Santos sponsorship, unpaid fines, survey consternation

Council news in brief

 

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

 

Will Santos be spending money on sponsorship of sports in town, Councillor Brendan Heenan wanted to know, after representatives of the oil and gas company told the Town Council last night about their planned $100 million expenditure on a new drilling program at Mereenie. “Rest assured”, sponsorship money will be available, he was told.

 

The company intends to take production back to near record heights in the new program. At present they take out one truckload out a day. “On success”, that will increase to around seven truckloads a day.

 

There’ll be job opportunities, with the company hoping particularly to engage local Aboriginal labour. There are 11 Aboriginal men, from Alice and communities near Mereenie, working at present on upgrading the new workers’ camp on site.

 

Public places by-law infringement could be a nice little earner? 

 

There were 377 public places by-laws infringement notices issued in the month of January this year. This compares to nine in January last year, and 97 and 44 in February and March respectively this year. The accompanying fines for January 2013 alone amount to $162,009, a figure which drew the eye of Cr Eli Melky. When will it arrive in councils coffers, he wanted to know.

 

The infringements notices were mostly due to the activity of police, explained Craig Catchlove, director of Corporate and Community Services. He hasarded a guess that most of the recipients would be on welfare and even if the Fines Recovery Unit eventually catches up with them, the amounts deducted from their benefits would be small.

 

Looking back in council papers to February’s report on January’s results, the bulk of the infringements were for  drinking liquor in a public place (228), followed by possessing an opened liquor container (76). There were 34 for depositing litter, 18 for behaving indecently, nine for failing to comply with a direction to leave the public place. In monetary terms these last yielded more (on paper, $705)) than the all drinking liquor infringements ($423). Big ‘earners’ were failing to provide evidence of identity (one infringement = $564); failing to provide information (two infringements = $564); providing false information (two infringements = $705).

 

So if the police are doing the enforcement of council’s by-laws, what are the rangers doing, Cr Melky wanted to know. Mr Catchlove assured him they still do their “river runs” each morning. Graphs in council papers show a big decrease in people “spoken to” for January when the police were on the job, up significantly in February (and one and a half times as many as in the same month in 2012) and then down again in March (and just a quarter of the figure for March last year).

 

On the public consumption of alcohol, the current papers who that while rangers spoke to zero people and issued zero infringement notices, they still tipped out 24 standard drinks.in January In February they spoke to a total of 15 people, issued zero infringement notices and tipped out 28 drinks; in March, 22 people were spoken to, two notices issue and four drinks tipped out.

 

Cr Melky expressed his strong opposition to the practice of tipping out drinks.  But that is what the by-laws state that rangers must do, countered Mr Catchlove. It’s still “not right”, said Cr Melky. And despite Mr Catchlove’s explanation that rangers had been tied up dealing with a lot of dog issues, including a “large spate” of attacks and barking dogs that are “intensive” in labour, Cr Melky repeated that the rangers are “ineffective, having given up on giving anyone a fine: “Our resources are wasted,” he said.

 

‘Poor’ performance on important issues, but what are they? 

 

By-law enforcement was among the top five areas of council responsibility that respondents to a community survey want them to focus on. The others were: recycling, antisocial behaviour, alcohol awareness and keeping the town clean. If these were reported in order, then by-law enforcement was fifth, with recycling first.

 

Cr Brendan Heenan thought that antisocial behaviour and alcohol awareness could be set aside as NT Government responsibilities. However Cr Geoff Booth said council has to take “some ownership” in relation to antisocial behaviour.

 

Of the total 373 returned, 330 survey forms were completed; 40 were left empty or were “abusive”. Mayor Damien Ryan wanted to know how the return rate could be improved. Mr Catchlove said they’ll be looking at the possibility of an online survey for next time but want to be sure it can be protected from an  “organised bombardment” by sectional interests. He said the 4-5% return rate was “very good for a survey of this nature”.

 

There was some consternation amongst aldermen about the rating as “poor” of council’s performance on issues important to the respondents. 194 had ticked the “poor” box, compared to 115 for “good” and 136 for “satisfactory”. What were those issues where council’s performance was seen as poor, Cr Heenan wanted to know. Cr Booth suggested that some indication was given by the answers to the question on what respondents wanted council to focus on (as quoted above).

 

Of interest to Cr Melky, perhaps, is that comments on dealing with rangers were “negative”. However, the survey results (and perhaps the survey itself, with its many over-lapping and broad questions) is confusing. In an answer to another question, rangers were described as “fantastic”.

 

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2 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Melanie Ross
    Posted April 23, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Ald Heenan says that antisocial behaviour and alcohol are NT Govt problems now? Is this the same alderman who backed the ASTC bringing in a consultant last year to do a report on crime and alcohol measures?
    The same alderman who was continually calling on the government to take action? Oh that’s right – that was a Labor government.
    Interesting that now his CLP mates are in its not a council issue any more. Stop playing politics. We voted you in as alderman to represent our town NOT your political mates.
    We expect the council to lobby and push for the best for Alice Springs, not pretend that everything’s wonderful just because a certain party is in power.
    Do the job we pay you to do, not suck up to your CLP mates. This message also needs to go Damien Ryan, Steve Brown, Dave Douglas and the alderman who doesn’t even live here, Geoff Booth (where else can you be receiving an allowance as alderman when you live thousands of kms away).
    Pleased to see that Eli Melky at least seems to have the interest of the town at heart rather than his political masters. Councillors, this town is in crisis, socially and economically. Take some action.
    [ED – The town council advises that Councillor Booth is complying with statutory requirements in regards to attendance and a record of attendance at meetings can be found in the minutes. They record whether a councillor is present in person or attended via phone link.]

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  2. Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:51 am

    We need to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible and replace them with renewable energy. Australia has all the sun required for “baseload” solar, that is, Concentrated Solar Thermal Power plus molten salt storage (CSP+). Go to http://tiny.cc/0jahy to see an exciting video explaining CSP+ focused on the Gemasolar plant near Seville, Spain, the first CSP+ plant to generate electricity 24/7.
    Also PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION for a CSP+ plant to be built at Port Augusta to replace the dirty coal-fired plants – http://www.communityrun.org/petitions/build-australia-s-first-baseload-renewable-energy-plant-at-port-augusta

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