – go take a wander through the grounds of the Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
I’m proud to be the person who was the major contributor to achieving this result, during my time of working there from 2000 to 2008.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Todd River: Trees in, buffel out
Fred the Philistine’s comment repeats an age-old misconception of the state of the Todd River bed.
In general it isn’t blocked by saplings and sand. The main impediments to the free-flow of the water are causeways, these act to impede the current and cause sediment to deposit on the upstream sides.
Conversely scouring of the river bed occurs on the downstream side which sometimes exposes the water table; and in these conditions permit a larger number of young trees to germinate and grow than might normally be the case. No such problem pertains to bridges.
Many people, including long-term locals, are under the impression the Todd riverbed in town (mainly adjacent to the CBD) is unnaturally high.
The old river gums clearly tell a different story, as many of them have exposed roots which indicates the river bed has actually gotten lower.
Also, there are old river gums adjacent to the Todd River which clearly show that inundation of the surrounding land is a natural feature of the central town area.
The best example of this is the old Parsons Street river gum but also those next to the Memorial Club carpark, too. In addition, there once used to be other river gums in Todd Street (as old photos clearly show) which were cut down in the late 1940s.
River gums only germinate and begin to grow naturally in conditions of inundation so it is obvious the central area of Alice Springs has been inappropriately developed across a natural floodplain.
Historically there is now significantly less widespread flooding occurring in Alice Springs in the past few decades than what was observed in the earlier period of last century, and in large part this is due to the lowering of the Todd riverbed.


Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Integrity put ‘Jak’ Ah Kit at the top
One of the best speeches I ever heard was delivered by John Ah Kit for the “Reconciling Australia” series broadcast by ABC National Radio on April 11, 1995.
I still have the cassette tape.
He was the executive director of the Jawoyn Association at the time but won a by-election for the seat of Arnhem several months later.


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Here is the news: “Legislative Councillor, Frank Johnson of Alice Springs, refuses to let up on his theme that “a tannery or some other industry to absorb aborigine [sic] labour is a must for the Alice Springs district.
“He has written to various parliamentarians about it, spoken about the subject in Council and made numerous statements through the press.
“Many in Alice Springs have supported the member in his cry. This week Mr Johnson aimed a new bullet at the powers that be, and it contained a new warning.
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“Mr Johnson means by that, that unless some suitable employment is available to the aborigines [sic] at present receiving some sort of education, then there is going to be a lot of trouble in a very short time”.
This was published under the headline “Build industry or bigger gaol at Alice Springs” in the Centralian Advocate, September 11, 1953.
What goes round comes round when there’s nothing new under the sun.


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Erwin, the top floor was actually built at the request of the ABC as the building was originally intended to be two storeys.
The NT Tourist Commission was one of the early occupants of the building, along with the Housing Commission, too.
Thanks to Cyclone Tracy, the headquarters of the Tourist Commission was relocated there from Darwin, and remained in Alice Springs at various locations until 1992.


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@ Scotty (Posted June 30, 2020 at 4:45 pm): “By the way, Willshire was not found guilty of anything” – while in turn Lindy Chamberlain was found guilty.
History shows the decisions of courts are not sacrosanct; and in both examples, the findings were (at a minimum) miscarriages of justice.


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