‘Consultations’ with fixed outcomes

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COMMENT by DOMENICO PECORARI

I’ve often heard it said that one shouldn’t engage in public consultation without knowing the outcome of the process.

As an observer of the Kilgariff process in 2008 it was with a strong sense of deja vu that I took part in the latest public consultation exercise, Revitalising Alice, a joint NT government and Alice Springs Town Council initiative.

The initial information pack, released by ASTC in September 2023, defined the three projects that the consultants were limited to: improving connectivity between the town centre and the Todd River; improving the southern end of Todd Mall (to include re-introduction of vehicular traffic); and a multi-storey carpark behind the heritage-listed Hartley Street School.

Noting that these were all civil engineering works the phrase “jobs for the boys” did cross my mind, but I dismissed it immediately.  No-one in their right mind would be so blatant, would they?

At the introductory co-design meeting on October 3 the consultants confirmed for me (and all present) that the three “projects” had indeed been selected by the Town Council; that development options for the southern part of Todd Mall had to include opening it up to vehicular traffic; and that ASTC would be determining the “preferred” option. Hmmm, sounds very familiar?

Smaller meetings were held the following day and on the morning of October 5 all the participants convened to sketch up ideas and discuss them, before a final presentation by the consultants that afternoon.

The almost unanimous feeling amongst the participants was that the mall should definitely NOT be opened up to traffic, a sentiment shared, I believe, with many, if not most of the Todd Mall traders in that area.

The most original and exciting idea to come to light was a parkway link (pictured) between the mall and Yeperenye Shopping Centre, utilising Uniting Church land and the existing open car-park behind Hartley Street School.

I‘m glad to see that this idea (in a developed form) has made it into the consultant’s recently released final report that is currently out for public comment. 

It includes provision for water play, open air screenings, seating, lawns and shady trees – all things that would improve our town’s “liveability” and, who knows, make people want to come here, and stay.  

As a local architect and resident of The Alice since 1985, I’ve seen far too much planning-by-bureaucrats, public servants and councillors who appear to be wanna-be designers. 

What are design consultants for, I ask? Would they diagnose their own medical conditions?

Back in June 2008, I got to experience this maxim in practice when, along with over a hundred other locals, I devoted a whole weekend to the “Enquiry By Design Forum” discussing the NT Government’s options for opening up land for housing.

Three of the four options up for consideration were encumbered by native title claims and the fourth was part of the Arid Lands Research Institute (AZRI), located a good 12 km from the town’s centre.

Many of those attending were dismayed that options other than continuing with urban sprawl were excluded from the discussion, ideas such as encouraging more medium density redevelopment within the town’s existing urban footprint, particularly around our suburban shopping centres.

This could be developed as local meeting places, in turn promoting walking and cycling while reducing the need for car use, something that would result in better health outcomes and a heightened sense of community, as well as reducing living costs in what was already a very expensive town.

It was no surprise when, in April 2011, the “best” option” was announced, the one picked by the NT government, for the establishment of a new suburb, to be called Kilgariff.

This time ’round the consultant’s concept designs are on view in the council’s foyer or the dedicated website.

If you want a say in how you want our town to develop, provide your feedback via the website or write an email to feedback@regeneratingalicetc or call a dedicated hotline on 1300 895 538.

Alternatively, have a chat with the mayor of one of the councillors. Submissions close on March 22.

As councillors will be making the final decisions, we have an opportunity to see whether the Council really is “Working for the Community” – or the other way around.

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