Thorny News Update


We hope this newsletter finds you well!

Here at ALEC we are wondering if you had a chance to reflect on the power outage that faced Alice Springs 2 weekends ago? Did life come to a standstill in your household? Did all your frozen food melt? Could you cope with no air-conditioning? Was it a good reminder of how much our modern lives revolve around electricity? 

Beyond making our lives more comfortable, electricity also fuels our economic system and underpins most things that we do in the western world. Suddenly when it's not there anymore people get very upset - shop doors stop opening, lights don't go on, we lose business, we can't do simple things like turn on the TV or do a load of washing.

In these moments we have to face an uncomfortable truth - we have built our modern society on the notion that there is a non-stop never-ending supply of energy that should be accessible at all times, and this false premise is leading us down a pretty challenging path - a changing and unpredictable climate - as we continue to burn fossil fuels at a dangerous level.

In recent weeks there has been the news that Australia's carbon emissions are climbing again, Perth is being toted as the city that is the 'canary in the climate change coal mine' as they face water shortages associated with the changing climate and meanwhile our climate scientists have lost their jobs and Environment Minister Greg Hunt (who in his term has approved the worlds largest coal mine) is proclaimed the world's best Environment Minister….

Here in Alice Springs there's been last week's announcement by the NT Government that they will be investing $75 million into expanding the Owen Springs Gas Fired Power Plant - and locking Alice Springs into a fossil fuel future. This is not a good decision and in coming weeks ALEC will be mounting a campaign to have this decision reversed.

But we need your help. Write to the Chief Minister and Minister Tollner and Labour Opposition Leader Michael Gunner to express that we want the decision reversed and an investment made into transitioning Alice Springs to solar and renewable energy. Please also take a moment to send a letter to the editor

Changing a light globe is no longer enough. We all have to be making our voices heard stronger than ever before to change the tide towards a more sustainable future. 

We are starting up climate working group meetings in two weeks - and will be working collectively on this issue. If you can't attend and be actively be involved, please be an active citizen from your own home.

Keep well!

ALEC Communications and Campaigns Manager

P.S Well done to all the letter writers with the great letters in todays Advocate and the NT News!!


$75 million – Alice Springs locked into a fossil fuel future
The Arid Lands Environment Centre is greatly disappointed by the recently announced $75 million ‘investment’ in new gas fired generators at Owen Springs to secure future energy supply in Alice Springs.
At a time when global leaders have recently met and have made a landmark deal to lower global carbon emissions, the Northern Territory Government is locking Alice Springs residents into a previous era of dirty fossil fuel energy supplies.
“The announced investment in new gas fired generators is not the right direction for the future energy supply of Alice Springs,” said Jimmy Cocking, Director of the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC). “When it comes to its energy future, Alice Springs is well placed to lead the rest of Australia in transitioning to solar power and renewable energy supplies, and there is strong support from community members to see this happen. We have been contacted by a number of local residents who have expressed their disappointment in this decision, and this sentiment has been reflected in local news and social media platforms since the announcement.”
“ The $75M would be much better distributed between investment in upgrading the network to support hybrid battery and solar energy systems rather than locking Alice Springs into a fossil fuel future for generations to come via Territory Generation, which essentially would hold a monopoly over power supply and would have no incentives for developing clean energy supplies,” said Mr Cocking.
The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) is highly engaged on the issue of ensuring a sustainable energy supply for Alice Springs.  ALEC was a driving force behind the bid for and implementation of the highly successful Alice Solar City project. More recently ALEC participated in the Energy Futures Parliamentary Committee proceedings and has made numerous policy submissions related to energy and electricity supply in Alice Springs.
ALEC believes a good investment of $75M into the Alice Springs electricity supply would look more like:
  • $20M investment into the grid.  Support competition for supply by medium and large-scale electricity providers. Enable distributed supply of solar energy and battery storage. 
  • $5M to reduce inefficiencies in the system and support energy efficiency programs
  • $50M to support co-investment by local Alice Springs residents and businesses in renewable energy and battery storage. $5000 each for 10000 roof tops, generating $50M in co-investment and growing a local solar and battery storage industry. 
Not only would this increase the supply of electricity to Alice Springs but it would also improve the stability of the grid.  Rather than setting a date for the retirement of the Ron Goodin Power Station, it could be used to support the transition of Alice Springs to being a solar powered town with gas generators as back up. 
“The Arid lands Environment Centre urges the Treasurer and the Chief Minister to not waste taxpayer dollars on locking in dependence on the gas industry and its associated emissions, and to instead support the co-investment in the future solar energy supply for Alice Springs,” said Mr Cocking.
‘We urge the Treasurer and Chief Minister to consider reviewing the tender process that lead to this decision and to explore other options for investing in both the distribution and supply of electricity in Alice Springs.  The opportunity to support co-investment by local residents and businesses while upgrading the grid to do so is compelling, and is something that ALEC and local community members will be lobbying for in coming months,” said Mr Cocking.

Some local social media comments about the decision:
“‘Govt announces $75Million solar project in Alice Springs!!!!’
Unfortunately that was not the headline last week. The NTG has instead announced $75Million expansion to the Owen Springs Gas plant. This is a major project that will lock Alice Springs in to gas for another 25 years rather than drawing on the incredible solar potential of Alice Springs. Apparently tenders for this project have already been awarded (funny, I don’t recall hearing about this 9-month tender process)”
“It is interesting to go through the economics of this a bit. This new generator accounts for about half the current usage of our electricity grid. There are approximately 2500 residential rooftops in this area owner occupied that does not have solar pv at the moment. If all of these people installed 4.5kW we will be producing about the same as this new generator, making the investment redundant and without payback. If we then add the cost of gas and maintenance into the equation we double the payback period of the generator by installing another 1000 solar pv systems, this is generally achievable in a 12 month period. It appears to be a waste of money that will directly increase our electricity bills to provide payback for bad policy.”
“I wrote a letter to the paper - I should send one to them too. Ugh it's so crap….and when you read about these solar plants that cost around the same and generate far more…

Climate Working Group Survey

If you are thinking you may be able to participate in the climate working group - you don't have to necessarily attend meetings - can you please complete the survey to help us understand how much time you may have to contribute and the issues most important to you. So far solar and renewables is an issue that most people want to work on collectively.

ALEC Members Survey

At ALEC we are also trying to gauge the issues that you feel are most important for us to work on in this election year. Please take 2 minutes to do this quick survey which will help guide our strategies as we approach the election

Containment Film Screening 13.2.16

Alice Springs Nuclear Waste Dump Proposal and Film Screening Night

Alice Springs residents are invited to attend “Containment” – a film screening that explores the global rush to find solutions in storing nuclear waste – on the Alice Springs Town Council Lawns this Saturday 13th February, as part of a community information night to discuss the Arigold Nuclear Waste Dump proposal for 50km south of Alice Springs.

The Arid Gold Date Farm,75km south of Alice Springs has been shortlisted as a potential site for a national radioactive waste dump. It was nominated by the land holder without any consultation or agreement from Traditional Owners or neighbouring properties. The facility will hold both low level waste and long-lived intermediate level waste.

The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) has a number of concerns about this proposal:

·       Date farm owner Tim Micklem did not speak with Traditional Owners or neighbours before nominating this site. The federal government did not require agreement from the local community before accepting or shortlisting nominations.  

·       The land holder will be paid 4 x the value of the nominated area (not the whole property) if the site is selected. There is additionally a ‘Community Contribution Fund’ that will provide $10 million to the local community, but it is unclear who the government considers to be the affected community. Spending of this money is at the discretion of the Minister.

·       The low level waste will remain buried at the site forever. It is unclear how long the intermediate level waste will stay in the ‘interim storage’ shed as there are no plans for development of a final burial site for this waste in Australia.

·       Local Indigenous food enterprises are at risk. Even the perception of contamination could destroy business and organic labelling may also be affected.

·       Transport of radioactive materials carries inherent risk, especially on under-maintained desert roads. Waste would be travelling long distances from the sources of production. The bulk of the really dangerous waste is currently at Lucas Heights near Sydney.

·       There is concern about impacts on songlines and country both connected to and surrounding the site

·       Radiation is a silent killer that can cause genetic damage that can last for generations.

·       There is no permanent intermediate or high level nuclear waste repository operating anywhere in the world.  It is incredibly difficult to contain radioactive waste for the length of time it will be dangerous to humans and the environment. 

·       The National Radioactive Waste Management Act trumps all state and territory laws and places many key decisions solely at the hands of the Minister.

·       This site could also have a huge impact on local tourism, including the Finke Desert Race.

Public comments on the proposal are being accepted until March 11. ALEC urges concerned community members to submit a comment by email:

For more information go to the Government website: and to

Bakers required!

'No Nukes Bake Off' - if you want to contribute to the screening of Containment this Saturday 13th Feb by baking something sweet or savory and bringing it to the Town Counil lawns around 6pm, all contributions will help raise funds to cover the event and campaign costs to avert a nuclear waste dump in Central Australia. Thank you and see you there!

Government Community Consultation re waste dump 16.2.16

ALEC Volunteers Wanted

1. Poster run next week -
Can anyone spend an hour putting up some ALEC posters around town? Email

2. Help read and analyse the Mt Peake Vanadium Mine EIS -

The Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed TNG Mt Peake Vanadium mine is on display at ALEC from February 13 to March 25. There are approximately 1500-2000 pages of detailed reports that we need to have some understanding of and to make comments during this period. We are looking for skilled and/or interested people to go through sections of the technical reports and highlight any concerns or shortcomings. If you are interested in being involved, please email

Food for Alice

Food for Alice is moving along quite nicely.  Some Gardens are producing while others are getting ready for a turnover as we head into autumn.  Tomatoes are having a great season with both Kevin’s yummy cheery and black tomatoes coming in nearly every week and the Food for Alice plot at the community garden continually having nice red tomatoes every week as well.
And now some more exciting news, Food for Alice now has its own logo.  This has been a long time in organisation and volunteer time of a graphic artist in design and time to put it together.  In the end we have a very simple logo that pulls together both the production side and the eating side of growing local fresh fruit and vegetables.  A big Thank You goes to Jeska Matterson for putting the time and energy needed and developing the logo for us.  Next step is to get a banner organised so that we can put that up on the fence every Saturday to help people find us and know the market is open.
And remember, if you have excess produce in your garden come and talk to me about selling it through Food for Alice.  And come and see us first every Saturday morning from 9 to 11am at 90 Gap Rd for all your fresh local produce needs.

Position Vacant

Casual paid volunteer position available.
Food for Alice is looking for an person who is enthusiastic about getting fresh, local produce out into the community. The position requires you to run the stall every second Saturday starting from 8am and finishing at about 11.30am. Please contact Carmel for more information.

Central Australian Frack Free Alliance


In early March the Central Australian Frack Free Alliance (CAFFA) will start our 'Gasfield-Free' community survey of Alice Springs. 

Our goal is to self-declare Alice Springs, Gasfield Free one suburb at a time! The Gasfield Free Community surveying approach is a powerful democratic grassroots process, which has occurred in over 60 communities around Australia, is a way of building a strong community by connecting people so we can better withstand the pressures of mining companies and choose the future we want.

More information on the process can be accessed on the Lock the Gate website;  

If you are interested in finding out more and being involved in your neighbourhood come to our upcoming Community Surveying Training Session!

When: Saturday 27th February 2016 1:00-4:00pm
Where: Arid Lands Environment Centre 90 Gap Road Opposite Piggly's IGA
What to bring: Pen and paper and other friends who might want to help!
Afternoon tea provided! 
NOTE:  It is important that you are able to make it to the whole training as this is when we'll allocate streets, and run through how the process works. Please try and make it for entire time. In order for us to be able to plan for the logistics of area allocation and training we would really appreciate you RSVPing to: By: Sunday 14th Feb

This is going to be a really fun way to get to know our neighbours, extending social groups as we go. It is really exciting to think we can be part of this social movement; that will no doubt have a huge impact on our shared community. Please encourage your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues to get involved too - it will be more fun & many hands make light work!


After a huge amount of public pressure last week Labor leader Michael Gunner announced his party will put in place a moratorium (temporary halt) on fracking to allow for further research on the risks.
This is great news, however we are yet to see the details on Mr Gunner’s plan, particularly how long the moratorium is proposed for.  

At the very least, we need a 5 year pause to enable the necessary baseline studies in order to monitor impacts, improve the regulatory framework and ensure there is enough research on the impacts including health impacts.

The NT Labor conference will be held in Darwin this weekend and it is anticipated the details of their position on fracking will be clarified then. 

The NT Frack Free Alliance is holding a Frack Free People's Assembly on Saturday at 8:15am - 9:30am at the Darwin Entertainment Centre to make a clear statement to party members that protecting the NT from unsafe fracking is a big priority. We need everyone to come along so please let Darwin based family & friends know! 

More information here:

Our next campaign meeting will be held Monday 22 February at 5:30pm at the ALEC Office – 90 Gap Rd (cnr of Kraegen St & Gap Rd – Opposite Pigglys Grocery).

Hope to see you there!
Tanya Hall
 Frack Free Coordinator
Central Australian Frack Free Alliance

A fracking perspective from the Environmental Defenders Office

By David Morris - Principal Lawyer

This Changes Everything Book Club

This Changes Everything Bookclub. Chat with us over a cuppa in the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens.

Fourteen local people have expressed interest in being part of a bookclub focusing on Naomi Klein's 'book This Changes Everything'. We have been reading or re-reading the book over the Christmas - New Year - Summer break.
Join us on Saturday morning 13th February 2016 (the day before Valentines Day) at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens in the Gazebo at 9am (or in the meeting room next to their Beantree café if it is still hot)
Our first gathering will have a double focus. First we will share our initial reactions to the book, then we will decide if we wish to continue to meet at this time and how often.

Invite your friends to join us. I have extra copies or buy them from Kangaroo Books for $25 like I did.
Chris Hawke

And finally...

A big thank you to Jessica Moyses who is completing volunteer work experience here at ALEC this week. Jess is studying a Bachelor of Environmental Science, and has been assisting ALEC with compiling information about threatened species in the Northern Territory, including animals in the Ten Deserts region, and the Dingo and Bilby.

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Our new premises is at 90 Gap Road Alice Springs
Our mailing address is:
PO Box 2796 Alice Springs 0871 NT
Phone: 08 89522497