Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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Home Issue 5 Town Council force storms Cassia Court

Town Council force storms Cassia Court

By ERWIN CHLANDA

A task force of seven Town Council employees including three rangers, apparently armed, breaching an undertaking brokered by the Ombudsman, invaded Cassia Court on Friday to remove a very small tree planted on the verge.

Resident Ralph Folds, the other party, says the council also breached an agreement to remove yellow no-parking lines (they were put back), and took action about a tea tree branch (pictured behind one of the rangers) without giving prior notice to him.

The Ombudsman wrote to Mr Folds on May 21 last year with a summary of agreements, and saying: “I am pleased that both Parties were able to discuss and resolve the issues. Considering the matter is now resolved, I will be closing the complaints lodged with this Office.”

All that has now been turned on its head by the council, according to Mr Folds, despite clear understandings by the Ombudsman and Mr Folds.

Bahareh Jaber, Senior Investigation Officer, wrote: “As agreed by both parties, Mr Folds will cut back the Tea Tree so that it appears neat and attractive … not necessarily right to the property line but acceptable to [the council].

“The Town Council has agreed to remove the yellow lines on the street and send a letter to all of the residents of the court to be mindful of the Garbage collection day and not obstruct the truck on that day.”

According to Mr Jaber, ranger manager at the time, Kevin Everett, “advised that the reason behind the marking of the yellow line was to assist the collection of Rubbish bins on pickup day. After seeing the lines, [the council has] agreed that it is too harsh on the residents and that the lines will be removed.”

The Ombudsman wrote: “Council have agreed to allow the small tree to remain where it is.”

Council “advises that the small tree is not creating an issue and being in a quiet court location should not create any future issues. ASTC advised that it is in [character] with the rest of the court as another residents has a neat little row of plants as well.

“ASTC suggested, that if this was a main street of Alice Springs with a high amount of traffic it would be different, however there are only three driveways in the bulb of the court. The tree will be monitored by ASTC for the future and any concerns will be brought to the attention of Mr Folds.”

The Alice Springs News is inviting the Town Council to comment.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Ralph, back in April when I first read your highly amusing but disturbing account of growing a street tree and facing the Sacred Sites Authority and an inspection by an arborist etc, I wondered how it would all turn out.
    Looking back I see that you went to the NT Ombudsman and the little street tree survived, your beautiful Tea Tree was not hacked to pieces and the silly no standing lines in your small court were removed.
    But Friday’s destructive events that effectively ripped up the agreement with the Ombudsman and denied its jurisdiction were predictable.
    You challenged the Alice Springs Town Council by drawing on an external authority, thereby questioning their own.
    That was intolerable.
    The details of the raid tell the story.
    Seven in the squad including three very burly, apparently armed, Rangers.
    Rangers are routinely tasked by Mr Chris Gosling, Senior Ranger, to ensure Council workers can complete their job uninterrupted.
    Their involvement in Friday’s raid went far beyond that.
    This was a show of force designed to intimidate you.
    Reporting here, in this free press, shows you are not intimidated.
    I am well aware that there is nothing else you can do as this affair would now be a confidential “operational” matter.
    Your complaints will not be acknowledged, let alone responded to.
    The only power left to ratepayers is to direct our votes away from the incumbent leadership that allows this abuse of local governance to happen.

  2. Armed personnel to dig up a shrub? What in hell does the Alice Springs Town Council think it’s doing?
    Perhaps it’s gone unreported or I’ve not noticed but I can’t recall an event like this in the entire half century history of the ASTC.
    On the face of it, this is astonishing stuff – an over-reach of power somewhere between the Gestapo and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
    Is a situation developing here where the NT Government may find itself “obliged” to suspend the Alice Springs Town Council and put it under some form of administrative control?
    That would achieve a couple of useful things for the NTG – first, a welcome distraction from its own tawdry sex scandal involving Member for Blain, Mark Turner, and unnamed staff of the Fifth Floor; second, it would remove the town council impediment to the compulsory acquisition of Anzac Oval.
    Politics in the Northern Territory has always been a remarkably dirty game (I can personally vouch for it a number of times over decades) but rarely has it got murkier than what is happening now.

  3. There would be hundreds of trees around town that hang over streets and footpaths. Who cares about one in a court? How is this even an issue?

  4. Why the Council does not send a task force to remove all the vehicles park on footpaths in Brown Street and Priest Street? It is impossible to walk with children / pram / wheelchair without going on the road.

  5. They might have confused tea trees with triffids.
    At least they were clad in khaki and not a la mode Ninja black.
    ASTC doesn’t have an excuse – these are not on water matters.
    As for the weapons, fair enough, our elephants in the room need protection against poachers.

  6. All that effort and expense over a shrub. What effort has been put in to tackling crime? One would think someone has their priorities a little mixed up.

  7. When I think of the Council Rangers it’s the friendly parking inspector who is open to a conversation and welcoming to tourists.
    He or she is your friend, your mate, who will carefully and patiently explain the Council by-laws.
    If you have broken a rule these Rangers fine you almost apologetically.
    But quietly, behind the scenes, the Alice Springs Town Council has been assembling a strike force manned by a different breed of Rangers.
    These are tall and very well muscled and they wear what looks like tactical gear.
    They may be armed but even if not, they present to the public as a police force SWAT squad rather than the casual and likeable Ranger I’m familiar with.
    I’m wondering how the creation of the Ranger Strike Force happened?
    Was this momentous development ever put to our elected representatives on the ASTC?
    Are their guidelines regarding the deployment of the Strike Force?
    Surely the storming of Cassia Court would not fit with any rational or sane guidelines.
    Or was the Strike Force development and its deployment “operational” and cloaked in the secrecy that now shrouds much of what the ASTC does?

  8. Just like Gunner, nothing to see here, move on please. I sincerely object to my rate money being wasted in an idiotic action such as this. What sort of management do we have in the council, none with any common sense that is fairly certain. We can be broken into, attempted break and enters, the town going down the gurgler at a great rate and this is the best council can come up with. Time to get out!!!

  9. The aforementioned ranger strike force assembled by the little Chief Goose is generally reserved for recently abandoned vehicles or a nice old couple sleeping rough in the river. Very surprising that he let the tall, very well muscled team loose on a small tree, seems like a colossal waste of resources in my opinion. Black vests aren’t even hi vis?

  10. @Evelyne Roullet. Thank you so much for your call to elected councillors.
    Will any have the courage to defy operational secrecy?
    My vote in Council elections depends on their reactions.
    Can they represent us or a Town Council that has clearly lost its way and no longer deserves
    our support?
    With us or against us?

  11. Absolutely incredible! Reading this I am thinking nah, it must be a scene out of some futuristic movie, ASTC does not have storm troopers… does it?

  12. Well if the facts were presented, this whole event would never have happened.
    This is not about the council or rangers. This is about Ralph planting a tree on the nature strip so close to the neighbours driveway, with star pickets around the tree, that the cars from the neighbour’s driveway could not open their car doors with out scratching their car.
    Ralph used to park in his own driveway for years. Then decided to build gates to keep his cat inside his area
    Trouble being, the gates were not big enough to drive his car into his yard.
    So Ralph then started parking his car on the road.
    This became a nuisance, as not only the rubbish truck could not drive effectively to pick up the bins, but hampered the other neighbours in backing out of their own drive ways and not hitting Ralph’s car.
    Also there is a bed and breakfast (which I own) in the court that has tourist buses coming to pick up guests for tours. These buses used to do this in one swoop, but not now.
    As for the tree having over the footpath where no one can walk, as lack of maintenance, was becoming a messy eye sore. So the council asked if it could be tidied up. So as Ralph would not do this, the council tidied the tree up.
    Now Ralph parks his car where the tree hung over the footpath, and so close to the neighbours drive way, that the neighbours can not open their car door.
    Talk about lack of consideration.

  13. @ Hi Kathy, the small street tree I planted was more than two metres from the neighbour’s driveway and was approved by the Alice Springs Town Council and given a permit.
    The Ombudsman also agreed that the tittle tree was appropriate and harmless and could stay where it is.
    These approvals would never have been granted if the tree was so close to a neighbour’s driveway they couldn’t open the doors of their car.
    A star picket with a soft, bright yellow plastic top was to prevent damage to the small tree and was no where near the driveway.
    In line with the Ombudsman agreement last year my vehicle was never parked on the street on rubbish collection days.
    Can’t walk under the Tea Tree?
    The picture with this story shows the Tea Tree before it was cut back by ASTC.
    Plenty of room to walk under it.
    I am aware that you are protective of your bed and breakfast business and strongly dislike this tree.
    You have told me many times that it is ugly and a mess and not good for your business.
    In deference to your wishes I cut it back to the top of the fence.
    The Ombudsman, with the ASTC’s written agreement, stated that this was aesthetically pleasing and did not need to be cut back further.
    It appears you didn’t agree this assessment and have made further complaints.
    As a small business owner I imagine they have carried some weight.
    But Cassia Ct is a residential area and I just don’t agree with your opinion that the tree is ugly and needed to be cut back to more than three metres above the footpath, as has now happened.
    This Tea Tree is one of the oldest in the area, it’s a native and to my mind very attractive. The Council’s own environment officer agreed with that assessment.
    Other neighbours have admired it.
    Your guests are in the Alice now where Tea Trees are part of the natural environment.
    The Ombudsman’s agreement clearly stated that should any issues arise I would be consulted.
    I wasn’t.
    Instead I was raided.
    But the street tree is gone, the yellow no standing lines are back and my Tea Tree really is a mess now.
    Let’s work towards being the good neighbours we have previously been for many years.

  14. @ Roy Tilmouth. Agreed. I, for one, would like more information. Just who, for example, is the “little Chief Goose”?

  15. When will the town council mow the verges at Ilparpa please? We take and pay for our rubbish fees, we have septics and still pay high rates. Looking forward to some mowing and attention with full ranger outfits and combat gear as well!

  16. @ Kathy. You didn’t like a neighbour’s Tea Tree and you were upset that buses delivering your guests can’t turn around in one go if there are cars parked in the court.
    But your business is in a residential area where people can grow trees of their choosing on their property and personally, I think that the Tea Tree is an attraction rather than an eyesore.
    Residents are allowed to park in the street, even if this causes minor inconvenience to you.
    Looking at the picture of the Tea Tree your claim that people can’t walk under it seems phoney to me.
    There are hundreds of trees that actually are obstructing footpaths in our town and the Alice Springs Town Council couldn’t care less.
    Buses travelling down the court and no doubt, taxis pulling up and beeping their horns must be annoying for your neighbours but do they complain?
    Seems to me there isn’t a lot of give and take on your part.
    But I couldn’t care less about petty neighbourhood disputes.
    I do care about Council fairness and accountability.
    You appear to have a lot of influence with the ASTC to override the agreement they made with the Ombudsman and trigger their extraordinary response.
    The fact that you were able to influence Council and trigger their storming of Cassia Court is further evidence that the ASTC lacks transparency and accountability.
    Those who authorised the raid know they are safe behind the operational cloak of secrecy.
    They know they are not going to get in trouble from the Ombudsman.
    They know that any complaints about them will not even be acknowledged, let alone investigated and responded to.
    Our Council needs radical reform and the storming of Cassia Ct is just the latest evidence that this is long overdue.

  17. Councilors, please, answer and explain to Susan Sidler which nails the real problem we have in Alice Springs.
    The role of each councillor is to:
    • represent the interests of electors, ratepayers and residents;
    • provide leadership and guidance to the community;
    • facilitate two-way communication between the community and the council; and.participate in decision making processes at meetings.
    Alice Springs Town council claims to be “working for the community” not for a selected few.
    By my understanding Council rangers are officers employed by local government areas in Australia to enforce the by-laws of those local governments and a limited range of state laws relating to such matters as litter control, animal control, dog laws, cat laws, bush fire control, off-road vehicles, emergency management, and parking.
    Rangers are responsible for enforcing off-road vehicle laws by patrolling bush lands, beaches and reserves to protect sensitive areas from unauthorised off-road vehicles use.
    There is no mention of protecting gardeners removing a tree (illegally by Ombudsman ruling).
    Unless they are also sworn as special constables, rangers do not have full police powers.
    Rangers can get licenses to use firearms against feral animals or for protection against problem salt-water crocodiles. In Alice Springs?!

  18. Susan, The tree in question is in Ralph’s yard, not as he suggests on the footpath.
    These photos are after the tree was cut back. The one hanging above his fence.
    Not the tree he then planted on the footpath.
    People are so quick to get on the band wagon.
    The Council Rangers are doing their job in responding to rate payers requests.
    A pity the truth gets in the way of a good story.

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