ABOVE: From the Town Council report presented to the meeting of the council on Monday.
UPDATE below: Cr Eli Melky to move a motion for the Town Council to exclude the Anzac Oval site as a location for the gallery.
Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson has raised the spectre of the Town Council not being guided by the result of its public poll about the Anzac Oval location for the Aboriginal gallery, the government’s “preferred” site.
It was convincingly rejected by 58% of the 2000-plus people casting a vote (with 42% in favour of the site), but Cr Paterson has raised the need to work with the government and says the council’s motion passed unanimously on Monday for a seat at the table is now before the government.
But the key figures in the process, Minister Dale Wakefield and Lauren Moss, issued a statement late yesterday indicating their impatience with the council’s stance, saying it is unclear and they want to press ahead with the Anzac Oval site.
Cr Paterson (at right in the photo above, with Cr Jimmy Cocking) spoke with ERWIN CHLANDA who asked: “Is what the council is seeking now not the same thing as the Memorandum of Understanding the government offered but the council rejected?”
PATERSON: We want the gallery [for the benefit of] the whole of Alice Springs, and to work with the government to make that happen.
NEWS: 2000 plus people made the effort of voting in the poll held by the council, and a distinct majority said no to the Anzac Oval precinct.
PATERSON: I think what the majority of people said in that poll was that they do want the gallery. I think that’s what the majority said.
NEWS: The poll was specifically to decide the Anzac Oval question and it had a clear majority of 58% versus 42% against use of the oval. The councillors knew that on Friday morning when they met with the government. What did you tell Minister Wakefield and Moss at that meeting? You could have said start looking for new site, you’re not getting Anzac Oval.
PATERSON: We could have but we want to work with the government. We said to them we want the gallery in Alice Springs. We have never said yes or no to anywhere. Council do not have a formal position on any site.
NEWS: But are you not obliged to have a position on Anzac Oval having conducted a poll, pursuant to a unanimous vote in council?
PATERSON: I am not going to say the gallery is going on the Anzac precinct.
NEWS: The public said to you it is not to be on Anzac Oval. They said that to you in a poll which the council, in a unanimous vote, decided to have. 2000 people voted. Are you not clearly under an obligation to accept the people’s choice?
PATERSON: I think what our obligation is to accept the people want the gallery and if it means … we want to work with the government to make the gallery happens. 80% of people want the gallery and I want to make sure, for the betterment of Alice Springs, that the gallery happens. I don’t want to rule out a site.
NEWS: But the public of course wants you to rule out a site, namely the Anzac precinct.
PATERSON: Council does not have a position on Anzac Oval, at the moment.
NEWS: Is the vote cast by those people who want to have a say going to be ignored by the council?
PATERSON: It is not being ignored. The survey was done. There were several questions on the survey. One was do you support a gallery. That’s where the council has a position – yes, we want a gallery. I cannot comment on the Anzac Oval because the council do not have a position on it.
NEWS: There is a clear majority against Anzac Oval in the poll, the council’s poll. Yet you are saying the council does not have a position on Anzac Oval.
PATERSON: The council’s motion is that we want to work with the government to come up with an art gallery in Alice Springs. We want to be part of a working group.
NEWS: Even if the government says the gallery will not happen unless it is in the Anzac precinct, will you work with them?
PATERSON: I am not going to speculate on what the government might say.
NEWS: I can tell you what the government is saying, and that is the location is going to be Anzac Oval and that’s that. That is absolutely clear. Despite the poll result, will the council accept the government’s position?
PATERSON: I’m not sure. I can’t see into the future. There have been many curve balls in this discussion. I cannot give you the answer where the gallery is going to be located.
NEWS: How should the council interpret the result of the poll which it conducted and which gave a very clear answer?
PATERSON: I would not say it was an overwhelming majority. It was 300 votes.
NEWS: The government would have been aware of the council’s motion [yesterday morning], at the latest, yet [yesterday afternoon] Ministers Moss and Wakefield reaffirmed their Anzac Oval position, and they said in a media release they needed to move forward. How do you interpret that?
PATERSON: I don’t have a comment on their release.
[The Alice Springs News Online left messages for Mayor Damien Ryan and Cr Jamie de Brenni who, from the chair, stopped questioning about the issues from the public gallery. We have not heard back from them.]
Cr Eli Melky, who on Monday supported the motion by the Mayor that “the National Aboriginal Arts Gallery (NAAG) be built in Alice Springs” and called for a working group in partnership with the council, says he will on September 24 move a motion that the council “does not support ANZAC Oval as a preferred site to build a National Aboriginal Art Gallery”.
Cr Melky says the council poll provided a response of 58% against the NT Government preferred site at the ANZAC Oval, and he notes the government’s statement late yesterday that “it is unclear what council position is regarding the ANZAC Hill Precinct site”.
Cr Melky says given the NT Government “remains confused, I feel obliged to provide complete and absolute clarity on the matter of the [government] preferred site, ANZAC Oval.
“I will move a motion that “Alice Springs Town Council does not support ANZAC Oval as a preferred site to build a National Aboriginal Art Gallery.
“Mayor and councillors will have the opportunity to support my motion.
“While I appreciate the NT Government support of our town, the location to build the NAAG should not be the deal breaker.
“I now encourage the Michael Gunner Government to move forward and deliver on their election promise and build the NAAG in Alice Springs,” Cr Melky says.