Preaching 'treading carefully' then sending in the bulldozers


2583 Kilgariff denuded 1 northBy ERWIN CHLANDA
Territorians quite often get the feeling that the politicians ruling them live in a different country. Lands minister Eva Lawler seems to be living on a different planet.
Looking north.
At the auspicious occasion of opening a small park in Kilgariff on Saturday she seemed blissfully unaware that her department, in a display at the function, was preaching one thing while the bulldozers at the edge of the suburb were doing quite the opposite.
The Minister was posing for a photographer with (from left) senior lands public servant Peter Somerville, MLA for Namatjira Chansey Paech and the CEO of the Land Development Corporation, Tony Stubbin. (A very similar photo will no doubt be published in the local Murdoch paper tomorrow.)
About a metre behind Ms Lawler, pinned up on a notice board, were several pages of a draft report about the future expansion of Kilgariff: East of the current development is one proposed option; south on airport land (the other side of Col Rose Drive) is another.
2583 Lawler, Somerville, Paech, Stubbin OKEarlier in the day Mr Somerville had declined to give us a copy of that report although it was in full view of the festive park-opening crowd: He said it was only a draft, although the Minister had sanctioned its display.
About 400 metres south of where Ms Lawler was standing are dozens of hectares of land now utterly denuded, stripped bare of almost all vegetation. For decades, in the living memory of many of us, these desert plants had done very well and the creek caused no inconvenience, let alone harm.
The vegetation had benefitted from water flowing in from the north, making its way through what is now housing land, flowing into the main creek bed to the east in times of heavy rain. St Mary’s Creek sometimes crossed Col Rose Drive – and still will, the massive earthworks notwithstanding.
The ravaged patch, from which the prevailing south-easterly winds can be expected to deposit tonnes of sand into the new homes of Kilgariff, extends along Col Rose Drive to the western bank of the creek, and possibly reaches into the creek itself.
The flora demolition job, still under way, is being done under instructions of Ms Lawler’s government and on land over which she has full developmental control.
2583 Kilgariff & names OKThis Google Earth image was taken in November last year and clearly shows the vegetation, including substantial stands of trees. The red line indicates approximately the area now bulldozed barren.
The content of the report, dealing extensively with the St Mary’s Creek, could not be more effusive about its immense importance, and of the environment in the vicinity of Kilgariff in general, “protecting the significant cultural and landscape features of the natural environment.
“This includes protection of the St Mary’s Creek landscape which is the primary contributor of the natural character and amenity of the site”.
We need “walkable neighbourhoods that tread carefully on the natural landscape … St Mary’s Creek and associated native vegetation provide a key contribution to the natural and cultural character of the area,” it is written.
“Protection of these values within the confines of a very flat landform, natural stormwater flows and fragile soils will require care … natural ground cover is preserved wherever possible and disturbance of land not directly required for development is avoided … enabling maintenance of pre-development natural flows in the St Mary’s Creek riparian (that means relating to or situated on the banks of a river) corridor.”
2583 Kilgariff denuded 2 eastThere needs to be “a developed district park facility … that connects the neighbourhood to the St Mary’s Creek landscape system and recreation pathway … a framework of surface drainage that uses linear open space as drainage paths and avoids any modification of St Mary’s Creek”.
Looking east.
And so on.
Cynics may say whenever this government says something you can bet they will be doing the opposite.
Clearly the suburb in place already now had not been built around these environmental realities. A massive open drain is doing what many smaller one could have done, had the government acted on its own spin.
When they say the St Mary Creek environment needs to be saved you can bet it is doomed. The pictures tell the story.


  1. The Kilgariff residents are in for a big big shock come summer. Winds and dust storms galore. Ha,ha. And to see a so called traditional Arrernte boy, Chancey, letting this woman do damage to our land.

  2. “Protection of these values …” says the report in reference to the bush surrounding St Mary’s creek.
    Environmental values are subservient to political ideology.
    The Greens, Labor Party allies, are supposedly environmentally conservative. It used to be that conservative parties were the pariahs.
    The bulldozers at Kilgariff are an expression of Terra Nullius if you like, but Australia is a modern, industrialised country now and urban Alice has an economy to grow.
    Stagnation is anathema and values are inconvenient.
    It would be interesting to discover who enabled the bulldozers to denude the Kilgariff landscape.
    Perhaps, that scrap of knowledge may illuminate how the West was lost.

  3. Whatever happened to the declared area of erosion hazard across the Alice Springs rural area under Section 17(1) of the Soil Conservation and Land Utilization Act?
    It requires all landholders to maintain groundcover to minimise dust. Does this apply?

  4. @ Russell Grant (Posted September 24, 2018 at 11:00 pm): Quite so, Russell, and that area included the property of the Arid Zone Research Institute of which the area now occupied by Kilgariff was once a part.
    The original dust control effort at AZRI was divided between the Soil Conservation Unit of the former Conservation Commission of the NT and the Institute’s farm management of the Primary Industry Branch/Department. It was the farm management of AZRI that undertook the dust control work in the southwest area of the property, including Kilgariff.
    What’s happening there now is taxpayer-funded, government sanctioned vandalism on a grand scale that beggars anything we’ve seen (and criticised) for years on private rural properties.
    The hypocrisy of contemporary NT government policy implementation is simply staggering.

  5. I live rural and walk mornings. Perhaps on one of these windy mornings Ms Lawler would come with me and see the difference between no vegetation and vegetation.
    I would gladly take a photo of her hidden in a wall of dust blowing through.
    Feel sorry for Kilgariff residents.

  6. The whole issue of Kilgariff will go down as a masterpiece in political pork barrelling, with the current debacle being a masterpiece in disgraceful planning both by the Henderson and then Giles administrations.
    As pointed out many times both the commercial and environmental costs will be enormous.
    The environment costs are now emerging. The economic costs in the form of lost opportunities to promote new economic activity and advancement in food production technologies in full public view have now gone.
    In the meantime countries like India (quote from our National newspaper of Monday last) “Australia’s rural and food exports to India could soar 10 fold to more than $30 billion in a decade, according to India’s High Commissioner”.
    Perhaps we could be selling them our Kilgariff type houses to eat, or maybe canal facing real estate to go into aquaculture.
    The high commissioner was talking on greater agribusiness opportunities and growing demand from India’s 1.3 billion people looking for better quality food from overseas, and India’s predicted doubling of food production by 2050 will not satisfy their requirements.
    Within 10 years India will have more people than China.
    The warning to get researching in this area was issued years ago by the Vice President for food production in China, but again ignored by the then Giles Government, in favour of self interest votes here, and once again we will be caught flat footed.
    This is he true cost of the disgrace that we call Kilgariff.
    And the thinking does not stop there. In the last months at least two emerging Australian agritech companies have moved to Israel because no one thought to encourage them here to do their arid lands research.
    Israel has an export market of over $10 billion in irrigation technology and we are entitled to ask ourselves what were we doing when all this was happening and where is our share?
    Building houses which are expensive and on a recognised flood plain, perhaps?

  7. The Kilgariff disaster job reminds me of the time the roundabout near the college on Undoolya road flooded about 20 years ago. The experts decided to dig a 20 meter wide surface drain through the college garden.


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