IMAGE at right: The location of the Uniting Church and town council project as planned in 2014. Site ‘5’ of course is now the location of the towering Supreme Court.
By ERWIN CHLANDA
The town council is likely to become a substantial investor in the residential and commercial complex proposed for land owned by the council and the Uniting Church in the CBD.
The complex, adjacent to the Flynn Church, would front Todd Mall and encompass the council’s Hartley Street carpark.
Deputy Mayor Jamie de Brenni says in his view the council’s contribution to the project should be a multi-storey carpark, extending the number of parking places from about 235 by a further 100 or so.
The council would receive an income from parking fees – a step in the right direction, he says, towards income-generating ventures with the aim to offset the council’s operating costs.
“We have to take risks to progress,” says Cr de Brenni. “This should not be left to the next council. Another four years and the costs would probably go up 20%.”
Cr Steve Brown says he is enthusiastic about the proposal which had been talked about “forever and a day”. It has been put off for too long by a “conservative bureaucracy,” he says.
Cr Brendan Heenan says investment of this kind should alleviate costs and would be preferable to “putting up rates all the time”.
He says the Darwin council has commercial investments worth $20m, including carparks.
Cr Eli Melky is a strong advocate for commercial investment by the council while Mayor Damien Ryan says the council’s options are limited by the Local Government Act.
The Alice Springs News Online has also invited Councillors Jade Kudrenko, Jacinta Price and Dave Douglas to comment.
But Councillors de Brenni and Brown say the proposed National Indigenous Cultural Centre is not something the council should be financing.
Cr Brown says the NT Government is “playing games” with the centre, while Indigenous figures are at loggerheads over the site for it, variously favouring Blatherskite Park, the Arunga Park speedway arena, the Desert Knowledge precinct and the Melanka block.
The native title organisation Lhere Artepe “can’t even make a comment. Nothing is clear,” says Cr Brown.
Cr de Brenni says the project firmly needs to be in the hands of the NT and Federal governments – it’s just too hard for the council to sort out the cultural, tribal and clan-related complexities.
He suggests Arunga Park to be the ideal location, because of its appealing natural surrounding, and proximity to the Telegraph Station, forming a cultural precinct.
Speedway should be moved to the drags and Finke Desert Race facilities on the South Stuart Highway, creating an extensive motor sport centre there.
Cr de Brenni (at right in the photo, with Cr Brown) says the Uniting Church project would need to take account of the many vacant shops currently in The Mall, which suggests a staged development.
The ground floor could first be used for car parking, but allowing conversion to shops later on. Equally the multi-story car park should have provision for future extensions, as demand requires.
He says the current short-term car parking is of little use for locals as well as tourists who want to be able to enjoy the town’s amenities without having to constantly move their vehicle.
The council’s share in the Uniting Church complex would become a “community asset, paying for itself, an equity that grows in value which then can be used for other developments,” says Cr de Brenni.
“Let’s start moving, stop procrastinating.”