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HomeIssue 16Ministers lash out at council over gallery

Ministers lash out at council over gallery

The Town Council is “divided, lacks leadership and individual Councillors have put their own political interests above the interests of the people of Alice Springs”.
This is part of a sharp attack launched this morning by MLA for Braitling, front-bencher Dale Wakefield (at left), and culture minister Lauren Moss (at right), following  rejection by the council of the $20m art gallery deal offered by the government.
“We have continued to make every effort to work with the Alice Springs Town Council to identify a site within the CBD that will pave the way for the National Aboriginal Art Gallery,” says Ms Wakefield in a media release a short while ago.
“The Council has rejected the land swap proposal but has not provided any information behind their decision as to why the amount was not sufficient, nor have they come back to us with a scope of works, costings and also what they are prepared to put on the table.
“There has been no real solutions from Council after two years of intense negotiations.
“We note that the new Council CEO is prepared to meet with the Territory Government to discuss the next steps and we welcome this.
“The Gallery is a project that we will continue to fight for and we call on the Alice Springs Town Council to put the people of Alice Springs that they serve – first. And to come to the table with real solutions.
“Negotiations need to progress as quickly as possible, so that the project’s potential for Central Australia can be realised.”
Ms Wakefield says the project needs to be “led by the Arrernte nation” but there is still no clarity about how the government, and the council, will be dealing with the wishes of prominent Arrernte people who want the gallery built south of The Gap.
Both Ms Wakefield, yesterday, and the council, today, refer in their statements to the CBD as the location.
Meanwhile Town Council CEO Robert Jennings has responded to a question from the Alice Springs News why the special council meeting on Tuesday was held behind closed doors.
He says: “This meeting was held as a confidential meeting in accordance with the Local Government Act due to some of the items included in the report being marked as confidential and Council was respecting that request.”
The News understands these items were correspondence from the NT Government.
“Once the meeting was held, information and decisions from that meeting were brought to open, including a release to media directly following this meeting,” Mr Jennings says.
Ms Wakefield and Ms Moss say in their release that the gallery is “one of the biggest investments into Alice Springs in decades, and is a defining project for the future of the town and an important project for revitalising the CBD.”
The financial proposal, the $20m, is “in addition to the $50m currently on the table” for the gallery.
The deal would contribute to a new civic centre and multipurpose development for the Council to move from the current location to a new location and transferring the ownership of the land; a new town library that is an innovative and technologically advanced education hub; a new town hall that provides a central space to engage all community members in discussion and debate over civic issues and to celebrate civic events and ceremonies; co-contribution towards the Alice Springs CBD Planning Framework and leasing costs for an interim location(s) for the council administration and town library.


  1. Maybe Moss and Wakefield need to ask why their offer is being rejected.
    The Government has come in trying to be a bully and insist that everything has to happen because they want it to.
    Pretty sure they won’t be around next year the way their government is going.
    Personally I find the figures suggested as to how many “extra” tourists are going to come here per year to see this gallery is spin.
    With the reputation Alice is getting for anti-social behaviour I think the numbers will drop.
    If the government had tried working with the people from the start they might have got further.

  2. Garth, totally agree with you, plus the council chambers were paid for by the rate payers so the they should have a say in the matter as well!

  3. No one in their right mind believe these guys could deliver a project of this significance.
    Dale Wakefield, Lauren Moss and Michael Gunner will certainly be on the list of the unemployable. Generally cushy jobs and consultancy positions become available to ex pollies, but the complete ineptitude of this trio will no doubt leave them jobless once they are booted from office next year.
    In the last three years they have achieved NOTHING.

  4. It will take in excess of six months for an agreed design, approvals, appointment of a builder and site preparation (once identified) plus two months of backwards and forwards for paper work on an agreement, plus standard 30 days for a settlement on a site either purchased or swapped.
    Even the inexperienced can work out, this is not going to happen this year and possibly not even next year.
    The Gunner Wakefeild Moss Labor government couldn’t organise a free drinking session for alcoholics in a brewery. Completelty incompetent.

  5. I’m confused! Again!
    Is it just me, or do the following statements reported in separate articles in today’s Alice Springs News not seem to make sense and contradict each other?
    “She also made clear that the government had urged the town council to discuss the gallery issues in open council rather than behind closed doors as will be the case today.
    We really need to re-set the conversation around the art gallery,” said Ms Wakefield.
    Whilst in the article above …
    “Meanwhile Town Council CEO Robert Jennings has responded to a question from the Alice Springs News why the special council meeting on Tuesday was held behind closed doors.
    He says: “This meeting was held as a confidential meeting in accordance with the Local Government Act due to some of the items included in the report being marked as confidential and Council was respecting that request.”
    Is it confidential or open business?
    It can’t be both.
    And if Alice Springs Town Council and the NT Government can’t even agree on a local government due process technicality, how the hell can we expect them to agree on the details of the actual gallery project itself?
    Mind boggling!
    Alice Springs residents currently seem to be living a real life ABC TV “Utopia” experience.

  6. In the end it will be built in Darwin as it’s clear that the town leaders would rather fight with each other than forge ahead with a development which will put the town on the international map.
    Darwin will benefit.

  7. More garbage and spin from a mob of incompetents.
    If you want something to happen you take the crowd with you, something these clowns have no idea about. Had this happened in the first instance there is a fair chance the place would have been half built by now and millions saved.
    Meetings behind closed doors will only get people off side.

  8. Imagine what the TOTAL cost of this project is when you factor all the public servants, politicians and councillors who have put time into it.
    Time to shelve the idea and, if there is real money available (not just increasing the debt), spend it on something useful to benefit the whole town, not feel-good symbolism. Surely there are far more worthwhile things that Alice needs?

  9. The mind boggles as to the apparent reason for council rejecting the offer on the grounds of it “not being enough money”. What about: “We don’t demolish perfectly good buildings with such gay abandon.”

  10. I appeal to the NT government, especially to Ministers Gunner and Wakefield, to reconsider their approach to building the proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs.
    I doubt if many residents, and certainly not a majority, would be opposed to the gallery being built here. But why do you need to destroy what we have (an old high school, a central oval and a debt-free and functioning civic centre) to do that?
    It’s not like we’re short of space down here.
    It’s a bit unfair to ask council to solve your location problem when to date both of your proposals have presented it with a solution impossible to sell to the residents. And remember, councillors also face the coming elections.
    Indigenous suggestions range from the Desert Park to the Desert Knowledge precinct.
    It’s not negotiating if you reject in advance any suggestions other than your own.
    And a note to council: The NT Government has clearly stated through Minister Wakefield that these discussions can be held in open. Time for you to stop hiding from us. Let’s hear what you have to say.

  11. Thank you Hal for clearly saying what most of us are thinking.
    Indeed there is a flaw in Ms Wakefield’s statement above (I quote: “We have continued to make every effort to work with the Alice Springs Town Council to identify a site within the CBD that will pave the way for the National Aboriginal Art Gallery.”)
    Just delete “within the CBD” and then we shall all believe that “every effort” was made to find an appropriate site. The power of the word.

  12. It is inevitable that the commercial centre will move south of The Gap and in spite of all the vested interests in the current CBD, how many re invigorations of the mall, and how many plans and initiatives have resulted in not much?
    The dinosuar museum is a case in point, with many people not even knowing it is there and a cultural centre as proposed will go the same way.
    No one seems to have noticed that we have a unique set of facilities grossly under recognised and unutilised with the convergence of three cross country highways, Outback Way, Stuart Highway and now the Tanami with an international standard airport and cross country rail.
    This is where the long term economic activity will have to be. The obvious place for a cultural centre is in conjunction with Yirara College, where students can proudly display their cultures and as a learning exercise in management skills, and show the positive side of Indigenous education.
    Add to that a brand new visitors centre where the Transport Hall of Fame is along the lines of Katherine, Winton and other places, to intercept visitors rather than the reactive approach where they arrive in town and then are targeted.
    Such a centre should serve the whole of the NT. The numbers of visitors stopping at the welcome rock makes this an obvious action but never explored by planners. The cultural centre and the hall of fame should be the centre piece of a visitors experience, as it is in Winton.

  13. I think it can easily be re-worded to reflect the reality: The NT Government is “divided, lacks leadership and individual MLAs have put their own political interests above the interests of the people of the NT”.

  14. The Town Council lacks leadership? Someone get Jacinta [Price] on the phone to steady this sinking ship!
    There is no cultural need for the gallery / museum to be built south of The Gap, other than motivations by a couple of people at the helm to utilise the DKA/ILUA site.
    If there were cultural reasons couldn’t the same premise be used for say, the CLC offices, town library the old IAD, Araluen / Strehlow Centre etc, etc?

  15. The history of Aboriginal Australia is at least 20 times older than that of pharaonic Egypt, and like ancient Egypt, there is relatively little physical evidence left.
    What is left, the dreamtime stories telling the history and locations of events long past, is the raison d’être for this art gallery. The watercolours and dot painting are the collective memories of an extant people and their ancient oral history.
    The substantial and unique building housing the Alice Springs Town Council is a much, much later chapter in the story of this region.
    In comparison to ancient Egypt (but using a more compact time-line) this could be the Ptolemaic period – different, but still history.
    Dale Wakefield and Lauren Moss must understand the importance of both and not vandalise them.
    Firstly, the dream time site south of The Gap is living history and the reason for the gallery is to contain such history.
    The gallery is not just about the tourist dollar and fine paintings, to think that is a very crude evaluation of such national treasures.
    The demolition of Turner’s House and Marron’s Newsagency could be compared to Napoleon Bonaparte attempted destruction of the Sphinx by cannon fire. The historical buildings of the Town Council are now under threat.
    Do we have two more Napoleons?

  16. Namatijira Art Collector, I am in total agreement with you, however Napoleon had nothing to do with “The Nose: Sketches of the Sphinx” by the Dane Frederic Louis Norden were created in 1737 and published in 1755, well before the era of Napoleon.
    However, these drawings illustrate the Sphinx without a nose and clearly contradicts the legend If the nose was gone by 1737 at the latest; its removal cannot be blamed on Napoleon’s troops, who visited more than 50 years later.
    It is a pity that we do not have a Napoleon in power, because the gallery would have been a built long time ago.


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