Now you see it, now you don't


A sign erected yesterday telling people they will be prosecuted if they enter into the popular Ilparpa claypans area didn’t last long: It was gone this morning.
Facebook ran hot with comments when Councillor Steve Brown (at right) alerted the public of what he calls “an outrageous slap in the face for locals who have been enjoying that area forever”.
Stephen Brooks, of the Department of Lands, says: “The Ilparpa Claypans are on Crown land and are also registered as a Sacred Site.
“The site has always had signage and they were recently replaced following vandalism.
“The Claypans are susceptible to erosion and damage has been caused by the misuse of motorised vehicles and illegal dumping on the site.”
p2212-claypans-sceneBut Cr Brown says the area has been “a public place of enjoyment for decades and it will remain so.
“There have been all sorts of uses, from windsurfing to picnicing, movie sets and access to the picturesque gullies on the southern flank of the range – a major potential attraction for locals and tourists alike.
“It is a sacred site to all Alice Springs people, it’s just a bullshit excuse for pushing people out.
“It wasn’t me who chopped down the sign but I would not hesitate to remove such an offensive item.”
He says a government plan for the area has been in the too hard basket for too long. Access should be less restrictive than it is in national parks.
It was formerly the commonage, used for stock grazing and the general public.
p2212-claypans-waterskiing“We must not keep people out. The fact that some motorists misuse the area is not a reason for closing it, but for controlling it.
He says some people had taken it upon themselves to “police” the area.
“This needs to be stopped,” says Cr Brown.


  1. The departmental sling-off justification for erecting this sign “Crown Land and Registered Sacred Site”, is absolutely no excuse for the mean spirited, unwarranted erection of the trespass notice apparently because of the unsolicited non representative views of a particular individual.
    Crown Land is common land! Owned by the community, its usage determined by that community!
    Alicespringites must not tolerate this assault on their rights!
    Any attempt to change “existing use” from “Common Use” of this area must go through due process, a process of which Community consultation and input must form the most important input.
    Generations of Alicespringites of all backgrounds including traditional owners have enjoyed and made use of this area as common community ground – this cannot change without consultation!
    The fact that this area is a sacred eite, the all to often fall back position for bureaucrats attempting to justify the unjustifiable, has absolutely nothing to do with closing it off.
    There is nothing in the Sacred Sites Act that prevents “Dual Usage” in fact I say “common usage” equals “common respect”!
    Nor is the fact that some may choose to abuse the area a reason to close it off in fact closing it off would more than likely deliver the area solely into the hands of those who abuse it.
    A completely retrograde step!
    I do believe that the time has come to try and draft an acceptable usage agreement for the entire area, one that attempts to take into account the wishes of the general public and traditional owners along with those of all the various users, while trying not to be as restrictive as in a National Parks scenario.
    In fact it really is time that we came up with a park management system that really is “for the people” as opposed to the current system of conserving by locking them up and locking you out.
    If youre sick of being pushed around and pushed out, if you are interested in forming part of a group to take up this cause, feel free to call me. Let’s see what we can do to get the NT Government thinking our way!
    In the meantime the only authority with the power to police the area is the NT Police. Please record and report any unauthorized third party policing to the NT Police immediately.

  2. You will never stop people using the claypans as it is an area that is used by all for walking, having a picnic enjoying the beauty of Alice Springs surrounds.
    Would it not be an idea instead of wasting money on replacing signs that the council develop the area as a picnic area and an education area, some signs telling people how clay pans are formed the significance of them to indigenous people, the age of them.
    Some of those low wooden tables with benches chairs as in other town parks, placed thoughtfully around the claypans, and perhaps some rubbish bins would be useful.
    We could start a friends of the clay pans group who keep the place free of rubbish and monitor the use of the area, any hoons would be identified and reported.
    The putting up of signs NO Trespassing shows the council’s lack of imagination in the development of the town and attractions for tourists as well.
    Oh and could you please replace the shades in Todd Mall? The metal things over the arty bench seats are nice to look at but provide absolutely no shade for those who just want to sit and watch the world go by, it will also attract people back to the mall and reduce crime in the area.
    [ED – Hi Bronwyn, it was the Territory Government that put up the No Trespassing sign.]

  3. This is absolutely ridiculous and a bunch of bullshit. What does the Territory government want us to do now?
    Sit around the house all day and not get to experience and enjoy the area that I and many of us grew up in?
    Also, if it is a sacred site, why only now do they worry about the title of it being a sacred site?
    I could tell you that I had no idea that it was until about 10 minutes ago.
    Absolutely ridiculous, yet another part of this town sadly being taken away for the enjoyment of the locals.
    Also on top of my rant, as a local I feel disgusted and offended by this “no trespassing” sign.
    Why not negotiate with the people of Alice Springs, and introduce simple objects such a bins at the gate where you turn off to pull into the clay pans.
    This would save a whole lot of people becoming upset at the state that the clay pans are in. Easily done, easily fixed.

  4. The claypans are a sacred site but in my discussions with the traditional owners they have no problem with people visiting there as long as they respect it and don’t damage the area.
    That means don’t churn up the mud hooning in your cars and take all your rubbish away.
    Keep to the tracks already there and don’t make more. Simple, really.
    I talked with a senior custodian before the recent regatta and there was no problem with people going there as long as we respected the place.

  5. It was NOT the Territory Government who put the sign up. It was an ignorant new-age patronising silver tailed public servant who obviously knows jack shit about the good old days of happy times when most black and white kids were all the same colour, playing in our OUR claypans with our dogs.

  6. Are you sure someone didn’t do this as a joke? The Territory is known for its practical jokers. Not very funny but as I see, effective. 🙂

  7. Excellent idea Captain Pugwash: It should be like “Napwerte / Ewaninga Rock Carvings Conservation Reserve” enjoyed by all with respect.

  8. Well said, Steve Brown. Whacking signs up like this without any consultation is just silly. There are some management issues out at the claypans, but this is not the way to address them. Counter-productive.

  9. Thanks Alice Springs News for raising the topic. I agree, preventing access is not the answer.
    But would love to see a management plan as I do believe there is increasing use and misuse of this beautiful place due to increasing numbers of visitors.
    I have seen it promoted on TV and in the local paper / radio, and I feel if we’re going to do this as a community (and expect increasing numbers of visitors) then we also have a responsibility to manage and perhaps guide visitors towards good use.

  10. The claypans are a great asset for all of us. They just need proper management.
    Vehicle access should be allowed up to the first claypan and a parking bay created.
    The claypans themselves need fencing off to prevent hoon cars.
    Surely this simple plan would work?
    And … no, sorry Rod, the claypans are NOT for cattle, they cause too much damage.

  11. There are a lot of passionate comments on this story, most formed out of misinformation, so I will try and get everyone back on track.
    The word “trespass” has a range of meanings – just consider the traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer, which uses the word twice, and would predate whitefella law in Australia considerably.
    To my knowledge, the only time it precludes someone from setting foot on a piece of dirt under any circumstance is if you have been issued a Trespass Notice.
    The sign erected late late last week, of which I had no knowledge whatsoever, until 7 pm Sunday (15th) night, could only mean “no entry without lawful excuse”, which in relation to a patch of dirt such as the “commonage” (it was a police paddock and then a butchers paddock before / after that, and then under the control of the Pony Club), by definition means “no breaking the law on this land”.
    I have no knowledge of anyone having been issued a Trespass Notice in relations to the claypans area, but if there have been any, they are the only person(s) excluded from the area, and not as a result of the sign.
    A quick count gives at least nine Acts of Law that apply to this land in relation to the current discussion – probably the most recent being a Prohibited Areas under the Liquor Act.
    Before that the Acts applying related to Aboriginal issues, and before that, the most recent and in relation to environmental issues, was gazetted in 1985, 30 years ago!
    The Acts relating to motor vehicle activity go back a long way before that, and there are several others in between.
    So for anyone arguing that illegal use over many years justifies the idiotic and selfish behaviour by some you can find out there still today, is having a lend of themselves.
    True, Crown Land belongs to the public, but only in a similar way Parliament House does. Illegal uses (no matter for how many decades), do not in any way constitute “due process” for the public to determine usage.
    Furthermore, due process has already been carried out, quite a few years ago (by the CLP government well before the 2001 election), both for the Commonage as a whole, and also specifically for the Ilparpa (manmade) “swamp” – hence the DAF recycling plant etc.
    As far as the western end of the Commonage is concerned, a management plan has long been drawn up, which did not preclude passive activities, such as dog walking and even horse riding (despite horses being renowned weed spreaders), and did include a designated access track and carparks etc etc. I was present when two Soil Conservation Officers – they are both still in town – did the preliminary marking out.
    This management plan had to be presented to Lhere Artepe, which happened (I was present), but unfortunately only a short time before the demise of one chairman for alleged violent behaviour, and shortly followed by the Daryl Pearce era, and that’s where it bogged down.
    Concurrently two other things equally didn’t help: The Ilparpa Valley Landcare Group Inc, of which the current Attorney General was a very active member, were balled out for not having a “Certificate of Permissive Occupancy” to “legally” allow us to pick up rubbish in the area!
    Secondly, the Department of Lands etc. required the volunteers of the Landcare Group to individually sign “Letters of Indemnity” to the NT Government, for ANY act we might execute in the area, that might at ANY time in the future be deemed to be in conflict with ANY future requirement of ANY Native Title legislation!
    As you can understand, volunteers “vanished”, smarting from the fact that they were volunteers, executing the duties of a Government, in accordance with a management plan dissected, modified and approved by that Government! And all the while the carnage was occurring around them, not “prosecuted”!
    I don’t recall any of those making the most noise now participating in any of the demanding activities, from pre-planning to on ground activities, that are being called for now, and were already occurring.
    As for “policing”, there are any number of entities, that can “police” the area, including Joe Citizen, just as a certain group in the interests of public safety carried out nocturnal neighbourhood watch type activities on the streets of Alice Springs several years ago in their “look at me” vests. (Do I smell a hint of hypocrisy?)
    In relation to the “the Council”: The Alice Springs Town Council has next to, if non none whatsoever, jurisdiction over the area under discussion.
    In relation to National Parks etc, the original plan for the Desert Park had its southern boundary along the northern boundary of Ilparpa Rd. What sort of access do you thing that would have allowed? Furthermore, the current southern boundary of the Desert Park is on the southern side of the Heavitree Range, embracing a substantial number of the slot gorges.
    Finally, for those bleating on about “freedom”, and a “free country”, no matter what jurisdiction we operate in, we are only free to operate within the Law. Take away the Law, and you have anarchy, a freedom of sorts, perhaps.

  12. Just for the record “Claypan Walker”, if perchance your dig is aimed at me, I have never ever suggested, mentioned or even contemplated the running of any livestock anywhere on the Commonage.
    You are either very ill informed, or being mischievous. Otherwise your comment is quite in line with the pre-existing (on ice) Management Plan.
    One point I intended to mention is that the Commonage has some 450 recorded native flora species (including some declared at risk), which is more than Wartarrka! Unfortunately, without considering the subdivision, you can add to that some 40 introduced weeds.

  13. @ Rod: A few questions:
    1. Have you ever harassed people using the clay pans?
    2. Have you called police re people using the clay pans?
    3. Have you intimidated or physically intimidated children who ride their motor bikes there?
    4. Have you ever approached government departments with complaints about the use of the area?
    Your comment is both long winded and explains nothing except that you have been involved in a very complex working arrangement to close the clay pans. Am I correct in that observation, from your writings?

  14. @ Rod: Your Bull and Bluster is barely worth a reply however for the sake of the reader’s I’ll attempt to answer some of your points.
    First, the rather idiotic one about the trespass sign, let’s see if you can follow.
    When a motorist rounds a corner into an access road and finds themselves confronted by a brand new sign sticking out of the middle of the Road saying very clearly “No Trespassers”! I believe that 99% of the population would immediately take it that somebody didn’t want them there. That they were not to enter. A sign means what people interpret it to mean, Rod.
    It may well come as a surprise to you but most people seeing a sign like that don’t immediately analyze a court’s legal interpretation of it. They simply take it at face value.
    I say to you that those erecting the sign would have been very much aware of this; as such the intention was to exclude. And that, Rod, we are not going to accept.
    Australia is a free democratic country owned lock stock and barrel by the people of the nation.
    Governments do not own anything, Rod, they simply caretake or manage for the people a bit like a body corporate, acting on the wishes of the majority.
    That’s the bit you struggle with, isn’t it Rod. It’s hard to be a majority when your views are shared by very few, often leaves you with nothing but Bull and Bluster trying to justify your view, not unlike your comment, actually.
    “The Common”, “Public owned Land” is part of the Alice Springs Municipal Area, as such very much within the interests of Councillors like me.
    However it may also come as a surprise to you but even as a Councillor I still remain a citizen of both the Territory and Australia.
    As such I feel quite entitled to comment on things outside of those municipal boundaries, my apologies if that bothers you.
    As for the rather sanctimonious comments about grazing introducing weeds into the “Common”. How idiotic.
    The Common was the police paddock, heavily stocked with horses, before that a goat paddock, after that a community horse paddock at times heavily stocked, it was also used as the butchers’ paddock with quite large herds of cattle, up to several thousand being held there.
    Supplement feeding with hay went on throughout a hundred years or more of its use. The Common was also one on the locations sowed to many trial species including many varieties of buffel by the CSIRO.
    So please spare us the virgin bush-land propaganda.
    The facts are that it would be a very good thing if it were restocked to reduce the fire hazard.
    When you put all these things together with the fact that it has been burnt on many occasions I think that it’s quite clearly demonstrable that the level of fragility you would like to attribute to it as a reason to exclude all but yourself is simply once again, Bull and Bluster.
    As for volunteering effort in the Common, the Brown Family, as the neighbor sharing the most extensive boundary, have fought the fires, deterred illegal dumping and other abuses for many years before you blew into the valley and discovered its existence, Rod.
    Looking after an area doesn’t mean taking ownership and doing your best to push others who don’t share your particular ideology out.
    I would suggest to you that you go and share your personalized ideas about policing with the NT Police because I can assure you that taking policing into your own hands can entail very severe penalties.
    Finally, it was also nice and well intentioned of you to allude to Advance Alice and the action of many citizens to bring attention to the plight of our town which was in a lot of trouble at that time.
    And, yes, we were wearing high vis vests in order to be seen. It’s kind of the idea of high vis, actually.
    We never jumped on anybody, Rod, we never attempted to “police” only drawing attention to the very sad state of neglect our town had reached. And we were very successful, citizens using their democratic right to demand action from their Government.
    Yes, Rod, democracy at work!
    Ah and where were you during all of that? That’s right, “bloody democracy” doesn’t suit you at all does it? Just kept your head down, hey?

  15. Good Grief! Go and have a Bex and a lie down.
    I haven’t at any time said or done any of the things you base your diatribe on, and that for the most part I have merely stated verifiable historical facts, calmly, and with to the best of my ability, economy of words.
    Yes, I do agree that is how most people would react to such a sign, and that is why I am on the public record last Monday saying it was not a clever idea, or words to that affect.
    It is unfortunate that you appear to have taken my reference to “the Council” as some personal dig at you. I was merely responding to the comment in the ABC site where someone again called for “the Council” to do this or that on Crown Land, just as I did when connections of the chap who tragically died at the entrance to the claypans called for the Council to close off all access to the area. Nothing more, nothing less.
    Council does not have responsibility of, or jurisdiction over, Crown Land, in or out of the Municipality, unless for example, there is a MOU developed with the NTG (presumably / hopefully entailing suitable remuneration). This of course does not prevent anyone within Council, either elected or employed, from taking an interest in or comment on Crown Land. I wish them well if it involves even the slightest whiff of spending any Council funds.
    I made no reference about “grazing introducing weeds into the ‘Common'”. I said nothing even hinting at “virgin bush-land”.
    My discreet reference to Advance Alice was merely a comparison of likeness, nothing more, nothing less.
    Need I go on?
    Except to say emphatically, I have never, in any way, worked for, countenanced, supported, suggested etc, the closing of the claypans – in fact the opposite. So Janet, you are absolutely incorrect.
    I (and many others) have however, put a great deal of effort into the entirely legal processes and actions that are available to us under the form of democracy we live in, to protect the remaining integrity of this very valuable, fairly unique, but much (illegally) abused, local natural asset.
    Sorry for you if that causes you so much angst.

  16. It appears some land users are more equal than others.
    Yes, the ‘pans have been used by people walking dog and for bbqs. It has also been used by trail bike riders and even organised motorcycle competition events with very little detriment to the environment.
    Sunday afternoons saw many young people learning to ride and the more experienced having a good time.
    What’s changed?
    About 10 years ago it was fenced, but by whom? Since then the “access police” have been very loud.
    I can understand the new developments on Ilparpra Road are filled with people who now want the land to themselves for their own enjoyment to the exclusion of these traditional users.
    I was once approached by two police officers while walking my dog and told it was Crown land and I was trespassing – most disconcerting.
    I wonder what the status is with most of the land surrounding Alice?
    I have seen many signs indicating certain areas are Crown land and these seem to preclude camping, rubbish dumping and motorcycles but not cars!
    What is the difference between the two Crown land types? I also fail to see what the environmental difference is between the clay pans and adjacent grazing property – why would we spend so much time and effort protecting the claypans when only three km away the same type of environment holds cattle?
    I feel a land claim coming on.

  17. If you are interested and want to know what’s going on then I suggest you have your say at the next Ilparpa Claypans Lovers Meetings first Saturday of every month.
    So next meet is June 3 from 10-11 am Gazebo Table, Bean Tree Cafe, Olive Pink Botanical Gardens. The group have also put out a users’ survey. No names of coordinators at all.


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