Kilgariff $170K blocks, dept. on council stormwater deal


“Stormwater is no longer the enemy.”
That, in a nutshell, lies behind the deal between the Town Council and the NT Government over stormwater management in Kilgariff.
So says a spokesman for the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment in Alice Springs, reflecting the government’s iron determination to press ahead with the project in a bid to end the debilitating residential land shortage.
Prices of developed blocks will have a mandatory ceiling averaging between $160,000 and $180,000, bringing homes to within the scope of the $550,000 Build Start scheme, says the spokesman.
The department also gave the Alice Springs News Online access to a 100 page report completed this year by AEC Environmental Pty Ltd commissioned by the government, following rumours that the land is contaminated by chemicals including Agent Orange.
The report says: “All laboratory test results were reported at below the adopted assessment criteria and/or laboratory limits of reporting.
“There is no indication from the data we have collected to indicate Agent Orange was used and/or is present at the site.”
The report relied in part on the analysis of soil samples taken from 15 locations along fence lines and tracks where it is acknowledged that pesticides and herbicides had been used.
Kilgariff seems now set to act in tandem with softening prices of existing houses to bring home ownership in Alice Springs again within reach of many more people.
Stormwater to seep into soil
The spokesman says the issue at Kilgariff is about what to do with stormwater. The flat site is unsuitable for deep drains and buried pipes such as are required by Town Council planners. Instead, water will be moving across the surface, and encouraged to seep into the soil.
He says rather than taking water away from the site, and following the lead from other land developments around the nation, the department has found a way to put stormwater “to some extent” to good use around Kilgariff, and yet adequately drain the suburb.
“At low flows the design is expected catch water which will then infiltrate the ground over a period of one to two days,” says the spokesman.
There will be a shallow swale drain, some 20 to 30 metres wide, between the suburb and the Stuart Highway, turning east at the Colonel Rose Drive intersection and ending at a football oval at the south-eastern corner of the suburb. The swale drains will be wider further south as further stages are opened up.
All along that swale, and on its way to it, stormwater will pass through public open space as sheet flow, seeping into the ground.
In some places it will flow across internal streets and Col Rose Drive, but no deeper than is the case now, no more than a quarter of a meter in a Q100.
The swale drain will become open space for the public most of the time and be a buffer from the highway.
The spokesman says consultants Equatica developed the government’s drainage strategy and say “the plan is feasible” – and so do two other independent engineering firms.
The report is based in part on infiltration tests in dozens of locations throughout the development land, establishing a seepage rate of between 12mm and 37mm per hour, which means any surface water will be gone in a few hours.
Above or below the Q100 line?
All of the land of stage one, contrary to the council’s assertion, is above the one-in-a-100-year flood line (Q100). Much of it – if not all – meets the statutory requirement of being 300 mm above the Q100 line, and any blocks which do not comply can be made compliant with a few truckloads of soil, says the spokesman.
The 300mm height limit is set by the Building Code of Australia. In addition, after the 1988 floods in Alice Springs, it became a condition for the Territory Insurance Office to provide universal flood cover, although many older dwellings, in the CBD and the Old Eastside, for example, are below that line.
The spokesman says the Q100 map for the whole town is being re-drawn. The changes will be minimal, but the work, about 80% completed, is still pending peer reviews. The new data for Kilgariff are completed.
The agreement with the council for the government to accept responsibility for part of the Kilgariff project stems from the council’s apprehension about maintenance costs resulting from the storm water system novel to The Alice.
While the council is comfortable with the internal use of the system, it was unsure it would work when the flow gets to the swale drains at the periphery, especially during the construction phase when silt washing off bare land usually causes blockages.
To mitigate those fears the government has taken on the responsibility for the maintenance of the access road, and the entire network of swale drains for five years.
After this the council is expected to take on its usual responsibilities in the suburb, for roads and stormwater. (Electricity will be the responsibility of Power Water Corporation.)
“We know it’s going to work,” says the spokesman.
Developer bids are in 
Meanwhile the commercial processes are under way for stage one which will have no less than 100 blocks.
The deadline for expressions of interest by developers has passed but the spokesman says the number of applicants will not be revealed before the bids are finalised. The selection of bidders to be invited is expected to occur this month.
The successful bidder will buy from the government the Crown lease of the land. Individual blocks will have freehold titles. At the average mandated sale price the developed land – including streets, water, sewage, power – will be worth around $17m.
The government will receive advice from the Australian Valuation Office about the value of the land, says the spokesman.
Development costs are estimated by independent sources at between $100,000 and $120,000 per block, which would leave the developer $6m minus what the government charges for his land. The government will pay $3.5m to the successful bidder for the access road, swale drain and sewage main to the pumping station.
The target for Kilgariff is 1000 blocks. Stage one is just 10% of that. Clearly, that gives the government great leverage to increase competition – at very short notice as the headworks are in place already. If speculators move in on stage one, stage two can be close on its heels.
IMAGES: Above: Kilgariff stage one clear of flood zone. Top: Swale drain at Araluen Park.
Footnote 1: The department has agreed to maintain access to the reports for the Alice Springs News Online and we will do our best to reply to readers’ queries.
Footnote 2: Reader Bob Taylor has suggested the report at this link is of interest.


  1. So what happened to affordable land? The govt should have developed the land themselves, keeping prices down and not giving the developer a huge financial windfall.
    I was at the planning group meeting, a token gesture from labor govt. We were told at that meeting that if the govt developed the land (all the land and sold the blocks) then blocks would cost approx less than $40k a block. And if govt then sold the blocks at approx. $80K that would be big financial income to govt. and allow for a large amount of Territory housing.
    We welcome land release but compared to Darwin and the land releases there we are not really impressed. The Chief Minister out of Alice and that does not assist us.
    We need affordable land to keep our workers and stop our kids moving away.
    Sorry Adam but whoever is advising you on Kilgariff has absolutely no idea what they are talking about or they are rubbing their hands together for the big money they will make from a govt with no knowledge and experience in development.
    Ask locals here not the developers who are prepared to make big money from struggling families. Implement land release to help our town not like labor who did everything to destroy us.
    Adam give us hope give our workers a start give our town hope and more important give a opportunities to really grow.
    Give businesses hope we need workers. And those workers need affordable homes and govt needs about 200+ new territory housing units and houses. Please give us hope give us opportunity.

  2. Thanks Janet (Posted August 21, 2013 at 7:34 am); you are of course correct when you state “We need affordable land to keep our workers and stop our kids moving away. … workers need affordable homes and govt needs about 200+ new territory housing units and houses.” We don’t want developers “to make big money from struggling families”.
    Let’s join together to demand wide-scale government intervention in the housing development process. It is a matter of major importance for the town, and, as you say, cannot be left to the greedy developers and private sector, or we will be all worse off.

  3. A development such as this is so, so long overdue.
    Sounds like it could have been done cheaper. Is this still possible!?
    Regardless, thank God for businesses and the community that this development seems like a reality.

  4. Consider swale drain areas to satisfy 1 in 300 flooding as so much depends on them working. Main result slightly larger park area when not flooding.
    Observed elsewhere similar swale drains work well for regular smaller storms, yet fail result in flooding of surrounding buildings more than expected with heavy deluge.
    With grounds around Alice Springs need consider lower ground soak-up rates, so higher ground-water flow.

  5. Being downstream from the CBD and the Braitling (Old Racecourse area) on a similar relatively flat alluvial flood plain, will Kilgariff be able to absorb locally falling rain and flood waters from a less than Q100 event as experienced over recent years? That is without the CBD’s or Braitling area’s additional height above sea level, stormwater drains and natural drainage ability to the Todd River and further south. Note: The CBD, Old Racecourse and Kilgariff are within the Probable Maximum Flood area as shown on the Alice Springs Flood Map.
    Unfortunately cheap and/or affordable land in the real estate industry nationally has been associated in the past with low lying land subject to flooding and/or storm water surge. Will a truck load of sand to bring a block above the Q100 level be satisfactory to meet any requirements of TIO, other insurance companies or the Fidelity Fund? “Any blocks which do not comply can be made compliant with a few truckloads of soil, says the spokesman.” If the flat site is unsuitable for deep drains and buried pipes such as are required by the Town Council and if the rainwater or flood waters do not permeate quickly into the ground or swales, will Kilgariff become Alice Springs first canal estate?
    When we bought our block of land up stream in Braitling in the mid 1970s, the infrastructure development was contracted out to a civil construction company and sold by the government at a public auction. On our first visit to the block we drove onto the land and got bogged, so when planning the house decided to set the finished floor level at half a metre (2.5 concrete blocks) above natural ground level and topped up with numerous truckloads of sand. Between then and now we have seen storm water flowing (gutter to gutter) on and down the road adjacent to our street on at least two occasions. My non expert advice to any potential purchaser of a residential block in Kilgariff would be to be aware, be prepared to undertake a similar exercise and expect to get your feet wet occasionally. What’s the old saying – let the buyer beware – whether you are buying from the government, a private developer or a builder selling a spec home.

  6. This area has not suffered an inundation on the scale that would pose any threat to homes built to standard in my lifetime.
    If there was thought to be an excessive threat houses can easily built a little higher out of the ground at very little extra cost. “Drainage” – getting rid of water off the streets which has been the contentious point, brings us to a simple question: do we make the price of land completely unaffordable so that we can drain the streets in a few hours as compared to a day or so once in a hundred years!
    This is what happens when you hand petty bureaucracy the free for all to ask “what if”. They come up with a scenario that beggars belief!
    A flood plan that has areas being flooded that have not been flooded in living memory and going hell for leather to keep everybody out of those areas while everyone actually lives in an area that we know does flood and considerably more often than once in a hundred years.
    I think that what this actually says is that whoever came up with this flood plan was pushing the bounds of credibility.
    We cannot guard against all risk, all possible events. If you try you end up not being able to do anything! Ring any bells for you?
    The original concept of a Flood Plan before it was taken to ridiculous levels was to find and deal with those areas at risk from high velocity running water that posed a real threat to life. We need to get back to that discussion and the building of a dam that could prevent such an event.

  7. The spat between ASTC and the Govt over Kilgariff illustrates the ill thought out development of this project.
    It was conceived in haste a few days before an election through political expediency and pressure of self interest from real estate interests and should never have happened.
    At a time when we are supposed to be developing as the food bowl of our region with a 1.7 trillion food market in the offing (Food Summit, Sydney June, CEO Visyboard Australia, who described it as the greatest business opportunity in Australia’s history) the very last thing we needed was to cover a vital food production research unit with supposedly low cost housing.
    We should and could have been right at the forefront of climate change innovation and its huge benefits. It will be seen by future generations as a strategically silly and short sighted move.
    The fact that it was on a flood plain was pointed out at the time of the public consultations, but ignored in the haste. 27 years before St Mary’s wanted to develop land next to the village and the same thing was pointed out by the consulting engineers that it would never receive planning approval for that reason.
    How times change!
    This was one of several other non sensible elements in the original proposal, including a truck stop on the corner, when a site correctly engineered for the purpose was only 6 km away at Bohning. The consultants did not know it was there!
    It was also suggested that the subdivision should go further South following the railway, at the suggestion of the consultants, on advertised crown land.
    When I pointed this out to the Planning Authority I was told that Crown land was not available for the Crown to use! How can that be?
    At the time (3 days before an election) two federal politicians proudly proclaimed the development of 1500 houses on the a joining airport land. They must have known that NT airports that owned the land was controlled by a publicly listed company Australian Infrastructure Trust, and was not theirs to play with. It was not unencumbered, and they must have known that at the time.
    The obvious path to follow now in the best long term interests of us all, is to develop our food production capacity and cater for the huge food production industry to come – we need to double our food production by 2050 or starve – is to look at Henbury station as a state of the art food production research facility.
    The Federal Government has now done $9 million in equity there, all of which is potentially recoverable by involving CSIRO focusing on protein production, via both cattle and camels, which are superbly engineered for this environment, and the development and the improvement of local grazing pastures, leguminous plants in particular, Acacia research is currently being carried out in India, Africa and Asia and Murdock Uni in Perth for that purpose. Camel research in Dubhai. Alternatively invite them here to do their research.
    Queensland took this approach in legume development and that is now the basis of their cattle industry. We are just slow off the mark to follow their lead.
    Development of bush tomato in a rural High School in SA is another case in point.
    The whole of the corridor between the airport and the gap should be a show place of what can be done here, starting with an up to date visitors reception area as in Mt Isa near the Welcome stone.
    There might even be a place there for a Panorama Guth type display involving the drive-in screen. We certainly don’t want to greet our visitors with a replica of suburban back fences as it is on the Northern Departure from Adelaide, but that seems to be the intention.
    Then we might well wonder why they don’t bother to come, or stay. Perhaps we need a ministry of strategic long term planning in both tourism and food production instead of a ministry of knee jerk reactions and to examine closely what our competitors are doing instead of navel gazing.

  8. Trevor Shiell Posted September 2, 2013 at 3:06 pm
    Yes. IF serious there needs to be open discussion of future development plans with choices towards 50,000 population.
    We need clear range of pathways, public discussion from various perspectives, to enable quicker and better political decisions when choices needed.


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