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HomeVolume 28Anglican Church ignored Timbertop proposal for Alice

Anglican Church ignored Timbertop proposal for Alice


I sent the following letter to the Bishop of the NT Anglican Church Diocese, Greg Anderson:

I note with considerable regret the for sale notices on St Mary’s Village.

I was the chair of St. Mary’s during the early 80s and have been a parish member since my arrival in 1982.

During my time as chair we discussed methods of making the complex more financially viable.

We had a meeting between the manager, Milton Blanch, the then Chief Minister Paul Everingham and myself to discuss the future financing of what has always been a very desirable social enterprise and has produced many contributors to society here.

The 50th anniversary some years ago was a roll call of women in the Indigenous community who have assumed leadership positions. I surveyed highschools which came here for Indigenous exposure and environmental studies as part of their senior course.

I suggested that St Mary’s be turned into a school camp for senior students in southern and rastern states along the lines of what Geelong grammar does with its Timbertop facility.

It would focus on touring groups of senior school students who need environmental experiences and cultural experience as part of their senior courses.

Initial market research in this area revealed a potential market of around 10,000  customers annually.

Everingham was interested in the concept as was Robyn Lambley, and this would have made  a quite substantial contribution to the diocese’s finances. 

Everingham was quite enthusiastic as was Robyn Lambley, the Member at the time. Robyn thought it a great concept. Consequently, ACER Vaughn, a civil engineering consultancy here at the time, was approached to provide a report on the physics of reconstructing the site. 

They were apprehensive about flooding and Government approval on those grounds. St Mary’s Creek eventually proved to be not an issue for adjacent residential developments.

Their report was sent to Darwin Diocletian secretary and was never seen nor heard of again. It could have provided the whole of the diocese with a sustainable financial cash flow for many years and made a substantial contribution socially, but was seemingly ignored.

I suspect that at the time real estate interests in Darwin took precedence over longer term cash flows.

Subsequently two caravan parks homed in on that market. These two have now closed  to the school market and the general market for other reasons including I assume violence in the town, but the school market demand is still thereunmet – replaced by a one-off benefit to the church. It is therefore sad to see such a prime earner for the church probably go to housing with a one off benefit only due to a lack of looking commercially into the future.

Subsequently a major caravan park has been sold by the Heenan family, which intends to build a seniors retirement village along the lines of the Masonic Lodge model in SA which has been a very desirable and successful model.

My late mother lived in one of their units for many years and there is a growing need and market here with more seniors opting to retire here.  The Heenan proposal is currently before the Government which is intending to provide land for such a facility.

I offer these thoughts for the benefit of the church and its work here.

Trevor Shiell 


  1. This letter requires some clarification as Robyn Lambley was not the local member “at the time” when Paul Everingham was CM (1978-84) or later the Federal Member for the NT (1984-87).
    Mrs Lambley arrived in Alice Springs in 1993 and was elected as the Member for Araluen in 2010.
    I’m guessing she’s been told about the “Timbertop” concept for St Mary’s at a subsequent occasion, long after the proposal was first mooted?


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