COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
Tomorrow is the deadline for public submissions about the fourth (some say fifth) proposal to develop part of White Gums, land owned by the pioneering Brown family in the south-western corner of the Alice Springs municipality.
The main reason given by Labor lands ministers Chris Burns (in 2004) and Delia Lawrie (in 2007) for rejecting the development was because it “represents a significant departure from the direction provided by elements of the current Planning Scheme [current at the time of determination], most significantly the Alice Springs Land Use Structure Plan 1999 [Town Plan 1992 (as amended)]. (Ms Lawrie’s text is in square brackets.) Note the almost identical wording, three years apart.
The other issues raised – mostly roads, waste and water – were clearly minor and have been, or can be fixed.
So, the governments at the time were peeved that someone doubted their infinite town planning wisdom. Well may you ask, what wisdom?
To be sure, the current dog’s breakfast started in the CLP reign of two and a half decades before Labor got to power – and goes back been further.
Why was the town built on a flood plain in the first place? There has been loss of life and property on several occasions and if the climate change boffins are right about ever bigger floods, we may one day kiss good-bye the CBD.
The world over the grandest buildings are on hilltops. In Alice most of the hills are off-limits for private and public buildings. Why?
The town is in a million square kilometres of emptiness yet the government thinks it’s doing us a favour selling small blocks at Kilgariff for $180,000. That’s three times the cost of comparable residential land in Streaky Bay.
Ron Sterry has spent his own money on his own land (in the foreground of the photo) off Ragonesi Road, big enough for several hundred residential blocks. What have the government and the town council done to make this development happen?
Next-door the 156 block project (in the background of the photo) of John McEwen has clearly stalled, over drainage and sewerage issues. Why?
Let’s move across the highway where the rubbish dump is in the most inappropriate place – now in the centre of the town. A proposal for moving it to Brewer Estate has been made. What is the council doing? It wants to extend the dump into the adjoining Desert Park which we are talking up as a tourist attraction.
Next-door we have two square kilometres of stench producing sewage treatment ponds. Suggestions of replacing them with a plant recycling the billions of litres of water currently wasted, and using the land – owned by the government and unencumbered by native title – for a more suitable purpose, have been ignored for decades.
Is anyone under the illusion that the government’s heavy hand is there to protect the interests of the public? Talk to the opponents of the Hornsby development or the 86% (according to one resident) of the people in Albrecht Drive opposing the construction of flats there.
If you want your interests protected build the appropriate clauses into your land purchase contract – a zoning can be overturned at the whim of the Development Consent Authority or the minister.
In Kilgariff the government had to become the developer of 30 blocks (that’s 2.5% of the 1200 lots planned there) because no private developer would pout up his hand. They are clearly all flat out jamming tiny dwellings into town blocks, in preparation for turning Alice into a fly-in, fly-out mining camp.
It’s clearly time to for the government to take a few steps back in town planning, except for obvious regulation of health and safety issues.
White Gums is at the far end of Ilparpa. The new traffic would mostly flow through Honeymoon Gap and not along Ilparpa Road. A water pipeline is within easy reach. There have been major developments in sewage disposal, superior to the septic tanks mostly in use in the rural areas. (And there is nothing wrong with septic tanks.)
The Browns are prepared to spend their own money to develop their own land. They, not the government, are taking the risk.
Buyers will have the choice of spending their money there – or not. This is a way of putting town planning into the hands of the people.
It’s that simple.
[Disclosure: A member of the Brown family, Steve, writes a column in the Alice Springs News Online where he expresses his own views.]
Put town planning into the hands of the people
COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA