By KIERAN FINNANE
MacDonnell Shire Council reinstated its leadership duo at the first meeting of the new council yesterday, returning Sid Anderson to the presidency, with Roxanne Kenny as his deputy.
Councillor Irene Nangala nominated Cr Anderson, seconded by Cr Lance Abbott. Both are from Luritja Pintubi Ward in the north-west of the shire, as is Cr Anderson. But Cr Richard Doolan from Rodinga Ward, at the eastern end, and Cr Barry Abbott from Ljirapinta Ward in the middle, both raised their hands to back his nomination. There was no dissent.
Taking his seat to chair the meeting, Cr Anderson thanked the councillors for “having confidence” in him, adding simply, “We’ll work together.”
It was a quiet victory for the shire leader who in his first term had to weather protracted media controversy over his past as well as an outcry over a proposed contract out-sourcing a shire function to a firm in India.
Cr Kenny (first elected from the Ljirapinta Ward) was nominated by Cr Nangala, seconded by Cr Marlene Abbott (Iyarrka Ward, south-west).
Discussion during the meeting showed councillors to be thinking beyond their own patch. In deciding on where to hold their meetings over the coming 12 months (yesterday’s was in Alice Springs), Cr Barry Abbott said this should be discussed with the communities. Cr Anderson supported him as did Cr Kenny, saying she was keen to see council go to places “that might need us out there to talk to the people”. She suggested Kintore, which is “struggling”, but a meeting was held there last year and the community also has limited accommodation for visitors.
Cr Braydon Williams (Ljirapinta Ward) suggested Areyonga (also known as Utju), as they are experiencing “big problems” (he didn’t say what these are and nor did the local board minutes reveal them). Everyone agreed, so the June meeting will be held there. A later meeting may be held at Imanpa where improvements are expected following the appointment of Joe Rawson, formerly a councillor, as shire services coordinator for the community.
Councillors also supported CEO Diane Hood’s proposed shire-wide leadership program for young women aged 18 to 25 – “the hardest to engage” but the group representing “the greatest opportunity to close the gap”. The shire has applied for funding to develop this program in conjunction with its youth development service. Proposed activities included a leadership trek and a women’s law and culture gathering.
Councillors also supported a request from Cr Barry Abbott that a letter from the shire go to Centrelink about clients who wish to remain out bush being allowed to do, with their forms being sent to where they are, rather than them having to return to town to lodge their forms. Cr Barry Abbott’s concern was for people who get into bad habits in town, such as drug-taking, but who stay out of trouble when they’re out bush.
Councillors are important eyes and ears in communities. They had asked for an update on shire expenditure on outstations within its boundaries. This seems to have arisen as a result of complaints from families on outstations to the February meeting of the Watiyawanu/Mt Liebig Local Board that not enough money was being spent on outstations.
The update was tabled at council yesterday. There are six outstations in the Watiyawanu area, two of them (with three dwellings all up) categorised as unoccupied or only occasionally occupied. The remaining four had a total of eight dwellings and two ablutions blocks. Total expenditure for the financial year to date was $180,318, which included the purchase of a generator and pump. The average expenditure per dwelling was in the mid-range.
In all across the shire there appear to be 10 unoccupied or occasionally occupied outstations, with 31 dwellings – “If we’re wrong about that, you need to tell us, councillors,” said Ms Hood.
Money being spent on unoccupied outstations
One is Ngutjul near Kintore, with six houses and an ablutions block. Cr Lance Abbott wanted to know why money had been spent there and what it had achieved. It was a relatively small amount ($30,810 in this financial year to date) but it all adds up for the cash-strapped shire. Tiny outstations near Docker River, with one dwelling on each, had also had money spent them ($64,508 which included a $32,254 “rubbish tip invoice”) although they too were listed as unoccupied.
Some are used for community events, said Ms Hood, others for holidays and small amounts of money are spent “just on basics”.
Cr Lance Abbott suggested to Cr Anderson that “we might pop around there to have a look” at Ngutjul.
Council is also hoping for clarification from Cr Lance Abbot on why Kintore store has not made the contributions it promised towards the running of the Kintore pool. An agreement was signed in 2008 although the local board minutes suggest that such an agreement is in dispute. Cr Nangala suggested that pool users are being charged $2 which was news to Ms Hood: “Maybe someone is charging money who shouldn’t be.” She would look into it.
MacDonnell Shire has seven local boards. Five held successful meetings in the most recent periods, but two, Finke and Docker River, failed to reach quorum.
The minutes show some common areas of concern, one being local employment. At Haast’s Bluff/Ikuntji people wanted to know if locals could do Team Leader jobs. Two are apparently in training and doing well. The same question was asked at Papunya, where there are local Team Leaders for Aged Care and Night Patrol. People at the meeting wanted to see more locals in the Youth Services jobs. They were asked to identify other community members willing to work consistently and undertake training. It is shire policy to promote local employment including in leadership roles.
Another common issue is around the use of government property, for example night patrol vehicles being used for private purposes (this has previously come up in an ordinary council meeting and was a point of discussion for the local boards at Haast’s Bluff and Kintore), wanting private access to the shire workshed (Haast’s Bluff), children removing airstrip lights (Kintore).
A lot of the issues are small but if responded to or resolved they all mount up to a better quality of life, although with some of them, one wonders why people could not take the initiative to do certain things themselves. Will the shire sponsor trophies for sports weekend? Will the shire buy a tyre-changer for Haast’s Bluff? Will the shire organise the painting of the inside of houses, carports in the yards? Will it build a proper concrete drain around the aged care facility at Areyonga?
Pictured, from top: The new MacDonnell Shire Council in the shire meeting room yesterday, from left, Marlene Abbott, Selina Kulitja, Irene Nangala, Greg Sharman, Roxanne Kenny (deputy president), Barry Abbott, Sid Anderson (president), Braydon Williams, Richard Doolan, Lance Abbott, Jacob Hoosan. The council still has one vacancy in the Rodinga Ward. • Sid Anderson in his habitual cap during a break yesterday. • New councillors Barry Abbott (left) and Braydon Williams taking a break with deputy president Roxanne Kenny.