Council news in brief
By KIERAN FINNANE
Will Santos be spending money on sponsorship of sports in town, Councillor Brendan Heenan wanted to know, after representatives of the oil and gas company told the Town Council last night about their planned $100 million expenditure on a new drilling program at Mereenie. “Rest assured”, sponsorship money will be available, he was told.
The company intends to take production back to near record heights in the new program. At present they take out one truckload out a day. “On success”, that will increase to around seven truckloads a day.
There’ll be job opportunities, with the company hoping particularly to engage local Aboriginal labour. There are 11 Aboriginal men, from Alice and communities near Mereenie, working at present on upgrading the new workers’ camp on site.
Public places by-law infringement could be a nice little earner?
There were 377 public places by-laws infringement notices issued in the month of January this year. This compares to nine in January last year, and 97 and 44 in February and March respectively this year. The accompanying fines for January 2013 alone amount to $162,009, a figure which drew the eye of Cr Eli Melky. When will it arrive in councils coffers, he wanted to know.
The infringements notices were mostly due to the activity of police, explained Craig Catchlove, director of Corporate and Community Services. He hasarded a guess that most of the recipients would be on welfare and even if the Fines Recovery Unit eventually catches up with them, the amounts deducted from their benefits would be small.
Looking back in council papers to February’s report on January’s results, the bulk of the infringements were for drinking liquor in a public place (228), followed by possessing an opened liquor container (76). There were 34 for depositing litter, 18 for behaving indecently, nine for failing to comply with a direction to leave the public place. In monetary terms these last yielded more (on paper, $705)) than the all drinking liquor infringements ($423). Big ‘earners’ were failing to provide evidence of identity (one infringement = $564); failing to provide information (two infringements = $564); providing false information (two infringements = $705).
So if the police are doing the enforcement of council’s by-laws, what are the rangers doing, Cr Melky wanted to know. Mr Catchlove assured him they still do their “river runs” each morning. Graphs in council papers show a big decrease in people “spoken to” for January when the police were on the job, up significantly in February (and one and a half times as many as in the same month in 2012) and then down again in March (and just a quarter of the figure for March last year).
On the public consumption of alcohol, the current papers who that while rangers spoke to zero people and issued zero infringement notices, they still tipped out 24 standard drinks.in January In February they spoke to a total of 15 people, issued zero infringement notices and tipped out 28 drinks; in March, 22 people were spoken to, two notices issue and four drinks tipped out.
Cr Melky expressed his strong opposition to the practice of tipping out drinks. But that is what the by-laws state that rangers must do, countered Mr Catchlove. It’s still “not right”, said Cr Melky. And despite Mr Catchlove’s explanation that rangers had been tied up dealing with a lot of dog issues, including a “large spate” of attacks and barking dogs that are “intensive” in labour, Cr Melky repeated that the rangers are “ineffective, having given up on giving anyone a fine: “Our resources are wasted,” he said.
‘Poor’ performance on important issues, but what are they?
By-law enforcement was among the top five areas of council responsibility that respondents to a community survey want them to focus on. The others were: recycling, antisocial behaviour, alcohol awareness and keeping the town clean. If these were reported in order, then by-law enforcement was fifth, with recycling first.
Cr Brendan Heenan thought that antisocial behaviour and alcohol awareness could be set aside as NT Government responsibilities. However Cr Geoff Booth said council has to take “some ownership” in relation to antisocial behaviour.
Of the total 373 returned, 330 survey forms were completed; 40 were left empty or were “abusive”. Mayor Damien Ryan wanted to know how the return rate could be improved. Mr Catchlove said they’ll be looking at the possibility of an online survey for next time but want to be sure it can be protected from an “organised bombardment” by sectional interests. He said the 4-5% return rate was “very good for a survey of this nature”.
There was some consternation amongst aldermen about the rating as “poor” of council’s performance on issues important to the respondents. 194 had ticked the “poor” box, compared to 115 for “good” and 136 for “satisfactory”. What were those issues where council’s performance was seen as poor, Cr Heenan wanted to know. Cr Booth suggested that some indication was given by the answers to the question on what respondents wanted council to focus on (as quoted above).
Of interest to Cr Melky, perhaps, is that comments on dealing with rangers were “negative”. However, the survey results (and perhaps the survey itself, with its many over-lapping and broad questions) is confusing. In an answer to another question, rangers were described as “fantastic”.
Santos sponsorship, unpaid fines, survey consternation
Council news in brief