Town Council in time warp on nuke waste



Above:  Traditional owners of the area proposed for a nuclear waste facility south of Alice Springs took part in a protest gathering this morning, organised by the Greens in the Senate courtyard of Parliament House in Canberra. Pictured are Reggie Kenny, Loyola Jones and Peter Kenny. A spokesperson for them, Tara Liddy, says there is unanimous opposition to the site from traditional owners in that region.  She says they consider the consultation process to have been flawed and insubstantial. The group was due to meet with Senator Nova Peris but she cancelled, says Ms Liddy.

The Town Council will reiterate an 11-year-old motion opposing a radioactive waste facility being built anywhere in the Northern Territory as its submission on the current short-listing of the Aridgold Date Farm site, 75 kms south of the town, for a national facility to take Australian-generated low and intermediate level waste.
Further, the council will forward as part of that submission to the Commonwealth a vehemently worded letter by then Mayor Fran Kilgarriff, whose central point was to express the town’s “outrage” at the Commonwealth’s failure to consult over its then proposed imposition of a nuclear waste facility on the NT. The choice was between one of three Commonwealth-owned sites, two of them close to Alice Springs. The site at Mount Everard was just 30 kms from town. The first thing Mayor Kilgariff heard of that proposal was via a radio broadcast, according to her angry letter.
This time round the Commonwealth has said it will not impose the facility on an unwilling community, although what it will do if none of the short-listed six is willing remains unclear.
p2312-Chansey-Paech-portraiNeither is it clear that the Town Council’s 2005 motion accurately reflects the views of current members. Its chief merit seems to be that it was a way for Mayor Damien Ryan to trounce Councillor Chansey Paech’s attempt for council to voice its opposition to the current proposal. Cr Paech (pictured) had placed a notice of motion to that effect before last night’s council meeting.
In the ensuing debate Mayor Ryan, his voice heavy with sarcasm, expressed his “surprise” that Cr Paech’s supporting notes did not include reference to the 2005 motion, which remains an official expression of council policy as long as it is not rescinded. He made repeated reference to the failings of Cr Paech’s “research”.
Despite the Territory-wide reach of council’s opposition in 2005, which by default he was promoting, Mayor Ryan also noted that the MacDonnell Regional Council had not passed a motion of opposition and did not know why the Alice Town Council would be “leading the charge” on the issue.
Cr Jade Kudrenko pointed out that the 2005 motion did not address the current proposal specifically. She also said that the Commonwealth’s consultation group, at its recent meeting with elected members, had requested council’s formal advice of its position. She said it was clear from the discussions at that meeting that “none of us” supported the proposal at this stage.
Mayor Ryan insisted that the previous motion would have to be rescinded.
CEO Rex Money clarified: it would only have to be rescinded if it were in conflict with the present motion. Further, to rescind a motion requires notice being given. (Submissions on the current proposal are due by March 11.)
Crs Kudrenko and Paech argued that there was no conflict. And in any case, said Cr Paech, “that was 11 years ago”. He noted Mayor Ryan’s apparent “angst” and wanted to hear what other councillors thought.
The can of worms opened:-
Cr Brendan Heenan is convinced of the safety of the proposed facility; opposition to it arises from “more of a fear campaign”; he would not support Cr Paech’s motion and was not sure if he would support the 2005 motion either.
Cr Jamie de Brenni thinks that council should wait to see the results of the phone survey on the issue currently being conducted in the community.
Cr Steve Brown’s thinking was “much like” theirs; he was not “entirely opposed” to the facility; “a lot of people” see its possibilities as “a local industry”; he wouldn’t like to see it imposed (the Commonwealth has said that it will not be) but he doesn’t like the NIMBY attitude as Australia has a responsibility to host a facility somewhere; he agrees it’s safe, much safer than many industries “we don’t think about”. The upshot was that he would support rescinding the 2005 motion but would not support Cr Paech’s motion (which would leave council entirely without a stated position on the matter).

Above: From left, Crs Kudrenko, Melky, Paech, Price. 

Cr Jacinta Price said she had a similar view to Cr de Brenni’s. Council didn’t need to reinvent the wheel on the issue; a previous council had expressed its opposition; she was concerned for nearby residents but the facility has to be put somewhere (which last point seems to be in contradiction with council’s 2005 blanket opposition).
In contrast Cr Eli Melky thought council did need to readdress the issues: council is different (no current elected members were councillors in 2005), the proposal is different.
Cr Paech proposed some modifications to his motion: changing the terminology from “nuclear waste dump” to “radioactive waste management facility”; and reaffirming the 2005 position as its current position.
As he spoke Mayor Ryan continued to interject from the chair. Cr Paech referred to the hurt and harm the facility would do to Aboriginal people in the Oak Valley area – his family.
“You seem to be disrespecting the minds that sat here in 2005,” retorted Mayor Ryan.
He called the vote. The motion was lost.
Cr Paech called for a division. Only he, Cr Kudrenko and Cr Melky got to their feet in favour of his motion.
“You seem to be quite hostile,” Cr Paech commented to Mayor Ryan, who gleefully replied: “We will stand by the wise minds of 2005.”
Just in case you have lost track of the upshot of that ‘wisdom’: the 2005 motion accompanied by then Mayor Kilgariff’s letter will now be forwarded to the Commonwealth as representing the current position of the Town Council.


  1. Yes, it is an industry but it won’t be a windfall. Some of this waste needs to be secured for 250,000 years. Are they gonna pay for that up front?

  2. Meanwhile, Rome was burning while Nero played his fiddle … I think we all deserve better than this as a community

  3. The current Alice Springs Town Council is fractured. I have suggested it before, and I’ll suggest it again: At the next local election, we really do need to sweep with a very large broom.

  4. Agree with not enough money – who is going to pay for those who are affected healthwise? Remember Chernobyl – an accident which was not supposed to happen.
    In the meantime who was the idiot who suggested guide poles on the bridge. If a car needs for some reason to get off the bridge or essential services need to pass cars on the bridge, they can’t now without having an accident. If it was done for the bike riders then let all bikes be forced to be registered with a number plate and pay the same levy as a small car.
    It is obvious in the past few years someone behind these decisions lacks commonsense and wants to waste money besides endangering lives unnecessarily and exacerbating the original problems.
    A bit like that overpass built out of town while the Ghan causes a backup of traffic and blocks essential services getting through in emergencies – time means the difference in an emergency.

  5. @ Hal Duell: Could you please develop this a bit more? Divided = split into parts?
    Do you want a council unified on all issues?
    “Unless restrained, all governments devolve to tyranny.”
    Who will restrain our councilors if they are all unified?

  6. I reckon we need more like a firehose to shift some of this lot Hal.
    It sounds from what Kieran says that it’s basically the CLP bullyboys and girls acting as a block against any attempts by the councilor who has made no secret of his Labor links to get anything done.
    Chansey is the only one I’ve ever seen at the meetings in town and out bush about the nuclear waste dump.
    Unlike our mayor and the rest of the CLP block he seems to be acting in line with what many, many people in Alice are saying very clearly – we don’t want a nuclear waste dump anywhere near us.
    Seems very petty of Damien not to have pointed out the existence of this 11 year old decision if it was so important. But he very deliberately kept quiet, and it sounds like he did it to try and belittle Chansey.
    Not the behaviour of a leader, Damien. Very disappointing. I hope you drop the petulant bullyboy behaviour and go back to showing some leadership.

  7. This issue goes way beyond the cultural and environmental issues. Some of the stories I’ve heard from the other sites are heartbreaking.
    The amount of mental anguish the Government is imposing on people is astounding. We (the delegates as a unified group) all acknowledge that this stuff needs to be stored, but we object to the fact that it has been imposed on people without any prior consent.
    Minister Frydenberg has stated that the dump WILL NOT be imposed on an unwilling community. I’m just a bit confused about when NO MEANS NO!
    Each of these communities has said no very clearly and very loudly but the process continues. Go figure!
    As for “re-inventing the wheel” on this issue, maybe it would be respectful to the entire community to address the current issue and not refer to documentation from 2005.
    As for submitting an 11 year old letter – really? Wouldn’t this be a covert indication that the current Alice Springs Town Council doesn’t care enough or is not “wise” enough to use their own words?
    As part of the delegation to Canberra to speak against this proposal I can inform you that the principle issue cited by ALL delegates is the flawed process employed in this instance.
    We have the right not to have the facility thrust on us (immediate neighbours and the wider community).
    Finally, there is a huge amount of information out there that discredits and contradicts the Government propaganda pack delivered to your letter boxes.
    Be aware that the phone survey as conducted at the other sites is POLL PUSHING, not a survey.
    When you are not asked directly about your opinion on the proposed dump site but are asked questions like “do you want new roads in your area,” don’t be lazy, be responsible and do your research, people.

  8. @ Melanie Ross, posted March 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm. To set the record straight, I observed some councillors attending the public meeting in Alice on 16 February. They included Eli Melky, Steve Brown and Jamie de Brenni.

  9. @ Evelyne Roullet
    Posted March 2, 2016 at 2:05 pm
    Two councillors now have at least one eye on the coming NT election, an election for which they have both nominated. As the election nears they will have both eyes on it. This is not why we elected them and is why I say fractured.
    Of the two, Brown could argue that what is good for Araluen is good for Alice. He faces an interesting, and possibly tight, contest with the sitting member.
    Paech, on the other hand, has gone out of town. If Anderson steps down and then endorses him and campaigns for him, he has a better than even chance of moving to Darwin. His dream has much less to do with Alice Springs than does Brown’s.
    Meanwhile, and to address other comments, it is true that the opposition to the waste site is vocal. It is equally true that many have no particular objection to the NT site, or at least not yet, and are in favour of a national nuclear waste facility being built somewhere.
    I say not yet as many of us are still awaiting an environment impact statement.
    As to the perceived lack of consultation, what are we now having?
    To compare any eventual site to Chernobyl is to draw a long bow. Again, more facts and less emotion please.

  10. We all know that there is no safe way to store this intermediate to high level waste material for the 250,000+ years that it needs to be kept isolated. No way to store it and no one capable of being credible about looking after it for so long. Until the government comes to its senses and stops producing more waste I’m opposed to any waste dump, anywhere.

  11. @Hal Duell Thank you for your very good explanation. Quote: ” This is not why we elected them and is why I say fractured”end of quote. I am in total agreement. Political parties and local governments should not mix.
    Local government is a form of public administration The Local Government Act requires councils to exercise community leadership, promote social justice principles, conserve the environment and facilitate public involvement.
    All Councillor Candidates promise that they “will make a difference”. We should not take their word for it, but we should start investigating candidate Councillors more closely, demanding they communicate more transparently, especially in disclosing their political allegiance. They should also sign a contract with the town, stating that they will not put their hands up for State or Federal election during their tenure or be charged for the By-election.

  12. Thanks for the clarification Kieran. I have to admit I forgot to say I did see Eli at the town meeting, so apologies for that. And interesting to know Mr Brown and Mr deBrenni there but didn’t seem to hear a thing local people were saying.

  13. @Hal Duell I suggest you take a look at the new electoral boundaries. Namatjira will take in the Alice Springs rural area. To suggest that “Paech has gone of town” is totally incorrect.
    Everything I have ever seen and heard from Chansey Paech indicates he’s a man who is passionate about his home town, where his family have lived for generations. Namatjira it’s true takes in a large chunk of the southern part of Central Australia – of which Alice Springs is the major service centre.
    To contrast, when Steve Brown talks up its usually in self interest, either as a builder or a land developer.
    Perhaps you should stop interpreting others dreams and stick to your own fantasies Hal.

  14. Did it ever occur to you, Melanie, that the one not hearing what local people are saying is yourself?
    So immersed in the politics of envy you simply can’t think for yourself. If you took the time you would realize that the reason you are always in the minority is because a big majority doesn’t agree with a word you say!
    Builders and developers are good for our economy. That economy pays your way in the world! However your continued assertions that they are the only thing I’m passionate about is simply driven by your envy.
    I am a third generation Alice boy, I am a sibling of a very large 3rd generation Alice Springs family who have been a major part of building this town from the ground up.
    I’m extremely passionate and protective of all things Alice! I fight like hell for the Alice under all circumstances! Part of that fight is weighing up the pros and cons of many ideas and projects, that is not always as easy or as straight forward as it may seem.
    Those of us involved at a political level do it because we love our town, our community. I don’t agree with much of what Chansey has to say, but I show him due respect, I would never question his passion for his own community.
    I’m able to work comfortably alongside him because we have a common interest in that community! Try it yourself, Melanie, argue your point keeping in mind that we are all in our own way trying to find the best outcome.

  15. Is three generations meant to be impressive, Steve? Does that give you some extra authority or what? Please explain.

  16. @ Steve Brown: Very good. Because you are of the third generation of Alice residents, we must understand that you are:
    • Extremely passionate and protective of all things Alice.
    • You will fight like hell for the Alice under all circumstances!
    Excellent, which means that you have first hand understanding of and give priority to the voices of the Arrernte Aboriginal people who have made their home in the Central Australian desert in and around the site of Alice Springs for thousands of years, at least 30,000 years. How many generations does this make?

  17. @ Steve Brown: Not envious of you at all. A bit of pity that your boss has dumped you in it over your Opposition to his Aboriginal Affairs strategy maybe.
    A bit sorry for you when your boss Adam Giles said you were xenophobic. One of the few times I agreed with him.

  18. @ Evelyn: There is a very good reason for stating that I come from a 3rd generation family, the early builders of this town.
    It’s simply a matter of knowing the history understanding how we arrived at a particular point or if you like, local expertise!
    The Alice Springs community suffers from a very high turnover in population, new people coming to town often feeling they have a superiority over locals. Exuding paternalistic concern they set about reinventing the wheel in an endless cycles of arrival, enthusiasm, disrespect for existing knowledge, the eventual dawning of reality and finally of course the departure!
    This cycle ticks over every couple of years in a kind of never ending ground hog day and does our Community a immense harm. As a result there is now a strong move among locals to put genuine long term locals, those who intend to live out their days in the Center, into the positions where they can make decisions which affect the town’s future.
    Making those that make the decisions “Live with their decisions” as opposed to exiting town one step ahead of failure.
    That is why 3rd generation is important and for no other reason, it simply goes to credibility.
    It also means, Evelyn, that I recognize Aboriginal people for who they are, my equals, locals just like me.
    They don’t need or want gushing paternalistic blowins to speak on their behalf.
    Paternalism Evelyn is the lowest and most destructive form of racism.
    @ Melanie: I don’t have a boss. The only persons I answer to are wife, family and community and as I’ve said before, I will stand up to and if necessary tear down anyone who I perceive to be a threat to those.
    As for being xenophobic, look up the word in the dictionary understand it then look in the mirror you’ll see a living breathing example of it. Over time I have found that those who sprout the term are nearly always the incarnation of it.

  19. Steve Brown: It beggars belief that you would lecture others about the need to listen to locals.
    You discovered through your committee membership that the NT Government was going to significantly downsize our stadium, a change that would disadvantage the town and mean less work for locals.
    It appears that you decided not to pass the information on to the Council or ratepayers.
    You have never defended against this claim.
    Do you really have a passion for working for your community?
    Or rather a passion for sucking up to the Government for your own political advancement?

  20. Steve: Is there really a move to put “genuine long term locals into positions of power”? Is anything you say actually true?
    You talk about these long-term locals needing to be respected and listened to but you, a short term local of only three generations, often show a “disrespect for existing knowledge”.
    How often do you seek out advice from “genuine long term locals” mparntwe-arenye people? I meet these people regularly and I’m pretty sure you don’t even know who they are. You have no credibility.

  21. @ New Arrival: Quote “Exuding paternalistic concern they set about reinventing the wheel in an endless cycles of arrival, enthusiasm, disrespect for existing knowledge, the eventual dawning of reality and finally of course the departure!” One step ahead of failure! I believe this comment has your name on it!
    @ Jason: Much the same comment only the shear level of your ignorance so confidently out there has me cringing in embarrassment for you, still I suppose you weren’t the slightest bit interested in fact were you, just a vindictive rant designed to muddy the waters or so you think LOL! Great big surprise coming … watch this space.

  22. I predict Damien Ryan some time in the near future will regret his words “you seem to be disrespecting the minds that sat here in 2005,” and “We will stand by the wise minds of 2005” in a number of areas.
    Not all the minds before us, on and off of Council were all that wise, no matter how far back or recent, you look at them.
    Just a few examples: In ’85 the “wise minds” voted to support the ill fated waterslide, to give Leslie Oldfield the message to take to America that the Alice Springs Town Council supported the presence of Pine Gap, and to award a dump contract to a below cost tenderer.
    Thankfully some other “wise minds” eventually called his bluff in the late 90s. The “wise minds” destroyed Bower Bird, and Tangengere’s mulching / composting business after asking both of them to operate with “one hand tied behind their backs”, and blatantly lying to them about promised council support.
    “Wise minds” also awarded another dump contract about 2005 to an interstate operator on the advice of an interstate consultant, despite being thoroughly warned it would end in disaster, at a still undisclosed cost to ratepayers.
    “Wise minds” also set in place a three storey limit for Alice Springs – I didn’t hear Damian trotting out that position.
    “Wise minds” there have been on council, but pretty far and few between. Perhaps Damien thinks 2005 was an exceptionally good year?

  23. Hey, c’mon you complaining lot, be fair. Have some respect at least for a basic tenet of redneck conservatism, that being the born-to-rule mentality!

  24. @Tjilpi: I suspect you have identified the reason Kieran and Erwin love to publish stories such as this one.
    They, like you and me, appear to just love it when the rednecks squabble.
    Let’s face it, I think it is the closest thing the Alice has to a national sport.
    By the way, for those of you still looking for a dictionary, this may help you: Someone who is called “xenophobic” is neither a supporter of South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon nor a disciple of large women wearing tight-fitting leather and carrying a weapon.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here