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HomeIssue 13Spot the difference

Spot the difference

p2274-Melanka-trees-1By ERWIN CHLANDA
Tall trees were a prominent feature of the Melanka project in earlier images released by the developers, but in the image (at left) published on the Facebook site of Chief Minster Adam Giles they are notably absent.
A number of the trees on the site are trees of significance to Arrernte people, protected under the Sacred Sites Act.
Mr Giles and Lands Minister Dave Tollner, in a media announcement given to the overseas-controlled Centralian Advocate yesterday, and to other media today, announced that the eight storey project has now been given an exceptional development permit.
p2274-Melanka-trees-4This notably coincides with the government’s soliciting of public comment on whether there should be eight storeys permitted throughout the CBD. There is still a week left to comment on that.
Chief Minister Adam Giles quotes himself in his release that “the development would be a first for Alice Springs.
“It will also provide more choice for people looking to buy a home in Alice Springs and more retail and entertainment choices for all residents.”
He makes no comment about falling residential real estate prices and proliferating empty shops.
The release quotes Mr Tollner as saying the Northern Territory Planning Commission has already recommended that the CBD’s building height limit be lifted to eight storeys from three storeys.
Now you see them …
… now you don’t (drawing at top).


  1. Sacred trees, height limits, wishes of the community? The approval by Minister Tollner is not surprising given it is Step 5 of 7 steps towards implementing an unsustainable and ad hoc town planning process
    An Alice Springs example …
    1. Approve an Exceptional Development Permit to build a massive Courthouse precinct in the middle of town (4-storey); ensure developer has contributed to alleged CLP slush fund, Foundation 51.
    2. Initiate a review into the height limit of the CBD, focus the discussion paper on increasing the height limit to 8-storeys, entertain the idea of some sustainable development guidelines and talk up active frontage but focus on increasing the height limit. Open up for comments but have mind already made up.
    3. Have Chief Minister talk up and open up Expressions of Interest to go up to 6 storeys for a “transport hub” on Whittaker Street.
    4. Propose amendments to the NT Planning Scheme and surprise, surprise 8-storeys is recommended for the entire CBD, add some fluff about design guidelines and using local materials but set in stone – 8 storeys across the entire CBD. Submissions close September 18.
    Make your submission count before 4pm September 18. Check the proposed amendment here:
    5. Approve an Exceptional Development Permit to allow for an 8-storey development at the Melanka site – locking in significant NT government contributions to prop up the development and provide no justification for the economics to support such a development.
    6. Have the Planning Commission initiate consultation for a Regional Land Use Plan after submission close for the CBD Planning Scheme Amendments.
    7. Ensure that development is driven from Darwin with the interests of developers at heart and not that of the community that lives here.
    A better way to go about it:
    1. Initiate a regional economic plan based on reality rather than pushing an ideological agenda eg. mining and fracking.
    2. Consider the regional impacts of climate change on the future needs of the region in all areas of planning including the heat island effect of large buildings, water use, energy requirements and transportation needs.
    3. Develop a Regional Land Use Plan that is realistic and based on the economic potential of the region ensuring both current and future needs will be met.
    4. Develop a town plan that is developed for Alice Springs to support the sustainable development of the region. The plan would be both technical and inspirational to support greater participation and local ownership of sustainable economic development in the region.
    5. Set building performance targets for energy and water efficiency, renewable energy capacity, recycling and the life cycle environmental costs of buildings in the Alice Springs CBD.
    6. Ensure the Alice Springs Town Council is resourced to ensure that built form guidelines are adhered to, including shade, parking, streetscapes, bicycle lanes, bicycle racks, public transport nodes, green spaces etc.
    7. Ensure that Alice Springs residents are involved in the decision-making process through developing a strategic development committee like the Alice in 10 project which ran from 1999 into the mid 2000s.
    Use your voice…
    Make your submission count before 4pm September 18.
    Check the proposed amendment here:

  2. I saw an article today about this and I think Alice Springs really needs more child care options. I also think the accommodation would be excellent as it’s great to see new developments.
    I’m not too big on the roof bar. Who wants to leave their kids at a child care centre, where alcohol is being served on the rooftop?
    That’s a bit of an issue and should be reconsidered. I don’t drink alcohol at all, so my opinion may be different to those who do drink?

  3. I for one believe that whatever is built on the site is better than what’s there now. The vacant block is a prolific anti social location.
    I find it funny that Arrernte people believe that trees on the land are of significance. All I know is that the trees and shrubs are used as grog hiding spots.
    Go for a drive early morning if (if you dare) and have a look at all the litter, let alone the drunks situated on this vacant block of land.

  4. @ Jimmy: CLP is CLP. Nothing will change, no petition, not submission will wave this party.
    Quote: “The town of Alice Springs had been “ring barked” with land claims and claims of sacred sites … We can’t build the planned light industrial sub-division on the east side because of some supposed more sacred sites … The town is sick of the strategy by the Aboriginal organizations – and so am I … The Government will not buckle (quoted in Bell 1983, p. 288). End of Quote.
    Some of us still remember the beautiful trees in Todd Street / Mall, they were not Aborigines, but nevertheless sacred to us. Protesters protecting the trees were given the word that the trees will not be touched. Everybody went home and bingo, they were knocked down.
    CLP cannot be trusted sorry!
    I am not against development, to the contrary, this is part of human evolution; but I know there are ways to mix nature and progress.

  5. I went on their website for public comment a while back and it was explained to me by the developer that the image in question was simply to display how the design would impact the skyline and how it would be positioned. Note that the buildings are also in white for easy viewing – whereas the actual designs are in ochre and greens and grey colours.
    So the image where the trees are “notably absent” is not to show what it will look like in the end but to visibly enhance the structure.
    Moreover, if you have a look at the developers other projects you’ll notice that their landscape design is particularly impressive and seems to be a very important part of their project design.
    I strongly doubt that a developer, so well known in Darwin for their green developments, will stinge on the landscape portion of this project or unnecessarily remove pre-existing trees (when I believe they have already designed the structures around some of them) particularly when it is such a controversial project.
    I for one am particularly excited to see the immense change that the streetscape will take on once they do their magic!
    If you don’t believe me about their previous landscaping have a look on google earth at their other projects –
    The Avenue – Look at the cattle structures!
    Hastings on Mindil

  6. You people need to chill. It is private land. The developer jumps through the hoops and is spending his money.
    Everyone in this town thinks they should have their say. Well, you all have and you can’t stand loosing.
    Jimmy, go get a real job. What’s next for you? Go for council, ha ha.
    We can’t go back to dirt roads and horse and cart. Dreamers …

  7. @ Jim: The owner has friends in the right place. They lift him up and push him trough the hoop.
    Project director Dean Osborne from Eden Developments said: “Eight storeys were necessary to ensure financial viability. If you look at any progressive city in Australia or the world, a progressive city has high rises.
    But Alice Springs is not a city, it is a town. (A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city.)
    Quote from “The ‘Alice’, as it is known, combines laid-back charm with all the modern conveniences, comforts and diversions you’d find in a good-sized town.”
    Therefore, when Melanka will be finished, the government will have to correct its site.

  8. Well I (a born and bred local) really hope this development goes ahead. As a longer term local than a lot of the haters, I might even invest in one of the units when they go up for sale.
    As for Alexis’s comment, I was pretty sure that the child care part of this was to be built on the vacant lot on Hartley Street, across the laneway behind where Melanka used to be.
    I know that when I want to look at the ranges, I don’t go into the CBD to do it. You need a vantage point to get above the tree-line for a view for a start, or to stand in the middle of a road. Hmm, I might even go to the rooftop bar to relax with a beer and indulge in the view from up there!
    So many negative narrow minded people who think (wish) they own the entire town and that everything in it should be done to suit them and not the investors.
    The sacred trees are a load of rubbish. So many sacred trees in the town of Alice, but you go 30km in any direction where people aren’t able to build houses and there are no trees that anyone cares about.
    Sacred trees are all about a few certain people trying to make their presence felt and to keep themselves in a job … scratch that … they are trying to keep themselves “employed”.
    So much BS in this town with too many narrow minded do-gooders.

  9. @ Not worried at all: I am not worried either, I know we have the right to express our view especially if we pay rates and taxes (this is the law of the land).
    Quote: “The sacred trees are a load of rubbish” end of quote. For you, but not even 200 years ago there was no white man in this place. You are born and bred here? Good on you little caterpillar, I think I was here long before you 🙂 But this does not give us the right to judge and despise other beliefs. We have churches, mosques, synagogues and they have trees. Hence are narrow minded too.
    Some of us can for you appear to be negative, narrow minded do-gooders, but at least we have the guts to tell what we feel under our names, we do not hide behind a pseudonym.
    I wonder why I am talking to a “not concerned” and a “not worried at all”, who in fact are concerned and worried.
    NO worries be happy:)

  10. Jimmy Cocking. There are a lot of people who were here in the 40s and 50s so give us a break on this rot about sacred trees. I suppose the trees that are not native to the area are among the sacred ones.

  11. Can the Alice Springs News Online, ABC local radio, Minister Tollner or the relevant Government Department (or anybody) please advise if the completed units are now eligible for the Housing for Growth scheme?
    If so, what percentage of completed units have now been deemed eligible?
    In past Alice Springs News Online articles, it has only been reported as “a possibility”. Has this changed?

  12. There were a few people here in the 40s and 50s for whom these trees were sacred: The Mparntwe-arenye people. Some of them are still here as are most of their descendants. The trees are still sacred to them.
    So stop this rot about trees not being sacred just because the average man in the street a newcomer to Alice, doesn’t know much about traditional culture. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
    Now you see em now you don’t? I imagine the developers has a plan to knock em down, after all its only a slap on the wrist for destroying sacred sites and they will probably claw that money back through government grants and concessions.

  13. I’ve lived here for over 30 yrs and love the town. I agree with “not worried”. I don’t go to the centre of town to see the ranges, or trees, a very short walk or drive and it is all there for everyone to see.
    If the trees had of been included in the “artist’s impression” the same narrow minded people would have complained that the developer was trying to hide something behind the trees! Good luck with it all, this town needs to progress.

  14. Scotty, if “whatever is built on the site is better than what’s there now”, how about an abattoir, or even a motocross track? Why not?
    Jim, nothing like “shooting the messenger” when you don’t have anything intelligent to say.
    If you took the time to read Jimmy’s well thought out comment (might be a bit long for you though), you might find he’s exposing abuse of process, a job for real men.

  15. Cog, get a life. Jimmy lives off tax payers dollars just to whinge. Hey, and cogs, I bet you have a government job as well.

  16. One of my favorite views of Mt Gillen is seeing it interact with Annie Meyers Hill as you drive along near the YMCA.
    I hope this monstrosity doesn’t wreck it for me. One of the things that makes Alice Springs so beautiful, Heather, is that we have bushland coming right into town, thanks to the traditional owners working to protect their / our sacred sites, all those rocky ridges and little hills.
    Also, you can see the ranges and the broader landscape from just about anywhere.
    I am not looking forward to having some big box plonked in the middle of my town disturbing my view of everything.
    Also I am very concerned about those three sacred trees on site. There is virtually no punishment for a development if this sort damaging sacred sites and I find it hard to believe these old and fragile trees will not be damaged or killed. Many tourist come to our town, we need them, many tourists want to see or learn something of indigenous culture.
    It’s going to be great to go on a bus tour and be told, “there was a sacred site here but we wrecked it. Oh, and here’s a plaque we put up where we wrecked another sacred site, and over hear we have a boring building that we put up to destroy a few more sacred sites and wreck everyone’s view of our once beautiful country.
    Thank you, remember tell your friends, don’t bother coming. There’s nothing left to see.

  17. In reply to “Dr Wrongo”. The trees at the Melanka site were planted by white man after Melanka was built.
    Anyone around at that time can tell you this fact. So please look for other reasons to block this development not the sacred trees story.
    There are plenty good reasons not to build as proposed. It will surprise me if it will be viable.

  18. Dear Erwin, Upon reading your article and comments regarding the sacred trees on the Melanka site there appears to be some confusion.
    The three Red River Gums facing Gap Rd are registered sacred trees and their importance is reflected in the conditions of the Development Permit. Their retention has always been fundamental to the overall site design and layout.
    As part of construction site establishment, the trees will be safely fenced off. Advice was sought and received from local specialist Geoff Miers and further works including mulching, deep cycle watering and soil aeration are planned.
    The approved plans also see the banyan trees and two stands of lemon scented gums retained.
    Dean Osborne

  19. Dean Osborne (Posted September 22, 2015 at 10:57 am) thanks for the info about the trees, and the assurance that they, the banyans lemon scented gums will be retained. This is good news, and sets a good example for other developers (and the tree-averse ASTC).
    It would also be good to get an assurance that your plans to put an unnecessary eight storey building on the site could be scaled back.
    Why do you want to build all these unneeded shops when half the shops and office space in the CBD and in other commercial areas are already empty?
    Why do you need to build all these extra units / flats when we already have a surplus of available rental accommodation?
    Is the Giles Government offering you inducements in the form of guaranteed rents or leases or other direct or indirect benefits for their use of any of these flats / units?
    Wouldn’t it be far better for the town if you were to scale the height back to three or four storeys, to fit in with the overall scale, design, ambience and needs of the town?
    Do you really want to have your descendants look out from Anzac Hill only to see an ungainly set of giant tombstones spoiling the vista of the beautiful MacDonnell Ranges?


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