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HomeIssue 31Two years CLP government: The Mayor's view

Two years CLP government: The Mayor's view

p2140DamienRyanIanYarkerMayor Damien Ryan (left) is pictured last night with Ian Yarker, vice-president of the Rotary E-Club NextGen in the Gold Coast, during a Town Council welcoming reception for 35 members of the club. They are on a tag-along tour to raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, travelling 6500 kms in 18 vehicles. They will also assist the three local Rotary Clubs running the Henley on Todd tomorrow. There are now 150 Rotary e-clubs in which 4000 of the 1.2 million Rotarians world-wide meet online, using Skype-like video and audio software, no matter where they are. Mr Yarker told last night’s function the Gold Coast club’s secretary needs to get up at 4am to attend the dinner meetings. He lives in North Carolina, USA.
On August 25 it will be two years since the CLP government came to power after 11 years in Opposition.
What has Alice Springs gained? What promises have been kept, which ones have been broken?
There were great expectations that with like-minded governments in Darwin and Canberra, with every Member of Parliament south of the Barkly on the government benches, and (soon after the election) a Chief Minister from The Alice, great things could be made to happen. Have they?
Editor ERWIN CHLANDA will talk with community leaders over the next few days, starting with Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan, asking him abut law and order.
MAYOR: It seems to be on the improve, we don’t have the same amount of discussion around it. The temporary [police] beat locations on licensees seems to be having an effect. Community people who talk to me seem to think it’s effective.
NEWS: Could you put statistical results on this?
MAYOR: I haven’t sat down and worked out a percentage.
NEWS: Economic activities – there are quite a few empty shops.
MAYOR: And quite a few new ones.
NEWS: Are there more empty ones or more new ones?
MAYOR: Over two years, including Bunnings, probably 20 new businesses.
NEWS: In what fields mostly?
The Mayor names businesses including Rocky’s Pizza, a nightclub, the Memo Club and Epilogue restaurant (both re-opened closed businesses), boutiques, hire cycles, fitness, recycling, a motorbike dealership, “an array of different ones”. The “high profile ones” to have closed are Bev Ellis (Dymock’s books) and Pam Hooper (Don Thomas Stockman Outfitters). “They wanted to retire and couldn’t find a buyer, so they retired.”
NEWS: What could the government do to stimulate business?
p1933-Youth-Centre-drawing-300x220MAYOR, after mentioning contracts “which stimulated some work” on the Youth Centre (worth $2.5m – pictured) and Anzac Oval:  You hear of lots of things in the pipeline, hopefully they come true, building-wise.
NEWS: What are they?
MAYOR: I’ve been told in confidence.
NEWS: How much would be spent on these, say, in the next year? Is there something big coming?
MAYOR: Not from government. Among private interests there is a lot of talk.
The Mayor mentions a 45km gas pipeline to the power station at Brewer Estate, out to tender at the moment.
NEWS: Are you aware of any multi-million dollar projects in the near future?
MAYOR: There are some projects being discussed that I can’t really talk to you about. In due course I think these things will happen.
NEWS: Government or private?
MAYOR: These are projects I can’t really talk to you about.
p2110sitzler-bdg-parsons-stNEWS: Are there government initiatives you would like to see to stimulate more businesses?
MAYOR: I’m not really sure what I could put my finger on there. Like all of us we’ll like to see the land coming off at Kilgariff. The Sitzler Building (sketch pictured at left) on the old Commonwealth Bank site – there must be something happening there. That’s going to be a good community injection over time.
NEWS: Kilgariff blocks are going to sell for $180,000. That’s double and triple of what similar blocks – most with a bay view – are selling for in Streaky Bay, where lots of Alice people have land. *) Are we getting a handle on availability of land?
MAYOR: It wouldn’t be very smart to put dirt out at $60,000. You would undercut a lot of people in the community who have debts at the bank, and mortgages. I am one of those people. I have a mortgage.
NEWS: Are you saying the price of land is kept artificially high, but for a good reason?
MAYOR: Is it artificially high or driven up by bad decisions in the past?
NEWS: What do you think?
MAYOR: I’m not sure, but in reply to your question, at that price mark, it would put me in a difficult situation if land was devalued like that. It would also make an interesting scenario with the council rates structure. Our rates are pegged at the unimproved capital value. What’s more, I can’t see how practically you could open up a piece of dirt and lay all the services to it at that price.
NEWS: There is a review of the parks in town.
MAYOR: A report by officers is up for public consultation until the end of September. It’s our first online consultation, but we do have hard copies as well.
NEWS: Would the council entertain using some of its parks land for houses and flats, perhaps with support from the NT Government which, as we see in Kilgariff, has embarked on real estate development?
MAYOR: I would wait to see what the response to the parks report is, bit it’s not out there for that reason. It’s about the costs of maintaining parks.
NEWS: Most dwellings being built now are small and crammed onto small spaces – 68 dwellings on a former bowling club site, for example. Should the NT Government play a further role in residential real estate?
p2106-Uniting-Church-2OK-283x300MAYOR: One minute you are questioning the price, on the other you are wanting to build a Ponderosa. You can’t have you cake and eat it. There is a portion of people who love their yards. Others don’t find yards are an enjoyment. They find them a chore. Developers develop what the market demands.
NEWS: The Uniting Church, using its own land in Todd Mall, and in collaboration with Council, is promoting a $70m project with 70 apartments and extensive community and business spaces. The NT Government has rejected a request for seed funding of just $2m.
MAYOR: That’s up to the Uniting Church. I am not sure where the [proposed financial] structure is at the moment between Uniting Church and the council. We’ll get a report on that in the future.
The Mayor refers to an earlier – unsuccessful – application for $15m to the federal Regional Development Australia, which he chairs in the NT. So far as the request to the NT Government is concerned “we tried again further but we couldn’t make the numbers stack up between us,” he says.
MAYOR: We’re still working on it.
NEWS: Bruce Walker, for the Uniting Church, said $2m from the NT Government would kickstart the project.
MAYOR: You need to speak to Bruce about that. My discussion around what the council would put in for, in a joint submission, did not get a guernsey.
NEWS: Would you like the NT Government to become involved in some form of kickstart funding?
MAYOR: I don’t think governments do kickstart funding. I’d love to see a proposal that gets a lot of people ’round the table and got the project built.
NEWS: The NT Government just gave $100,000 to the pub in Wauchope.
MAYOR: Oh, what’s that for?
NEWS: That’s what I want to know.
MAYOR: I don’t know the answer to that. I’d have to know their proposal for me to comment about that.
p2140-Joy-BaluchNEWS: Well, it seems to be funding for a private enterprise project. Changing subject, what happened to the Port Augusta solution whose introduction in Alice Springs was discussed extensively, following a report we published on March 12, 2012. I quote from that story: Under the no-holds-barred Mayor Joy Baluch (pictured), the Port Augusta council drives the local state and federal agencies, not the other way round. They are held to account in monthly meetings. This has gone a long way towards a solution of what was a near-terminal anti-social behaviour and alcohol crisis. **)
MAYOR: Local government is different in every state in Australia. The situation was difficult there and it was difficult here, but I think there was a considerable change in recent times. We have coordination meetings in this town on a regular basis. This council has regular involvement with different groups with government departments and with heads.
NEWS: How often?
MAYOR: There are a few different ones. I have regular meetings with the Department of the Chief Minister. Those sorts of things to not happen on the scale you are suggesting Joy had.
MAYOR: Which other departments do you have regular contact with?
MAYOR: I have contact with most people who are responsible very regularly.
NEWS: Once a year, twice a year?
MAYOR: No, very regularly.
NEWS: Monthly?
MAYOR: You probably see it in my reports I put out every month, whom I’ve met with. [ED – These reports do not outline the purpose of the meetings nor what was discussed. Sometimes councillors during the monthly meeting query the Mayor about the purpose. The explanations are usually brief.]
NEWS: Just you or the whole council?
MAYOR: Some with just myself and the CEO, some with other members of the organisation, other directors. We don’t live in a silo. We have a very good working relationship with the NT Government.
NEWS: Is there overlap and duplication between the multitudes of NGOs and government agencies? There was a meeting recently but it wasn’t open to the public.
MAYOR: Everybody keeps telling me we have so many of them. Having done a little bit around the health sector in the last 12 months, there is a lot of coordination there. I’m not sure about the others.
NEWS: Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and the hospital are pretty well across the road from each-other, both get a lot of money, and do very similar things.
MAYOR: I don’t have anything to do with Congress.
NEWS: How is the tourism industry going?
MAYOR: We do a lot for people who run events, whether they be the annual events or the once-offs such as Ulysses. They brought people to town. Talking to some of the caravan park owners, they’ve seen an increase this year of grey nomads. For Ulysses it was the first time ever to have their AGM twice in the same location. There seem to be a lot of children’s groups this year at different times.
NEWS: Henley on Todd used to have lots of school buses.
MAYOR: It’s outside of the school holiday program now.
NEWS: Is there something Tourism NT could do to rekindle that level of interest?
MAYOR: Henley always benefits where there is another event around at the same time. Some years ago the Variety Club were here. Dick Smith came to town and presented a Liberty Swing to Acacia School. The Black Dog bike rally finished here at some time. Henley on Todd also gives good value to people who live here.
The next big one is going to be the Masters Games. A lot of locals get a lot out of that.
NEWS: When you look at total numbers of tourists here compared to the last five years …
MAYOR: I don’t have those numbers.
The Mayor outlines the assistance the council gives to organisers of functions, in terms of manpower and access to venues, supply of toilets, removing rubbish, and so on: “That’s where our commitments roll on.”
NEWS: Do you think the Ayers Rock Resort is a competitor? Should the NT Government spend a lot of money to promote it rather than Alice Springs?
MAYOR: I would hope governments would always promote Central Australia. Should Hungry Jacks be allowed to be across the road from MacDonalds? They both bounce off each-other. A healthy Ayers Rock leads to a healthy Central Australia.
NEWS: Would you like the West MacDonnells to be developed and promoted beyond the current level? Should they have wilderness lodges, for example?
MAYOR: That would be wonderful, if an investor can be found.
NEWS: Has Council tried to find one?
MAYOR: No, Council hasn’t. This is not its area. We don’t have the wherewithal to find an individual and plonk them into a wilderness park.
NEWS: Young people have been a problem at times.
p2027-landfill-sewage-aeri-300x163MAYOR: I can only go by what we are advised by agencies. It seems at the moment there is not a spiralling growth of misconduct. Winter is an unusual time to judge those things. Law and Order has worked pretty well under this government so far.
NEWS: The dump – I always call it that, sorry, I should say landfill …
MAYOR: Waste Management Facility (pictured right) is the word these days …
NEWS: I should wash out my mouth with soap – what is the latest on the requirement for additional land? The options seem to be expanding westward into Desert Park land, or maintain the new – and very convenient – public transfer station but take the rubbish elsewhere.
MAYOR: At this stage we won’t be going anywhere else. We have invested a lot of money in that site and we’ll continue to work on that site.
NEWS: That was money well spent …
MAYOR: It’s not going to be a transfer station. Where we treat rubbish is right there.
NEWS: So you will you extend into the Desert Park?
MAYOR: We don’t have any more land there. We worked smartly on that piece of dirt, extended the life of the site, and the safety factor. No-one actually going to the tip face is a huge win for the community.
NEWS: And that, of course, wouldn’t change if you tipped the rubbish elsewhere.
MAYOR: Huge change. Millions and millions and millions of dollars. And I would be intrigued where you would find a piece of dirt, and if it was 100 kilometres away, think of the cost of transport.
NEWS: My understanding from government sources is that there is plenty of land for that at or near the Brewer industrial estate, and that’s about 20 kms.
MAYOR: Our direction is where we are, and we’ll continue with that.
The News asks the Mayor whether the council has made a feasibility study of relocating the dumping part of the waste management facility, and whether suitable land for it is available. He says that has not been done.
NEWS: Are you surprised that in two years of CLP Government no large projects have been started, other than what you have mentioned already?
MAYOR: The promise in the election was the Youth Centre. I’m not sure what big projects you are looking at.
NEWS: A national Aboriginal arts centre, for example.
MAYOR: I’ve heard that discussed, too, but I’ve not been able to see where that finance would come from.
NEWS: From the government, perhaps?
MAYOR: I’ve not heard the government say they are going to do that. I’d love to see things built but I’m not going to make a hysterical statement that we need to build a skyscraper to pacify some desire you have got there.
NEWS: Cr Steve Brown is the latest to suggest some facility on top of the MacDonnell Range, incorporating a restaurant.
MAYOR: I haven’t heard Steve speak of that in the council.
NEWS: Do you have any other thoughts on the theme of “two years CLP Government”?
MAYOR: I think we’ve covered it pretty well. We work with what is there, and that’s what you do.
*) Blocks of 700 to 800 square meters in Streaky Bay, unless they are on the waterfront, sell for $70,000 to $80,000. Development costs are $40,000 to $50,000 per block. They have power, telephone, water, a septic tank, a sewerage pipe to a communal effluent system, and are on a bitumen road with streetlights.
**) The Town Council spent $13,000 + on a consultant’s report on the ‘Port Augusta solution’ but since then the discussion has dropped from view.


  1. A further question for the Mayor would be for him to confirm or deny wide speculation in the community that he is preparing to run as the CLP candidate for Greatorex?
    His commentary in response to your questions, Erwin, seem more than pragmatic. They seem almost like “spin”.

  2. “Bob”: Your comment will not be published because you do not comply with our rule that if you wish to attack someone, you need to provide your full name for publication, and a phone number for verification.
    We will not allow writers to attack people from the vantage point of anonymity.
    I tried to send an email to the address you provided but it bounced back. Feel free to ring me any time.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

  3. @ anonymously Concerned: You read the Mayor’s replies and understand that the comments you make of the CLP removing Matt Conlan and putting in the Mayor are just mischief making.
    Matt Conlan in his role for tourism and housing is doing an amazing job. The right people in key positions in the departments and cleaning house and getting the departments working.
    The Mayor has no clear defind political alignment and he is very clear he is not and never has been a member of any political party.
    Fran was Mayor from a strong CLP family and she went Labor and failed in territory politics.
    Progressive is still a tag applied to Liberal mentality and conservative thinking.
    Yet I must admit there are a number of socialists in the liberal parties around Australia and I am at a loss why they are permitted to remain members.
    Socialism and conservativism are poles apart on ideology and philosophy. Malcolm Turnbull is a prime example of socialism in the liberal ranks. But I have gone off subject. Again Matt Conlan is performing amazingly in his role why would he be targeted for removal. The answer is clear: he is not.

  4. Having recently (in the past two weeks) spent some time in Port Augusta, Alice Springs (and the hard work of the Town Council and NTG) can feel pretty proud of itself.
    I was disappointed to see a high number of itinerants humbugging people and a town that is quite dirty and umkempt (particularly around the CBD) after for many years being an exemplar for turning things around.
    This deterioration was confirmed in conversations I had with former Alice residents who live in the vicinity of Port Augusta.
    Keep up the good work Alice!


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