Attempting some laps and trying to cool off a little at the town pool on Monday (the eve) I overheard a lovers' quarrel: "But you said we weren’t ‘doing’ Valentines Day! Now I’ve got to get you a present!" So that is ‘doing’ Valentine's Day, buying stuff. Christmas had barely been peddled from the shelves before gaudy Australian flag propaganda was being hawked and now it was poor old St Val’s turn to be flogged (who coincidently was apparently almost stoned and clubbed to death and failing that was in the end beheaded). I may as well start preparing now for the next commercial 'shock and awe' event that is Easter.
Darryl Pearce, who was recently sacked as the CEO of companies which are carrying out the Mt Johns real estate development, apparently still has a hand in the multi million dollar project.
He is the secretary of Lhere Artepe Pty Ltd which – directly or indirectly – appears to be the owner of all the entities bearing a name including the words Lhere Artepe, the town's native title organisation.
This includes the private companies tied up in the multi-million dollar Mt Johns development.
But late today, Michael Liddle (pictured), listed as a director of Lhere Artepe Pty Ltd, said: "I have never signed an agreement to join the company's board.
"The board has never met. As far as I know, there are other directors in the same position as me." PHOTO: Current advertising promoting the land as "re-released" after considerable delays. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
The creative brief for the redevelopment of Parsons Street in Alice Springs' CBD has won an international award.
The brief, titled Revealing the Spirit of Parsons Street, was prepared by photographer Mike Gillam who is also well-known for his long-time commitment to the preservation and protection of our natural and cultural heritage within the urban environment.
Mr Gillam was commissioned to develop the brief as part of the CBD revitalisation project.
The Green Dot Awards celebrate "excellence in green products and services". Mr Gillam's unusual entry stands alongside other first prize category winners such as the Copenhagen Wheel – an electric bicycle that generates its own energy while pedalling and braking – and the work of a Hong Kong based architectural firm, Aedas Ltd, specialising in sustainable design.
Pictured is Parsons Street now: this choked sightline will be de-cluttered in the redevelopment. Photo by MIKE GILLAM.
To get an idea of what's ahead of us in this election year it's instructive to read the final words spoken by government front bencher Chris Burns in the NT Parliament before the Christmas break.
Producing his own brand of Festive Season cheer, Labor politician Dr Burns was having a shot at Alison Anderson in the adjournment debate of the last Sittings of 2011.
That's not surprising, because the colorful Member for MacDonnell had recently joined the Country Liberal Opposition, after having been an Independent, which was after having been a party colleague of Dr Burns'.
What is remarkable about his sniping is that his ammunition consisted mostly of alleged past transgressions by Ms Anderson which, while she was a Labor Member, his party either ignored or said Ms Anderson was not guilty of. And that was from then Chief Minister Clare Martin down.
So Dr Burns engaged in some robust mental gymnastics to explain his change of heart.
It's all about the book by Melbourne journalist Russell Skelton, King Brown Country, The Betrayal of Papunya. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.PICTURE: Ms Anderson and her brother, Sid, now the president of the MacDonnell Shire. Different takes on their role as power brokers in Papunya shape up as election fodder.
Vocal law and order campaigner Steve Brown (pictured) is standing for Mayor and Alderman in the town council elections on March 24, although he says he will be "facing an uphill battle" against the "firmly entrenched incumbent," Damien Ryan.
Mr Brown says he would bring a "much more vigorous approach" to the position: "Damien’s embrace of the NT Labor Government's policies and his willingness to take up offered positions on every board and committee that came his way has often left him obligated and somewhat compromised, and the council in a position of being unable to criticise when criticism was absolutely due."
He says he will not accept membership of "any committees or bodies or boards not directly associated with the operation of the Alice Springs Town Council".
Mr Brown says if elected he would have a pro-growth "corporate Alice" approach, running the town as a successful business, aiming at attracting more permanent workers and giving incentives to business.
Meanwhile Alderman Eli Melky, while still not declaring his hand for the coming elections, continues his attack on the actions of the current council.
He has given notice that at council's committee meeting next Monday he will put a motion to abolish council's “Removal of graffiti” by-law, which places the onus of removal on property-owners. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
People do still fall in love with Alice Springs. Amidst much gloomy talk, it's good to be reminded of that. It happened to Edan Baxter when he arrived here five years ago and his ardour is undiminished.
He still sees at the forefront all the things that have built the town's mystique – the fantastic mix of people, from around the country and the world, alongside Aboriginal people, the presence of their ancient culture, the closeness of pioneering history, burgeoning creativity, stunning natural environment.
But many decisions are made that limit the "amazing potential" of all this, he says, and this is what has prompted him to nominate as a candidate in the coming Town Council elections.
At 32 years old, he's pitching himself as a "younger, fresher voice" but his emphasis is on the long-term. He sees the focus of public debate on "the issues of the day" – such as young people on the streets at night and anti-social behaviour – as something of a dead end. KIERAN FINNANE profiles this Town Council candidate.
Where will the money come from to pay rent for shire assets on Aboriginal land?
The eight Northern Territory shires are acting in concert on the issue of lease payments for shire facilities on Aboriginal land. The Northern and Central Land Councils' position is that traditional owners are entitled to rent for leases over the various land parcels once the Australian Government's five-year town leases expire in August. The Australian and NT Governments have accepted this, with the NT Government determining that rents should be set at 5-10% of UCV (unimproved capital value).This will amount to a bill of around $3 million annually for the NT, potentially rising to $5 million once all leases are settled. The leases for public housing land are exempt, with 'peppercorn' rents charged "in recognition of the direct benefit for local people", according to Minister for Local Government, Malarndirri McCarthy.
The cash-strapped shires are appalled: already they are struggling to provide a basic level of service to their communities. Don't their services amount to a "direct benefit for local people"? And, with limited operational funding, rates revenue, and budgets patched together from grants and charges to agencies for delivering their programs, where will the money come from?
A meeting on January 24 was attended by representatives of the eight shires, a lawyer from the firm Minter Ellison to advise them, and representatives of the Australian and Territory Governments as well as the Local Government Association of the NT.
The eight shires agreed to five points of a joint approach. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Pictured: Shire workers learning to undertake maintenance on work plant at the Ti Tree works depot. Photo courtesy Central Desert Shire.
Councillors of the Central Desert Shire – black and white – say the shire system time needs more time to prove itself. Most of those I spoke to will put their hands up again for election in March, including shire president Norbert Patrick. He says he would accept the leadership role again if asked, but would rather be just an elected member who could give new members the benefit of his experience.
I spoke to the councillors outside the chamber after they had met for the last time before the election. During the meeting shire CEO Roydon Robertson had raised the recent negative comments made about the shires by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda, angrily dismissed by the CEO as "another insult". Mr Gooda was reported by the ABC to have called for the shires model to be scrapped, referring to its "total detrimental effect" on communities.
Councillors appeared to be in agreement with the CEO and the sentiments expressed by Kerry Moir, president of the Local Government Association of the NT (LGANT), who was appalled at Mr Gooda making such damaging statements just two months out from the shire elections. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Pictured: Shire president Norbert Patrick and Councillor William Johnson, both of Lajamanu, outside the shire head office in Alice Springs last Friday.
Give half a billion dollars to Alice Springs instead of a billion to Nauru.
That's the way to fix Australia's dilemma about offshore processing, according to ex FICA CEO and local businessman Paul Lelliott (pictured).
He asked MHR Warren Snowdon to take the idea "as far as you can.
"There is considerable humanitarian merit in putting forward the case for onshore processing of refugees.
"There is also a significant economic benefit to our region if that processing was to take place in Alice Springs. Forget about pouring money into Malaysia, Christmas Island and Nauru.
"We need the funding and the resultant increase in labor to rebuild this town. We can create our own economic stimulus."
A new migration program for the Darwin region to help employers fill skills and labour shortages associated with major projects has now been announced.
It was an opportunity to remake her life and she took it: she turned from regular heavy drinking – of up to 30 cans of full strength beer in a sitting and this since 1987 – to being sober, taking on full-time employment, progressing in her job, looking after family, aspiring to rent her own flat.
Erica Lowah was one of three to graduate from the SMART Court program last Thursday. The three are the first in Alice Springs to complete the program since its introduction in July last year.
SMART stands for “Substance Misuse Assessment and Referral for Treatment”. Sentencing of offenders with serious alcohol and/or drug problems is deferred while they undertake programs as ordered by the court. The programs are tailored to individual needs but the bottom line is total abstinence.
Ms Lowah had been charged with high range drink driving and driving while disqualified and these were not her first drink driving offences. By entering the SMART Court program, she was given a chance to avoid gaol time and to get her life back on track.
A cake was brought into the court to celebrate the achievements of the graduates. Everyone was beaming. The usual formalities, already not great in this court, dropped away. I was even allowed to get out my pocket camera and take a snap, with the quietly proud Ms Lowah agreeing to have her photo published.
Magistrate David Bamber joked with graduate Benjamin Smith that his was the first SMART Court romance: while on the program he entered and has remained in a relationship with a young woman who is also a program participant.
Mr Bamber reflected briefly on his experience of this very different court. The legislation was introduced quickly and he'd had little idea of what his role would involve. Visiting a similar court in New South Wales, he learnt that their main 'problem' was that people wanted to keep coming back, to let the court know how well they were doing. One NSW graduate had even brought his one-day-old baby to show the court's team.
The stories reveal the importance of personal relationships in this court (in contrast to other courts where the personal is suppressed). The relationships obviously have their boundaries but there is an observable genuine warmth between the court's team and the participants, especially those – not surprisingly – who respond well to the chance they've been given. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Pictured: Erica Lowah receives her SMART court graduation certificate from Magistrate David Bamber.