CHARITABLE INSTITUTION' CENTRECORP TAX EXEMPT ? Report by KIERAN FINNANE and ERWIN CHLANDA .
Centrecorp Aboriginal Investment Corporation Pty Ltd has a tax concession status as a charitable institution.
This means it is an institution that is established and run to advance or promote a charitable purpose.
Among other privileges it has an exemption from paying income tax, removing the need to lodge income tax returns, according to information obtained from the Australian Business Register.
The Alice Springs News has asked Centrecorp how, since July 1, 2005, it has advanced or promoted a charitable purpose.
Meanwhile, the much-anticipated list of non-rateable properties was examined in confidential session by the Alice Springs Town Council on Monday night.
As reported previously in the Alice Springs News (March 2/3), there are 466 such properties in the municipal area.
Comments by aldermen and an officer had led the News to believe that these included properties in the Centrecorp portfolio, which includes a 60 per cent share of Yeperenye Pty Ltd (Lhere Artepe has the other 40 per cent), owners of the Yeperenye shopping centre and numerous other commercial buildings in town, and significant slices of the Peter Kittle Motor Company and Kings Canyon Resort.
At the time this was not denied by a Centrecorp director, Owen Cole.
Subsequently, further research by the News drew this brusque response from Centrecorp manager R. W. (Bob) Kennedy:
"Do not own, and never have owned, any 'non-rateable properties'.
"Do not hold, never have held, 'PBI [public benevolent institution, a criteria for rates exemption] status'."
Following Monday's meeting, Alderman Melanie Van Haaren appeared to confirm this, telling the News: "Out of a long list supplied, in reality there were not many questionable properties. The vast majority meet the criteria for rates exemption.
"Some need looking at more closely because circumstances may have changed, but in reality the list is not controversial.
"Anything said around council about organisations beating the system has not been borne out."
URBAN DRIFT COULD BECOME 'TIDAL WAVE'. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
If the town is feeling the impact of urban drift, the town camps are feeling it more, the Alice Springs Town Council heard on Monday night. Olga Havnen, chair of the Town Camp Task Force, told council the town camp population has risen from 973 in 2001 (counted in the Census) to between 1765 and 2065, counted in four surveys conducted by Tangentyere Council during 2004-05.
This figure does not include visitors who swelled the population to 2560 and up to 3300.
All these people for just 192 houses, an increase of only 58 since 1986. The rough maths makes that a minimum of nine people per house, and up to 17 at peak visitor time. The visitors to the camps include 20 per cent of the renal dialysis patients being treated at the Alice Springs renal unit: an ironic contrast of highly technical and expensive health care on the one hand and lack of basic housing conducive to good health on the other.
Town camp residents are desperate for something to be done to cope with visitor numbers, said Ms Havnen.
They are taking more than their "share" of the overflow: if the base population is taken as 2000 they are coping with between 500 to 1300 visitors at a time.
The Tangentyere Council survey indicated that the average length of stay was three months.
Campers in public places are also increasing.
According to Alderman Melanie Van Haaren, the ranger unit use to ask less than 200 people a month to move on. In January the figure was 493; in February 630; and to date this month it has been 425.
Ald Van Haaren says it is expected to reach around the 850 mark by the end of the month. Interestingly the number of juveniles included in these figures is relatively small: 67 in January; 27 in February; and 23 so far this month.
The figures relate to the "river runs" by council rangers, done a minimum of three times a week, between 5am and 8am.
Ms Havnen warned the council that the worst is yet to come: there will be a real "tidal wave" she said as the present 0-25 years age group grows up.
Ever increasing rates of alcohol consumption with all its attendant problems was the "resounding issue" for everyone consulted by the task force.
Alice Springs is showing upward trends in alcohol-related harms at a more alarming rate than any other Territory centre, said Ms Havnen.
A "hard rethink" on alcohol will be among the immediate priority actions the task force report will identify. Others are: Improvement of infrastructure; the good news is that the Commonwealth has committed $10m through its Connecting Neighbours program. Improvement of municipal-type services, such as garbage collection; there's a role for the town council there, said Ms Havnen. The long overdue provision of managed temporary accommodation for visitors. A greater engagement of NGOs could possibly help, said Ms Havnen. A more rigorous planning of major events so that people don't get stuck in town. Enhancement of patrol services, both day and night, which would help alleviate the demand on police time. Improvement of community relationships. This would require a lot of hard work and thought, said Ms Havnen, but she also said there is "a lot of good will out there".
"I may be a Pollyanna," she said, "but I'm hopeful."
Ms Havnen, from the Office of Indigenous Policy (Department of the Chief Minister), said the task force would ask that people at very senior levels of responsibility be tasked with the implementation of the report's recommendations. She also emphasised the importance of much more detailed research under all headings of the report, all marked by the absence of baseline data.
Analysis of the impact of policy changes was also required, she said, expressing concern about the possible impact on urban centres of the Territory of the lifting of the remote area exemption on the activity test for dole recipients (see Alice News, March 9/10).
The Town Camp Task Force was convened by Minister for Local Government and Housing, Elliot McAdam.
Mr McAdam says that some of the pressure being placed on Alice Springs, reflects a national trend facing regional centres, but specific factors impacting on the town include it being a service centre for some 260 remote communities.
"In trying to deal with all of the factors that impact on the town camps, we must also face the bigger question relating to services in the bush and the capacity for governments to deliver them," says Mr McAdam.
KIDS ARE TARGET FOR PROTOCOLS .
Children are the target audience for the cultural protocols launched at Sunday's Harmony Day festivities by local native title holder organisation, Lhere Artepe.
Why, one may wonder, when much of the disturbance in public places and disrespect to Arrernte country comes from adults, in particular those under the influence of alcohol.
Doreen Franey, deputy chair of Lhere Artepe, is frank: "The young ones are not getting the education they should be because of the use of alcohol, so they are the ones we have to target."
She and Esther Pearce, cultural protocols project officer, are confident that the Yeperenye Man and his message, contained in particular in four television commercials, voiced over by a young girl (a native title holder herself), will have an impact on these children.
Getting through to adults is a taller order. Strategies include the appointment of cultural liaison officers who will work in the CBD in a kind of ambassador role.
"They will provide a positive image of Aboriginal people, particularly to tourists," says Ms Pearce. They may also be able to calm difficult situations but this is really outside of their role, she says; responding to anti-social behaviour remains a job for the police.
The liaison officers will receive training in conflict resolution, mediation and presentation, with assistance from the Tourist Commission and Congress, says Ms Pearce. She hopes they will be on the job by May.
Lhere Artepe are also looking to add teeth to the protocols by developing cultural-by-laws, which would be enforceable in the way that council by-laws are, with homeland rangers doing the job alongside their counterparts in the town council.