By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Town Council will re-submit an application for Federal funding for a “meeting place” and a multi-storey car park in Hartley Street and Gregory Terrace although Mayor Damien Ryan concedes there is no detailed knowledge about who needs a car park.
Asked how many parking spaces are being used, for example, by people driving to work who could easily be walking, riding a pushbike or using public transport, Mayor Ryan said: “I don’t have these numbers.”
He says the shortage of car parking would get worse when the Melanka site becomes unavailable for impromptu parking as the $100m development gets under way.
When will that be, we asked Mayor Ryan (at left): “I don’t have an answer to that at the moment. Like you I’m waiting to see.”
(The Alice Springs News Online, quoting a spokesman for the Ainsworth family group, reported on September 12 that a sales office would open on the site before the end of the year. There is no sign of a sales office and the spokesman isn’t returning our calls.)
Meanwhile Councillor Jade Kudrenko says she will be giving thought to how the application could be modified “so we’re not flogging a dead horse”.
She says she asked at Monday’s meeting for a guarantee that there would be opportunities for a revision of the plans, and she had been given that assurance by CEO Rex Mooney.
Cr Kudrenko says a partnership with the Uniting Church for the development of the area may be well worth another look.
Says Cr Kudrenko (at right): “The original project incorporated several elements, not just a car park, but also residences and offices, a big open green space, a cultural centre and a town hall.”
Mayor Ryan provided no firm data supporting the need for the 300-plus car parking spaces planned in a three-story building in the middle of town.
He does not support with facts his general assertions: “The town has a huge need for car parking in the CBD.
“That’s an issue that’s been talked about for numerous years” and is “very obvious, especially when we look at the number of people who have difficulties.
“Bicycle numbers have increased this year but nowhere near to remove” the issue of need for more car parking.
“In November there were 200 parking tickets handed out,” says Mayor Ryan.
The Alice Springs News Online put to Mayor Ryan: What is Alice Springs doing at a time when the entire world is trying to cut back on fossil fuel consumption? Is the council encouraging more people to use their cars?
“Very good point [but] in the winter there are more cyclists than in the summer.
“We are very keen to develop the meeting space in the centre of town. That again will remove more car parks, next to the post office.
“If we’re going to move those cars we need to move them to somewhere. That’s why we applied for funding for a car park in the CBD.”
NEWS: That will be done without knowing exactly who would be using those car parks. No survey has been done.
MAYOR: The car numbers in the town are very large. There are requests from the community regularly around car parking. Whenever there has been a new building we have not been supported by the consent authority in the requirements for numbers of car parks. We now need to do something about that.
Mayor Ryan was not prepared to discuss in detail the process within Council that led to the application for Regional Development Australia (RDA) Stronger Futures funds.
He did not provide professional research information about home occupation (despite referring to it twice in our interview); nor about the closing of businesses in Todd Mall; nor about the increase of online shopping.
Cr Kudrenko says there has not been “much public consultation” about the currently proposed application, but the council had invested money and effort into the new plans, and may now feel obligated to go ahead with them.
However, she says the issues should be seen in their broader context “of congestion in the CBD, lots of half raised parking and traffic islands” and other impediments to traffic flow.
“It is not an open and inviting space,” she says.
The Super Tuesday bicycle counts, “year on year have shown Alice Springs has one of the highest per-capita bike use in in the nation”.
This information, she says, should be complemented with a professional survey by qualified staff – unlike the recent parks survey.
“We need to learn to engage with the community,” she says.
There is a clear need for car parks for some members of the community, such as the disabled and mothers with young children.
Mayor Ryan says the proposed car park site would not be suitable for the long-discussed national indigenous cultural museum.
“It would be very inappropriate without any car parking … anywhere for buses to put down people. I think we need to find a different spot” for the cultural museum.
“A meeting place would be far more suitable for the community.
“A museum would be a terrific asset for Alice Springs but there are discussions by other people and lots of other places. It wouldn’t be there.”
NEWS: Where should it be, do you think?
MAYOR: Wherever we can find the correct space. The site of the car park is only one-third of the space required for this cultural centre.
NEWS: How many tourists who would visit the cultural centre come to Alice Springs by car?
MAYOR: I think that would be a good question for tourism.
NEWS: Do you consult with Tourism Central Australia about projects of this kind?
MAYOR: We work with a lot of bodies across town. If you are talking about the application to Stronger Futures, yes.”
NEWS: What did they say?
MAYOR: We haven’t had anybody who is negative to the concept about what we are trying to create in the centre of town.
NEWS: Has there been a change in the relationship between Tourism Central Australia (TCA) and the council?
MAYOR: They have a new constitution and charter [since last month].
NEWS: Do you find it unfortunate that the link that existed between TCA and the Council is less strong now? For example, the Council has no longer a seat on the TCA board.
MAYOR: I wasn’t supportive on the changes in the constitution. I sat on that board for some years as a council representative but that particular way is no longer available.
Cr Kudrenko says the town still doesn’t have a good handle on the indigenous cultural centre concept: “The idea needs to be grounded in what the community can offer as well as national expectations.”
She says the successful RDA applications around the nation had included many multi-purpose sporting facilities projects.
The council spends $1.7m a year on sports facilities, she says, a “conservative” figure given extensive in-kind support on top of that.
“There are expectations of having national standard facilities in Alice Springs,” she says.
Without a grant there would need to be rate increases: “We need to consolidate facilities.”
By ERWIN CHLANDA