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HomeIssue 27White Gums: new plans for rural suburb

White Gums: new plans for rural suburb

p2127-White-GumsBy ERWIN CHLANDA
The Brown family at White Gums, in the south-western corner of the Alice Springs municipality, is having its fourth shot at an ambitious real estate development.
Spokesman for the family, Pat Brown, says this time there is a new minister, and the proposal contains far fewer and much bigger rural residential blocks.
Mr Brown says he saw a report about his family’s application in 2007 recommending approval but Lands Minister at the time, Delia Lawrie, rejected the proposal for “political reasons”.
A more recent application was deferred and will be withdrawn if the current one is approved.
This new application seeks to create on 784 hectares “environmentally sustainable and integrated rural living, a community hub, senior’s lifestyle village with 80 dwellings for 162 residents in cottages in a valley with view of the ranges, says Mr Brown.
“Families who desire a quality bush/rural living area within a 15 minute drive to Alice Springs” would have a choice of 50 to 60 lots of between one to three hectares, says the application. The 2007 application sought approval for 180 blocks, just 4000 square meters in size.
Only one single storey dwelling per allotment would be permitted and it would have “an aerobic waste water treatment tank that meets NT Dept of Health design and siting requirements” and be suitable for recycling.
Also proposed is a “business estate” with 40 allotments for low density storage and warehousing, trades workshops and truck parking.
All residential and commercial buildings would have rainwater tanks with at least 20,000 litre capacity and a portion of their capacity set aside for stormwater detention.
Two similar proposals were knocked back by two Labor lands ministers. In 2004 Chris Burns said the proposal significantly departed from the current town planning scheme; it failed to “adequately address roads and servicing issues, waste and effluent disposal and to demonstrate the suitability of the land” for the development.
In 2007 Ms Lawrie repeated Mr Burns’ point of being in conflict with the town plan; said the site was remote from “services and facilities” and failed to address Power and Water Corporation concerns about the impact on the Roe Creek borefield.
All applications, including the current, provided for a connection to the town water supply, says Mr Brown.
The proposal is open for public comment until July 25.
AERIAL PHOTO: 1 – Existing Ilparpa subdivision. 2 – Existing rural blocks near the proposed development. 3 – Sewage treatment plant. The “km” distances are from Alice Springs.


  1. This is a very odd proposal. A community hub, senior’s lifestyle village with 80 dwellings, 40 allotments for low density storage and warehousing, trades workshops and truck parking, 50 to 60 lots of between one to three hectares.
    It’s a planning hotchpotch of things that don’t sit well alongside each other. Like its predecessor the proposal is still trying to squeeze too much out of the land. A sensible development would be house blocks of between 5 and 10 hectares. That would have far less impact on the environment and I imagine would be attractive to people wishing to live out of town.

  2. I think this is the fifth proposal to sub-divide White Gums, the first was 30 years ago and it was knocked back by the NT Government, too (and it was CLP). This in turn led to the development of the Ilparpa subdivision which actually proceeded without the knowledge of the Lands Minister (Steve Hatton) at the time!
    It’s interesting to note the double-standards of the NT Government with regard to the White Gums area being “remote from services and facilities”, according to then Planning Minister Delia Lawrie in 2007.
    A decade earlier I lived on the Iwupataka Land Trust 30km west of Alice Springs, and while there a large water mains was installed along Larapinta Drive attached to the town water supply. This was funded by ATSIC to the tune of $5 or $6 million but clearly this could only have proceeded with the full knowledge and agreement of the NT Government (then CLP).
    I learned from a person (well qualified to know) that that particular infrastructure is designed to cater for a population of 6000! It’s clear from this that during the 1990s there was a surreptitious push to develop Alice Springs westwards, as opposed to the eastwards development of the Undoolya Subdivision that was approved by the NT Government a decade beforehand (again, CLP) or the current Kilgariff development now underway south of town at AZRI.

  3. If Alex Nelson is correct, and I have no reason to think he isn’t, could that mean that a development at White Gums has a major infrastructure requirement already in place? Or at least almost in place, as it would have to be easier and less expensive to bring a spur water line through Honeymoon Gap than all the way from town.
    Aside from that, my first question is what’s with the trucks? They can be noisy critters, noisy to run and nosy to work on. Not really conducive to a quiet rural setting.
    And my next question is what would this do to Kilgariff?
    But I wish the Browns well on this. They’ve been trying for a long time, and it might be interesting to see what they would make of it if approved.

  4. Geography and the Gap dictate that the town expands either east or west or both but not south unless a completely new facility / satellite suburb emerges at Brewer, which makes sense as the infrastructure and future employment prospects will be there.
    And as the consultants for the Kilgariff disaster pointed out, development will follow the railway. This White Gums project may be an opportunity to develop and display technologies more appropriate to this region and there are many.
    Unfortunately, lack of vision and insistence on following blindly on with antique technologies has been a characteristic of both recent administrations, and both health and planning regulations badly need updating to meet modern technology.
    ALEC tried to do this but was misrepresented. Water tanks and provision for alternative methods of waste disposal are a good start, and should provide new directions for Desert Knowledge.
    Rainwater tanks should be mandatory and composting toilets available. (There are around 10,000 of these illegally installed in Australia including some in Metropolitan areas).
    My house has not used town water in a year, and a composting toilet grows great vegetables. There are numerous examples of far thinking planning around from the NY city energy generation from waste to East Melbourne composting enterprises, and can anyone give us an example of another arid country in the world that treats expensive underground water as a means of waste removal and then as a waste product and allowed to evaporate as we do?
    Has anyone apart from a few enterprising interstate bodies ever tried to put an economic value on the nutrients that our waste contains?
    Queensland and Tasmania have, are growing algal cattle food with those nutrients, and we had a golden opportunity to demonstrate those technologies to the wider world at Kilgariff, in full public view, but chose to create just another mundane replica of southern suburbia.
    And we have to ask for whose benefit? Perhaps we have another chance here to demonstrate what can be done with a bit of lateral thinking into the town plan.
    One also has to ask why the Kilgariff development has been rushed through (even working on weekends) with significant infrastructure contribution from the government while at least two other developments, both private and south of the Gap have been stalled by government red tape?
    Could it be that the real estate interests don’t do as well from these as from Kilgariff?
    The need to use this land as research in food production is very well illustrated in picture form in the annual report of a public company (Potash West) showing population trends and land use, and I invite your readers to view this graph, vividly illustrating how short sighted our government land policies are.
    Good luck to the Browns.
    Government went to great lengths at the show asking us to report red tape. Perhaps they need to look in the mirror and if political spin was edible we would all be grossly obese.

  5. I attended the public Planning Forum into Kilgariff estate design, and made the submission that every house should have rainwater tanks, aerobic septics, photovoltaic energy generation, compulsory!
    I was laughed out of the room.

  6. I do not see why it shouldn’t work. If there’s a demand for housing anywhere in the vicinity, there will be people who will eventually buy up whatever is being built there.
    At the same time, people from all over the rest of Australia and even some people I know might be keen in a second place in that area.


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