Sacred sites authority mum on Melanka trees


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


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.



  1. What is the point of naming these trees as sacred? Has anyone ever been to these trees to have some kind of ceremony or learning?
    All these locations around the town with sacred trees and no one ever cares enough to visit them. Hardly sounds sacred to me.
    Sounds like a forgotten concept being kept alive for the point of revenue making.

  2. There are a few other trees / sacred sites, in the way of a certain development, that AAPA has also forgotten about.
    What does that acronym stand for again? The head of AAPA runs a very [unsatisfactory] business.

  3. @ James: Your comment brings to mind that famous quote attributed to the Friends of Voltaire, but I believe Oscar Wilde’s take on that quote is more appropriate in your case, that being: “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.”

  4. Gee whizz: Alice office … Darwin office … Assistant Registrar – Research and Land Information” (no name given) … Wendy hung up. Who are these people? What do they do and produce? Why are we the taxpayer paying them?

  5. On a more serious note: I find it hard to understand why mature trees are continuing to be cut down anywhere in this town, particularly following the loss of nearly 2000, or 5%, of street and park trees due to the hotter, more prolonged summer of last year.
    That figure would certainly be much higher if you include losses in home gardens.
    I’d like to think that the increasing difficulty in planting new trees, as can be seen by Alice Springs Town council’s efforts along Palm Circuit, would see us trying to keep every mature tree we have.
    Our “business as usual” attitude to trees needs changing.
    The de-greening of our town’s centre will come to affect us all if we don’t begin valuing trees and their contribution to a town’s liveability.

  6. I believe the majority of the trees lost are Corymbia Citriodora (Lemon Scented Gums). The species is native to the Queensland coast.
    Certainly though, all trees, including those lost are significant to the attractiveness and amenity of the town.
    AAPA is a law upon themselves. Incredibly underachieving, self serving bureaucrats. They are almost a Tax. The AAPA Tax.
    A suitable, efficient and transparent process to record and protect Sacred Sites and other elements of natural and cultural significance is needed – AAPA is not it.

  7. Thanks Domenico: Finally someone has acknowledged my talent of making an ass out of myself. Next step, politics! I might run for CM or maybe even PM, sounds like I have the right stuff.

  8. @ James. Ha ha. Given today’s political climate, I dare say you would do very well in the upcoming elections.

  9. Domenico and James, I do not agree with you, James will not be a good politician: Politicians wear masks to hide who they really are and James is true to himself.
    Arrogance Mask: Politicians feel dumb and dumber inside.
    Economic Idiots Mask: Politicians act intelligent, but are stupid.
    Irrationality Mask: Politicians fake reason, but waste tax millions.
    Greed-is-Good Mask: Politicians are puppets to a wealthy global elite.
    I feel James is too honest.

  10. When Probuild we’re engaged to demolish Melaka around 2004, a clearance from the controlling body at the time was provided.
    That clearance indicated three trees to be sacred or significant.
    Those trees were marked with coloured tape, fences erected and protected during the demolition.
    One tree on the corner of the site closest to the old Memo, from memory another opposite the 24hr, and the third my memory escapes me.

  11. @ Phil Danby (Posted October 25, 2019 at 8:19 pm): That would be right, there are three river red gums on the site while the rest are all non-local species established more recently; however, Melanka Lodge was demolished in late 2008.


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