Under the no-holds-barred Mayor Joy Baluch, the Port Augusta council drives the local state and federal agencies, not the other way round. They are held to account in monthly meetings. This has gone a long way towards a solution of what was a near-terminal anti-social behavior and alcohol crisis. Could it be the template for the councillors and Mayor taking the reins in Alice Springs on Monday? ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
"Port Augusta is alcohol free. You cannot drink in a public square. If you want to drink you go home, to a pub or a club. You will not drink in the streets and you will not sit on the beach and consume alcohol.
"And you will not create havoc and unsocial behaviour. You piss off back to Alice Springs to the Todd River. That's where you go because in Port Augusta, City Council rules and regulations must be complied with."
What about people who contravene that regulation?
"They are dealt with appropriately, are put on a bus and sent somewhere else."
Who puts them on the bus?
"Our Safety Officer does."
And that person plays a very major role in the town.
Nancy Joy Baluch – her friends call her Joy – doesn't mince words. She has served as the Mayor of Port Augusta from 1981 to 1993 and from 1995 till now. That she's battling cancer wasn't at all evident in our telephone conversation yesterday.
"In 1981 we had a town square. It would have drunken whites, drunken blacks, fornicating in public, in the presence of tourist buses," she says.
"Our tourist trade went down to zero. Port Augusta became a place not to be seen in.
"Today we are a tourist destination. We have turned our image around.
"People who lived here some 30 years ago, are just overwhelmed by the transformation."
But don't expect results overnight, says the feisty Mayor.
PHOTOS: Top – Once a dirty recess, a haven for vagrants and drinkers, the beach and foreshore are now the town's playground. Above right – Mayor Baluch. Photos courtesy Port Augusta City Council (the Mayor) and The Transcontinental Port Augusta (aerial shot).