LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – There is no surprise the NT Government has come up with two lacklustre site options for the Alice Springs National Indigenous Art Gallery – the Desert Park or Anzac Oval.
This very ordinary announcement is consistent with the Gunner Government’s demotion of the status of this Alice Springs major project from day one of them coming to office.
In 2016 the former CLP Government announced $70m of funding for a National “iconic” Indigenous Art Gallery AND National Indigenous Cultural Centre for Alice Springs. This decision did not come without drama.
The former Chief Minister locked horns for years with local Aboriginal leaders over the ownership of the project and how this national Indigenous facility would be planned and executed.
The new Labor Government came into office in August 2016 and instantly decided that the Art Gallery ($50m) and Culturally Centre ($20m) would become two separate projects. This illogical and ill-conceived decision was done with absolutely no community consultation and no rationale provided.
Then in November 2016 the Gunner Government quickly “reprioritised” their infrastructure commitments and pushed back the funding of the National Indigenous Art Gallery and Cultural Centre to 2020/21. Funding was originally due to commence in 2018.
It should be noted that the new $50m Myilly Point Museum in Darwin announced in the May 2017 Budget has been “prioritised” and is being fast tracked through the community consultation and planning process. Even Alice Springs people have been invited to a community consultation for this museum whilst our local project has been put on the back burner.
Curiously and disappointingly the $20m Alice Springs National Indigenous Cultural Centre has dropped off the radar. The Government has stopped talking about the Cultural Centre. Internal Government sources have advised me that the Cultural Centre has been put into the “too hard basket” and it is unlikely it will ever eventuate.
In numerous questions I have put to the Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss, she has vigorously denied her Government has dumped the National Indigenous Cultural Centre. She has also been unable or unwilling to provide any detail as to the progress of the Cultural Centre.
The Government referred the initial “scoping” for the National Indigenous Art Gallery to a two member steering Committee. This committee was primarily tasked with providing options as to where the Art Gallery could be built.
It has taken a whole year for this panel to come back with these two site options. No community consultation was undertaken in this process. The two options are essentially two NT Government owned properties of the required size and zoning.
Given the inevitable community uproar at the prospect of turning Anzac Oval into an Art Gallery, it seems like the Government has deemed the Desert Park as the preferred site. Tucked away in the bush, no public frontage, no added value to the town apart from the single purpose of being an Art Gallery – this is a limited option with limited value to the people of Alice Springs.
Placing this “iconic” attraction away from the CBD, not in a central, highly visible position in Alice Springs would be a lost opportunity.
I had hope that the NT Government would think very laterally about site options and procurement options for the Art Gallery.
Partnering up with private interests and forming a Public, Private Partnership (or PPP) could provide more funds and greater opportunities to develop key sites in the CBD. Art Galleries across the world are embracing private investment as a more sustainable and affordable means of operating, rather than being completely dependent on limited ongoing public funding.
Tying the $70m National Indigenous Art Gallery and Culturally Centre in with the $20m upgrade to the Alice Springs CBD could create synergies and long term prosperity for the whole business community and lift the amenity of our central public facilities.
There are key privately owned sites in the CBD of Alice Springs that would be ideally suited for this purpose. Limiting the site options to Government owned properties limits the whole scope and business potential of this project.
This is a one-off opportunity for Alice Springs to have potentially a total of $90m of public funds available to upgrade and develop the CBD.
We must make the very most of this funding and use it to tick many boxes to provide nationally recognized tourism facilities; develop and upgrade the CBD; bring business and activity to the CBD; and to stimulate local business, not only during the build but on an ongoing basis.
This is not the time for shortsighted plans for Alice Springs. It is time for us to embrace what a modern Alice Springs could look like, using a modern approach of Government and the private sector working together.
Robyn Lambley MLA
Member for Araluen
LETTER TO THE EDITOR