By ERWIN CHLANDA
Diane and Ray Loechel today re-confirmed an early statement to the Alice Springs News that no-one from the NT Government, nor the Alice Springs Town Council, had ever consulted them about the development of the Todd Tavern land and building.
They say the owner of the land is Loechel Management Pty Ltd of which Mr and Mrs Loechel are the sole shareholders. The company acquired the lease to the Todd Tavern land in 1998 and the freehold in 2000.
They say they have no involvement in a group referred to by Minister Dale Wakefield as the “Alice Plaza and Todd Tavern Consortium”.
So who is it that sat at the table on behalf of the tavern when Mayor Damien Ryan and former Town Council CEO Rex Mooney where initiating discussions, behind firmly closed doors, about the national Aboriginal art gallery and the development of the Mall’s top end?
Mr Mooney, now retired, is tight-lipped about his and the Town Council’s involvement.
Minister Wakefield said in a letter made public by her today that “correspondence dated 27 June 2019 from Mr Rex Mooney … to the NT Government advises that ASTC [had made] a decision to initiate a roundtable meeting with the NT Government, Alice Plaza and Todd Tavern Consortium and Traditional Owners.”
She says that she and Minister Lauren Moss attended the meeting – chaired by Mayor Damien Ryan – via teleconference “in good faith to gain an understanding of why the ASTC had introduced a proposal by the Alice Plaza and Todd Tavern Consortium into negotiations between the ASTC and NTG for the use of land currently occupied by the ASTC Civic Centre.”
Ms Wakefield says further in her letter: “I mentioned multiple times that I was uncomfortable with the commercial nature of the discussion with the developers present and was unclear as to whether any interest by parties may be in conflict.
“I note that as the chair of the meeting the Mayor did not call for any conflict of interest declarations which contributed to the ambiguity regarding the purpose of the meeting and lack of clarity on what the ASTC was trying to achieve through a roundtable meeting with the Consortium.
“As outlined in the meeting the NTG has been in discussion with the Consortium since a proposal for development was first raised in discussion with NTG agency representatives and the former CEO [Mr Mooney] of the ASTC on 8 February 2018.”
Ms Wakefield says in her letter that Mr Mooney had received a master plan on February 28, 2019 “direct from the Consortium who acknowledged comments from the former CEO that it was received positively”.
On November 11 the Alice Springs News sent the following questions to Ms Wakefield: “The Department of the Chief Minister (DCM) provided a $37,500 grant towards the cost of producing a master plan and feasibility study for the Alice Plaza and Todd Tavern redevelopment.
“Subsequently we were told this master plan is commercial in confidence.
“How come a document produced with public money cannot be seen by the public?
“[And secondly] the owner of the Todd Tavern land and building is not party to any master plan arrangements. In fact he knows nothing about them.
“The operator of the tavern may be – but he has no power to make any arrangements about land [and assets] he doesn’t own.
“So the NTG gave a $37,500 grant for a master plan to two parties one of which has no authority to draw up a master plan.”
This afternoon we received the following reply from the Department of the Chief Minister: “This government is very committed to revitalising the Alice Springs City Centre and considers a funding co-contribution to local businesses for concepts to benefit the CBD are sound investments.
“The end product is owned by the proponent and any request for publication should be made to them. It is not unusual for operators to masterplan as a process to raise funds and engage property owners.”
So the government clearly thinks it’s sound use of public money on a plan of developing real estate whose owners are completely oblivious of the project.
“Please note this is all the information we can provide at this time,” says the reply from the Department of the Chief Minister.