Sunday, September 27, 2020

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Home Issue 22 Gaping loophole in COVID roadblocks

Gaping loophole in COVID roadblocks

By ERWIN CHLANDA
 
There are at least two back doors out of Alice Springs enabling people to access bush communities declared “designated biosecurity areas” while avoiding the 14 days quarantine mandated.
 
This exposes populations throughout the region to the COVID-19 virus. Because of living conditions of many in Aboriginal communities this is broadly feared to have catastrophic consequences.
 
Amoonguna adjoins the municipality of Alice Springs to the east.
 
A local elder says bush roads connect it with Santa Teresa and from there to Titjikala, Finke and potentially to all communities in the southern half of the NT.
 
Regulations permit free access to Alice Springs because it is not a designated area but travellers from town to communities – including their residents – must first go into quarantine.
 
Amoonguna can be reached via the Ross Highway where – unlike on the northern, western and southern access roads to Alice Springs – there is no police roadblock.
 
Or it can be reached via the South Stuart Highway, turning east into Colonel Rose Drive, just short of the police checkpoint at the Welcome Rock and the Adelaide turn-off.
 
Form there the road and later a bush track lead to a Todd River crossing, much used judging by the tyre marks.
 
Is Amoonguna a designated area?
 
The Alice Springs News  put that question to the police, Health Minister Natasha Fyles and COVID Media in an email at 8.17am on April 6. 
 
We received no reply, unless sending us a link to the map (partly shown here) of the southern NT is meant to answer our question.
 
The dot (pictured) representing Amoonguna being of the same colour as other designated areas seems to make it clear that community is one as well.
 
The community, of some 275 residents, mostly Eastern and Central Arrernte speakers,  is located just outside the Alice Springs Municipality, according to the MacDonnell Regional Council website.
 
In 15 minutes yesterday afternoon the News observed four vehicles at the turn-off to Amoonguna from the Ross Highway, going into or coming from the community, including a taxi.
 
The taxi operator, Samih Bitar, says the requirements with respect to Amoonguna have not been made clear. His drivers do not go into quarantine.
 
His company treats Amoonguna as they do the Alice Springs town camps (which are inside the Municipality of Alice Springs).
 
“They don’t have a store so they have to come into town shopping,” says Mr Bitar.
 
“What we have been told [by the authorities], we are doing.”
 
 
 

9 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks so much Erwin for your diligence in pointing out overlooked disease vectors (and their associated learning opportunities!)
    I was in a remote community during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic where fully one-third were sick and reluctant to seek care until quite late, so it is a very real concern.

  2. Proved hard to stop the flow of grog. People are inventive and will find a way if determined.
    Only tough fines will do the job to dissuade.
    Road blocks are not the only answer. People cannot hide in a small community.

  3. @ Mark Wilson: Have just re-read this article. Nowhere does it mention the flow of grog.

  4. It would not surprise me if the police were using drones.
    If anyone was expert at bush tracks around communities with grog runs, drugs and illegal operations police will know from previous experience and just as well.
    Self-isolation is working and spreading this virus is death for many. This is about reality of things in Aboriginal communities.

  5. Amoonguna is the secret way to all remote communities and Queensland, and where the drugs and alcohol come into on their way to Alice Springs.
    Yes, it’s true. All roads leads to Amoonguna and then onto Alice Springs.
    Other remote community people have been using Amoonguna as a pit stop to drink their grog, and then leave with their grog back to their communities.
    There are six access roads that lead to Amoonguna Community: Jungle Dam Road, Gun Club Road, Side Creek Road, Emily Gap Road, across the creek and Amoonguna Farm Road.
    There’s been no community consultation with the police and night patrol for lock down procedure.
    Amoonguna don’t have the luxury of a police station and have written letters to the NT Government requesting support to have a police station.
    There is a back road from Ross River to Harts Range, if you’re traveling back from Mount Isa with grog undetected, these are the access roads to travel on.
    Wonder why there’s big drink ups in Alice Springs, because individuals know them back roads.
    There is no security for the community, as Amoonguna have uninvited guests driving into Amoonguna at night looking for a place to drink, party or just being stupid.

  6. Craig Eibeck you are absolutely correct in your summary. I know those tracks and just how easy it is to move where you want.
    A flawed system? Might be if we are smart enough we will learn as we go. Or not.

  7. Due to the information published here and passed on to the authorities a number of actions have been taken.
    Some are regarding the way via the Queensland border past Lake Nash then across into Mt Isa. That is an old Cattleman’s Route – you can split either way – to Mt Isa or then up into the remote Top End of the NT, or back down past Urandangi on to Davenport Range then down to Harts Range then down past Hale River around the country using an old part of the Binns Track and crossing over the Plenty Highway undetected.
    From the Binns Track one can continue down south and cutting across the country then across the South Stuart Highway onto the Mereenie Loop via back roads to hit into the west country.
    The authorities have noted movements coming in via the Mereenie Loop avoiding roadblocks and also through the back road via Owen Springs to avoid roadblocks.
    The rangers have repaired the gates and have now chained and welded them shut near the rangers station. Police and Army are now stationed there.
    Also around Curtin Springs, there is now a bigger secondary road block, just down from the Rock and also the ADF are using helicopter and fixed wing aircraft / UAV reconnaissance.
    This matter is incredibly serious with repercussions to human life if COVID19 got into the bush.

  8. Great one guys. Let’s spread it more by telling people how to get around the road blocks. Great one.

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