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HomeIssue 21CBD revitalisation no show all council's fault?

CBD revitalisation no show all council’s fault?

Above: Our un-vital CBD on the evening of 24 February. 


UPDATE Friday 20 March 2020, 10.40am: Council CEO Robert Jennings has provided clarification on council’s contribution to the revitalisation. See at bottom.

Despite a $20m promise for revitalisation of the Alice Springs CBD,  made in the NT Government’s 2017-18 Budget, in 2020 there is nothing concrete to see, and apparently it is all the fault of the Alice Springs Town Council.

At last night ’s committee meetings Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson raised comments by Chief Minister Michael Gunner made on ABC radio last week.

According to Deputy Mayor Paterson, the Chief Minister said the CBD revitalisation was not going ahead because council haven’t invested any money.

“I don’t recall at any stage [council] being approached to invest” in the project, he said. Could the CEO confirm that this is the case?

Before CEO Robert Jennings could reply, Mayor Damien Ryan chipped in: “The Chief Minister said we had committed funds, which I have never heard in this chamber.”

Said Mr Jennings: “Officers are working on the principle that has not happened to our awareness.”

Director Technical Services Scott Allen added that the issue “has never been raised at the CBD revitalisation meetings that myself and the CEO attend. At this stage we are pushing ahead with the projects”.

However, Mr Jennings qualified his comment by saying that the cost of “running” the whole project will be borne by council.

The Alice Springs News is seeking clarification on what this means for council’s budget.

Meanwhile, Councillor Eli Melky asked that the council, at its next budget meeting, allocate “a sufficient amount”, which he expected would be “considerable”, to prepare for an approach by the NT Government to acquire any asset of the Town Council’s, including Anzac Oval.

He was responding to reported comments by the Chief Minister at his “2020 – The Year Ahead” address, about progress on the national Aboriginal art gallery.

“We will talk with the Alice Springs Town Council about the land we need to get this art gallery built,”  said Mr Gunner.

“Let’s be clear, if we have to acquire it we will. If negotiation doesn’t work we will acquire. We will get it done.”

In response to Cr Melky, Mr Jennings said that preparatory budget work “has been done”, as Cr Melky had previously raised the issue.

Cr Glen Auricht commented on the “major opposition amongst ratepayers” to a change of use for Anzac Oval, as well as the opposition of Traditional Owners to the gallery going ahead at the Anzac Hill precinct site.

He said council hasn’t yet heard that the NT Government has received of any Traditional Owner approval.

Mayor Ryan said the Chief Minister has been asked clearly about this and “nobody has bothered to answer”.

Deputy Mayor Paterson said government had criticised council for its division on the issue, asked for a unanimous response, “we gave it to them, the ball is in their court”.

To the Alice Springs News, Cr Melky made clear that the budget line he is requesting will be used for legal action if necessary.

He estimated that “a quarter of a million” would be necessary “to make sure we’re in the game”.

He thinks there is support for such a fight “right across the chamber”; he has detected “no dissent”.

He said the Chief Minister’s comments undermine the “tireless” work on the project by the CEO and come “at a time when we don’t need any more negativity”, referring to the impact of COVID-19.

Although the Chief Minister may just be “talking tough”, council needs “to be ready”, said Cr Melky.

The News has asked the Chief Minister to comment on the issues raised in this report.

Note: Once again, Cr Jacinta Price was not in the chamber last night, attending the meeting by phone.

She has not been in the chamber at all this year. On 28 January, 24 February and last night, 16 March, she attended by phone. On 10 February she was an apology with sick leave. 

Phone attendance is only possible for the open session of the meeting.

“Cr Price, we wish you good night as we move into confidential,” said Cr Melky as the open session drew to a close.

This means all the confidential business of council in 2020 has been conducted without the input of Cr Price.

Crs Jamie de Brenni and Marli Banks were also apologies at last night’s meeting.

UPDATE Friday 20 March 2020, 10.40am:

Council CEO Robert Jennings has provide this clarification on council’s contribution to the CBD revitalisation:
“Alice Springs Town Council has not financially contributed to the CBD Revitalisation project, all contribution so far have been in-kind support.  

“Council contributes in an ongoing maintenance and assets renewal capacity, which for example, over the life of an asset with the initial spend of $15million could amount to $35million in maintenance.

“Council is working closely with the NT Government, regarding this major infrastructure project, as it has a lasting legacy on the Alice Springs community and its assets.”


  1. Nothing can fix the mall until crime is fixed. Just look at the people the other day robbed by a coordinated gang twice in a matter on minutes. The mall is the new ‘Gap Road’ of town, somewhere you don’t go walking at night.
    I challenge anyone to get a taxi from the airport and ask the driver what is the town like? I bet you get a response full of warnings.
    Stop wasting money when it is required elsewhere.

  2. RE: The proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery
    Such an organisation/institution is not about a site or a building.
    I was reminded recently about the origins of the National Gallery of Australia. Its inaugural Director James Mollison was the Director for TEN YEARS before the NGA moved into its purpose-designed building. He worked for the first ten years from an office and a warehouse.
    Constructing a building (on whatever site is chosen) BEFORE there is an organisation, Board, Director, staff, strategic plan, policies, procedures and confirmed on-going operational funding will only lead to a white elephant which may not be suitable for the operations of the organisation that develops. The building design must be driven by decisions that have not yet been made. The organisation will be limited by what someone thought was an appropriate structure prior to any strategic direction re exhibitions, collections, or public engagement being established, and this will probably cripple the organisation’s ability to grow and develop.
    The ideas developed in the first plan – The Initial Steering Scoping Report to the NT Government – prepared for and published by the NT Government – were strong. The Initial Scoping Steering Committee Members were an informed and appropriate group of people. They had knowledge, experience in the area, strong networks and a clear vision.
    I and many others in the arts industry were horrified when this committee was ‘let go’ and the process taken over by inexperienced public servants and local members [of parliament] without any formal training or experience in this complex field. From then on it has been all downhill.
    While I do respect the public servants, MPs and Councillors in their own areas of expertise, a national project like this is simply outside the capacity of anyone currently involved. Such an important institution cannot be got off the ground by amateurs.
    Possibly Hetti Perkins may have been the one person with the experience, networks, Indigenous and non-Indigenous respect, and entrepreneurship who might have been able to pull this ambitious plan off in the same way that James Mollison implemented the National Gallery of Australia. It was a shame that she was ‘let go’.
    Now all we have is a lot of squabbling over the site which is divisive for the town, offends local TOs, and provides the likelihood of an unsuitable building.
    It doesn’t matter which political party is governing the NT, or where the site and a building is going to be, if we are not going to get a fully-funded professional and credible organisation to run it. At the moment NT does not have the resources to fully fund anything.

  3. I can only applaud the common sense displayed by an “Interested Onlooker”(ASNews 17/03). I’ve tried repeatedly over the last three years to express a simple opinion: do not try to kill 2 birds with the same stone. It is either the Mall and the CBD, urban planning and anti-social behaviour management, or an Aboriginal Art Gallery of national relevance. Finally we’ll get neither. The development of an Art Gallery (National) is a specialised topic, leave it to art experts. It goes beyond NT/Town Council politics.
    Similarly Covid-19 is a public health issue, leave it to doctors and epidemiologists to tell us the best course of action, not to politicians.

  4. How many more revitalisations of the mall do we need to demonstrate that the mall is no longer the major economic driver for the town? Just stop to monitor the traffic flowing South through the gap at peak hours to realise that so much employment is generated South of the gap that this is where the future of the town lies, irrespective of the real estate vested interests.
    No one seems to ask why 2 major banks have relocated from the Northern end of the Mall and one could hardly claim that the Megafauna feature is drawing huge crowds there as it has in Winton and elsewhere. Did anyone really look at Winton and how it works before they rushed in? It should have been a part of a new cluster of tourism-related attractions South of the Gap ,including an interactive tourist interception (visitor center) at the Transport Hall of fame – a wonderful feature but grossly under-utilised, a cultural centre, not at Anzac , but at Yirara where the students can demonstrate their own culture , including bush tucker propagation as an emerging industry, a mega fauna display at the Minerals Museum at ASRI, and a display of innovative practices and research relevant to Arid Zone housing and solar technology at Desert Knowledge.
    A university research group from Interstate recently won world wide acclaim for building such a facility in Dubai. One has again to wonder why it didn’t happen here. A recent speech by the Indian Ambassador (Mr Goundar) on India’s needs shows again the extent of the missed opportunities here because of closed mind planning and thinking. And short term walking tracks?? Where are they???


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