By OSCAR PERRI
Alice Springs residents want kerbside recycling, are unhappy with the management of roads, footpaths and parks and think council should have a hand in addressing youth issues.
This is according to the 262 people who responded to a survey put together by council election candidate Kim Hopper, who has shared the data with the Alice Springs News.
Ms Hopper has had positive feedback from voters about the survey, who have told her that they are pleased to have a candidate making an effort to hear what they want from council.
“For me it proves that people want to have a say, they want to feel like they’ve been consulted and it’d be great to see council take that on a bit more,” she says.
The three questions asked are:–
How can Alice Springs Town Council work better for your HOUSEHOLD? (eg. recycling, verge-management)?
For your NEIGHBOURHOOD? (eg. road speeds, paths, lighting)?
For our TOWN? (eg. significant issues that Council can help improve)?
While the responses only make up around 3% of the expected 8500 voters, the survey still provides a valuable resource.
It also far outdoes council itself on community feedback, which received zero input from the community on the budget draft, and “very low” feedback on the library redevelopment community engagement.
This was highlighted in responses to the third question, council’s need to improve its engagement with the public, organisations, and the NT government was the third most mentioned topic, after youth issues and climate and environmental action.
Around half of the responses mentioned youth issues, crime and public safety, but only 15 responses mentioned introducing a curfew, while 37 supported youth facilities, programs and activities to address the issue.
Ms Hopper (pictured) says that while crime is having a big impact on the community, the responses show that there are other issues that people care about that council also needs to pay attention to.
“I’m not downplaying what’s happening in town, but [crime] can extremely dominate the conversation, so you don’t get to have a nuanced conversation about other stuff.
“It is an issue, we do need to work on it and we do need to collaborate better with everybody, but let’s not lose our heads, or our focus over the other stuff.”
There was little mention of major projects in the responses, with only five wanting movement on the national Aboriginal art gallery and 11 for the proposed library upgrade.
Ms Hopper says she thinks this is because residents are more concerned about council getting “the basics” right first. However, council should be able to do both at the same time.
“I think people don’t really know much about those big projects and also what the capacity of council to support those projects is.
“There’s a role there that the next council needs to play, about this visioning for a 10 year plan that has some of those big projects in there to get people excited about, but for people to know that it’s not going to mean that the footpaths don’t get looked after.”
She says that other projects that are more about the town functioning better, like flood mitigation upgrades, are also important, but she needs to get into council first to see where the conversation around those are at.
The dump bursting at the seams and no progress with fully recycling sewage instead of evaporating billions of litres of water and using huge amounts of real estate in a prime location don’t get a mention from the survey respondents.
The library project and an overhaul of the recycling system is what she is passionate about making happen if elected, says Ms Hopper.
“Partnerships are going to be key to getting a lot of this stuff done. I think the first thing is the engagement with the community and identifying the projects and identifying what’s already happening and what the opportunities are. And then it’s about building on those partnerships.”
More than three quarters of responses to the first question were in favour of kerbside recycling collection.
Ms Hopper says while this may be skewed by it being one of her election issues, it shows an appetite in the community for council to work on improving their waste management, especially in regards to recycling.
Better upkeep and expansion of the town’s footpaths and bike paths dominated the responses to the second question, and around 50 responses wanted council to improve road safety, reducing speed limits, adding more speed humps, and fixing damage to roads.
Around a quarter of the responses to this question want council to take better care of parks, and plant more trees there and in other parts of the town.
Ms Hopper says she did not realise fully fenced-off dog parks, road and bike safety were major issues before she conducted the survey.
She says that this is a good example of why council needs to work on their community engagement, to find out what people want that may not be immediately obvious.
“We sometimes think that people don’t have the time or don’t care enough to get engaged, but I think if you make it simple and easy and accessible for people then they will, and they are interested in what happens in our town.
“I also like it because it’s written documentation, a really tangible thing that you can hold in your hand and know what people want.”
PHOTO at top: The standards of roads and footpaths are a major concern for voters but a survey by candidate Kim Hopper shows the town’s people want their council to become active in a much broader range of issues.