The long and the short of an accountable council

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

If residents out there have any questions for the Alice Springs Town Council, they missed the opportunity of putting them live at last night’s meeting. The mayor and councillors gathered in the chamber at 5.30, a half hour ahead of the meeting proper, but were left talking to one another when nobody else came.

 

Towards six though the public gallery started to fill with those stalwarts who work hard, in many cases as volunteers, to make Alice a good place to live. From ballet, eisteddfod, art, swimming, writing and a gay pride festival to services like St Johns, the Women’s Shelter  and Teen Challenge Centralia, they received cheques to support their activities. (Most were for $2000 and under, but the eisteddfod got $5000 and the Women’s Shelter, $2500.)

 

Each monthly meeting, a written report from the mayor gives a brief account of his meetings and other activities.  In a new move towards accountability, councillors were asked to provide a verbal report of theirs. This may be voluntary but it wasn’t a good look for Cr Geoff Booth, attending the meeting by phone, to have taken no notes of his activities and to make no report.

 

At left: Cr Booth could have said, as others did, that he attended the recent Waste Facility media event. There he is, second from the right. From left, Deputy Mayor Liz Martin, Mayor Damien Ryan, NT Minister Alison Anderson, MHR Warren Snowdon, Cr Brendan Heenan, and at far right, Cr Steve Brown.

 

Cr Chansey Paech also declined the opportunity, while Cr Eli Melky provided a list as long as your arm. Much (but not all) of it sport-related in keeping with his interests but also his work to develop a Centre of Excellence for sports in Alice and to support more sporting events in the town. Deputy Mayor Liz Martin, and Crs Jade Kudrenko, Brendan Heenan, Steve Brown (off the top of his head), all had healthy lists, but Cr Dave Douglas’s was light on. This was due, he said, to meetings being cancelled for want of numbers but he does do “a regular walk down the mall to keep an eye on the way that’s working”.

 

The resolutions of the Corporate and Community Services Committee meeting went through to the keeper without a murmur – nothing wanting there as they were all about noting reports and memberships of of various other committees.

 

The Technical Services committee meeting report drew a little more discussion. This included Cr Kudrenko declining to support spending $65,000 to replace the turf cricket wicket block at Traeger Park, even when Technical Services director Greg Buxton explained that it involved replacing the clays that were imported from Darwin, etcetera. Despite questions from both herself and the mayor, it did not become terribly clear why the total capital works budget was $85,000. But all this will take the wicket to international standard in time for an international event in 2015 and the majority of councillors supported the move.

 

The CEO’s report each month includes council’s Indigenous employment statistics. Council’s target for Indigenous employment is 20% of its workforce, roughly in line with the proportion of Indigenous people in the local population. That’s never been reached. The figure fluctuates from month to month; the current figure is 13.4%. Cr Brendan Heenan wanted to know if council could get involved with employing prisoners (presumably under Attorney-General John Elferink’s ‘Sentenced to a Job’ scheme.)

 

CEO Rex Mooney said council would be happy to participate; there are a number of schemes; and HR is having discussions with Corrections at the moment which will hopefully come to “a positive conclusion”. Mayor Damien Ryan asked Mr Mooney to organise a meeting for councillors with Corrections, for them to get a better understanding of the possibilities.

 

Council says no to residents mowing their own verges 

 

An officer report looking to cut costs in the Parks and Gardens department suggested that residents in town take over the mowing of their own verges (rural roads would continue to be maintained by council). Cr Kudrenko regarded as “laughable” the officer’s suggestion that we would then see “native flowers” becoming “more prominent” throughout the town. Buffel, couch and prickles would be more likely, she said.

 

How would it work for people in rental and public housing, Cr Paech wanted to know. He could see the problems of one person mowing their verge and their neighbour not. Wouldn’t council then have to come along to mow the untended patches?

 

Maintenance of verges is “core business, full stop”, said Cr Melky, which pretty much summed up the mood of his fellows and the suggestion was knocked on the head.

 

Woolies gets helping hand

 

Council has had quite some success with its moves to control errant shopping trolleys. Trolleys from Coles and Kmart are no longer a problem, with a “frequency braking system” applied within their own complexes. Last night Woolworths got a big helping hand to bring their trolleys into line. Councillors told Mr Buxton to negotiate a 12 month trial, allowing their frequency braking system to extend into the Hartley Street carpark, where they will be allowed to buy a parking space for a trolley return bay. The braking system condoned by councillors will allow shoppers with their trolleys to cross from the Yeperenye entrance into the council-owned carpark.

 

Trouble is, when Coles asked to run their braking system on council-owned footpaths, they were refused. Why would Woolworths get special treatment? Both Cr Heenan and Mayor Ryan said they had heard from elderly residents that they didn’t like driving into Yeperenye’s underground carpark (passing from bright sunlight into relative darkness) and preferred to park across the road in the Hartley Street carpark.

 

Cr Kudrenko was the sole voice against the move. Coles have been able to make their system work; Woolworths should do the same. Councillors have previously been concerned about the safety of the Yeperenye crossing; now they would be encouraging people to use it, trolleys in tow, even worse. People would soon change their behavior, she said. And who knows what will happen with that space in the future, it might not always be a carpark. (The News recently reported on the possible future development of apartments and open space over at least part of the land, in collaboration with adjacent landowner, the Uniting Church.)

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  1. Trevor Shiell
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Talking about waste management. I recently replaced two tyres in Adelaide. Disposal fee? $3 each. Alice Springs price at the tip ? $39 each. Does it really cost $36 to place a used tyre on a truck and get it to Adelaide?
    The Adelaide tyres are aggregated into containers, and back loaded to China where they are doused in liquid nitrogen which makes removal of the rubber easy, and they come back to us as new tyres! The current Council policy is simple encouraging the dumping of tyres away from the tip. I also saw the concrete slab of a large unused factory broken up, and recycled as road metal. The contractor actually paid for the slab! Here it costs $90 a ton for the tip to deal with it. No wonder there are odd concrete piles appearing on the outskirts of town.

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  2. Gary Burns
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Why are people pointing the finger at Cr Geoff Booth, who I think is a person who runs two businesses (one of which he’s building for his family and future – so what if it’s in interstate) and still finds time to have an input into the council. GET A LIFE.

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