Above: NT Government representatives trying to sell the case for the gallery at Anzac Precinct in April 2018 – already two years ago. The strong turnout in the public gallery, mostly in opposition to the proposal on that site, would not be physically possible in today’s Coronavirus environment.
By KIERAN FINNANE
Councillors will soon receive advice from their solicitor about council’s rights in relation to compulsory acquisition, CEO Robert Jennings told them at last night’s meetings. .
Such a move on the council-owned Anzac Oval has been foreshadowed by Chief Minister Michael Gunner.
Meanwhile, a joint letter from Ministers Dale Wakefield and Lauren Moss, urging council to endorse the Anzac Precinct site including Anzac Oval for the National Aboriginal Gallery went down like a lead ballon.
The Ministers framed their request in terms of recovery from the Coronavirus impact, but this was “wrong” and “pathetic” in “the climate we are in today”, said Councillor Jamie de Brenni.
It was “extremely poor taste” to bring up the issue “in current environment”, said Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson.
They were trying to put the issue “back on to council’s back”, said Cr Glen Auricht.
They were “wiping dissent against” the project from Indigenous people and that’s “a little bit awkward”, he said.
And they are not answering the general community’s questions about a design – how much of the oval’s green space does it need? – and about where rugby will go – is the money there for a new facility? (And as Mayor Damien Ryan pointed out, it is not clear that they have the “pieces of dirt” to site new rugby fields on.)
They are “in very muddy waters, put it that way”, said Cr Auricht.
An earlier letter from Minister Wakefield spoke of Traditional Owner support, referring particularly to a meeting of 32 Traditional Owners who “strongly endorsed” the project.
The letter acknowledged the dissenting voices and contended that the Government “values them”, while in the next sentence saying, “we cannot allow a few loud voices to drown out the needs of our community and the economic future of our young people”.
Mayor Ryan said he has had many approaches by Traditional Owners on other matters and none of them have asked him to support the gallery at the Anzac Precinct. Had his fellow Elected Members been approached?
It has not been brought up with them, said Crs Auricht and de Brenni.
Cr Eli Melky said it was up to the Minister to”provide evidence to support her claim”.
Cr Jimmy Cocking had not had any approaches, and also wanted to see evidence from the Minister.
Cr Jacinta Price (pictured during last night’s Zoom meeting) said a couple of Traditional Owners she had spoken to felt they hadn’t made an informed decision and still feel confused over whole process.
She wanted an opportunity for council “to hear directly from these people themselves”, and in some circumstances, “separate from other individuals so their voices can be heard”.
DM Paterson hadn’t been approached. He reiterated council’s position from December 2019: they will negotiate once the NT Government provides evidence of custodian support.
“Our position has not changed,” he said.
If the evidence is there, it can be validated allowing the project to move forward, said Cr Marli Banks.
Cr Catherine Satour said she has had conversations strongly in favour and strongly against. Some people have explained that they don’t fully understand the information they’ve been given; others feel “conflicted” because of “the conflict this is possibly causing”.
In light of all this, Mr Jennings suggested council “seek clarity” about what is meant by the plans for the “iconic” gallery building extending into the existing oval, and to also ask “for some form of proof or validation” of Traditional Owner support.
He said the Minister is “very keen to do a reset”.
Councillors endorsed that action.
In other council news, Cr Melky reiterated his interest in council adopting a ward system and increasing its representation by two elected members.
In future any such changes will be made by others, he said.
In particular, he wants to see one representative on council coming from Alice Springs’s town camps, someone who lives on a camp and can represent their specific interests.
Other councillors preferred to focus on increasing voter enrolment, turnout and casting of formal ballots, including by town campers.
Cr Auricht (pictured right alongside Director Corporate Services Sabine Taylor) felt that town camps were represented by councillors as well any other group in the community.
Cr Cocking suggested, however, that people on town camps needed to see value coming from council to engage their interest in it. The only time town camps are mentioned in council papers is in relation to the fees charged for their rubbish collection, he said.
He suggested a partnership with the NT Electoral Commission, possibly in the form of workshops over six months in the lead-up to next year’s local government elections, to help people better understand the business of council.
Cr Melky raised the exclusion of the public from council’s online meetings.
Council had made provisions for the media to attend, why not members of the public? Surely their exclusion contravenes the Local Government Act, he suggested.
No, it doesn’t, council has been given dispensation in relation to public attendance while Coronavirus restrictions are in place, advised the CEO Jennings and Director Sabine Taylor.
MsTaylor also said council was having video-streaming “issues” due to the available the technology in council chambers.
Mr Jennings said people can ask written questions in advance, and the recordings of council’s meetings are being posted to its website as soon as possible after the meetings.
Cr Banks wanted to ensure that the policy was reviewed after a certain period.
Mr Jennings said council will look further into public participation.
Another Coronavirus initiative council is looking at may be extended into the future – the live-streaming of funerals from council’s non-denominational chapel at the cemetery.
Director Scott Allen said officers think it will last beyond Covid-19, allowing interstate family and friends to attend funerals.
Cr Cocking welcomed the initiative as “a fantastic service we could provide” and looked forward to the time when live-streaming would also “grace our chamber”.