Is the Town Council getting ready to relinquish its role as trustee of the Todd River?

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

As the Town Council’s trusteeship of the Todd River within the municipality nears its 30th anniversary, there are signs of council wanting to relinquish its role. In the last meeting of the Environment Advisory Committee, council was asked to take “leadership in the management of the Todd River”. Jimmy Cocking, coordinator of the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) and a member of the advisory committee, says this wording is a “watered down” version of what he was seeking, which was that council take the lead in forming a working group of all relevant decision-makers with a view to better management of the river.

 

Above: The river lapping the Wills Terrace footbridge: at all times it’s a challenge to manage. Photo from our archive.  

 

However, when the issue was raised at the Town Council’s subsequent meeting, Councillor Steve Brown, who chairs the Environment Advisory Committee, said council does not want to take a lead role in forming such a  body; the river as Crown land is NT Government-owned and this should be their role.

 

At right: The destruction of trees in the Todd and what to do with them when they’re down has been an issue of ongoing concern. Photo from our archive.

 

Director of Technical Services Greg Buxton reiterated this in greater detail. He said what ALEC and (unspecified) others on the committee want goes beyond the terms of council’s trust agreement for management of the river. He said council’s responsibility is to maintain fire breaks, keep weeds down (not eradicate them) and manage litter. Issues in the river catchment are outside of council’s responsibility and should be dealt with by the NT Government.  However, council would be happy to be part of a joint committee to discuss a “holistic approach” to the river, and he said ALEC and others should put a proposal to the Environment Advisory Committee about what that river management committee would look like.

 

Councillor Jade Kudrenko (at left), who had raised the issue in response to the committee’s minutes, expressed her disappointment: this was an opportunity for council to show leadership, to be more proactive, she said. The minutes show that CEO Rex Mooney provided background on council’s “former [sic] management of the river”. This is followed by two questions: “The Todd River is Crown land and should be managed by the NT Government? The Council will put forward suggestion to Council in regards the Todd River?”

 

Not surprisingly, Cr Kudrenko wanted to know what that meant and Mayor Damien Ryan also asked for greater precision. Mr Buxton said he would go back to the recording of the meeting to clarify.

 

Meanwhile, Mr Cocking hopes that council will assume its leadership role: “All I was asking council to do was to take a lead role in pulling in the partners to form a working group, not a committee – no-one wants to join another committee –  but a working group, similar to the Alice in 10 model. Decision-makers getting together around a table regularly, reviewing priorities and making sure that the work is being done to make the river a more amenable environment for the whole community.

 

“ALEC wants to see the river managed as a whole for its ecological, cultural and social values, not in the current piecemeal fashion. For example, I wouldn’t have thought flood mitigation was a council responsibility yet they are doing sand dredging under this heading. Flood mitigation is not just a matter of digging the channel deeper. All that’s going to do is increase the rate of flow.

 

At right: Trying to get it right: the riverbed south of the Wills Terrace causeway is subject to endless remediation. Photo by Alex Nelson, March 2010.

 

“Part of the process of a working group would be to look at the existing management plans and see how they are going. It’s always good to review where you are at and then to start looking forward. I think everyone agrees the river management could be done a lot better.

 

“I understand it’s not council’s sole responsibility and that it doesn’t have the capacity to do it alone. But it can take a leadership role. The river is one of our most important natural and cultural features. It requires collaboration but everyone seems to be passing the buck.”

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