Alice Springs news
Alice Springs news; NewspaperNT
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Community newspspers; Australia, Central; Alice Springs (N.T.); Newspapers
v. 10 issue 44
Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.
Otherwise, to sum up, the findings were that the department had "acted within its powers", which offers little comfort when a life has been shattered, and schooling opportunities for young people in the bush wasted. A LOCAL INDUSTRY IS BORN. Report by COURTNEY WHITMAN. The harvest last week of the first commercial table grape crop grown in Alice Springs capped off a lifetime of firsts witnessed by 86 year old Jean Hayes. Early Thursday morning son Jim and his wife Gayle Hayes, in partnership with Mick and Jackie Goold, sent the first pick of Minindee Seedless table grapes from their vineyard, Arunta Gold, to the Melbourne market. The vineyard is on freehold land inside the Undoolya pastoral lease, where the Hayes family has been cattle farming for about 100 years. Now, they've decided to diversify. Grapes will, "hopefully take the lows out of dry years in Central Australia", says Mr Hayes. Rain in the week before harvest put them in a quandary: when is a pastoralist ever not grateful for rain? But too much water is bad for the grapes: if they get too wet they will split in the sun. Mr Hayes came up with the idea of hiring a helicopter from town to dry the grapes, by blowing the water off them. "They started when they thought the rain had finished, but it hadn't. The grapes got more soaked. They had to get the helicopter back again," said Mrs Hayes. "It worked out really well. It's never been done before like that."Work on the vineyard began less than two years ago, with 25 hectares of vines in the ground now. The partners plan to put in another 25 hectares next year, bringing the vineyard to a self-sustaining 50 hectares. Mr Hayes says the new industry will bring jobs to Alice Springs, helping to diversify the economy and leading to bigger things."If the curve goes right for this, flowing upwards, it will become a lot more attractive for people down south to invest money in the Territory and certainly in Alice Springs," he says. Says Mrs Hayes: "This starts an industry in Alice Springs that can actually become bigger. There is no end to the possibilities. "We've started clearing more land and there's a group down south that want to trial a new type of grape in this area." Modern technology has allowed the partners to water the crop efficiently. They are using the ground, "basically to hold the plants up," says Mr Hayes. "It's fertilized through the dripper system on the grapes. It's absolutely controlled. So there is no waste of water. "We're really, really aware of water conservation," he says. At harvest time, they go through and take all they can on the first pick. Then, a week later, they go through and pick again, so the grapes have a bit more time to mature. "It all comes down to acid tests and sugar tests and things like that," says Mr Hayes. "It's all got to be right on the mark before you pick, so you don't get sour grapes." From pick to pack takes about 24 hours. Then the grapes are put into the cooler, brought down to about two degrees, numbered, boxed, glad-wrapped and loaded, ready to be shipped to market. Table grapes in the Ti Tree and Pine Hill region, around 190kms north of Alice Springs, are cut and shipped a few weeks earlier. Arunta Gold will thus extend the season as well as add to the value of this, the second largest horticultural industry in the Territory, valued at $20.5m in 2001.Mrs Hayes senior, who came to Alice Springs in a horse and buggy when she was a few weeks old, was very excited to have the first pick of her son's first crop. "In her period of life," says Mr Hayes, "she saw the horse and buggy, she saw the first railway come to Alice Springs, she saw the first motor vehicle come to Alice Springs, she saw the first plane, she saw Alice Springs grow from virtually a one horse town, right through to modern day."Like many a pioneer, the partners in Arunta Gold have done everything themselves: put in the power line, the huge cool room, the packing sheds and ten kilometres of road to get the trucks in and out, all with no government assistance whatsoever. As Mr Hayes says: "It's a great achievement of private enterprise." SYMPOSIUM: IT'S TIME FOR YOUR TWO BOBS' WORTH! Report by ERWIN CHLANDA. Ever been in a think tank?