$16,000 sacred tree certificate


p2379-melanka-tree-north-okBy 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.
p2379-melanka-tree-middle-ok“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.
p2379-melanka-tree-south-ok• 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.


  1. Well, a lot of interstate developers have given alice a miss as it is just too hard.
    Our new government are too interested in Darwin spending not helping to develop and move Alice forward. Were is local Labour hiding.

  2. Seven years ago made a complaint to Sacred Sites about sacred hills being desecrated on the East Side.
    Nothing done because the family were all on Lhere Artepe, native title holders of Alice Springs. BLACK ON BLACK – or maybe he had no money.

  3. A question to Sacred Sites [AAPA] or any one who knows, where does this $16,000 and the fines from the past go? Back to the Government or Lhere Artepe?

  4. There is long overdue need for honest and open public debate in the Alice about the wider community’s understanding of sacred sites and the full meaning of the concept of spirituality that comes with the sacred site package.
    The expression “sacred site” rolls off the tongue automatically, too glibly. There is an underlying presumption that everyone is on the same page, with the same level of understanding of what it actually means.
    Adding the adjective “sacred” to the noun tends to make debate a no-go zone where political correctness creeps in to stifle reasonable discussion.
    Cultural and historical significance of a site is accompanied by a sense of spirituality in every culture.
    A site can be a natural occurrence of nature such as a tree on the Melanka block or the Digging Tree at Coopers Creek.
    The revered site can also be a human construction such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or a designated place of worship such as a mosque.
    Even the MCG can be placed in this category at some level, especially for generations of diehard sports fans.
    I would venture to suggest that for the legions of young people who came to the Alice in the 50s, 60s and 70s and lived, loved, married and had families as a fact of boarding at Stott House and Melanka and Todd House, there is a strong and lasting spiritual attachment to the old Melanka block site
    They are all sacred sites in their own way. Until there is calm and transparent all-of-community debate on the concept of what constitutes the meaning of sacred sites for all of us in all our different cultures, the problems engulfing the four trees will only continue to divide and inflame rather than unite us in understanding and acceptance as brothers and sisters in the Aussie community.

  5. Sacred site bullshit … did Albert ever sit under any of these trees when Rex first helped him with his beautiful wash technique?

  6. Russell, the money goes to the government. Same when a site is damaged. the money goes to the government.

  7. The spiritual an financial aspects of that site could easily be combined if Centrecorp, with its vast pool of Aboriginal sourced money, acquired the site and developed a center of excellence for the display of Indigenous culture at its best.
    I speak with many people and visitors who come here and leave without a positive experience of Indigenous people and their place here.
    There is a golden opportunity to develop a Kuranda style market for Indigenous culture using their own money on a place they consider sacred.
    Each of the regional art centers or budding Indigenous businesses could display there and be a showplace for who they are.
    It would be a huge tourism draw card as well as a great commercial training ground for Indigenous people.
    Forget the money and think people.
    Like so many other things here the effort has all gone into replicating things that are appropriate to commercial thinking elsewhere, and the vested interests at the big end of town.
    In doing so we have lost our competitive advantage.
    Think outside the dollar square, and the people selling their culture from the lawns in the Mall, and learn from the way the people in the Pacific market their culture.

  8. No waste dumping? Well last time I went to the 24 Hour Shop there appeared to be a bit of human waste dumping going on across the road there and it weren’t no white people doing the dumping.
    I spose it was a lot of sacred crap.


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