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HomeIssue 11Repairing social relations, repairing infrastructure

Repairing social relations, repairing infrastructure


The best ways to revitalise the Alice Springs CBD may well come from moves other than public works – notoriously slow anyway.

The completion of council’s “entry statement” for the mall, having been promised since at least March, is due tomorrow, Thursday. This photo shows how it looked Tuesday morning.

Not that it’s particularly slow, compared to the grand plans of the NT Government.

There was $20m put on the table for this when Labor came to power in 2016. That’s now whittled down to $11.3m, according to Mayor Damien Ryan, answering a question from Councillor Marli Banks during last night’s brief Town Council meeting.

He said money had been spent on LED lighting and place-making signage – though surely not close to $9m worth.

The town may yet get the promised shade structures (and tree-planting) but true revitalisation means people, and on that score the Traditional Owner Foot Patrol and the Arrernte Strong Grandmothers Group surely have a more hopeful offering than any quantity of bricks and mortar, or I should say, concrete and steel.

Above: Grandmothers Margaret Lynch, Pamela Lynch, Veronica Lynch and Alison Furber on the first night of operations. Photo from our archive. 

Councillor Catherine Satour had given notice of a motion to fund the Grandmothers Group for six months, to provide their services on Friday and Saturday nights and other times if necessary. (To date they have acted as volunteers but she wanted funding backdated to the start.)

She had suggested that the funds to be allocated from the reserves of unspent COVID-19 emergency funding. At the meeting, though, she deferred the motion.

She said it would be a shame to lose momentum on what has taken three and a half years to get to this point (referring to the November 2017 meeting when she was instrumental in inviting Traditional Owners to council to put themselves forward to work in partnership on addressing social issues).

It would also be a shame, she said, to not “adequately support and resource community projects”, but it was reasonable to defer until after officers report on the Traditional Owner Foot Patrol, due in June. Then councillors would have a better understanding of the projects’ requirements as well as council’s budget provisions.

However, if the conclusion then was not to proceed, she would want to know what council’s plan would be to address community safety.

On this subject, Cr Jimmy Cocking asked officers about council’s involvement in offering diversion opportunities for young people coming into contact with the justice system.  Director Scott Allen said that council, when asked, always expresses willingness to take part, for instance by offering the possibility of fulfilling community work orders through the depot. He could remember two such instances.

CEO Robert Jennings said it would be timely to look further into the opportunities through the youth team that council is putting together.  Mayor Ryan raised budgetary considerations – how to pay for the people supervising – while Cr Jamie De Brenni said council should be part of the system, having “the infrastructure and capacity” to do it.

Cr Cocking also raised infrastructure repair of particular relevance to youth. One instance falls entirely within council’s domain. This is the repainted surface of the skatepark (2018 photo), which users have told council is dangerously slippery.

Falls are part and parcel of skating (I know, I raised a skater) but usually skaters can anticipate when falls are coming and take action to protect themselves from full impact. Slipping caused by the surface though takes them by surprise.

My notes show this matter being raised in a council meeting as far back as last September (council’s repainting was in response to the slipperiness of graffiti in metallic paint, but it only compounded the problem).

Another longstanding matter of concern is the state of the Stuart Highway fence, the statement fence that runs from the Larapinta intersection to Whittaker Street. For years, this fence went undamaged, but since the first panels were kicked in not so long ago, many more have followed. (Photo at bottom dates from September last year.)

Apart from it being “unsightly”, said Cr Cocking, the gaps are creating a “thoroughfare for getaways”.

Cr Eli Melky had earlier painted a picture of what the getaway scenarios might involve. He had been in discussion with a train driver, extremely concerned about young people throwing rocks at the Ghan and on occasion jumping onto the moving train, all this taking place in the area behind the fence.

On the matter of its repair, although it is an NT Government responsibility, they’re taking no action. Cr Cocking urged council to do something themselves.

Again Mayor Ryan agreed but raised budgetary considerations.

Photo at top: Entry statement works on the right. A raised bed has been removed, a pale (almost white) sandstone architectural element has been installed. The clutter of verboten signs and CCTV remains, but fortunately the twin lemon-scented gums still grace the area and as does, on most days, the brilliant sky above.



Last updated: 13 May 2021, 10.53am


  1. Not much good having a new Todd Mall entrance, when the windows and shop on the other side are still broken. Yes, it is private, but surely there is a case to get them fixed.

  2. The lemon-scented gums in Todd Mall, incidentally, were established as part of the original landscaping for the new Todd Street semi-mall in early 1978.

  3. I just strolled down the Mall looking for $9m worth of lighting and signage.
    For the life of me I could not find it. $2m absolute max.
    Why are our elected members and mayor aspirants in particular not onto this?
    Demand a detailed list of works from the infrastructure manager.
    And don’t accept operational secrecy.

  4. @ Evelyne Roullet, yes but we will only exercise the right to know how our money is spent if we have elected members willing to demand it.
    It’s all very well for councillors to want money for worthwhile projects but they also need to play a role in making sure that money is not mis-spent of used inappropriately.
    They do not seem to be up for that.
    I am also amazed that such a huge amount of money has been spent on the Mall entrance with so little evidence of what has been achieved.
    But we will probably never find out exactly where the money went.
    Such is the lack of transparency at the Council, aided and abetted by our spineless councillors.

  5. @ Jon, Evelyne, Susan: There seems to be a misapprehension about the $20m allocation for CBD revitalisation and the $11.3m remaining, according to Mayor Ryan. These are Northern Territory Government funds and expenditure. It is they who must account for it, not council, although if there were a more collaborative relationship between the two, everyone would be clear about what has been done and what to expect for the future.
    There is no suggestion in the article of the entry statement costing a huge amount of money, nor, when it comes to financial matters, of council lacking transparency. There is a lot of financial disclosure in the monthly papers. The papers for 28 April 2021 show that $22,890.00 have been committed to the “Todd Mall Entrance Project”.
    I will put in a question to the NT Government about the $20m.

  6. What the Alice Springs Town Council has to do is mow the town’s long and overgrown grass in the many streets around this town.
    Bring a bit of beauty back, for Heaven’s sake!
    This Council is pathetic. The town looks dirty. Broken glass everywhere, rubbish lying everywhere etc.
    Just because we are dealing with massive social issues around alcohol dependence caused by visitors who just want to destroy everyone’s well being while they enjoy the services provided to them for free, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop the town from looking nice!
    Mayor: What are you doing? You have dropped the ball, buddy!


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