… but will the public get to hear about it?
By KIERAN FINNANE
Councillor Steve Brown has taken the first step to get discussion on the table of an alternative to future expansion of the landfill west into the beautiful Ilparpa Valley.
He raised the issue as “other business” at last night’s Town Council Technical Services committee meeting, which he chaired. He said the land west of the dump, adjoining the Wildlife Park, was much too valuable as a potential tourist area to be used for waste disposal. He wanted to see a report from officers on the alternatives.
Mayor Damien Ryan was the first to pour cold water on the idea, pointing out that the landfill is a registered asbestos disposal site and as such the adjacent land is unlikely to be seen as attractive by tourists.
Greg Buxton, Director of Technical Services, said land comparable to what has been offered to council free of charge would cost $12-14m to purchase. A location like the Brewer Industrial Estate would also involve the cost of transporting waste. As well, alternatives would be subject to an Indigenous Land Use Agreement, so there would be no gain there.
Cr Brown said he had been led to believe that there were “numerous” other parcels of land available, for instance owned by the NT Government. He wanted council to look forwards, to the eventual removal of the sewerage ponds and installation of water treatment works, when that part of the valley would be rehabilitated.
Mr Buxton said he was happy to review current direction but the government had made no other suggestions about available land when it made the offer of the “paperbark swamp” block west of the landfill’s present site.
Cr Eli Melky said whoever made the original decision to site the landfill where it is was wrong. He also understood that the current dump has a limited life, so sooner or later council will have to look for alternative. He would hate to be seen as having made a bad decision 70 years hence when the land to the west had also been contaminated. He was 100% behind Cr Brown.
CEO Rex Mooney said local government areas across the country face the same predicament: the land in the best strategic locations, with the best views is always occupied by waste facilities and cemeteries.
At this stage Cr Brown asked for a show of hands but was only supported by Cr Melky.
Mayor Ryan said he had would have difficulty looking for somewhere else given that council had just invested $4.5m in the current site. Cr Brown interrupted: he wasn’t talking about shifting the transfer station. He just didn’t want council to commit themselves to another 50 years of dumping in that location.
Mayor Ryan wanted to know more about the alternatives Cr Brown was aware of. Cr Brown was hesitant, not wanting to name names in the Chamber, but he mentioned land available alongside the Brewer Estate and various spots on pastoral leases.
Was he talking about a 60km round trip from the CBD, Mayor Ryan wanted to know.
No, a 20 km round trip, he replied.
It was easy to object to Cr Brown’s proposal unless you were looking to what Alice Springs will be like in the future, commented Cr Melky.
Deputy Mayor Liz Martin agreed the land in Ilparpa Valley is “absolutely valuable” and “a wasted resource for our town” but wanted any report to focus on a specific alternative location, with detail on costs. She was supported by Crs Jade Kudrenko, Brendan Heenan, Dave Douglas and Chansey Paech.
Cr Paech said a report should also look at the environmental and occupational health and safety aspects of the land Cr Brown wants to protect, in that it is next door to the landfill.
It was looking like Cr Brown was going to get his report.
Mayor Ryan now suggested that such a report, comparing land for land, may have to be considered in a confidential meeting.
Cr Paech didn’t like the sound of this: if the owners gave their consent, the report should remain in open, he said. Cr Melky agreed: even if parts of the report needed to stay in confidential, the rest should be discussed in open.
The question of a motion to frame Cr Brown’s request was raised. Mayor Ryan didn’t think a motion was required. He said the meeting had made it very clear what they wanted; the director just needed to bring them the report “in confidential” telling the where that “piece of dirt” is.
Cr Melky still thought the “commitment” of a motion was a good idea, but Cr Brown asked for a show of hands. Cr Kudrenko said she would support the report only if it was as the Mayor had put it, able to tell councillors where the alternative land is.
Cr Brown did not take it further.
So time will tell what kind of a report he gets and whether or not the public will have access to it.
… but will the public get to hear about it?