By ERWIN CHLANDA
The planners of a $100m residential, hotel and business complex on the Melanka site had to jump through hoops to protect three sacred trees and their immediate environment.
But after the project was delayed and now has folded, the old river red gums have been exposed to damage and one of them looks like it has not been cared for.
The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA), supposedly representing sacred sites custodians and traditional owners, has been stonewalling enquiries about the neglect since the Alice Springs News Online raised the issues on November 30.
The AAPA had charged Eden Developments Pty Ltd $15,682 for an “authority certificate” containing stringent conditions, forcing significant design concessions.
AAPA stipulated that the three mature river red gum trees “are all to be retained” and the developers must “ensure that no damage is caused to the trees. Due to their status as sacred sites, none of these trees is to be removed of damaged.
“The instructions of [an] arborist are to be followed carefully and in full with regard to maintenance, care and trimming of these trees.”
The AAPA has not responded to our requests for a copy of the arborist’s report, but local tree expert Geoff Miers has criticised the way the block is being used now, mostly by people parking their cars.
The onus is on the developer to “ensure any agent, contractor or employee is aware of the conditions,” says the certificate.
It “shall lapse and be null and void if the works in question or the proposed use is not commenced within 24 months of this certificate”.
The document is dated March 18, 2011. What is meant by “works in question” and “proposed use” is not stated but is is likely to be the $100m complex which is clearly not going ahead because the land is for sale.
The certificate required an “onsite arborist” who would ensure “specific activities to be performed on the site”.
The certificate does not spell out what these are. They are likely outlined in the “arboricultural report” which the News has requested from the authority but without success.
The certificate puts in place the following restrictions – some of them being completely ignored today:-
• Vehicles must travel only within existing roads and not drive or park on garden areas.
• No objects will be swung overhead, for example by cranes or other machinery.
• No materials shall be stockpiled.
• No chemicals or other waste shall be disposed.
All three trees are close to Todd Street: Pictured from top is the one near the Monty’s and KFC corner • The next is about in the middle of the block • The third, on the Todd Street – Stuart Terrace corner.
By ERWIN CHLANDA