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

Gunner goofs: No council ‘decisions’ on gallery site
@ Some Guy (Posted August 19, 2019 at 10:43 am): No, I don’t “feel like this golden opportunity of a project to secure the future of Central Australia both in an economic and cultural sense on the world stage is slowly slipping through the fingers” because it was an illusion in the first place.
This isn’t the first occasion that a big project has been held out for us in The Centre offering some kind of economic Nirvana; we were told exactly the same kind of thing with the casino 40 years ago, and again with the development of the Alice Springs Desert Park in the mid 1990s.
Both of these facilities may be attractions but have never come close to fulfilling the visions originally held out to us as major game changers for the Centre’s economy.
With all due respect, I cannot see how a “National Aboriginal Art Gallery” will prove to be any different in the long run.


Another great river tree goes up in flames
@ Bob Taylor (Posted August 14, 2019 at 8:38 am): In this case grass wasn’t the problem, Bob, as even hard up against the trunk of the tree I noticed that none of it was burnt.
What seems to have happened was that a campfire was lit under one of the old exposed support roots of the tree and it was from this source that the flames spread into the trunk.
The roots in turn have been exposed by erosion exacerbated by the lowering of the river bed over a decade ago for flood mitigation.
The lowering of the river bed has also enabled campers to conceal themselves better from view. Unless the river bed is physically patrolled, no-one else knows they are there.


Invasive buffel grass soon part of international focus
The caption for the photo: “Dense infestation buffalo grass in land near the Alice Springs airport” brings back some memories. During my years at school in the 1970s, invariably when I spoke about buffel grass everyone thought I meant buffalo grass, a common variety of garden lawn. [ED– the autocorrect of ‘buffalo’ for ‘buffel’ has now been corrected, thanks Alex.]
As my home was at AZRI and then the new CSIRO field station next door, I was completely familiar with buffel grass during the time when its systematic introduction for dust control (especially for the Alice Springs Airport) and improved pasture was fully underway.
However, this was still the time when buffel grass was not yet dominant in the landscape so most people were unfamiliar with it.


Nuke power way to zero emissions, or a solar shortcut?
@ Ted Egan (Posted August 3, 2019 at 2:50 pm): Hello Ted, if you go to this link https://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2013/07/11/when-gas-turns-to-hot-air/ and check out the CLP’s full page election advertisement from 1980, it’s just possible to make out that one of the energy options the NT Government was touting was “an experimental wind power generator for the Barkly Tablelands”.
The CLP was also giving consideration for nuclear power at that time, too.
Ah yes, we’re right into recycling!


NT at the bottom of the barrel
Ironic, I suggest, that the gas INPEX is exporting from the Territory actually doesn’t come from here. I hasten to add my comment is just an observation of the current situation, not an argument one way or the other about potential gas reserves in the NT.


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