The saving of the Old Alice Springs Gaol was the …

Comment on The gaolers and the gaoled: new exhibition by Domenico Pecorari.

The saving of the Old Alice Springs Gaol was the last major win for our town’s built heritage.
It makes me laugh when I hear some blame the “conservationists” for stifling growth and bringing on the town’s present-day economic woes.
From my recollection, developers have won practically every heritage-related battle since that time, much to the detriment of our town’s once iconic Outback character.
And yes, there is still a fire in the belly of most of us from that time, but it is a slow burn, drenched in a sadness and disappointment that the system itself is stacked against our town’s heritage and that there are just so many times one can bash one’s head against a wall that just won’t budge.

Recent Comments by Domenico Pecorari

Fracking well ‘unstable’
Why are we not surprised?
No matter how many conditions are placed on the fracking industry, there will always be “accidents”, not to mention the long-term costs that governments (read taxpayer) will have to pay for long after these companies have left.
Time for another moratorium on fracking?

Chance for NT Government to get cracking on fires
@ Erwin: I am not doubting the re-filling or flight times you quote, but question the appropriateness of aerial bombers to our particular bushfire conditions.
I refer you to the ABC News story of November 15, 2019, citing the general manager of National Aerial Firefighting Centre, Richard Alder, who said that while large water bombers were useful, they were not a silver bullet. In the same story, senior researcher at CSIRO’s Department of Bushfire Behaviour and Risks, Matt Plucinski, said that, while aircraft had a number of advantages for fighting fires, they were most important in the initial attack and for fighting fires in difficult terrain, he added that more research was needed to understand the most effective use of large aircraft, what Australia might need in the future and whether the high cost was warranted.
No doubt a lot more has been learnt over the last 2 months, but the fundamental issue of “appropriateness” remain the same.

[ED – Thanks for your further comment, Dom. Our sources never claimed water bombers were a silver bullet and Mr Plucinski clearly confirms the point we reported in our report: The fire in the West Macs last year started “in difficult terrain” namely around Standley Chasm.]

Chance for NT Government to get cracking on fires
@ Erwin. One of the most important lessons to have come out of the bushfires of the last month in south-eastern Australia is that there is no one answer to fighting fires, no silver bullet, and that each fire is best fought by means appropriate to the type of terrain, type and density of fuel load (and other factors) in which the fires occur.
Large air tankers (DC-10s and 737s) are designed to dump a very large amount of water very quickly, so as to have an effect upon very intense hotspots, as found in densely-treed forest landscapes such as are found in our national parks of SE Australia.
Most fires in our Central Australian region are much less intense, the majority best described as scrub or grass fires that can be adequately managed by our existing rural fire-fighters.
Sure, our fire-fighters could always do with more and better equiped tanker trucks, but aerial tankers? At the very most, I imagine a fleet of smaller helicopters for use in inaccessible terrain, sourcing water from local waterholes, where available, may offer a better and more cost-efficient solution. They could also assist in moving firefighters into where they are required and out of dangerous situations.
While your calculation (“5 minutes” to fill the tankers plus “five minutes” to fly out to Ormiston) makes your case seem a no-brainer, after you factor in landing and take off taxi-ing time, manoeuvring into place at the fire front, flying back to Alice, I reckon the best dump rate would be about every 40 minutes.
Instead of arguing for a gold-plated “solution”, we’d be better off asking our local fire-fighters for advice on how to best fight our kind of fires, based upon their valuable experience, as well as consulting our indigenous community for advice on how traditional fire practices could assist in our reducing the risks.
Now that would make for an interesting and more useful article.
Happy New Year to you too.
[ED – Hi Dom, a large tanker can be filled in five minutes – google our report. The flight time quoted, correctly, was not to Ormiston but to Standley Chasm where the blaze a year ago started. It was then allowed to burn for 17 days through roughly half of the national park. The opinions we quoted about the use of large water bombers are those of an expert with national and international experience.]

Chance for NT Government to get cracking on fires
Readers and commentators would do well to inform themselves by reading up on the NT Government’s “Alice Springs Regional Bushfire Management Plan 2018”, as prepared by Bushfires NT and the Dept of Environment and Natural Resources.
Central Australia presents an entirely different set of fire risk conditions to the forested areas of SE Australia.
Local conditions require particular responses suited to our region’s ecology.
I’m not sure that water-bombing aircraft would be very useful in fighting our type of (scrub)fires, outside of the immediate urban area.
It would be interesting, Erwin, to re-visit and take comparative photographs one year on, to see how re-vegetation (if any) may be proceeding.

The elusive goal of deep shade in Alice
Thanks, Pip, for your timely raising of this issue as we enter another long and hot summer.
Quite apart from Council’s inept attempts at addressing the tree deaths of last year, it may be helpful to consider whether falling groundwater levels in the Town Basin are contributing to the tree losses.
Water Resources Division’s Technical Report No 6/2019A, “Alice Springs Town Basin: Groundwater level assessment” , by M.A.Short, dated April 2019, states that:
“Groundwater levels recorded at many key monitoring bores within the Alice Springs Town Basin aquifer are (as of April 2019) at their lowest levels in recent history, and have declined below their previous low levels recorded during 2008-09 at many locations.”
The report attributes the falls to an imbalance between extraction, by parties such as the “golf club, parks, schools and other green spaces”, and insufficient re-charge resulting from the current period of reduced rainfall.
All of this points to the fact that greening up our town requires a multi-pronged approach that will only stand a chance of succeeding if and when all contributing factors are considered.

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