Attitudes harden on both sides of the creeping industrialisation of the farm areas: 90 write submissions to oppose a depot for 130 demountable buildings in Ilparpa while the applicant is pushing to get Development Consent Authority approval. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. ABOVE: Disputed land use also in Chateau Road.
Su McCluskey (pictured) heads up a think tank that rates Central Australia amongst the least competitive regions in Australia, on a scale of five (see map FULL STORY). Last week she spoke to a forum at Desert Knowledge Australia, the organisation which has been charged, for the past 15 years, to find ways for arid inland of Australia to be a better and more productive place: so far the results are slim. Editor ERWIN CHLANDA put to Ms McCluskey that The Center has a million square kilometers of land, lots of water we know of, and doubtlessly more that we don't, lots of idle labour, as well as backloading freight opportunities, both on road and rail, which could take produce to Alice Springs or south. How come we're not rolling in money?
Arafura Resources is looking at relocating more of its processing for the Nolans Bore Rare Earths Project close to the mine site (pictured) near Aileron, 135 km north of Alice Springs. (Photo courtesy Arafura Resources.)
Amidst the crusty truckies at the National Road Transport Hall of Fame reunion in Alice Springs last week was one quite unlike the rest: she is a petite blonde driving the rig of the year, a 50 tonne Drake low loader pulled by a 550 horsepower Western Star – total value more than half a million dollars.
Perhaps the only hint there may be a woman driver behind the wheel is the prime mover's colour: pink.
Julie Gavin transports earthmoving and mining equipment all around Australia.
Does she know what the future will hold for the industry she loves? "Good question. What's next week's lotto numbers, Erwin?" ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
Here's another question to elevate the Can't Do Brigade's blood pressure: Why don't we channel our unemployed into growing produce? The correct answer: "Ohhh, it's going to take decades, mate."
We did, you know, 70 years ago, when the Territory just about became self sufficient in locally grown produce.
The population was 100,000, which remained much the same until the late '70s. True, we now have more than twice that population. Are we growing half the fruit 'n veg we need? Nope.
Is that because governments now prefer handing out sit-down money to mobilizing human resources? The wartime farms grew water melons, lettuce, tomatoes: "They had a go at just about anything."
By 1945 the annual production was 1.7 million kilograms a year, according to historian Peter Forrest, interviewed by the ABC on the anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. That's 1700 tonnes.
"The army almost achieved its goal of making the Territory self sufficient in produce," Mr Forrest recounts.
Cut to Central Australia of today. Almost all produce is imported from "down south", and there are a string of failed ventures while a few enterprises show we could do much better, provided our present day army of unemployed could be recruited to work.
But while the dole is so easy to get, don't hold your breath. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.PHOTO: This garden in 1944 was using water from the showers of the hospital. Alice Springs was self-sufficient in fruit 'n veg. From the Joan Higgins Collection, courtesy Graham Ride.
Like many of the "Afghan” camel men who came to Australia Peer Mohammed (Mahomet) claims to have fought for the British Army with the Amir’s contingent during the Boer War.
Peer (at right) left a wife and children behind in Peshawar, now Pakistan, and married again in Australia. He never saw his Afghan family again.
He was originally a goldsmith and jeweler before coming to Australia where he later married Ruby Stuart, the daughter of an Englishman and an indigenous woman. Peer Mohammed worked as a camel driver and importer and is recorded as having sold camels to Baricot in Afghanistan in 1902.
In 1882 he bought a string of laden camels through the MacDonnell Ranges into the tiny settlement of Stuart (now Alice Springs). This was just a decade after the opening of the Overland Telegraph Line and he recalled the completed line of wooden poles.
After returning to India for a period he came back to Alice Springs with his camel team again in 1885 and was shocked to find that white-ants and fires had taken their toll and the poles were being replaced by iron ones.
Peer returned to India in 1905 but by 1910 was living at West Camel Camp in Broken Hill, working as a camel driver for Basha Gul.
He returned to India again and in 1911 was resolutely refused re-entry into Australia; but he came back anyway.
He then operated a small mine at Sliding Rock in the Flinders Ranges, SA, but this was not as lucrative as he’d anticipated and he turned his attention back to driving camel teams.
Once motorised transport started to make inroads into servicing the freight needs of the cattle stations throughout the outback Peer Mohammed found work carrying railway sleepers for the east-west railways before finally retiring. Peer Mohammed died in Port Augusta in 1940 and is reported to have been destitute.
His son Gul (Gool) Muhammed also worked as a cameleer. Gul married Miriam Khan from Marree and went on to become one of the last cameleers to operate in the Alice Springs area.
Gul’s son, Sallay (Saleh) married an Australian woman, Iris, and went on to form a trucking company in Central Australia with his sons John and Noor.
In 1979 Saleh (at right) delivered four racing camels to King Khalid of Saudi Arabia as a gift from the Australian Government.