Wakefield insists on Anzac Oval, ignores majority


2549 Darwin City Deal OK
2549 Anzac Oval 2By ERWIN CHLANDA
To come up yet again with exactly the same arguments supporting the government’s “preferred” location for the proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery – Anzac Oval – is a slap in the face of the town which has roundly rejected that choice.
Yet that is exactly what The Centre’s only front bencher, Dale Wakefield, the Member for Braitling by the narrowest margin, is doing right now.
In a June 6 media release she refers to this as “local consultation” which she will be doing “over the next few months”.
Ms Wakefield refused our request for an interview on the subject.
She says in her handout: “For the Anzac Hill precinct to move forward as the home of the gallery we need to alleviate any concerns that the local people of Alice Springs have about the site.
“We believe that the Anzac Hill precinct is the best site because it is the only site in the CBD that fits our size requirement of 40,000 square metres to accommodate the building, parking and landscaping.
“A CBD site also has the best chance for investment from the Commonwealth Government through town centre rejuvenation initiatives and it will also be in a better position to attract private investments because of the flow-on economic benefits.”
Here the Minister is misleading by omission. Commonwealth Government’s Smart Cities Plan and City Deals program do not focus exclusively on “town centre rejuvenation initiatives” but have a far more integrated approach, as reflected in the City Deals funded to date – in Townsville, Launceston, and Western Sydney. “The Role of the Australian Government in Cities – Smart Cities Plan“mentions “CBD” only twice in the context of City Deals underway:-
• The Townsville City Deal … roadmap for the future … to deliver urban renewal and drive further investment across the city … the North Queensland Stadium … revitalise the waterfront and CBD … attract more investment, industry, freight and port-related businesses.
• Launceston City Deal … coordinated investment from all levels of government … better education and job opportunities … support the relocation of Launceston’s university campus closer to the city centre … revitalise the historic CBD and the city’s northern suburbs.
5247 Dale Wakefield
The suggestion by Ms Wakefield (pictured) that it’s the CBD or nothing for those Federal funds to become available is clearly fabrication.
This is how the Federal department describes the City Deals: It must be a “shared vision across the three levels of government centred on unlocking economic potential in a city.
“Governments need to work together to customise their approach to the unique opportunities of the city, drawing on innovative financing and funding arrangements to provide transformative investment … to create the whole-of -city capacity and governance arrangements necessary to sustain and build on the improvements.”
Most of what the NT Government has done to date in relation to the gallery project pushes in the opposite direction. The Anzac location has been roundly rejected by the people of this town and its local government: The NT government’s own polling showed 60% preferred other sites.
A petition tabled in council in April by Cr Eli Melky showed 1200 signatures against using the oval. He said a Facebook poll registered 1600 against Anzac Oval, 46 for.
Cr Melky foreshadowed at the same meeting that there will be applications for heritage listing of the whole area being proposed for the gallery, comprising the old high school site and the oval.
Meanwhile there is no announcement about a nationally representative reference group “to help guide the delivery of the gallery” for which Eva Lawler, Acting Minister for Tourism and Culture, sought expressions of interest in April.
PHOTO: Anzac Oval during the opening night of the Masters Games.
Related reading: Aboriginal art gallery – Anzac Oval off the table.


  1. @ Hal Duell (Posted June 12, 2018 at 7:59 am): Hal, I’m still in the process of collating information. Gathering the history pertaining to this location is rather like measuring a piece of string but it all adds up to demonstrating the considerable heritage value of this site, the extent of which I think will surprise many people.
    The nomination for heritage listing of the oval and school will definitely proceed.
    The fact that this issue has blown up in the NT Government’s face demonstrates the stupidity of over-reliance on advice from vested interests (with no regard for anything except their bank accounts) and overpaid outside “experts” who have no background in local knowledge.
    Once again we see the consequences of the corporate amnesia that afflicts this town and Territory, and history shows it makes no difference which party is in power.

  2. @ Alex Nelson: I beg to differ on one of your points Alex, if 1 Territory is elected at the next election we will listen to the people and will not push down their throats social engineering, unwanted projects or fracking. So it does matter which political party is in power. If you want liars and frackers vote for the CLP or the ALP, the choice is quite simple.

  3. Once more, the short sighted view is astounding in its defence of the obsolete CBD. It was put there because of Arltunga and the Telegraph Station, neither of which is currently very relevant to the economic prosperity of the district.
    Were we to start again it would be south of The Gap as the airport, power generation, water, gas, bulk fuel storage and incarceration has had to do. Can you imagine the airport still along Van Senden, as it once was?
    The facility should be next to Yirara, to enable the students to learn business skills and proudly display their own culture.
    This should be a part of a brand new tourism complex involving a new visitors centre near the welcome rock (on Tuesday last week I spent 20 minutes there and over 50 people were photographed sitting on it) like Katherine, and Mt Isa and other high tourism based places.
    The obvious place for the dinosaur display is in conjunction with the mineralogy display at ASRI and a mining centre of excellence, as Townsville has done.
    And where can visitors see bush foods? As a part of the cultural centre / Yirara complex, of course, and demonstrated by the students as a part of their heritage.
    Pt Augusta could not match that, while also demonstrating the many positives of Indigenous education. I wish the government would stop flogging a dead horse and move on. It also makes a sad mockery of the obscene developments at Kilgarrif.

  4. It’s a slap in the face of the town and an insult to the traditional custodians, and proof that the politicians have no understanding of the culture.
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be consulted and involved in all decisions affecting their cultural heritage and in particular, on the ways in which their history, community, stories and interviews, lives and families and cultural and intellectual property are represented and used.

  5. Dale should go back over the Berrimah line where she belongs and leave Alice Springs to the locals.
    Over all the politicians people voted in, they still don’t listen to the people!

  6. Once again it seems to be a case of our way or the highway.
    When this location debate first came up, I was of the opinion that the Desert Park was the right choice. But then the traditional owners spoke up at the council meeting debating to MOU or not to MOU, and the TOs seemed to be united in wanting any gallery to be south of The Gap.
    So what’s the problem?
    If revitalising the CBD is truly the aim, build flats there, and build a skate park at the river end of Parsons Street, and make the area vibrant again.

  7. @ Braedon Earley: “If 1 Territory is elected at the next election we will listen to the people …”
    Is this not a speech made by all at elections time? Is it possible for a politician to be honest at all?

  8. A CBD location is essential for visitation numbers and clearly the reason the NT Government is insistent on Anzac Oval Anzac Oval as the preferred site.
    If the Government is planning to spend $ millions to construct new rugby playing grounds to compensate for the loss of playing fields at Anzac Oval, then why not put that money towards the purchase the Melanka site for the Gallery’s construction, giving a CBD site, walking access from it and plenty parking space for cars and buses, with infrastructure planned around the existing mature eucalypt trees?
    Construction south of the Gap or at the Wildlife Park on Namatjira Drive, will not see the visitation numbers a CBD site would attract.
    If the Melanka site were developed, everyone would be winner.

  9. Ms Wakefield does not appear to understand the meaning of “consultation”, which implies that a pending decision will be influenced by discussion with stakeholders, for example according to the Cambridge Dictionary on line: “The process of discussing something with someone in order to get their advice or opinion about it, e.g.: He made the decision in consultation with his parents and teachers.”
    Trying to persuade people of the merits of a decision made a fait accomplit is not consultation. In this case one could call it marketing, or possibly even an attempt at bullying.

  10. Apparently the Melanka site is too small. Why not build up! Now that we can have four storey or higher buildings, get the required space upwards. Then you can still have parkland next to it.

  11. Seems to me as a former Stott House rezzie long ago that the Melanka block is the perfect tourist spot for a gallery.
    But what about the sacred site trees on the Melanka block? Would a space be left for them in the middle of the gallery?
    Or have they been cut down? I confess I have not seen the block for a few years.

  12. The first problem is the Government’s starting point.
    “Revitalising the Mall” should be irrelevant to the site of the gallery.
    The consultants envisaged a space, an environment, a backdrop where the gallery can be an icon, a feature in itself.
    Not a bloody attempt to do something to the north end of the Mall which, by the way, can only be done by turning the Plaza inside out. Put a big verandah on the Mall side and open the shops to it.
    I was originally in favour of the Melanka site, but realised that it is as short sighted as the Anzac site.
    It needs guts and determination to something truly visionary, like MONA.
    And Dale, it is time to speak the truth to power, and tell Gunner to get stuffed. Resign from the ministry if necessary. Stick up for Alice.
    The laws of history suggest that you have bugger all chance of holding your seat at the next election.
    You may as well make the most of it. Go down fighting for your town, and for a really important contribution to Indigenous Australia.

  13. The longer this process goes on the more likely we are to lose it altogether. That’s a loss of $150m into our economy, just on build!
    The government has made up its mind on the site. That’s their right! That’s what we elect them for, to make what they see as the best decision, on our behalf!
    So, while about 4% of the population whinge about it, and try to foil the process, keep this in mind.
    If it doesn’t go ahead at Anzac there will be no new rugby grounds! Another $20m to $30m.
    There will be no amphitheatre or the CBD space to put one. Another $3m to $4m.
    We will miss out on an expansion of CBD parking. Millions more!
    And we will miss the opportunity to create much increased foot traffic into the CBD and the resulting growth in small business. Millions more.
    There is now very little chance of it going anywhere else. It will either go at the Anzac Hill site or we will lose it altogether!
    Federal Politicians looking for an excuse to fund it in South Australia have been handed exactly what they want, local dissent!
    It shouldn’t take much more to tip the scales, if the damage hasn’t already been done.
    If we believe in our community, if we want to grow our economy, create opportunity for ourselves and our children into the future we have to be prepared to accept change, to put our petty likes and dislikes along with what often amounts to rather shallow competitive political viewpoints aside for the greater good.
    To put it bluntly, “suck it up and stand aside in support of the best obtainable outcome for our community!
    Let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face!

  14. @ John Bell (Posted June 13, 2018 at 7:51 pm): John, the only sacred trees on the Melanka site would be (or are) two old river red gums near the southeast corner adjacent to the intersection of Stuart Terrace and Gap Road.
    None of the other trees I’m aware of on that site are local native species nor predate the construction of the Melanka Hostel.
    This includes the towering lemon-scented gums of which the majority are now dying or dead as a consequence of lack of care and the extended dry conditions.
    Consequently the trees don’t pose any significant issues for redevelopment of most of that area, at least as far as sacred sites are concerned.

  15. So far we have being told only about the layout of the ground. What about giving us:
    • A look at the facilities design.
    • A list of artifacts, artworks we have to put in to open the doors.
    • The predictions for staffing: qualifications and salaries.
    • The cost of maintenance and who will pay for it. Alice Town Council?
    • The entrance fees.
    All those questions and more should be answered before talking of location for a real consultation.

  16. Why not look a bit differently and move the rail freight yards out of town and redevelop that site.
    Brisbane has done this with the Roma Street Parklands creating fantastic landscaped open space which is used extensively by the public.
    Plenty of parking, close to town, removal of an eyesore.
    If they rerouted the railway around Alice it would even make way for a third lane through the gap removing the need for a flyover.

  17. @ 5 Minute Local (Posted June 14, 2018 at 5:41 pm): Definitely living up to your pseudonym. Your suggestion is not a new idea – it’s been raised several times since the early 1970s.
    The last occasion was when the construction of the railway north to Darwin was being finalised in the late 1990s-early 2000s when there was significant lobbying of the NT Government to re-route the railway around Alice Springs, including by the Alice Springs Town Council.
    I also took up the cudgels on this issue as an individual and was publicly criticized by a local CLP member, notwithstanding the same member several years earlier had himself advocated the removal of the rail yards out of the town centre and to re-route the eventual railway to Darwin via west of the town.
    These pleas were rejected by the government as being too late or too expensive (it would have added about three per cent to the overall cost, from memory). There’s no prospect of this happening now.

  18. In a June 6 media release Dale Wakefield refers to this as “local consultation” which she will be doing “over the next few months”.
    In the Mall she is talking of the project saying that a modern gallery is somewhere people go for coffee; this imply that shops will be available in the proposed gallery (makes senses to make a revenue with rents).
    How this will help business in the CBD? How many shops will be obliged to close? Even if some relocate, it will mean more vacant shops in the Mall.

  19. Steve Brown: You raise some excellent points Steve, however you seem to be overlooking one very important fact.
    If the government wanted to consult the masses, they should have taken the opinions more seriously.
    The fact that they didn’t, is disrespectful to the taxpayer. So, was it just lip service?
    I think you’ll find that this may be what has pissed people off.


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