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

Vale Paul Darvodelsky, 1961 to 2018
Incredibly sad news, our condolences to his family and friends. Maria Giacon and Mike Gillam.

Road Transport Hall of Fame is saved
Fantastic. Well said Alex. This helps to curb my rising cynicism.
Too many bureaucrats are quick to squeeze their little bags of power but so very slow to offer genuine help.
Few understand what it’s like in Liz Martin’s world or comprehend even remotely the difficulties faced by small enterprises.
The term tall poppy is wholly inadequate for Liz but thankfully she’s NOT going to be sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity just yet.

Another river giant goes up in flames
I’m still trying to unravel the story behind this tree’s ignition, probably from an existing basal hollow, but this is not always the case. Yesterday at sunset we returned to this magnificent tree and an old fire scar (dead timber on the north side of the tree) was alight. Fanned by a strong wind this decaying section would have burned through and formed a new entry hole to the centre of the tree, full of cavernous hollows.
The importance of returning to ‘extinguished’ tree fires regularly cannot be over emphasised. Tragically, when people actually see smoke/fire coming out of hollows in the canopy it is often too little, too late. The expense of calling out the fire brigade (who may be otherwise deployed) to deal with an obvious flare up combined with the massive risks of losing the tree, make close monitoring vital and cost effective by a country mile. Unfortunately, this ‘community’ monitoring is ad hoc at best.
Incidentally, the most recent flare up was caused by a patch of compost, very fine vegetative material mixed through soil that had continued to smoulder unseen 100 – 200 mm underground, shielded from the fire hoses. Hot dry winds on Saturday had dried out the ground surrounding the tree trunk and the smoulder zone had crept about 1.5 metres to ignite the tree trunk.
Bob Taylor’s right, couch grass Cynodon dactylon is responsible for a great many tree losses in desert rivers. In the past this was the main problem for fire managers working in the Todd River. Couch remains a great threat but for the time being buffel is ascendant. Land care volunteers give no quarter to either of these invasive grasses. The tree in question had couch grass on the underhanging banks but buffel, including numerous woody rhizomes just below the surface and mixed with leaf litter, formed the greater fuel load in this case. Occasionally, subsurface smoulders can travel many metres through termite hollowed tree roots and cause the ignition of nearby trees. Moreover, the ferocity of buffel fuelled fires often dries out and ignites the leafy Eucalypt regrowth, a stress response from one or more previous fires, that grows around the base of too many river giants. In combination these fuels can flare into the higher canopy where terminal hollows are also catching alight. Fuel reduction is key and our proactive efforts across the government and community sector are woefully inadequate, a dire situation that will be further highlighted in coming months.

Another river giant goes up in flames
I know this tree very well. Full of hollows that provide vital shelter for owls and microbats it’s arguably the most important for 100 metres in any direction. We greatly appreciate the efforts and inventiveness of fire-fighters in saving this highly valuable giant. This river red gum was identified as very high risk and volunteers recently slashed the waist high buffel and raked away the deep accumulated leaf litter in an effort to improve its chances of survival.

Raising the bar: the art of keeping your shop safe
Alan Thorpe is right, there is great energy in Alice Springs.
There’s also incredible generosity within our immediate neighbourhood. Once again we are indebted to Alan, Wayne McLean and Judy Barker for their engineering advice.
Anton of Anton’s Recycling was immediately fascinated and receptive of our plans for his old steel battery boxes.
We’re especially grateful to our boilermaker, David Boffie, for his trust in our plans and efforts to deliver the exacting craftsmanship we wanted.
It took us three months, working side by side, to refurbish the public face of 8 Hele, a rigorous process that certainly tested and strengthened friendships.
David’s capacity to weld materials collected over many years, often rusty, of almost any gauge and variable metallurgy, was truly remarkable.
Many claim the ability to weld but his skill enabled us to achieve a high degree of strength and safety in all the right places while retaining an overall sense of lightness and transparency.
Maria and I are blessed with a brilliant brains trust, too many tradesmen and women to mention here, who have supported us over the decades.

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