When things got tighter, ALEC got tougher


A push to have part of the $75m for the new gas-fired power station diverted to renewable energy; supporting efforts to keep the Great Victoria Desert in SA and WA buffel-free (while this introduced grass is allowed to wreak havoc in the NT) and organising a fire regime there; building up a commercial arm to replace cash cuts by both Federal and NT governments; keeping up the fight against fracking and other risks to our water supply – and there is more: It’s going to be a flat-out year for the Arid Lands Environment Centre.
ALEC, founded 34 years ago, celebrated its first year in The Gap when more generous accommodation in the Eastside became unaffordable following the $180,000 cuts, leaving the organisation mostly dependent on private donations and fundraising.
“We’re not backing down and we’re not going away,” says the indefatigable Jimmy Cocking, in his eighth year at the helm of the organisation.
p2329-ALEC-5Arid Edge received a contract to set up a food garden and nutrition activities at Utopia, and “heaps of interesting contracts are happening and opportunities are on the way,” he says.
On the political activism side, ALEC will continue to push for transfer of environmental regulation-making and enforcement from the mines department to the Environmental Protection Authority: “The NT Government continues to mislead the public in relation to the robustness of the environmental regulatory system in the NT,” says Mr Cocking.
The apparent free-for-all on water allocation is also in his sights, unfolding “for 10 years without any community consultation,” as he puts it.
The community garden in the New Eastside is a sustained and well supported initiative, although suggesting it’s a key asset for the town’s food security may be overstating things a little.
p2329-ALEC-solar-1The group’s most ambitious current project is RePower Alice Springs, a kind of re-born desertSMART COOLmob axed under the cuts.
RePower is focused on getting the NT Government to cancel the order of some of the 10 gas-powered piston engines for the Owen Springs power station, and spending the money on solar.
John Edgoose, in a presentation to Friday’s first birthday party, said the Austrian-built engines have apparently already been manufactured but not yet shipped.
Mr Edgoose gave no information on any response from the government.
PHOTOS • ALEC staffers Carmel Vandermolen (left) and Nicole “Peachy” Pietsch flank director Jimmy Cocking at Friday’s first birthday celebration of the new offices in Gap Road, with two young members looking on. • Guests in the front yard, Piggly Wiggly’s in the background. • An illustration used by John Edgoose in his RePower Alice Springs presentation, showing the locations of three major solar powerstations, while the caption for Alice Springs, in a higher solar radiation zone, says: “10 gas engines gensets”.


  1. A minor correction on buffel grass. Eradication with nontoxic Chemicals has already started in the Todd River.
    Otherwise, isn’t it a shameful thing that amazing hard working volunteers and pretty poorly paid staffers of an environment centre get limited funding in caring for our earth?
    While at the other end of the spectrum, our Chief Minister is member of an airline club, flies at least business class while trying to sell water, gas, ports, NT assets, while polluting the atmosphere and risking our environment?
    A real shame job I reckon.

  2. @ Dalton Dupuy: There is no need to use chemicals in the Todd River. A couple of scrapers will do a better job , removing sand and grass.
    Also, do something about the poorly built causeways. When we have a flood here it will be man made, it’s just a matter of time.
    I have never seen anything as ridiculous as putting gas fired turbines when Alice Springs gets over 320 sunny days a year. Alice Springs council has solar power on a lot of their buildings, because it’s cheaper. More people turning to solar power will make gas generated power even more expensive.

  3. Sorry my grammar was off that day. They are chipping out the buffel in the Todd, no chemicals at all is what I was trying to say. And I agree we do not need diesel generators when we could use photo voltaics or even solar powered steam generators.

  4. These guys should be running the Territory!
    Seriously, they’d do a better job than the CLP mob!
    With Jimmy and the current team at the helm of ALEC, the organisation is pragmatic, sensible, polite and reasonable. Love to see a bit of that approach in the ranks of the Giles Government.
    But most importantly ALEC isn’t afraid to talk up loudly and let the community know when this CLP starts pulling shifties with our common assets and the future of our children.
    Thanks ALEC for the service to the community your provide! You make Alice Springs and Central Australia a better place in which to live, work and play.

  5. GIVE ME THE SUN – Vote Solar!
    Couldn’t make the birthday, keep up the great work ALEC. Somewhere should bite the bullet on solar, why not Alice?


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