Lucky the Town Council isn't in the forestry business


By Guest Writer RALPH FOLDS
With reports of high staffing numbers at the Alice Springs Town Council I’m writing to share an insight into how some of them are spending their time (and our rates).
This little tree (1.2m) and recently denuded by processional caterpillars is the subject of an extraordinary and costly campaign by the council to remove it.
It’s a small tree, no worries. Check the paint tin put there for a size comparison.
I’ve planted many of the trees on the nature strip in my street and I planted this tree about 18 months ago.
When a new neighbour moved in next door she wanted the tree removed so she could use the space for a car park.
A Ranger called me and said the tree needed a permit or it would have to go.
I got the permit.
On March 10 two ASTC staff, one a manager, visited me.
The tree permit was a mistake they said, my tree needed a Verge Development Permit and I had two weeks to get one.
This permit is for a major development and requires an Aboriginal Authority approval.
My little tree needs a sacred site clearance?
I wrote to CEO Jennings querying this requirement.
No response with the clock ticking on tree removal.
I complained to the NT Ombudsman, challenging the permit requirement.
I wrote to CEO Jennings asking him not to remove the tree while my complaint to the Ombudsman was underway.
No response.
The Council has not responded to the Ombudsman.
I called ASTC manager Chris Gosling.
He didn’t know about the Verge Permit: “That’s a different department.”
But he raised a new problem.
Will my little tree eventually exceed the height limitation for street trees?
I remembered it was a small tree but couldn’t recall the species.
An arborist will need to establish the species and report to him.
The Council arborist called and examined the tree.
So ASTC Rangers, ASTC manager visit, CEO, Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, the NT Ombudsman, arborist, and no final decision yet on this little tree on the nature strip in front of my house.
What is this all costing?
I think I will remove the tree to avoid more waste of rate-payers money.
But I do get the impression the Council have too many staff with not enough to do.
The News invited a comment from the council at 11.57am today. None had been provided by the time of publication of this report.
CORRECTION 5am April 17: Chris Gosford changed to Chris Gosling.


  1. How pathetic the Council dedicates so much attention to removing this tree (probably Acacia of insignificant height) so that a Nature Strip can be used as a carpark!
    They should be supporting and advising anyone who cares enough to take responsibility for a nature strip and actually saves the Council effort.
    BTW the tree will very likely recover from its caterpillar attack or is the Council now in the urban uglification business?

  2. Just get some big ass rocks or sleepers or something to frame the nature strip.
    Happens all over town. Then nobody will be parking there.
    Sucks the tree had to be removed, but yes, a great waste of ratepayer money.
    Especially when the council will plant them under power lines requiring a butchering by the pruners.

  3. When some outside contractors came to re-seal the small driveway into our clinic in Yuendumu a lollypop lady attended all day to ensure our safety.
    What I want to know Ralph, did you engage a lollypop person whenever you planted a tree?
    Also, were you appropriately kitted out?
    Hi-vis vest, steel capped boots, safety glasses and hard hat?
    Are you accredited?
    Have you attended a verge tree planting course and do you have a certificate?
    Quite clearly not, as you don’t have a clue as to what sort of tree it is.
    I suggest you claim that it is your contribution to reduce carbon emissions, or spread a rumour the tree is sacred.

  4. The shrub should definitely stay unless its position is some great impediment to civic progress. Reading the crime scene I’m certain the plant is an Acacia evidenced in large part by the interest of the ewopa tribe known as processionary caterpillars.
    I’m pretty confident that the denuded stick that’s causing so much grief is Acacia murrayana, a plant that features on the Town Council’s own list of approved nature strip species.
    I’m sure that the home-owner is not the only resident to get such treatment from some staff at Council.
    It’s absolutely high time that our civic trustees embrace and guide the efforts of ratepayers in this regard. After all those on the spot could actually reduce the appalling death of street trees that we experienced last summer.

  5. Time for a protest! Rally in the streets! Outside Council on the Lawns (respecting social distancing of course!)
    What a joke. Doesn’t the council have better things to do then worry about an insignificant stick?!

  6. A mating of Yes Minister and Catch 22. You can’t believe this stuff really happened.
    Time for a broom through Council and elected members.
    We need wards. Elected members must work for and be accountable to ratepayers in their wards. Stop wasting our money.

  7. Aaaaaah the insanity, the stupidity! It’s bureaucracy gone MAD! Thin the ranks, and sack the elected members! CEO Jennings, it is time to take charge of this rabble! I’ve really had enough of this lot! Amen.

  8. Ralph: Please do not take it to heart that you don’t receive replies from Council staff / managers to queries you put to them.
    You are not Robinson Crusoe there mate as this has happened on a few occasions over the past two to three years to myself.
    I still have two outstanding email queries from a couple of weeks ago. Very simple queries which would require a two line, one to two minute response. Still waiting responses from Mr Jennings and/or his Executive PA.
    If you don’t receive an answer but want one I suggest you chase it up. Constantly. And keep at it.
    Or contact Jimmy Cocking who I suspect would be your ally in this particular situation.
    Otherwise I predict you won’t receive an answer based on my past experiences, as it appears some council staff work on the basis the longer a response is delayed the better the chance of it all being forgotten about and going away.
    It was once considered rude, and “Just Not Cricket” type etiquette to not respond to correspondence received from others. Well, back in the more considerate old days anyway, so my Mum drummed into me.
    And could also be interpreted as bad manners and arrogance, particularly as Council is here to service the needs and requirements of the Alice Springs ratepayers who pay there wages.
    Your tree situation sounds similar to a Monty Python sketch. Albeit, not a funny one.
    And here I was thinking Council was all about planting MORE trees in Alice to address global warming concerns, not removing them.
    Well that’s what they were telling us six months or so ago when the greening / revitalising of the CBD project was all getting spruiked.
    Your neighbour wouldn’t have “connections” would she?
    That can help.

  9. Twenty-five years ago an officious character came to our house in Warburton Street. He demanded to know if I was responsible for planting street trees.
    I asked him to leave, suggesting he find his manager. The manager arrived and we had a civilised discussion. I explained that we’d witnessed the death and replanting of Eucalypts every year for three years on nearby Winnecke Avenue.
    The trees planted by Council were never going to survive on the stony rise with little topsoil and maximum solar radiation so we planted a witchetty bush.
    Council’s manager explained that nature strip disputes between Council and home owners were numerous and some homeowners did dumb things. Sadly, I had to agree with him.
    Apparently the water truck driver patrolled the streets each day with a mix of trees and shrubs and made planting decisions on the run.
    Having established the absence of design in this process I unrolled a metre-long plan.
    I explained the design rationale (involving the four residential property owners) at the east end of Warburton, a dustbowl at the time.
    The manager noted that my choice and placement of plants was pretty much in accordance with Council’s own guidelines. As we parted he said: “I wish we had some-one like you in every street” and I assured him they were ready and waiting in every street.
    The postscript to this story speaks volumes. The graceful ghost gum I planted on the n-e corner of Warburton was cut to the ground a decade later, an act of bastardry in a neighbourhood dispute.
    It survived and sprouted two trunks.
    The witchetty bush planted on Winnecke at the base of a low hill is still alive.
    Everything in between was ringbarked and killed by whipper snipper crews except one beefwood, Grevillea striata.
    Council could provide simple information showing approved planting zones, preferred trees and shrubs depending on the presence or absence of power-lines.
    They could provide dial before you dig maps locating underground services and if some-one decides to add exotic lilies that aren’t on the list, if it improves their quality of life in some edgy suburb, well who cares.

  10. I’m glad there appears to be due process. My experience trying to grow things on the verge is that they get ripped out by vandals, run over by PWC or tradies vehicles or reduced to chips by contractors driving ride on mowers.

  11. C’mon Ralphy Boy, dig in. You are made of sterner stuff than to just rollover to the Alice Springs Town Council.
    What a hoot. Remember, you have nature on your side in this Monty Python type bureaucratic spat.
    Go headlong and plant one or two more pieces of greenery so as to give some company to the one you feature.

  12. This is bureaucracy gone mad. Whilst regulations are essential at what point does common sense prevail? A significant waste of tax payers money with no leadership or accountability to address what should be a pretty simple solution.
    Ralph, thanks for highlighting the ridiculousness of your situation, I hope it leads to practical changes at ground level.

  13. I think the town council need to look at what trees it plants. They need to plant desert type trees in the desert not southern water loving trees.
    While we’re talking about the town council what are they doing about noise from barking dogs? Nothing! All in isolation and nothing being done the NT.
    It’s useless regarding implementation of dog barking laws. You know you’re in the NT because all you hear are dogs barking.
    Doesn’t happen down south. Get your act together town council.
    We pay your rates. Do the service you’re supposed to do.

  14. Watchn, my friend. I think you missed the point.
    As homeowners retreat behind higher and higher fences, we’re fortunate that some generous individuals make an effort to return a little colour and joy to the public domain.
    Not everyone sees the beauty in plants and they’re missing out.

  15. Perhaps Ralph could suggest that he didn’t plant it after all, it is self-sown (by God, Gaia, choose your deity), and as such nobody has the right to remove it, prune it, or park on top of it.

  16. @ David: I note David made a very good comment regarding dogs barking. Over east those that allow their dog to bark incessantly are fined.
    It’s an uneducated person’s mind that allows their dogs to bark and inconvenience people in their suburb.
    If you live in a place that accepts dogs being let to go to mange then I suppose you can accept anything.

  17. Barking dogs probably have something to do with the never ending crime wave. The dogs are no doubt as anxious as the owners.
    Regarding the tree: Plant a few more!

  18. A tree was planted, a shrub, an innocent little plant that was soon stripped bare by caterpillars – poor t’ing!
    Bureaucrats and commentators from Alice to Darwin all lined up to stick their oar in.
    And now dogs are barking all day and all night long.
    Corona time.

  19. Forget the ombudsman. He has moved to Darwin just like the Jacana lady and the PAWA person.
    If you want to contact them breed some messenger pigeons and wait to be contacted within the next few working days. Or weeks. We really don’t matter to them and what was once the Berrimah line had morphed into the great wall of Katherine.

  20. @ Trevor Shiell: That is exactly what I was experiencing with the Ombudsman but after my story was published I was contacted immediately by a Senior Investigator.
    Thanks Erwin.

  21. @ Hal Duel. Reluctant to continue with the dog theme but it seems to me your whining comment is a leg lift looking for a stationary vertical object.

  22. Gnoilya, I certainly did not intend to come across as whining, more like just pointing out the absurdity of the situation.
    However, since you not only misspelt my name, but also managed to miss my point, I wonder if that makes you a stationary vertical object?


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