Alice Springs wants to be a player in the global tourism business but it is allowing one of its major assets to be destroyed by neglect and vandalism. Vienna has its famous Woods, New York its Central Park and Paris has the Bois du Bologne. Yet Alice’s Todd River, a wild landscape in the heart of the town, is abandoned to arsonists, vandals, litter bugs and remains shut off from visitors whose major attraction it should be. KIERAN FINNANE comments.
Deliberately lit fires have exacted a heavy toll on the Todd River and its trees since the warmer weather began. It seems that we are in a brief moment of reprieve but instead of moving to the front foot, the town seems to be sitting back, waiting for the worst to happen.
We can hardly expect the destructive mindset of the arsonists to have changed all of a sudden, so why is there not a sense of urgency about doing what it takes to reduce the fuel load in the river corridor?
The action that needs to be taken is not rocket science – immediate removal of combustible material around individual trees, possibly linked with fire breaks. Every tree is precious, from the ancient giants to the more recent trees. Their protection is all part of the investment.
The Alice Springs Town Council, as trustee of the Todd and Charles Rivers, must step up to its responsibilities. Or is all this talk of connecting the town to the river, our greatest natural asset, mere lip service?
Pictured: Top – The aftermath of Spring fires in the Todd River, south of Tunks causeway. Right – Charred ground beneath a red gum which has shed its seed pods. By photographer and naturalist MIKE GILLAM.
In our slideshow MIKE GILLAM tells the story in 12 images.
1. Burnt ground beneath a charred red gum which has shed its seed pods.
2. Long dry grass carried fire to this river giant, hundreds of years old, just downstream from Schwarz Crescent causeway.
3. The scene repeated and the tree left to burn at Charles Creek causeway leading to the Telegraph Station.
4. The scene repeated, the fire once again left to burn on the river bank opposite Warburton Street. This was on September 11. The tree hollow had been burning for days when a group of private citizens put the fire out, carrying buckets of water from nearby houses, saving the tree.
5. The scene repeated at Tunks causeway, leading to Olive Pink Botanic Gardens and the Barrett Drive tourism precinct. The tangle of logs around the base of this devastated giant are forming a protective barrier for new growth. Any removal of them should be handled with great care.
6. The thick trunk was savaged by fire some years ago. The slender branches of regrowth were then destroyed this Spring. How long will the new growth last, with the buffel grass left to flourish all around it?
7. After years of struggle, defeat. The rim of the hole in the ground marks the circumference of the old tree. Recent fire, fuelled by long dry grass, has destroyed the regrowth, burning right down into the ground.
8. In the wake of devastation, the invaders arrive. Bamboo takes root around a still living tree that has little prospect of survival. In the distance buffel grass regenerates, unchecked.
9. It’s not too late to do something to save these trees on the west bank of the river in front of IAD. Immediate fuel reduction is required. This photo and the next two were taken over the last few days.
10. Walking across the river we come to a mid-channel island whose trees are in imminent danger unless the fuel is reduced.
11. Some tree protection has been attempted around this ancient survivor mid-channel. Evidence of such action is very patchy. As new growth takes hold, follow-up visits will be required.
12. The east bank along Barrett Drive. Do we want to lose this magnificent old tree? What do we want visitors to the town to look at when they walk along the banks of the river? Wouldn’t the sight of a beloved wild river, where the country is given the help it needs to look after itself, do our town proud?