As police continue their law and order blitz in Alice, the Town Council stumbles towards a bigger picture approach.
By KIERAN FINNANE
At last night’s meeting councillors appeared to vote for something they did not want.
Instead of a report on how the Port Augusta council calls governments and bureaucrats to account for their policies and actions in that town, councillors instructed, by formal vote, the Director of Corporate and Community Services to engage a consultant to evaluate the Port Augusta Alcohol Management Group and its community alcohol management plan.
This is despite their determination in the committee meeting a fortnight ago that what they wanted to understand about Port Augusta went well beyond how that town manages alcohol issues.
At that committee meeting Councillor Liz Martin said she was looking for something far more “holistic”. She also identified a number of points of difference between Port Augusta and Alice Springs, one being a much lesser degree of “urban drift”, due to the number of well-serviced communities and towns (with hospitals and sporting grounds, for example) within a 250 km radius of the southern city.
Cr Steve Brown, who originally got the ball rolling on the “Port Augusta model”, also made clear a fortnight ago that his interest was not specifically about alcohol, but rather the overall management of the town. The Alice Springs Town Council does not have a group that “oversees the management of the entire town through all its aspects”, he said.
Cr Martin agreed: “We need to take a leading role in our town”, she said, telling the other levels of government what needs to be done about the issues “they cause in our town with their policies”.
Last night’s instruction to the director stipulated that the evaluation will make comparisons between Alice Springs and Port Augusta and will also provide a desktop evaluation of “similar plans” in Ceduna, Mildura and Katherine, but the fact remains that the two specific points of focus for the consultation were identified in the motion as the Port Augusta Alcohol Management Group and its community alcohol management plan.
The Alice Springs News Online spoke to Cr Brown and Mayor Damien Ryan after the meeting, to ask whether they were concerned that their motion would too narrowly focus the consultation. They assured the Alice News that the director knew what councillors were after.
The Alice News sought further clarification from the director, Craig Catchlove, today. He said in an email: “The consultancy will have a broad focus. If you read the Plan you will see it covers a very broad swathe of issues, and this consultancy will be looking at everything that is relevant even if not in the Plan.”
The Alice News has read the Plan, subtitled “A journey Towards Responsible Drinking in Our Community”. While it does cover a broad range of issues as any alcohol plan worthy of the name would do, it does not go beyond that. It does not resemble in any way the kind of council-convened group with a “holistic” overseeing focus as envisaged by Crs Brown and Martin.
Mr Catchlove has a consultant in mind – someone who has done a lot of work for council before and who has had senior roles in local government in South Australia. That person has quoted $13,280 to deliver a report to council. Let’s hope that it does end up being a report on something council wants to know, because Alice Springs already has an alcohol management plan, as well as a community action plan.