The task ahead is rebuilding


Both guests in this third part of our series have their minds on rebuilding as the pandemic is settling in around the globe.
Kelly-lee Hickey (at left), a PHD candidate, wants to see the next government seek the opinion of small business owners from around Central Australia and construct local plans on a community by community basis.
Meanwhile, Jocelyn Davis, a senior research scientist, thinks that investing in the arts all around Central Australia will be key to recovery.
Like many, both women also have our environment as front and centre issues for whoever takes office after the election.
Kelly-Lee Hickey, PHD candidate.
The next government is going to have to be there for communities to help them bounce back from this pandemic, particularly for industries like the arts, tourism and hospitality.
I am not a business owner, so I cannot offer any recommendations, but I think that the NT government needs to move beyond just listening to the Chamber of Commerce.
It doesn’t represent all businesses in the Territory, and they certainly don’t represent a majority of small businesses.
The government getting in touch with small businesses and the people on the ground could help them find leadership and solutions within communities.
Similar to what happened with the climate strikes in 2019, self-organised committees will emerge, as will spokespeople for the sector. The government would be wise to listen to them.
The NT is made up of very diverse and different communities, so what works for some will not work for others.
It is imperative that all communities come back from this. Local solutions that derive from engagement can work, and they don’t have to be scalable.
All of that said, there are things that would have been front of mind prior to this pandemic, particularly in regards to climate justice.
I am really excited and happy to see what is happening with the solar project in Borroloola.
I think that that holds great promise for many communities throughout Central Australia.
The government should work with Jacana to remove any blockages to those kinds of localised projects, and get behind renewables projects that provide us with new industries, clean jobs, and benefit the communities in their vicinity.
Jocelyn Davies (at right), senior research scientist.
Right now we are going through a crisis that is really focusing us on our own security, making a new normal and forcing us to change how we look at things.
We are just at the beginning of that.  We can’t imagine where it’s going to go.
We will be changed for ever, but what will we have learned about safety and respect and how to apply that?
I want a government that seeks to learn lessons from what happens at community level during this time, and builds from the strengths that emerge.
Investment to support and strengthen communities all over Central Australia will be important, especially in remote communities that are under resourced as it is.
Investing in the kind of spheres that bring Aboriginal people together with the rest of the community, such as art, music and film, will be tremendously important after the pandemic, for us to rebuild.
We have seen the success of revitalised Aboriginal management of country spread from our remote communities to all over the nation and the way that it is empowering Aboriginal people, with women’s key role now also getting better recognised.
An incoming government must continue to support this important work.
Other actions that empower communities should also be taken.  Water underpins the sustainability of everything in Central Australia.
I believe the government needs to ask the question: “Can we get a better incentive structure for how water is used?”
At the moment, there isn’t a good way for the government to manage demand for water or to understand how agricultural and mining uses are counter to sustainability in Central Australia.
I’d like to have some institutions that have government sectors working together in a broader way so that local benefits are clear, whether those come through local jobs or simply better stocked local markets and better food security.
Lastly, this is a bit of a bugbear for me, but I believe it illustrates some of what I am talking about: Where else in Australia other than the Northern Territory does than local government have so little authority in town planning?
Having the NT Government hold all the power seems paternalistic. I’d like to see more trust and partnership.


  1. @ Pseudo Guru. Agree we need a grounded discussion.
    Very hard to grow the economy but we can cut costs to give residents more money to spend locally.
    Start with rates.
    We have a bloated town council and sky high rates.
    A public review of the Council’s operation and staffing is long overdue.
    Is it meeting residents’ needs? (Note the out of touch response to the Coronavirus emergency with huge job losses).
    Is it overstaffed?
    Are the high rates justified?
    Are there alternative models that deliver better service less expensively?

  2. Dear me, ladies.
    Is there any chance we could focus on what is happening now before we start promoting our own dreams and fantasies?
    We still have very little idea of what might be happening and where it will lead, so please, leave the dreaming out until something is known. Without being too negative, can we at least use what we have got now to try and sort the current nightmare out? Leave these thoughts for sleep time huh?

  3. Not sure Jocelyn is aware of the make up of the local Alice Springs Development Consent Authority (DCA) division/panel.
    Of which 4 of the 5 sitting Members/Panel are either Alice Springs Town Councillors (J de Brenni/M Banks or J Cocking (as alt. Member), or locally respected Alice Springs based residents (C Neck (local identity/businessman) and Deepika Mathur (architect/educator/researcher).
    Albeit, this balance wasn’t always this way.
    It should also be recognised that stacking the DCA entirely with local Councillors isn’t always the panacea solution to “local development assessment/control” that many seem to think.
    As in these days a lot of unbalanced power, influence and possibly “vested-interest” comes with the job/position. Just think “Casey Council” in Melbourne as a recent example of what our DA process could be but shouldn’t be like!!
    The other member of the A/Springs DCA 5 person panel, Suzanne Phillips (the Chair (of all the separate NTG Planning Divisions)), is a non-partisan, unbiased NTG appointed member with a legal background.
    Apart from Exceptional Development Permit (EDP) applications (which approve otherwise “PROHIBITED” uses/developments” (I know, “why?” is the big question…which I’m sure J Cocking also questions?) which are determined by the NTG Planning Minister (currently Eva Lawler), all planning decisions made on local Alice Springs Division DA’s are determined by this majority Alice Springs based member panel.
    Given the balance of the DCA panel, I can’t see any issues with this current situation?

  4. @ PG: In a real sense Governments in Australia are never “broke”.
    At the moment they can borrow money at virtually nil interest rate. Have you noticed what PM “budget surplus” Scomo has just done? What’s the problem?
    @ Peter: This “small government” bullshit is so PP (pre pandemic). Lots of allegations but no evidence.
    @ RC: Spare us the sneering paternalism. Look at the question asked. It was “rebuilding” that is, looking to the future! Not “what is happening now”. Duh!
    @ Simon: Yes, Simon, it is the EDPs that are the problem.
    Forget the irrelevant stuff about the make up of the panel etc. They obviously deal with the bread and butter stuff. It is the EDPs that have landed us with the monstrosities, like the supreme court building, and the proposed art gallery, Melanka development, and the six storey Whittaker Corp development (which is actually in Leichhardt Tce).
    Let us look the real issues raised:
    We need to develop sustainable communities in Central Australia!
    The cargo cult of never-ending tourism will stop.
    Air travel will never recover.
    Unconventional gas will be a stranded asset (i.e. a liability).
    Water will be an increasingly precious resource.

  5. @ Charlie Carter: Unemployment and underemployment is growing in our town and there is no escaping to other places for employment.
    The Feds are spending huge sums to ease the burden.
    In this context “small government” is not bullshit if it contributes to the national effort to take pressure off struggling families and out of work casuals.
    Would you like to increase the size of the Town Council and add to the rate burden?
    Improved efficiencies and downsizing the Council to cut rates would be very timely.
    The Council will not do this voluntarily, they will defer rate payments but not cut the rates.
    This is a completely out of touch response.
    A review of Council operations and staffing is needed.
    The beneficiaries are likely to be most residents.
    By the way, the NT has a record debt of around $7 billion, the interest on which is $1.2m per day.

  6. @ Peter: There seems to be a disconnect here. Morrison is spending money to keep people in work. Local Government is spending our rate money on wages keeping people in work.
    You say: “Note the out of touch response to the Coronavirus emergency with huge job losses.”
    Can you tell us what this is? Whose response ? Whose job losses?
    You are calling for “a review of staffing”, neo-liberal code for sacking workers.
    You have not provided the slightest bit of evidence that there is “overstaffing”.
    One Council service I use frequently and intensively is the Library. I was distraught when I heard it would close due to the restrictions.
    I contacted them to ask about a “take away” service and was advised that this was underway.
    I am pleased to say that the “book a book” service is now operating, and I have a supply of reading matter to tide me over in my enforced stay at home (I’m over 70).
    Excellent creative work Town Council Staff (and keeping people in productive work too).
    I am a ratepayer, and yes, rates are high. So is the cost of service provision, like everything in Alice.
    Blainey called it “the Tyranny of Distance”.

  7. What an article. Recovery takes belt tightening, hard work and pulling together. Not art, film and music.
    No, we will not be changed for ever – not in any meaningful way at least.
    Planning schemes in control of the mid tier government is one of the few things the NT gets right. Keep councils out of development.
    Due to the lack of any serious power of council, people often elect individuals who would be un-electable to a higher government. We don’t need these un-electables dictating our development process.
    Expect to see less public investment – not more.
    The private sector will invest where appropriate.

  8. @ Charlie Carter: I know two families whose income has been severely hit by the Casino closure, two more who lost their jobs when gyms closed, another made part time at a local business. Unemployment is soaring throughout the nation and our town is no exception.
    This is why Morrison has stepped in to support the newly unemployed.
    As well, food prices are extraordinarily high which is another blow to the struggling.
    But I don’t accept that Town Council employment should be supported by our very high rates.
    No way! The Council should cut its cloth to the present circumstances just as the rest of us are doing.
    The town has few residents from remote communities, no need to patrol the river, it is much quieter. Many ranger duties are not needed now.
    $1.2m for Rangers. Is that about 15 positions?
    Halve the numbers and save half a million.
    Those stood down can get the government wage support.
    The work gangs are out there as if nothing had changed, breaking the social distancing rules which is inevitable in a gang of workers.
    Parks and Reserves $1.4m. Reduce to urgent works and save $1m.
    Library $1.9m. Take away books will never work as the pandemic gathers pace.
    Each book and every page would have to be cleaned to make sure it is safe.
    Get a Kindle, Charlie.
    Huge savings to the library budget.
    I could go on and on.
    Many millions could be saved and passed on to residents by way of a rate cut that will be welcomed by the growing ranks of the unemployed.

  9. I agree that the issue will soon turn to rebuilding.
    The question then becomes what will we rebuild as?
    All around the world the public sector, and I am thinking primarily of health and education, has been neglected and hollowed out in the name of austerity. Now, when we really need a public health sector, in too many places it’s just not there.
    Meanwhile military budgets have blown out to obscene levels, and while we in Oz may have escaped the worst of the cuts to public health, we have not escaped the blowout in military spending.
    Which way will we go? Our overlord to whom we are “joined at the hip” is increasing sanctions on Iran and Venezuela at the very time that those two nations are struggling to deal with a global health crisis, maintaining a belligerent attitude to Russia and China in spite of those two nations helping it in its hour of austerity-induced need, and generally acting like a bully on the world stage. Do we really want to continue to go there?
    This is fundamental. What sort of a nation do we want to be known as, and who do we want to count as our friends?


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