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January 9th, 2011

NT News

Rivers of grog

Beer cans flowing down the Katherine River.

TWO community-minded women have picked up more than 32,000 empty beer cans in six months along a river bed and now they want help.

Jenny Duggan and Diane Jennsion have been collecting rubbish in Katherine for five years the last three focused on the south side of the Katherine River bank, east of the Stuart Highway.

Between July and December, they picked up 540kg of cans, or 32,400, according to calculations by Perth firm Auscon Metal Recycling. This in just one to 1 1/2 hours a day for five mornings a week in about a 2km stretch to Rapide St.

"I want shares in VB," Mrs Duggan said. "They're almost all VB. There's the occasional Coke, rum bottles and Jim Beam bottles.

"The amount of river rubbish and the cans in the river is just mind-boggling."

She said because of a designated dry area in the town centre created through the Katherine Alcohol Management Plan in 2008, itinerants went to the river for what she called "drinking camps". A report by the Menzies School of Health Research in mid-December showed a drop in pure alcohol consumption in the town and outlying areas equivalent to about 1.1 million cans of beer since 2007. By those calculations, there was the equivalent of 11,863,111 cans of beer drunk in 2009, a drop from 12,963,112 in 2007.

The report said the plan had not achieved its vision and was critical of indigenous organisations being "excluded", suggesting the scheme was "unlikely to ever succeed unless Aboriginal organisations played an active part in it". Katherine Mayor Anne Shepherd said it was beyond the council to pick up all the rubbish and there was a "tremendous amount of anti-social behaviour" by the river.

"The litter there is quite atrocious," she said.

Ms Shepherd said it was caused by both residents and outsiders and hoped this year's container deposit scheme would help.

Mrs Duggan said rangers were desperately needed, although the council supported them by collecting rubbish they took to high ground.


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