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Home Issue 3 Behind closed doors, council may be caving on Anzac Oval

Behind closed doors, council may be caving on Anzac Oval

By KIERAN FINNANE

The Town Council has requested mediation, provided for under the Land Acquisition Act, as the NT Government pursues compulsory acquisition of Anzac Oval for its proposed national Aboriginal art gallery.

CEO Robert Jennings said the request had been the subject of three conversations with representatives of the NT Government, with no clarity of response.

Councillor Marli Banks reminded her fellow Elected Members of the resolution that binds them on this issue.

Moved by Cr Eli Melky, seconded by herself and supported unanimously at the Special Meeting she called on 7 May 2020 to respond to the threat, it resolves that council “will challenge any attempt made by the NT Government to compulsory acquire Anzac Oval.”

Reading between the lines, as Cr Banks was choosing her words carefully so as not to breach confidentiality rules, she was reacting to a softening of position within council.

The resolution is clear, she said, and it means that officers don’t have authority to change direction, nor does any one Elected Member.

Cr Matt Paterson countered with another resolution of council, dating from December 2019.

It’s worth quoting in full, although his point was around “looking for a solution”, emphasising the resolution’s provision for negotiation with the NT Government on the site.

Moved by Cr Paterson, seconded by Cr Eli Melky, it reads:

1. Council has determined their National Aboriginal Art Gallery site preference as listed below and seek to proceed into negotiations with NT Government on the chosen site:

The southern portion of the Council managed Anzac Oval site (Lot 678) with a linear connection to the former Anzac Hill High School site to the north (owned by the NT Government). This proposal would leave the oval surface, grandstands, Youth Centre, Totem Theatre and 50+ Centre retained. That Alice Springs Town Council negotiate the southern portion of the Council managed ANZAC Oval Site once the Northern Territory Government provide Alice Springs Town Council evidence of custodian support of the location.

2. Confirm their strong belief in the formation of a multilateral partnership group of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal representatives that can drive forward the National Aboriginal Art Gallery project in an inclusive, effective and consultative manner for the benefit of the Alice Springs community, the Territory and the organisation.

The lack of “evidence of custodian support” has been the sticking point oft-quoted, including by Cr Paterson.

The government feels that it has cleared that hurdle with the letter from Lhere Artepe supporting the Anzac location – a position rejected by the Mparntwe custodian group.

With the possibility having been floated of Lhere Artepe retracting their support, Cr Banks drew her colleagues’ attention to the report in the Alice Springs News, published while last night’s meeting was in train, that the government will proceed at the Anzac site, irrespective of any change coming now.

“We’re in a very precarious position,” said Cr Banks, given the “highly contested, volatile conversation, complex history” of the matter.

She was not prepared “to concede defeat” despite the NT Governments “standover and intimidation” seeking toallow this process to bulldoze through.”

She called for as much information as possible to be made available to the public “to guide where we are going.”

The whole art gallery process has been noteworthy for the lack of public information or, when it has been available, it has been either brief to the point of cryptic or massaged to the government’s message.

Image at top: The drawn-out saga around the possible use of Anzac Oval initially got a lot of public attention, more than most issues, but it has quietened now. Here people gather for a rally in September 2018 ahead of a council meeting, to protest the possible change.

 

Last updated 29 January 2021, 4.09pm.

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