UPDATED 25 February 2020, 9.26am. See at bottom.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner says the government is again negotiating with the Alice Springs Town Council about putting the proposed national Aboriginal art gallery on the Anzac Hill Precinct site.
Mr Gunner in his statement made no mention of traditional owners, who have ruled out the site, when he answered questions from the Independent Member of Araluen, Robyn Lambley.
The council has said it will agree to the site only if traditional owners give consent.
Member for Braitling, Minister Dale Wakefield has described the opposition by traditional owners as the sticking point.
“We have made it clear that there is a good location which will deliver on every measure that matters,” Mr Gunner said to Ms Lambley.
“We are in negotiations with the council about the Anzac Hill Precinct site. That is significant progress.”
He says the council “has returned to that site — I am confused how often the council changed their position on various sites.
“We have been consistent about where we want to go. They are now back at that table saying, ‘we get it and we understand why that is the right position and we are prepared to talk about that spot’.
“An investment in that spot will trigger other investments in the town which is critical.
“We are working at their pace now with those negotiations and we will see where we go from there.
“[The gallery] will help drive significant tourism to the centre. This is how you guarantee those flights at the right prices to The Centre. We have seen what happens at Yulara when it is a destination. We want to make Alice Springs a destination. This will do that.
“What a fantastic spot to do it in.”
The government has recently demolished the Anzac Hill high school on that location, against strong opposition from locals.
Prominent traditional owner Doris Stuart says the government has not been in touch with her, nor with her sons, nor with any other traditional owners, so far as she knows.
Her opposition to the use of the Anzac Hill precinct for the gallery remains unchanged, she says.
“The government is disrespectful. Our stories are imprinted on the ground, the hills, the trees.
“Why should we allow other people’s stories to be in conflict with ours?” asks Ms Stuart.
Meanwhile Cr Eli Melky, a sometime mediator between the council and Aboriginal interests, says the condition of the Town Council for giving its green light for the site is “evidence” of consent from the traditional owners.
“No such evidence has been provided,” Cr Melky said this morning.
UPDATE 25 February 2020, 9.26am
By KIERAN FINNANE
At last night’s Ordinary Meeting of the Town Council, Cr Melky asked CEO Robert Jennings to report to the chamber what he could about the government’s negotiations with traditional owners.
Mr Jennings had told councillors, in his monthly report, that “a number of positive meetings have now been held” with Cliff Weeks, a senior public servant in the Department of the Chief Minister, “regarding the potential land offered by Council for the NAAG”.
Here he is referring to the Wills Terrace carpark, which may not seem to be terribly prospective, but notional designs (at right) Mr Jennings commissioned, presented to council and government in December, showed how the carpark block could possibly mesh in with the site of the former Anzac Hill High, leaving Anzac Oval in the middle to its existing uses.
At the time Minister Dale Wakefield made clear that the government still sees Anzac Oval as essential to the project.
The sticking point for council, however, as Cr Melky pointed out, is that their support for the Anzac Hill precinct site is conditional on traditional owner support.
This is expressly written into council’s resolution on the matter, which requires the government to present evidence of that support.
Mr Jennings acknowledged that this is very clear in the agreement between council and government but said it is “a bit too early to say” whether such evidence is forthcoming.
When Cr Melky pressed for more, Mr Jennings said, “I wish I could tell you more, there’s nothing to tell.”
Elected Members will be updated on progress at the March council forum (closed to the public).
UPDATED 25 February 2020, 9.26am