Cabinet decision highlights
Northern Territory (NT) Cabinet decision highlights for 1984.
NT funding for 1988 bicentennial celebrations
On 2 March 1984, Cabinet considered a proposal to determine the level of Northern Territory Government funding for the 1988 bicentennial celebrations in the NT.
The Australian Government offered the NT $2 million under the Commonwealth/State Bicentennial Commemorative Program, on the basis the Territory matched this on a dollar-for-dollar basis for capital projects.
The Submission considered both non-capital works and capital works expenses for the bicentenary.
In respect of non-capital projects, it was recommended that a trust account be established to receive Government contributions on a year-to-year basis over the coming four years to reduce the impact on the Territory budget in 1987/88 and to ensure funds would be available to meet expenses which arose before then.
The funds in the trust account would be used for grants to local government and voluntary organisations to subsidise suitable projects or events.
In relation to capital works, it was suggested that the size of the capital works program for the bicentenary be determined within the normal budgetary process, with a recommended total budget of $10 million (including the matched Commonwealth/Northern Territory funding).
It was noted that all or most of the bicentennial projects may in any event have been approved for inclusion on the Territory annual works program over the period concerned, but earmarking a notional budget would make sure that the bicentennial celebrations were not overlooked when the capital works program was approved.
Cabinet agreed to set up the trust account, with $50,000 being allocated in 1983 to 1984 and $150,000 for the following four years and to match the $2 million Commonwealth contribution for capital projects.
Cabinet also agreed that projects to a total value of $10 million, including the $2 million Commonwealth grant and $2 million matching funds, would be identified within the normal budget process for bicentennial commemorative projects.
Cyclone relief payments for Borroloola
On 27 April 1984, Cabinet approved relief payments for personal hardship suffered by victims of Cyclone Kathy, a Category 5 cyclone which had struck the Borroloola region in late March that year.
Cabinet decided that all non-business claims for relief payments up to a set maximum amount would be met in full and claims beyond that value would receive the maximum amount.
The maximum payments for non-business losses were:
- $2450 per family for essentials such as bedding, linen, clothing, kitchen equipment/utensils, fridge/freezers, washing machines and lounge furniture
- $4312 per family for property comprising houses, caravans, galvanised iron sheds used for living purposes or storage, and tents when used for living.
Cabinet decided that business losses would not be subject to relief payments, but loans for businesses would be considered, and the Northern Territory Development Corporation would prepare guidelines for this.
Five year development strategy for Kings Canyon
On 31 May 1984, Cabinet considered a proposal for a five year development strategy for the new Kings Canyon National Park.
The strategy covered matters such as road access to the Park, walking trails, visitor facilities including campgrounds and picnic areas, and management facilities including accommodation for rangers, an entry station, bores and boundary fencing to control the entry of livestock.
The development costs were estimated at approximately $5.766 million over a five year period.
Aboriginal involvement in the park, including living areas for traditional owners and their families, was also considered.
Cabinet approved the Five Year Development Strategy for Kings Canyon and directed that the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory, the Department of Lands and the Northern Territory Development Corporation prepare a further submission regarding the development of commercial facilities to service the park.
Women's shopfront information service
In June 1984, Cabinet approved the establishment of a Women's Shopfront Information Service in Darwin and Alice Springs.
The concept of the shopfront, which was a 1983 NT election commitment, was to provide women with a central point of contact for information about services available to them in the community, including family law, women's health and domestic violence services.
The submission noted that in the past women had not been seen to need specialist services, and that existing services were usually part of a large and multi-purpose bureaucracy.
There was however an increasing awareness that some services were almost exclusively accessed by women, such as those pertaining to domestic violence and rape, and in many cases more than one type of service was needed.
For these reasons, it was appropriate that information about the services be coordinated through a central and easily accessible system.
The shopfront was intended to relieve pressure on statutory government agencies such as Community Welfare to provide women with information or referrals to other agencies in the community.
The shopfront would also reduce the need for women to "do the rounds" of various services trying to find the one that best suited their particular need.
The submission also suggested the shopfront would be able to monitor the needs of women in the community and provide information about these needs to the Women's Advisory Council, other women's groups and government agencies where appropriate.
Establishment of a major National Park in the Victoria River District
On 19 July 1984, Cabinet considered a proposal to establish a major national park within the Victoria River District and reserve an area of high conservation and recreational value in that region.
The Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory had prepared a report on the proposal to create the national park in the Victoria River District, which recommended:
- the acquisition of the Bullita pastoral lease and part of the Innesvale pastoral lease as Stage 1 of the park
- continuation of negotiations with Aboriginal traditional owners on the inclusion of Jasper Gorge and part of the Timber Creek Commonage in the park, and the involvement of Aboriginal people in the park
- negotiations with the owners of Auvergne, Delamere and Fitzroy pastoral leases for those areas of the leases favoured for park purposes with a view to acquisition for Stage 2 of the park
- discussions with the Department of Mines and the Chamber of Mines to reach agreement on exploration in the proposed park.
The park was intended to provide a resource base for the expanding tourist industry in the Victoria River / Victoria Highway area, and would create recreational opportunities in the area including fishing, river trips, walking and 4WD tours.
The park could also make use of the facilities at Timber Creek and the Victoria River Inn.
The estimated funding needs for capital works and operational expenses totalled $1.331 million over a four year period.
Cabinet gave in-principle approval for the establishment of the National Park and recommended the immediate acquisition of the Bullita pastoral lease and the southern sections of the Innesvale pastoral lease for the park.
Alice Springs Convention Centre
On 7 August 1984, Cabinet considered a report prepared by Price Waterhouse Associates on the feasibility of a major convention centre in Alice Springs, noting that convention and conference markets were two of the growth areas in tourism world-wide.
The report advised there was a potential market for a stand-alone, purpose-built conference facility in Alice Springs.
It was suggested the primary market segment would be the incentive conference group, most likely for industries with a marketing and sales orientation, and that there was immediate market potential for corporate bodies and professional associations.
The report recommended the establishment of an 850 seat stand-alone facility in Mt John Valley in Alice Springs, adjacent to high quality tourist accommodation.
The report noted the success of the facility would be partly dependent on a number of design features aimed at creating a unique market position with significant competitive advantages.
- a design which would allow for extension of the facility to cope with larger delegate groups should future demand warrant this
- being the best, medium-size conference venue in Australia with sufficient break-out room capacity, full catering services and sophisticated lighting and presentation equipment
- provision of multi-purpose uses complementary to those of the Araluen Arts Centre
- a distinctive architectural design sensitive to the unique environmental qualities of Central Australia in general, and the views of the MacDonnell Ranges in particular.
The report recommended the convention centre be operational by 1988 to capitalise on the demand already evident for Australia's bicentennial year.
The consultants were also preparing a report on the potential for a major convention centre in Darwin, but they suggested Alice Springs should have a major convention facility before Darwin as it was better positioned to service incentive conferences with its superior tourist infrastructure and services.
Cabinet noted the report and also that a further report would be prepared on the options for an Alice Springs convention centre.
Plan of management for Kakadu National Park
On 16 August 1984, Cabinet considered a draft position paper on a Northern Territory approach to the development a new plan of management for Kakadu National Park.
This followed an announcement by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service (ANPWS) that it intended to prepare a new plan of management, extend the Park to include the Gimbat and Goodparla pastoral leases, and prepare a plan of management in respect of Stage II of Kakadu National Park.
The approach recommended in the submission was for the NT to work directly with ANPWS in the preparation of the plan of management and subsequent implementation of the plan. It was proposed that the general principles which should broadly determine the plan of management were:
- decisions on the strategies to be adopted not be based solely on conservation grounds but also take into account social, community and economic aspects
- Kakadu National Park to be seen as an integral part of the Alligator Rivers and adjacent regions and its effective management must acknowledge and be consistent with this regional perspective
- tourism in the region was expanding rapidly with increasing pressure for the provision of adequate facilities for all visitors
- the scope to manage the Park could be significantly improved, and the flexibility to achieve an appropriate balance between development and conservation could be increased, by a strategy of complementary development for the Gimbat and Goodparla pastoral leases under NT ownership and control instead of through the incorporation of these areas in the Park
- for so long as the existing management arrangements for the Park continued, there would be a need for effective consultation and cooperation between the Australian and NT governments and appropriate working arrangements should be developed as part of the plan of management.
Cabinet was asked to decide on whether to adopt an active approach involving greater NT participation in the development of the plan of management and subsequent management of Kakadu Stages I and II, including the complementary development of the Gimbat and Goodparla pastoral leases under NT ownership rather than incorporation of these areas in the Park, or to approve an approach of merely providing comment and advice to ANPWS on the development of the plan of management.
Cabinet endorsed the option of active involvement as outlined in the position paper.
Junior police ranger program
On 24 August 1984, Cabinet considered a proposal to develop a 'Junior Police Rangers' program.
The program would be aimed at youth between the ages of 13 and 17 and would involve learning skills in areas such as public safety, good citizenship, leadership, fire safety, first aid, survival techniques, water safety, public speaking and self-development.
The submission suggested that, due to public concern over the standards of conduct and attitudes of youth in the community, the police could help by encouraging young people to take part in schemes where they could acquire leadership qualities and learn public safety skills.
It was proposed to restrict the program to Darwin initially, with the possibility of expanding the program to other areas depending on its success.
Cabinet approved the introduction of a Junior Police Ranger scheme with funding of $183,000.
Control of cane toads
On 4 September 1984, Cabinet considered a proposal to implement a research program on the possible biological control of cane toads, and improve monitoring to minimise the risk of accidental or man-assisted introduction of cane toads in the Territory.
In the Wet Season of 1982 to 1983, cane toads were first discovered in the NT in the Wollogorang area of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Toads had also been found in the Darwin area, which was thought to have occurred through the importation of plant and soil material.
The submission noted that, from studies already undertaken, biological control seemed to be the only way of controlling cane toads, but research into the most effective control mechanisms was required.
At the 1984 meeting of the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers, the cane toad was recognised as a problem of national significance, and the Australian, Western Australian and Queensland governments stated their willingness to provide funding for research into the biological control of cane toads.
Cabinet decided that the Premiers of Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales be approached with a view to formulating a joint proposal to the Australian Government including for funding a research program into the biological control of cane toads.
Development of a Private Hospital within the Royal Darwin Hospital Reserve
On 13 November 1984, Cabinet considered a proposal for the development of a private hospital within the grounds of the Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH).
This followed a preliminary proposal from Lowton Pty Ltd in 1982 to develop a 60 bed private hospital within the RDH reserve, and the granting of in-principle approval for the construction of the hospital in January 1984.
Further in-principle approval was given in June 1984 for the company to establish a 100 bed private hospital on the RDH reserve.
The Cabinet submission noted that a private hospital on the RDH reserve would mean less duplication of diagnostic services, and such a location would be more convenient for medical practitioners visiting private and public patients.
It would reduce transport requirements when private hospital patients needed to use paramedical services at RDH, and ancillary emergency services would be in close proximity, while creating a convenient "overflow" facility for patients at RDH.
Car parking facilities were already available although additional car parking would need to be considered.
It was noted that the proposed site had originally been intended for a second ward block for RDH, and that the private hospital development would reduce the options for expanding the public hospital when it reached full capacity.
Cabinet approved the negotiations for the development of a private hospital within the Royal Darwin Hospital reserve and indicated an expectation that the private hospital would be operating by July 1986.
Bull purchase incentive scheme
On 4 December 1984, Cabinet considered a proposal to introduce a bull purchase incentive scheme which aimed to encourage pastoralists to continue to upgrade their commercial cattle herds.
In 1982-83, the cattle industry contributed approximately $67 million to the NT economy, with the cattle herd consisting of 1.5 million head and an annual turnoff of around 350,000 head.
Given the importance of the industry to the NT economy, an incentive to encourage the upgrading of herds was considered desirable.
The proposal was for reimbursement of funds to pastoralists purchasing bulls on the following basis:
- for a bull price of $800 to $1,500 per head - $100 reimbursement
- for a bull price over $1,500 per head - $200 reimbursement.
Eligibility would be limited to commercial herds and to pastoralists who were satisfactorily carrying out disease eradication programs.
Other alternative incentive packages explored by government and industry included a freight subsidy on bull purchases and reimbursement of a percentage of the bull purchase price. However, it was considered that a flat reimbursement rate would simplify administrative processes.
Cabinet approved the establishment of the Bull Purchase Incentive Scheme as from 1 January 1985 to be operated by the Northern Territory Development Corporation, with the scheme to be reviewed after a 12 month period to decide if it should be extended.
Status of saltwater crocodiles
On 18 December 1984, Cabinet considered a submission on the progress of the government's application to downgrade the status of saltwater crocodiles from Appendix 1 (highly endangered species) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to Appendix 2 of the Convention.
This amendment was seen as crucial to the viability of crocodile farming in the NT.
While the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory had been successful in gaining the support of international scientists for endorsement of the CITES application, this work, along with the collection of data on existing crocodile populations and spread of habitats, had exhausted the funding for the project.
The submission noted the NT Government's success in gaining support for the CITES application had created considerable interest in the Territory's crocodile management programs.
In particular, a conference planned for January 1985 to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Conservation Commission's programs had been inundated with contributed papers and participants, and expected participation in the conference had grown from 30 attendees to around 100 interstate and international crocodile experts.
The submission noted that activities being pursued as part of the Commission's crocodile management program were:
- engagement with the Aboriginal Land Council's Working Group to involve Aboriginal people in crocodile management and research and eventually broader conservation issues
- assistance to industry to commence egg collections
- surveying of Melacca (sic) Creek in Litchfield in preparation for the acquisition of this breeding area.
While the submission sought financial additional funds to complete the CITES application, Cabinet did not make a decision in this regard. However, Cabinet approved the application to CITES proceeding and endorsed the activities in the crocodile management program which were being pursued by the Conservation Commission.