The West MacDonnell Ranges start at the council dump


West MacDonnells
By Editor ERWIN CHLANDA, writing for our Rest & Reflection series.
Unless global tourism is in the grip of a novel fascination with car parking, and I have no evidence of that, then at least part of the Uniting Church proposal for the CBD is a waste of time.
And as locals would increasingly ride their pushbikes to work rather than pay for car parking, it would also be a waste of public money.
But the council wouldn’t have to look far too get a return on the $30m in its kitty: The magnificent West MacDonnell Ranges start at its rubbish dump.
The “land fill” is in the middle of the municipality, which is traversed by the Macs – East and West. Within a five-minute stroll from our tourist precinct is the potential starting point for some of the most marvellous walks in The Centre.
Gully ravine 2A dozen ravines (pictured) in the southern flank of the range rival King’s Canyon in their beauty, and offer stunning views once you get to the top.
It’s enough to extend a visit to Alice from a few hours to a week. Yet far from developing this fantastic asset, the council a few years ago cut off access to it.
None of this is new. Discussions about dumping our garbage in the middle of town, and our sewage next-door, has gone on since at least 1998: The dump, except for the transfer station and the recycling facility, needs to be shifted out of town.
And the three trailer road train required for one trip a day can come back each time with soil to cover the existing tip, a disgraceful blight on the sacred and scenic Gap.
And then the council can get Michael Gunner, if it can find him, to replace the smelly sewage ponds, wasting billions of litres of water in the driest part of the world’s driest continent.
A recycling facility needs to take their place, in the process gaining the government two square kilometres of prime development land, not affected by native title.
Until one of the nation’s biggest police forces (per capita) gets a handle on controlling a few dozen unruly teenagers, sadly, we can’t channel tourists into the CBD. Mr Gunner owes it to the long suffering businesses in the Mall and nearby to fix that. Pronto.
In the meantime, what has long been seen as a planning stuff-up, having the tourism precinct away from the town centre may turn out to be a blessing – for the moment, at least.
Existing facilities – hotels, caravan parks – either side of the Gap can be turned into a lively, appealing and safe entertainment district.
Gully ravine 1The golf course is already there. In the Todd River, when it’s dry, visitors and local could be sitting around the campfire, sleeping in the swag, under the stars.
Security? No problem. We’ll use the bottle shop cops and require the liquor sellers to ensure, at the pain of harsh penalties, that they don’t sell their wares for illicit consumption.
Beats a car park as an investment in the town’s future? You bet it would.


  1. If the car park has bike parks too and it replaces street parking in the town centre so there is more room for pedestrians and cyclists on town streets then it may be a good thing.
    Car parks don’t have to look like cattle crates, they can have foliage growing on the side and have solar panels on roof. Hint Yeperenye.

  2. I will not pay to park my pushbike!
    In my opinion all private vehicles should be banned from the town. Put car parks on the outskirts.
    The town should be for public transport, pushbikes and pedestrians.

  3. If council feels we need a two storey car park, and if it wants to build one in partnership with private enterprise, why not put another deck on the existing car park at Target?
    That would satisfy both of its desires and leave the area in and behind the Mall free for a development that would have the potential to attract more visitors to the CBD.
    Meanwhile, the Melanka site is a wasted opportunity, the Ilparpa Valley is a wasted opportunity and the Alice Springs Town Council is a wasted opportunity.

  4. I enthusiastically support the ideas put forward in this article, developing a tourist precinct south of the Gap incorporating the magnificent Heavitree Range / Mt Gillen.
    I would also like to see the sewage recycled and the garbage shifted. The real estate they occupy is way too spectacular and valuable for such a mundane use.
    There is no doubt this fabulous concept would enhance our tourist product attracting more visitors and encouraging them to stay longer.
    However, this will in not lessen the need for a CBD upgrade and enhancement through projects like the combined Uniting Church council car park project. It will in fact accentuate the need for such a project, making our CBD a better safer cleaner place for visitors and locals alike.
    I was somewhat bemused by the negative comments from some on the last Alice Springs News Online article about the council carpark / Uniting Church project, all comments made –astoundingly – without any of the commenters having sighted a concept plan!
    Having had the benefit of doing so I can assure you the project is a very exciting one which would breathe new life into our embattled CBD.
    The project isn’t just about car parking! It’s about bringing forward the inevitable and in fact already overdue, necessity to expand parking in the CBD.
    It is doing this now to facilitate the much larger project, integrating our parking into the wider Uniting Church project in an innovative way.
    This is a one-off opportunity to create something really special for the centre of our CBD. Whether or not we hold some idealism about not having carparks and motor vehicles in our CBD, no sane developer would build a project like this without them.
    Why? Because 98% of our residents drive and wish to continue driving their motor vehicles!
    Councils are driven by the needs, demands, of their ratepayers, not the other way ’round!
    While it might be tempting for some to operate in idealistic superior bubble, demanding – like it or not – that residents ride bikes, I’m pretty sure that bubble will reach a pretty severe end at the first available election!
    Like it or not, car parking is a commercial necessity for any CBD and it is up to council to forward a plan for its provision.
    I hope it won’t be too much longer and some of these concepts for the town centre and its car parking can be put out for public comment.
    The concept I have seen is about opening up the area around the Flynn Church through to Hartley Street creating a fantastic new community space around the Cchurch and the Old Hartley Street School which will cater for gatherings of several thousand – hence the name “The Meeting Place”. It’s a fantastic concept and I wholeheartedly endorse it as it will enhance our CBD and the amenity of our town greatly.
    So yeh, great concept Ed … let’s do them both!

  5. @ Steve Brown: You are not listening. You’ve seen the images provided, so what, couldn’t care less. It’s not about aesthetics it’s about do we need it.
    And who wants to gather in a place where you don’t feel safe.
    Do your job and leave the stargazing to when tourists are told they CAN walk the streets of Alice in safety.

  6. Yeh Micheal, and who do you suppose decides when we need something? You? Your comments clearly demonstrate a bleak negative mindset as far as a town is concerned so it will probably come as quite a shock to you that many of us actually love the place believe in it and its future, we work very hard to make it a better place.
    But mate, you can’t please everyone and if your’e so down in the mouth about us that all you can contribute is a stream of negative comments, do yourself and our town a favour move somewhere else.
    If you haven’t already done so that is.
    @ Hal: Pretty unhelpful comment to get into the new year … almost a wasted opportunity wouldn’t you say?
    Melanka and the Ilparpa Valley are simply opportunities in the waiting, Hal.
    No-one has quite been able to get these projects across the line just yet but its simply a matter of when, so please try not to be so bloody negative about it all. Negative people create negative towns!

  7. Ok, Steve, I’m ready to be a believer. But I do need to see some plans. Any chances there?
    Unlike some, I like the new built environment emerging here in Alice. For instance, I think the new courthouse will be an exciting addition to the town.
    I also like the new Myers Hill walkway.
    I think most would agree the area behind the Mall is a mess, but I do wonder if that is where we need to put a bigger car park. The idea reminds me of that old song about finding a piece of paradise and putting in a parking lot.
    Has council sounded out Target (if that’s who owns it) about putting another deck on their existing car park?
    I also wonder about camping in the river, especially after working hard to get it camper free. That might be a hard sell, as would developing the ranges. I foresee dissenting voices.
    The Ilparpa Valley is waiting. The sewer farm will have to shift first, and that’s down to Darwin. Without the money to keep the police station open, will they have the money for a major infrastructure upgrade? And if they do, might not a flood mitigation dam be money better spent?
    The tip is down to Council. Your call.

  8. Poor form Steve, telling someone to leave town because of the way they see the place.
    Let’s work with that and try to change minds not tell them to move.
    We need this town to grow or all the improvements in the world won’t help.

  9. @ Hal: Yeh, Hal I’m with you on that. I love the New Court House and having had the benefit of a site tour I can tell you that the top floor and its view, is to die for… make a fantastic restaurant.
    Michael Sitzler and family are to be congratulated on a wonderful project and more particularly on his demonstrated belief in our community by making such a huge financial investment in its future, continuing I might add, a long family tradition.
    As for the walk way, well its another wonderful infrastructure asset not so much to my taste visually but as with everything it’s a matter of personal preference.
    Thanks NT Government – it’s a great asset to our community.
    @ Micheal: Why you waiting for the election? Are you proposing to contribute something positive like running for council?
    I hope you do, we are always looking for those willing to put up their hands and contribute to the decision making processes of their community. Will be looking out for your name on the hustings.
    @ James: Not quite sure what your comment means but I’m not “telling” Micheal to leave, just suggesting that if it makes him so miserable perhaps he should.
    Oh, and I was referring to a number of past comments not just the one to this particular article.

  10. @ Steve: I’m waiting for the election to vote the way I see fit.
    Being born here doesn’t mean you have a licence for what’s right and no one else can say anything.
    Anyway, who says I’m not in the running. Nom de plume.

  11. Can I suggest again that planners recognize the limitations placed on the town by The Gap.
    If we want the town to be a tourism hub let’s do it and follow the Hahndorf model. Like many things of German origin, they do it so well.
    But we continue to try to make the town a replica of the worst of city outskirts and base it around motor transport and high rise apartment.
    If traffic is such an issue help the Show Society and make that park a daily car park to ferry consumers via shuttle buses into the CBD where the business is, at say 15 min intervals.
    But that’s probably pie in the sky when train passengers have to walk in to the CBD, or to their lodgings with bags, because no one offers them a ride.
    I don’t think we really want them or their custom here or we would be offering better than that.
    The still obvious solution is to dedicate the strip of road from the Adelaide turn off to The Gap as a tourism precinct just as Hahndorf has done, shift the refuse facility and sewerage well to the south where the infrastructure is already in place, and create a series or foot based recreational facilities west and south of The Gap, with a new commercial entity near Brewer.
    I did a very basic traffic survey in that area late last year and estimate around 400 vehicles take people to employment in the area south of The Gap each day.
    Can I ask the council or government to conduct a more thorough survey? There was one done several years ago, and the results of that are still available.
    I also counted over 100 people stopping to have their photos taken at the rock in a single morning in May 2015. The implications of this are so obvious to everyone but the planners.
    Either we are a tourism town or we are not. And of the comments I hear from visitors from Anzac Hill on the courthouse would make the hairs on your neck curl, if only they could see the sunset through the vegetation so conveniently planted in front of the viewing area!
    On the positive side, it is good to hear of plans to develop horticultural enterprises at what is left of AZRI. It has been frequently pointed out that the opportunity cost of Kilfgarif will be extremely high in the loss of promotional opportunities to attract investment to create employment here.
    That whole strip should have been a blatant advertisement for what is possible here in the way particularly of food production to attract investment and consequent jobs.
    We import around 50,000 tonnes of carob into Australia per year. Yet they grow like weeds in Gillen. Pomegranates are yet another example. The possibility of recycling waste water as Israel has been doing for years in a desert – there should be no such thing as waste water.
    This should be something to advertise, as should the Indigenous medical production hidden at the rear. This housing development was a major blunder in the wrong direction for the wrong reasons, but something may yet be salvaged.
    I well remember a Frank Sinatra film of a long time ago which started with this little poem:
    He who whispers down the well
    About the thing he has to sell
    Will never make as many dollars
    As he who climbs the tree and hollers.
    This is the mantra of the real estate and developers, and there are lessons here for the rest of us.
    We have unique tourism and lifestyle things here. We don’t need to hide them behind high rise and car parks.


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