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HomeIssue 1Intending Desert Knowledge investor blasts board

Intending Desert Knowledge investor blasts board

p2165-Hatzimihail-picBy ERWIN CHLANDA
Local entrepreneur Alex Hatzimihail, who is promoting a massive educational and industrial development in the largely defunct Desert Knowledge precinct, says its board is blocking the project despite support for it by Chief Minister Adam Giles.
However, two board members are saying the project has merit but needs to be examined more closely.
Board member Bob Liddle says the project has “a lot of merit. The promoters are taking an entrepreneurial view of it all, and that’s good. It’s a move towards developing the precinct which is otherwise of no use.”
However, Mr Liddle says there are a lot of risks.
He says Mr Hatzimihail is demanding an immediate lease to secure offshore funding – from China, as he understands.
Mr Hatzimihail says the project, if delayed, would “lose the funding for another nine months” as investors from Europe, Asia and North America would allocate the money to other projects.
At this point a letter of intent could be offered, Mr Liddle says, but the final document would need to provide a reasonable return to Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA).
There would need to be secure guarantees for the lease payments – in the order of $20m a year, as a “ballpark figure”.
Also, the precinct’s use would need to be in line with DKA’s objectives.
Mr Hatzimihail says: “The deal we have with the NT Government is that we are investing heavily in the Northern Territory, and we would get the precinct for $5000 per hectare per year, for the 25 hectares, for 140 years.
“We would be obliged to spend $511m in phase one – more later.
“That was agreed. They are going back on the deal.
“The blame lies with board Chairman Ken Johnson, and board members Scott Lovett and Neil Ross.
“I was born in Alice Springs. They have already stopped my car company coming into Alice Springs. We were going to build 30 to 50 cars a year. We are not asking the government for money.
“I started in 2008 with $250 and now my companies are worth more than $200m. I’ve been in Bloomberg, CNBC and Business Week. Google me.
“We will take the money to another state in Australia. I am inviting them to go on national TV with me to explain why are they blocking it. We will have one more meeting with Mr Giles to try and break the deadlock.”
Board member Neil Ross says the proposal is so far available only in concept from and is before the board for consideration.
“We are now being asked to sign a lease. We are reluctant to do that, at the moment, because we have not yet had the opportunity of considering the terms of this lease.”
Board member Scott Lovett, who works for Mr Giles, says any comment should come from chairman Ken Johnson.
Mr Johnson is in Melbourne at a meeting and the Alice Springs News Online was told he would contact us later today. We could not reach board member Paul Ah Chee.
Alex Hatzimihail says the project would include a centre of excellence for Aboriginal students, and a learning centre, linked to the Charles Darwin University, for students from the world over.
Mr Giles, in a letter dated January 9, thanked Alex Hatzimihail for an “updated briefing on your Alice Springs Technology Park and International Student Facility proposal”.
In his message, which is clearly qualified, he said the briefing “gives me confidence that your business proposal aligns with my Government’s strategic direction.
“I look forward to providing even more in depth support for this exciting project following the informed and detailed business plan finalisation including the financial modelling to deliver on the proposed concepts.”
Mr Hatzimihail says: “Mr Giles has the same vision as us.”


  1. The statements made by me is a personal view of the proposal and should not be taken as a view of the board.
    However, the concept has merit and should be allowed to proceed without unnecessary restriction.

  2. Alex Hatzimihail. He comes up with dollar figures that make you feel like this man must have something, otherwise he would not have the balls to talk about millions of dollars.
    Oh yes, he was in Bloomberg, here you go:-
    Then check this article, where [it is reported that] he FAILED to pay the money:
    “But according to Oryon, EFL Tech breached that agreement by failing to make $250,000 of the second payment.
    “Oryon also said Wednesday that a pair of lawsuits related to the EFL deal had left it unable to meet its financial obligations or attract additional investment funds.”

  3. IF the proposal is only available only in concept form, then caution perhaps is reasonable.
    Terms and conditions would need cover an almost infinite range of possible actions and reactions.
    A statement of interest using an initial short term, perhaps three years, lease with conditional the option for an extension.
    Extending the lease should depend upon detailed plans being both submitted and accepted by the board and other authorities, along with detailed lease terms and conditions.

  4. In relation to the issues raised in the comment by Corey Taylor that financial matter between EFL Tech and Oryon was fully resolved some time ago and in relation to those lawsuits you refer to they have been resolved in US court in favour of The Hatzimihail Group.

  5. The cool heads must prevail in this situation. This is no way to handle the future of Central Australia’s research precinct of international value and one of Alice Springs’ most valuable community resources: education.
    @Alex Hatzimihail / others – take a deep breath and take the time to build community support for whatever it is you want to do. At the moment there is too little real detail in the public domain.
    If an Alice Springs population of 100,000 within five years is really what is at stake here, who could reasonably expect the town just to go along happily with these wild visions without some detail of the pros and cons of such as massive change?

  6. In the 1980s the NT CLP Government promoted for years the prospect of Alice Springs’ population rising to 50,000 residents.
    After a debate over a number of years, the decision was made by then Lands Minister Ray Hanrahan in July 1987 to proceed with the development of a satellite town to the east of Alice Springs (the Undoolya Option, first mooted by a former Lands Minister Marshall Perron about 1981).
    I still retain a number of documents published by the NT Government outlining future development options for the expansion of Alice Springs in those times.
    However, the CLP wasn’t the first to promote these ideas, the NT Government actually inherited these grandiose notions from the former Commonwealth administration beginning from the early 1970s when Alice Springs was undergoing an enormous population expansion.
    During the Whitlam Government a study was made (the Hanson and Todd report, if my memory serves me correctly) of future growth prospects for Alice Springs.
    The final report (ironically published in December 1975, the month Whitlam’s government lost office) outlined three broad population growth trends for the Alice, ranging from a minimum population of 30,000 to a maximum of 60,000 by the year 2000.
    Well, here it is now in the year 2015, and Alice Springs at last official count had a population of 28,600.
    Concurrent with anticipated growth of the population of Alice Springs over the decades have been proposals and often heated debate about high-rise buildings exceeding the current three-storey height limit.
    During the last few weeks I’ve been looking into the history of the high-rise debate in Alice Springs – it is uniquely an Alice Springs phenomenon.
    I’ve delved right back to the earliest constructions of two-storey buildings (Adelaide House is the first, built in 1926).
    One feature of my research stands out, namely that from the time of the Whitlam Government onwards, every major proposal and concept for high-rise developments in Alice Springs (and even one for Yulara!) has coincided with the onset of economic downturns, usually recessions.
    I haven’t found any exceptions to my observation. The most startling correlation is that of the construction of the Territory Motor Inn (now the Aurora Alice Springs Hotel) between Todd Mall and Leichhardt Terrace, the Alice’s only four-storey building.
    It was opened to great fanfare in April 1990 and placed in the hands of receivers four months later.
    In recent years there has been renewed speculation about new high-rise construction in Alice Springs, especially on the former Melanka site.
    True to form, the first of these presaged the Global Financial Crisis which effectively put paid to these initial development proposals.
    Subsequently the then Labor NT Government put forward a more general proposal for numerous high-rise (five storey) buildings in the town’s CBD. It was markedly similar to the vision of the town’s centre as depicted in the Hanson and Todd study undertaken during the Whitlam Labor Government decades earlier, the main exception being the CBD was dominated by three-storey buildings.
    Now we have a much more ambitious high-rise development proposal for the Melanka site plus another concept promoted by Chief Minister Adam Giles for the corner of the Stuart Highway and Whittaker Street, as part of a proposal to relocate the railway station (incidentally, virtually the same site as the preferred option for a new railway station published in 1979).
    If the pattern I’ve identified continues to hold true, the prospects for the immediate economic future are dire. A little over a century ago, the proverb was first stated: “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”. It is an accurate observation.
    As for the current Desert Knowledge proposal by Alex Hatzimihail – well, history reminds me of another wise old saying: “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”.

  7. Money, money, money. Always money. Do we really need that? Seriously?
    Could we leave Alice Springs the way it is? Stopping building construction? Considering the geographical situation of Alice, ecologically, culturally and ethically we already are taking too much … we don’t need a population of 100,000, especially a population that might come here only for investment and not by love and admiration for the nature and the community.
    Hopefully the community of Alice Springs will stand up, react and fight, if needed!


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