This announcement, following hard on the heels of the dire …

Comment on Making the CBD vibrant, again: Detail, please. by Alex Nelson.

This announcement, following hard on the heels of the dire budgetary situation for the NT, is highly reminiscent of a quarter century ago.
Here’s a few comparisons: The CLP won the NT election campaign of October 1990, which it was at risk of losing earlier that year after much infighting and instability; the ALP wins the NT election campaign in August 2016 after much infighting and instability in the previous CLP government.
Shortly after its election victory in 1990, the CLP Government announces the formation of an Expenditure Review Committee chaired by Treasurer Barry Coulter in light of the dire budgetary situation in the NT, concurrent with a worsening national economic outlook.
In April 1991, seven months after the elections, the NT Government announced major cutbacks in expenditure including the ending of government programs, and the abolition of 1220 public service positions to be achieved through attrition and a freeze on recruitment.
In March 2017, eight months after the NT election campaign, Treasurer Nicole Manison faces up to a massive decline in GST revenue for the NT by abandoning the Government’s commitment to return the NT budget to surplus by 2018-19, non-renewal of government programs and reduction of the public service through attrition – all within the context of a clearly deteriorating national economic outlook.
Now we have an announcement by the current NT Government intending to rejuvenate the CBDs of Darwin and Alice Springs.
In 1990 the major project underway in Darwin was the State Square development, which began with the construction of a new Supreme Court opened late that year. Hmm, sounds remarkably familiar within the context of 2017 in Alice Springs, doesn’t it? The second stage of the State Square project was the construction of the new Legislative Assembly, completed in 1994.
In Alice Springs we got a commitment for revitalisation of the CBD! During 1992 the Department of Lands and Housing commenced “Planning for the Future Development of the Alice Springs Central Area” under the project title “Alice Springs – Visions for an Oasis Town” which (in my opinion) can be easily re-imagined by the current government’s emphasis to make Alice Springs the “capital of inland Australia” (maybe this description is in consolation for no new Legislative Assembly in the Centre!)
Dale Wakefield’s assurance that “Government will work closely with the Alice Springs community to identify and plan and deliver key projects to revitalise the Alice Springs CBD” is markedly similar to the extensive public consultation and planning the NT Government undertook in late 1992 (I’ve still got my copies of the extensive “response forms” for the key topics of land Use, buildings, conservation, mobility and your choice).
Very little eventuated from all of this activity, although we did get the Tom Brown Roundabout at the entrance to Heavitree Gap which was actually part of the design for a four-lane extension of the Stuart Highway through the Gap announced in 1986.
So here we go again – frankly, I can never overcome my suspicion that George Orwell’s dystopian society described in Nineteen Eighty-Four isn’t simply a caricature of the regime in which we find ourselves.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Making the CBD vibrant, again: Detail, please.
@ Ross Chippendale (Posted May 1, 2017 at 6:23 am): Anyone who’s lived in Alice Springs from before the construction of the full pedestrian Todd Mall would recall that Todd Street (as it used to be) was a highly vibrant location, as it was the main retail area in town.
We didn’t have the Alice Plaza, Yeperenye Shopping Centre, K-mart and (before 1980) the Coles Complex.
Todd Street (in the CBD) featured two supermarkets at either end, with Woolworths in the north (where the cinema complex is today) and Egar Beavers at the Heenan Building corner.
We had the Stuart Arms Hotel on the Parsons Street corner, and Todd Street featured pleasant shopping arcades especially in the northern end (Turner Arcade and Gorey Arcade), and there was the fabulous B-Mart general store in the north end, too. There was so much more.
Todd Street was crammed with traffic and tourists, as long ago as the 1960s when Alice Springs’ population was well below 10,000 – but it was also a time when The Alice was THE pre-eminent tourism destination of the Northern Territory as it was the gaps and gorges of the MacDonnell Ranges that collectively was the main attraction, and Ayers Rock was an adjunct to those attractions.
Todd Street became a victim of its success at a time when there seemed to be no limit to the possibilities of growth and expansion of the town.
The first recommendation to convert Todd Street into a pedestrian mall was made in the HKF consultancy report into the Central Australian tourism industry released in late 1969.
The concept probably would have worked if the recommendations of that report had been adhered to but over the years the failure of proper planning and disciplined consistency for appropriate developments ruined its chances of success.
The expansion of retail developments across the CBD during the early to mid 1980s were based on the assumption that Alice Springs’ phenomenal growth would continue indefinitely into the future.
However, the completion of these major developments coincided with the end of this massive expansionary phase and suddenly the town found itself overdeveloped with a substantial excess of commercial retail and office space.
Something had to give and it did. The new Todd Mall collapsed virtually from the moment of its completion in late 1987 and has never recovered from that time onwards.
Many millions of dollars, both private and public, have been spent trying to jumpstart the Todd Mall ever since, and the current government appears intent on continuing to throw good money after bad in a vain attempt to recover the situation.
This simply won’t work because we’re ignoring the facts that the town’s stagnant population is oversupplied with existing retail facilities and tourist numbers are inadequate to make up the difference.
A very different approach is required but, on the evidence observed so far, it seems far too much to hope for from the current crop of “experts” in bureacracy and business.
I’m left seriously underwhelmed by the NT Government’s current approach to resolving these long-running, deeply entrenched problems of, frankly, our own making.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

65 years of history now a pile of rubble
@ L Westerdale (Posted December 5, 2019 at 11:57 am): You say the old high school was only used for its intended purpose for 20 years?
Alice Springs Higher Primary School (equivalent to modern middle schools), 1953-60 – that’s eight years; then Alice Springs High School, 1961-72 – that’s another 12 years; then Anzac Hill High School, 1987-2009 – another 23 years.
Hmm, let’s see: 8 + 12 = 20; then 20 + 23 = 43. Yep, that’s right, 43 years as an upper primary and secondary school, not including the overlap with other roles and functions.
As recent national media reports have noted, Australia’s performance in secondary education of science, maths and reading is declining and below the average of OECD nations (and it seems some adults are the ones showing the way for today’s students).
As a nation we have a low regard for science and education, and in the Northern Territory we far prefer to preserve old gaols than we do old schools – a fact never better demonstrated than under the current Gunner Government which has overseen the rejection of two heritage nominations for former schools.
What was the Labor slogan from about two decades ago? Something about Australia being a “clever country?”

Claire Hockridge found dead
@ Ted Egan (Posted December 4, 2019 at 7:55 am): “When will they ever learn?”
We live in a time where the recent arrivals all know better than those who have lived here for far longer.
Experience, and the knowledge borne from it, counts for very little – almost nothing – in this age of tertiary tyranny where everything requires little tickets of paper with extra letters after your name to “prove” you know anything.
It’s not just hapless people lost in the bush who fall victim to this stupidity, just look at the general situation with so many well-paid qualified professional experts in charge of it all.
Such people can’t afford to learn anything for fear of looking inadequate in front of their peers.
And thus ineptitude and incompetency reigns supreme over us all.

Pastoralist finds alive the second of the three missing
It’s a matter of considerable concern that the bogged vehicle was located in a creek bed about 22 km east of the Stuart Highway in the vicinity of Stuarts Well, as that is not far to go to seek help.
Many years ago I crashed my car on a remote track 30 km west of Giles Weather Station – it’s the only vehicle accident I’ve ever experienced (touch wood) but fortunately the worst I suffered was injured pride.
However, my predicament was that I had travelled 15 km from a junction on the main road and it was late February, the hottest time of year.
To cut a long story short, I ended up walking about 29 km back to Giles (I got a lift for the last kilometre) which I did in a day.
I knew where I was and which direction I had to go.
The fact that the missing people near Stuarts Well set out to walk 22 km westwards towards the Stuart Highway almost a fortnight ago suggests something has gone seriously wrong.

Land planning favours developers, says residents group
A major feature of the history of NT Self-Government is the control of planning by the government of the day to suit the requirements of developers.
It has always been perceived that only development, and especially that of major projects, is beneficial for the economic growth of the Northern Territory.
The track record of the NT under Self-Government demonstrates clearly this is simply false – the bigger the projects, the less the Territory benefits.
Nowhere has this been more convincingly demonstrated than that of the Ichthys/INPEX project, by far the largest industrial project in the Territory’s history, and a major policy development of the previous Labor administration under Chief Minister Paul Henderson.
The legacy of that project continues to be economic devastation for Darwin.
For virtually the entire period of NT Self-Government there has been in practice an unnamed and unspoken policy that I call “Wreck and Rebuild”.
“Wreck and Rebuild” is characterised by the practice of destroying existing buildings and infrastructure to make way for new developments that are always held out to represent a major new phase of economic progress, that it’s great for jobs and progress.
This unofficial policy has reached new heights of absurdity under the current Gunner Labor Government with the demolition of the former Anzac Hill High School and proposed land swap with the Alice Springs Town Council for the Civic Centre, which in large part is no more than 13 years old (built under the Martin Labor Government).
These projects are being touted as “good for the economy” and “providing jobs” etc.
No, it’s snake oil and needs to be called out for what it truly is – government-sanctioned official corruption, as history under NT Self-Government unequivocally and abundantly demonstrates.

Damien Ryan’s youth curfew dilemma
@ Local1 (Posted November 30, 2019 at 7:07 am): You conclude your comment with this claim: “It was happening in the boom times of the 90s, but the town was not as deserted as it is now, people still went out and enjoyed Alice Springs then, people are more scared now I believe.”
So you say but it’s remarkable how rose-tinted some people’s memories become with the passage of time.
Here’s a few statements published in March 1990 following a three month consultation with businesses in the then still new full mall: “Todd Mall vandalism is costing Alice Springs traders thousands of dollars each year.
“Twenty five shops in the mall [in a week] reported having had windows broken.
“The Alice Springs newsagency alone said it had 80 windows broken in the last year. Graffiti was also a problem. Mall traders steering committee chairman Anthony Neck said vandalism was rife in the mall.
“Information I have received is that in the past 18 months almost every shop in the mall would have been vandalised, he said.
“It would be a conservative estimate to say at least one window is smashed in the mall every night.
“Mall trader Bruce Deans says he is fed up with his shops being vandalised and robbed. A garbage can was thrown through the front door [of his] shop on Monday night.
“The following night thieves jemmied the back door of the Springs Plaza and broke into his menswear store causing damage worth $1300 and stealing 20 pairs of jeans worth $1200.
[He] “fully supported a draft report prepared by the mall traders steering committee which among other things proposes day and night dog patrols in Todd Mall. He said mall traders were becoming frustrated over the situation.
“I just don’t know how long this can go on, he said. Mr Deans said his shop had been burgled five times this year [that is, by mid March].
“He said the problem is the mall itself. At night it’s spooky … nobody is around. It’s perfect for illegal activities.
[The report] “deals with the problems and issues concerning the mall’s present and long term viability.
“It slammed the security in the mall as disastrous. Prepared after three months of discussions the draft report paints a dark picture of the mall saying:
• Business premises are continually taking an intolerable barrage of vandalism;
• Tourists are harassed and intimidated during the day by drunks;
• an increase in assault, violence, robbery and rape makes the mall an undesirable place to visit especially at night.
“Mall traders have also called for the immediate upgrading of the lighting system in the mall. They want special security lights installed in vandal prone areas like the Old Alice Inn [Todd Tavern], the cinema and the Flynn Church.
“Calling the area between Parsons Street and Wills Terrace a ‘ghetto’ the report calls for its opening to traffic to deter vandalism. It recommends installing a security surveillance system to be operated by an independent security company” (Centralian Advocate, 16 March 1990).
That story (it wasn’t even front page) was reported nearly 30 years ago.
Since then we’ve got improved lighting, roller doors and shutters, extensive CCTV, and the “ghetto” from Parsons Street to Wills Terrace re-opened to traffic.
One would be forgiven for thinking all our problems have been solved.
The front page of that edition featured a report on crime in the suburbs: “A police telephone poll of Alice Springs residents has revealed an alarming rate of crime in the Eastside area.
“About one third of the 174 residents spoken to on the Eastside reported being burgled in the past three years. In one particular street every house on one side had been robbed.”
A fortnight later another front page story reported: “A leading Alice Springs car dealer has called for law courts to “get tough” with vandals after his Toyota dealership was the target of a mass attack this week.
“Peter Kittle Toyota’s used car division was targeted in a Sunday night rampage with more than half the fleet damaged.
“This is the worst that we’ve ever suffered, Mr Kittle said.
“The irate dealer shunned a Territory Government proposal which would make parents of juvenile offenders responsible for their children’s actions.
“The scheme might work for the average Joe Citizen but not for these little pricks, he said. I don’t think their parents have the money.”
The story goes on: “Windows on several cars were smashed, the office windows caved in, car bonnets damaged and other body panels on the fleet hit by rocks.
“Mr Kittle said it would take a month before the damage was fully repaired. He said at least one car dealership in Alice Springs was vandalised every fortnight” (Advocate, 6 April 1990).
In 1989 there were 11,000 cases of protective custody in Alice Springs for alcohol abuse; in 1990 it rose to 13,000 cases. The rate of murder occurred about once a month, with Alice Springs achieving the statistic of the most lethal town in the nation (the “murder capital of Australia” as we then became known).
Meanwhile, Mayor Leslie Oldfield supported a youth curfew based on the recent initiative of Port Augusta mayor, Joy Baluch. This idea was strongly resisted by Assistant Police Commissioner, Andy McNeill, who two years later defeated Oldfield to become mayor of Alice Springs.

Be Sociable, Share!

A new way to support our journalism

We do not have a paywall. If you support our independent journalism you can make a financial contribution by clicking the red button below. This will help us cover expenses and sustain the news service we’ve been providing since 1994, in a locally owned and operated medium.

Erwin Chlanda, Editor