It’s my long held belief that the presence of sacred …

Comment on Boardwalk now a permanent blight on the landscape by Mike Gillam.

It’s my long held belief that the presence of sacred sites in the urban environment of Alice Springs saves our town from appalling mediocrity. Clearly our community’s gain comes at huge personal cost to those Arrernte people trying to defend their special places from very ordinary decisions, rammed through by temporary governments. Occasionally, the benefits of a different approach are revealed, an approach that requires particularly strong, mature and imaginative leadership on all sides. It’s a bit like planets lining up and I’m sure it’s advantageous if politicians choose not to be involved in such a process.
When social and cultural conditions are favourable, this destructive push-pull may cease for a time. Winning the argument seems less important than achieving an outcome that hurts no-one, an outcome that the whole community can be proud of. One example is the Sadadeen connector road that curves through the coolabah swamp known as Ankerre Ankerre. The road alignment was largely influenced by Arrernte custodians and their duty of care to minimise tree loss and damage. The road acquired some curves and more bitumen was needed. Those people, custodians, engineers and public servants did us proud and created a superior scenic drive in the process. This expensive and unnecessary cycle path is not such a project, it’s simply not worth the gain. Meanwhile, the management of crown land including the Todd River is abysmally underfunded and we’re still waiting for a real bridge at Taffy Pick. Yes, I do realise that $825,000 (and counting) might be a little short for a bridge given the reported $4M being spent on the Lovegrove/Larapinta Drive roundabout but it doesn’t change my view of the waste. How many giant red gums, hundreds of years old will be lost to grass fires this summer and the next, short-changed by our government’s lack of commitment to land management?

Recent Comments by Mike Gillam

Top secret ‘master plan’
The tail wags the dog alright. Against local advice Government has been insisting on demolishing Anzac, a perfect youth hub, why?
Months of stress with government running hidden agendas and feeding the community half truths.
Can we believe Town Council knew nothing of these plans and deals?
Demolition of Anzac never made any sense so ordinary people are going to speculate.
Would Minister Eva Lawler behave this way bulldozing public assets in her Palmerston electorate on a whim?
Who knows anymore, maybe they’re going to sell the Anzac land for a big hotel development when facilities for young people is what we really need.

Anzac High: No plans yet for what will replace it
Dear Namatjira Art Collector: I would urge you to delay sending or perhaps simply loan your collection to South Australia in the belief that maybe, just maybe, a future government of the Northern Territory might prove itself worthy of such the gallery project.
A single art gallery to represent many language groups is not the only model.
Who knows, maybe the arts trail being developed could include a modest facility at Hermannsburg and placing your watercolour collection within this environmental and social context would certainly value add the works and empower the people who live there.
Such a facility could function as an annexe of a bigger Alice Springs gallery with curatorial oversight and training of locals during its establishment phase.
If it’s not too late, please think it over.
ALP or CLP, I know it seems Central Australia will always be short-changed by its leaders but I live in hope.
Perhaps this is the price we must pay for living in paradise.

Another nail in the Anzac High coffin
Dear Interested Observer. You are right and also wrong. Where once great potential existed for a useful array of repurposed heritage buildings, the NT Government will soon gift us a legacy hole in the ground. However, I can assure you the so called soft demolition (gutting interiors etc. + removal of asbestos) at Anzac High complex would have been a necessary early stage of any schedule of works to upgrade and refurbish the complex. Your confusion is understandable. When honesty, imagination and leadership were needed Ministers Lawler and Wakefield have reverted to innuendo designed to erode public confidence in the value of the buildings.

Another nail in the Anzac High coffin
Please excuse my clumsy and at times irreverent analysis of the recent NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing. I don’t have any real legal training but this is how I will remember wasting an hour of my time last Friday.
The NTCAT made no attempt to interrogate the overarching truths at its one-hour hearing. (1) Should the Heritage Council have placed the nomination for listing of Anzac High on public exhibition? (2) Was the Council unduly influenced by the stated desire of the NT Government to clear the site to allow the construction of a major art gallery? ‘Anticipatory compliance’ is the phrase I’ve heard.
Instead the Tribunal President denied the request by Alex Nelson for a temporary injunction to halt demolition on the basis that he was unwilling to accept personal liability for costs, presumably in the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars!!
Then the great legal minds in the room (in Darwin) proceeded in mutual understanding to shoot the messenger (Alex Nelson in Alice Springs). The Government’s safe harbour was maintained and strengthened, that Alex Nelson had failed to present his complaint to NT CAT within the appropriate time frame. Hell, he’d even wasted precious time by first going to NTCAT’s big brother, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), on the 30th April! Meanwhile after nearly three weeks NTCAT has not yet established whether Mr Nelson’s application is too late to have proper standing. That discussion/process will be argued on the evidence presented at, you guessed it, another hearing, this time in mid December. So Alex will be asked to waste more time representing and reframing the abundant and crystal clear evidence he has already provided to NTCAT on the 11 October.
How is NTCAT acting in the public interest and protecting valuable, structurally sound, eminently upgradable infrastructure, of proven heritage value that will be demolished next week? In all fairness, NTCAT would naturally prefer that Alex goes away, any further ‘investigation’ rendered immaterial once the buildings are demolished and the Government’s complicity is converted into landfill.
Regardless Alex has agreed to the December hearing because he wants the truth of this blunder investigated and revealed, a pyrrhic victory that may assist cultural change in the NT Public Service. Frankly I think he’s wasting his time, the process is massively, fatally stacked against appellants who, acting firmly in the public interest, try to illuminate and prevent failures of Government. Surely every Minister wants to know if the advice provided by public servants or an advisory body is worse than worthless before making irreversible decisions? If our Government wanted to know the truth it would waive any costs for damages against the heritage nominator Alex Nelson and provide him with equivalent legal advice and standing. I have no doubt that such a course of action would see the Anzac High complex retained. The case for retention is very, very strong. I only wish I had a mountain of unfettered cash in the bank for moments like these, when your own Government becomes the enemy.

Council: no interest in heritage; tiny leak from confidential
Thanks for clarifying your position Eli. I must admit you’ve never displayed a tendency for shyness when the subject matter is difficult. I respect that.

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