By ERWIN CHLANDA
How many sacred trees are left on the Melanka block?
Despite several requests from the Alice Springs News the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) will not provide this information.
Neither will it say whether any of the trees recently cut down were sacred trees.
This latest refusal of information follows stonewalling to the News’ previous enquiries about the status of the trees in December 2016.
The News first made the recent enquiry to the authority’s Alice Springs office by email on September 30, together with the two photographs published here.
The staff at the Alice office, asked when we did not receive a reply, said she had passed on the request to the Darwin office.
On October 7 we received an email from the authority’s “Assistant Registrar – Research and Land Information” (no name given) that said: All media enquiries should be directed to email@example.com.
Although we had no doubt that the Darwin office was already in possession of our request, courtesy its Alice office, we nevertheless complied and sent the original message – text and photographs – to that email address on October 7.
When we still received no reply we rang the Darwin office on October 18 (11 days later) and were put thorough to a person named only Wendy. She said the email should have been sent to the secretariat address. We said we had.
She then said we need to register our enquiry on the authority’s website.
We said we would not do that, we had waited long enough for the answer, we had, as journalists, used universally accepted methods of making a request for information, and the authority’s handling of this request is an unacceptable denial of information the public had a right to have.
“Wendy” hung up.
We will now ask MLAs for Araluen, Robyn Lambley, and Stuart, Scott McConnell, to ask the questions in Parliament which means the AAPA will be obliged to answer them within 30 days.
The Melanka block, vacant since it was demolished in 2008, and with nothing on the horizon since an ambitious eight-storey development failed to go ahead in 2014, has been used as an unofficial car park and rubbish dump, uses which arborists have described as damaging to the trees. Others have been damaged or destroyed by fire.
And more are continuing to die.
The proposed 2014 development complied with the requirements of the AAPA.