Exactly as anticipated all along. …

Comment on Old Melanka site for sale – again by Alex Nelson.

Exactly as anticipated all along.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Old Melanka site for sale – again
Yes, the NT Government sold an existing property to the private sector which was originally financed by the Commonwealth and constructed under contract by Barclay Brothers, a Queensland firm (the same construction company also built the Commonwealth-financed redevelopment of the Alice Springs Hospital from 1972).
There were various alterations to Melanka over the years but it was essentially the original building complex built by the Commonwealth.
The only “contribution” the private sector has made to this site is to demolish nearly a decade ago what was a functioning property and asset to the tourism industry and the town’s economy, and replaced it with a vacant lot used as a de facto carpark overshadowed by deteriorating and dying trees, a sad left-over from the Melanka days.
This grand achievement is a result of the visionaries of our commercial sector who have all too often blighted Alice Springs with other empty lots and various properties that have long been propped up by government rent, in the vain expectation of superior developments that obviously don’t stack up.
Since the ideology of economic rationalism gained prominence in the 1980s we’ve long been sold on the notion that the private sector is inherently more efficient than government in generating and maintaining economic development.
Alice Springs provides a convincing example that this approach is deeply flawed, and the Melanka site is spectacularly symbolic of this realization.


Old Melanka site for sale – again
Stott House is where my parents first met. It was a government employees hostel which was originally established by the military during WW 2.
The Commonwealth replaced Stott and Todd Houses with the Melanka Lodge, officially opened in 1971.
As Australia’s national economy began to deteriorate after 1979, the Fraser Government’s “razor gang” ceased funding for Commonwealth hostel accommodation for public servants, and control of Melanka was transferred to the NT Government in 1981.
In turn the NT Government leased Melanka to private operators.
This short history shows that there has never been any major private sector development of that site – and it’s clear that will most likely remain the case.


Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Government fails bush on health, police: McConnell
@ James T Smerk (Posted November 13, 2019 at 4:45 pm): I think you’re on the money, James, it’s difficult to believe there isn’t a calculating, deliberate unspoken policy of engineered population shifts from the outer regional areas of the NT towards the major population centres.
When one takes into account the poor voter enrolment and participation figures of these regions (www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2019/11/08/vast-electorates-poor-participation-in-our-democracy/) in addition to the disruption and reduction of services in remote communities, and the consequent increasing proportion of generally rusted-on Labor supporters moving into the towns, we are witnessing an evolving situation of fewer electorates outside of the Top End that enhances Darwin Labor’s long term prospects of entrenching itself in power.
It is Darwin that is benefitting from the overwhelming pork-barrelling of the Gunner Labor Government, not the regions.
However, don’t expect anything significant to be done about combatting crime and anti-social behaviour in towns like Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine because these issues have the effect of enhancing this demographic shift in favour of the Labor elite in Darwin.
The plan here is to discourage many residents who vote against Labor (or can’t be relied upon to support the ALP at each election) from staying in the major regional towns, thereby diluting support for parties or independents that aren’t pro-Labor.
It’s difficult to believe these cumulative effects aren’t a deliberate unspoken policy of the power elite in Darwin.


Wakefield, Ryan star in the Phantom of the Art Gallery
The past invariably catches up with us but it’s rare to do so quickly as it has with the Gunner “mea culpa” Government.
Who remembers the mantra of open, honest, accountable, transparent and trustworthy government promised by NT Labor at the time of the last Territory election campaign in 2016?
Let’s have a few reminders: First, an earnest NT Labor Opposition Leader had the following to say in an ABC profile leading up to the last Territory elections: “The number one thing lacking in Northern Territory politics is trust, according to Labor leader Michael Gunner.
“Mr Gunner, 40, said he had worked hard to re-establish trust with Territorians.
“But, he pointed the finger squarely at the Country Liberals Party (CLP) for what he labelled a “trust deficit”.
“This term has been a term of chaos, and Territorians are just crying out for stability and politicians who will behave. We’ve got a team, I believe, who will do that, Mr Gunner said.”
In an interview with Erwin Chlanda following her election victory, Dale Wakefield spoke along similar lines: “People were sick of having a local Member not focussed on local issues. Transparency of government.”
She went on: “This election shows that if you don’t listen to the electorate, and you don’t take their concerns seriously, anybody can lose their seat. Michael Gunner has given that message to us very strongly. We need to bring trust back to government because I think that has been eroded.”
Pardon me?
Now we find this same Gunner Labor Government indulging in grants of taxpayers’ funds for the benefit of property holders, the inevitable excuse of “commercial in confidence” (so much for transparency), and a reliance on false information from top bureaucrats to justify Cabinet decisions made on the basis of no documented evidence (I’m referring to the reasons given for the destruction of the former Anzac Hill High School).
Now, as revelations start to emerge of all the shady backroom deals behind closed doors over the past two years, Ms Wakefield seeks to excuse herself in a moral light with regard to a meeting held on 27 June: “I mentioned multiple times that I was uncomfortable with the commercial nature of the discussion with the developers present and was unclear as to whether any interest by parties may be in conflict”.
She also makes the most interesting claim: “I note that as the chair of the meeting the Mayor [Damien Ryan] did not call for any conflict of interest declarations” at the meeting that she and her colleague Lauren Moss attended by teleconference.
On the face of it, this is most uncharacteristic of Mr Ryan, as publicly at Town Council meetings he has been most anxious to avoid conflict of interest with regard to discussions about Anzac Oval in light of my nomination for its heritage listing.
The Mayor was also the Local Government representative on the Heritage Council at the time too – he only resigned from that body following the announcement of his preselection as a CLP candidate for Araluen in September.
I can assure he was most assiduous in ensuring he avoided conflict of interest in regard to any discussions about the heritage nominations of Anzac Oval and the old high school.
Perhaps Mr Ryan thought he had an understanding at that particular meeting?
The way things are going, the Michael Gunner Government is rapidly morphing as the Tommy-Gunner “Good Fellas” Government.
If trust and transparency are so obviously lacking with regard to the National Aboriginal Art Gallery, the Civic Centre, the “Top End” of town (in more than one sense of the phrase) and the former Anzac Hill High School – well, where does the rot stop?
Can this government be trusted on any of the issues it’s dealt with – for example, onshore gas fracking?
As Michael Gunner stated in 2016: “I think you’ve got to own things. So if something goes wrong, I as leader own it, and you’ve got to take responsibility.”
So be it.


Government grant for Todd Tavern, Alice Plaza development
OK, so now let’s understand this situation a little more fully.
The Todd Tavern, notwithstanding its distinct architectural value, has for decades been a major source of the grog strife and associated anti-social and crime problems of Alice Springs.
This hotel has long been a major cause of why people don’t venture much into the north end of Todd Street and Mall for many years.
The Alice Plaza (originally Ford Plaza) is the town’s great white elephant – from the time it commenced operation it has been effectively subsidised by taxpayers who, through a range of Commonwealth and (mostly) NT Government agencies, have paid rent on most of the upper level and (at times) for retail space on the ground floor, too (PowerWater, for example).
Despite the massive taxpayer support this building has received for three decades, and no less than four major redesigns over that period, the Alice Plaza has never been a successful development.
When the Alice Plaza’s construction was underway in 1986, the building’s architect declared “the new full mall for Todd Street and the Ford Plaza will be an asset for tourism in Alice Springs” (Develop or die, Centralian Advocate, 18/7/86).
The building’s various owners, the NT Government and the Alice Springs Town Council have been struggling to make this massive miscalculation succeed ever since.
There is no evidence whatsoever that either government (at both tiers) or the commerce sector have any idea – let alone expertise – to rectify their colossal blunders.
They just keep coming up with more hare-brained schemes and projects to throw more taxpayers’ dollars at, always with the promise these “investments” will lead to pots of gold at the end of a rainbow and we’ll all live happily ever after.
No major project undertaken during the history of NT Self-Government, either here in Alice Springs or the Territory as a whole, has come anywhere within cooee of such siren promises.
Rather, we’re going backwards and the pace is worsening.
However, the property holders continue to do nicely out of being endlessly funded at public expense, regardless of which major political party holds power in the Northern Territory.
And now we’ve got a Labor Government spending more taxpayers’ dollars for the benefit of the wealthiest hoi polloi of our town to help them get out of the mess of their own making.
Never has so much been paid by so many to so few in the history of Alice Springs.
This is what “responsible Self-Government” has come to mean, and it is a disaster.
Let the wealthy property holders finance their own solutions, they should not be continued to be propped up at public expense.
Let the wealthy property holders face the responsibilities and consequences of their own poor investment decisions; and should they go under – well, that’s the reality of free market forces.
It is not the duty of government to endlessly spend scarce public funds to save the rich and privileged from themselves.
It’s long past the time when this situation should be called out for what it is – enough is enough.


Now that the Rock can’t be climbed, visiting it will cost more
@ Charlie Carter (Posted November 7, 2019 at 10:09 am): Presumably referring to Clyde Holding, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (1983-87) in the Hawke Government.
Holding was the architect of a proposed national Aboriginal land rights act but this was kyboshed after a strong campaign by the WA mining industry and Labor Premier, Brian Burke.
Instead, a bit under a decade later, the High Court of Australia recognised Native Title as legal.


Another nail in the Anzac High coffin
What this whole exercise starkly reveals is that the entire system of government in the Northern Territory – bureaucracy and the law – is a preserve of the wealthy, privileged and powerful of our society, irrespective of which political party holds power.
As I have stated now for decades, the NT is a shamocracy, not a democracy.
Heritage is the Achilles Heel of this inherently corrupt system because it has long been regarded as an annoyance of no great consequence in the overall scheme of things.
In my recent post comparing the track records of NT Labor and the CLP towards heritage issues (https://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2019/10/10/how-do-nt-labor-and-the-clp-rate-on-heritage/) it’s clear that the situation is only worsening over time.
What’s happening with heritage is reflective of a much wider malaise afflicting all aspects of public administration (and thus the economy) in the Northern Territory – this is not just about heritage alone.
We find ourselves have become the real embodiment of a dystopian nightmare.
The final sentence of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is apt: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again but already it was impossible to say which was which”.
(See my comment https://theconversation.com/labors-reset-on-climate-and-jobs-is-a-political-mirage-126013#comment_2056427).


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