By KIERAN FINNANE
Last updated 10.56am 17 July 2018.
If the Town Council wants to consult the community over the future of Anzac Oval (left) it had better get a move on: this was essentially the message from Tourism and Culture Minister Lauren Moss after council met with her and Braitling MLA Dale Wakefield on 5 July.
The NT Government will be “looking to make a decision about the next steps” of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery after August: “It is important that Council’s position about the use of Anzac Oval is clear by this stage,” wrote Ms Moss the following day.
The council-owned Anzac Oval forms part of the government’s proposed location, providing its green space; the gallery building would be on the site of the old Anzac Hill High, now St Joseph’s Flexible Learning Centre.
“I do wish to express concern that Council made a resolution to further consult the community but does not yet have a plan for how and when this will occur,” Ms Moss said.
“I reiterate Dale Wakefield’s offer for you to utilise the resources the NT Government has already mobilised, including our locally based consultation team and the pop-up coffee shops and event stalls.”
Council’s Director of Technical Services Scott Allen clearly thinks that is a good idea, despite the widespread discontent in the community over the way in which the government has handled these consultations.
Right: Scott Allen in hi-vis with Cr Jamie de Brenni at Newland Park community consultation (photo from our archive).
He recommended that council enter into a “partnership” with the government regarding the location of the gallery and was unusually interventionist on the issue in last night’s meeting.
Generally, in my observation over many years, officers present their reports and answer questions rather than argue for an outcome.
Last night Mr Allen opened the debate, saying this was council’s opportunity to get into “the conversation” and on separate occasions attempted to be persuasive about the advantages: a partnership would mean council could use government resources and “leverage off” the information the government has gathered.
Some councillors baulked at the idea of a “partnership”.
Councillor Jimmy Cocking described it as entering into an MOU “by default”, a step council specifically rejected at its end of April meeting.
In the community’s eyes, a partnership would mean that council is part of the same government process, said Cr Cocking, urging council “to do this ourselves, it’s our asset”. (It was Cr Cocking at council’s end of June meeting who pushed for council, better late than never, to do its own consultation on the issue.)
Cr Marli Banks was also wary of the idea, given that the government has “campaigned” for the gallery to be located at the Anzac Hill precinct.
Cr Catherine Satour was “not comfortable” about a partnership.
Left: Crs Cocking, Paterson and Melky (photo from our archive).
In the end though, councillors unanimously agreed to accept the government’s “assistance” although it is not clear what form this assistance may take.
They also were in favour of council’s Communications Unit developing an online survey about the location of the gallery and to promote the survey via the council rates distribution notice (which of course goes only to ratepayers).
Their unanimous support means that officers can begin to take action to get the ball rolling, rather than having to wait until after the meeting at the end of the month.
In addition councillors were in favour of this oddly worded resolution: “Does the community support a change of use of Anzac Oval to accomodate the development of a National Aboriginal Art Gallery on Anzac High School?”
A question can’t really be the subject of a resolution of council. This properly belonged, and seemed to be intended for, the draft of the online survey which was included in last night’s papers but will now be word-smithed by officers and the Communications Unit.
Missing from that draft was any question about alternative locations for the gallery, although Crs Glen Auricht and Banks both raised this issue. Cr Auricht said it was important “to get alternative locations voiced”.
Cr Cocking raised concerns of some with the gallery’s proposed location inside the Gap, referring to the strong views expressed by several prominent local Aboriginal people that the gallery be built south of the Gap for cultural protocol reasons (see Harold Furber’s comments here and comments by other native title holders here).
Other councillors were more concerned about the relocation of the rugby codes (a meeting with them will be held today) and about carparking.
Right: Drawings for proposed new rugby fields at the base of the ranges. According to the minutes on council’s meeting with Minister Moss, the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority “is okay” with this site.
Deputy Mayor Jamie de Brenni said he didn’t accept the government taking carparks away. The initial plans show green space where the oval’s current carpark is (facing Wills Terrace) with gallery parking provided at the base of the hill. Cr de Brenni said council should put up a proposal to keep the carpark where it is, with some modifications such as angle parking.
Cr Matt Paterson, a strong supporter of the MOU and Mr Allen’s suggested partnership, had gone further, distributing his own drawings of how carparking could work in with the government’s plans.
It would appear that in council’s meeting with the Minister, these were the predominant concerns:
“I acknowledge the issues highlighted by Council members at this meeting that are critical to the Alice Springs community,” she said in her letter, “particularly a clear design and vision for the Art Gallery which also includes adequate car parking and open green space, and the development of sports infrastructure at a new site that will accommodate the rugby codes and other sporting codes.”
Minutes of the meeting show that locating the gallery south of the Gap did come up, although the only discussion point recorded is “Aboriginal community has a broad range of views”.
The minutes also mention that a National Reference Group is to be set up (EOIs were being sought in April so progress is slow). In one line of the minutes it say this group will be made up of “50% Indigenous Stakeholders / 50% Community”; in another line it says it will have an “Aboriginal majority”.
The minutes also report that positive discussions about having the gallery in Alice Springs have taken place with the Federal Government and that there have been meetings with “10 National Stakeholders” about collections.
Gallery at Anzac consult: council hurries to meet govt deadline
By KIERAN FINNANE