The aftermath of the TIO sale has put big money in play, and there’s nothing like the whiff of big money to get hands in the air. The call is for sensible, sustainable infrastructure to form the NT’s future, and what have we heard so far?
From the Top End we hear of an agribusiness plan to grow food for the Asian market using dammed water for irrigation. Sounds good, but will it work? Big dams can pack unforseen surprises, and the project itself seems to be inspired by the Ord River Scheme, a scheme of debatable provenance.
Does Gina Rinehart really want to build a high-tech private hospital in Darwin? Again, it sounds good with the only problem I can see being if she wants to spend public money instead of her own. As for perhaps building it on public land, that idea doesn’t bother me as much as it does some.
Here in the Centre we have heard a few proposals with nothing yet being decided. Or so we are told.
With no flood mitigation dam on offer, the first cab off the rank is another Melanka building. It sounds like this will come from private money. Trouble is, that money wants to go to eight storeys to achieve economic viability, and eight storeys, as we all know, sends Alice into fits.
At any rate, this might not be anything to keep us awake at night. Regarding building on that site, every few years someone proposes, and every few years Alice disposes. The kids kicking stones out there after midnight can probably look forward to at least one more summer of delinquent fun.
Next comes the empty block on the corner of Whittaker St and the Stuart Highway. Our Chief Minister has suggested a combined train station and hotel. That might make sense if people still came to Alice by rail, but with Virgin Air coming in and tourist numbers down?
It’s not that we couldn’t do with a new train station. Who knows, with an attached hotel more Ghan passengers might decide to include a night in the Alice on their journey between Adelaide and Darwin. But perhaps a low impact building inspired by Moorish desert architecture rather than one inspired by the Darwin waterfront would fit in better and find more local support.
And then finally we come to the Big One, the proposed pipeline to carry fracked NT gas thru the sand hills from here to Moomba. Just like before the sale of TIO, we’re again watching a fan dance of maybe yes and maybe no. But the sale was always a done deal, and I reckon the pipeline is too.
This is admittedly speculation, but unless it’s to cater for oversize mining equipment, why are we suddenly seeing road works on the way to Santa Teresa with more mentioned for the far side of Allambi Station? Could it be because the Simpson Desert’s sand hills lie down that track?
I predict Dr Hawke’s report into fracking will contain enough recoverable wriggle room to give this project the political cover it needs.