Cr Eli Melky: the good and the bad

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The prolonged saga of what town council rangers can or cannot do with grog consumed illegally by public drinkers is finally resolved: There will be no change to the current practices.

 

The issue was raised by Cr Eli Melky (pictured) some weeks ago: While council by-laws allow alcohol from open containers to be poured out, what should happen with cartons of beer which are open but contain cans which are not?

 

The rangers were pouring out the lot – were they doing the right thing, asked Cr Melky. Is the council destroying someone’s property without proper grounds? Is the council exposed to legal challenge? Will these most impoverished members of our community have the means to brief (and pay for) legal counsel to fight the matter in court?

 

These were some of the issues weighing on Cr Melky’s mind. The question why those impoverished people were spending their money on beer and consuming it in breach of the law, apparently was not.

 

The council, in committee, had voted that no change to the existing procedure was warranted, and last night this was due to be ratified by the full council.

 

While this was going to be just a formality, Cr Melky had another bash at it, but without moving an amendment, which would be required for further debate, as Mayor Damien Ryan explained.

 

Cr Jade Kudrenko (pictured at left) then moved to have that further discussion anyway.

 

Cr Melky offered no amendment but said he’d spoken with the council solicitor. His opinion was that a court could have one view or another if the matter is put before it.

 

This was followed by a substantial amount of explanation by CEO Rex Mooney and the Mayor: In order for the motion in committee “that the Council Rangers cease the practice of emptying unopened containers of alcohol from an unopened carton,” which was lost in committee, to be confirmed as lost, a vote in favour would be needed. Confused?

 

So were most of the councillors, including Cr Melky, who initially voted against his own intentions. He said “oops” when that was pointed out.

 

A division was called: Councillors Kylie Bonnanni, Liz Martin, Steve Brown, Dave Douglas, Brendan Heenan and Mayor Ryan voted for the status quo to be maintained. Councillors Kudrenko and Chansey Paech voted with Cr Melky.

 

So, next time you get stuck into a carton with a few mates in the bed of the Todd, if you get caught by the rangers you’ll lose the lot, not just the open cans, but “only in exceptional circumstances,” says Mr Mooney.

 

After wasting much time on this issue Cr Melky redeemed himself – at least in the eyes of some – by striking a blow for transparency.

 

The moving of matters into “confidential” has long been a bone of contention.

 

At this stage it is at the discretion of Mr Mooney which matters are dealt with in secret and which stay in “open” council, discussed before the public gallery and the press gallery.

 

Cr Melky said the Local Government Act (section 65[2]) and Regulations 8 and 9 clearly define eight categories of subjects that can be transferred into “confidential,” and he requested that Mr Mooney identify the categories for each matter moved into confidential.

 

Mr Mooney said to do this on every item would be “inappropriate” but he would do so if the council instructed him to.

 

He said the transfer into confidential could be challenged in a majority vote of councillors. He is under instructions to move issues into confidential “only for very good reasons. “I do not need to go into every detail on every occasion,” he said.

 

Cr Melky said if the reasons are identified in every case, then it would be easier for councillors to decide whether or not to challenge, plainly because they may consider the reasons stated as fair enough.

 

This didn’t cut any ice with Mr Mooney although he would be happy to explain the reasons in conversation with councillors. Of course, these conversations would not be taking place in a public forum.

 

• • •

 

Economic development in the bush was pinpointed as a major reason for the Federal government spending money on the development of all-weather roads.

 

The town council will propose it to be included in an application by the Australian Local Government Association. Other reasons to be given are disadvantage, health care including the need to travel to places where dialysis can be obtained, education, disadvantage and public safety – reducing the number of traffic accidents.

 

• • •

 

Although Cr Brown is not a member of the regional waste committee to be chaired by Cr Paech, Cr Kudrenko has suggested Cr Brown should be able to attend meetings as he had shown much interest in the development of the landfill.

 

Cr Brown has suggested the dump should not be extended towards the west of the current facility, into an area encroaching on Desert Park land, but a new landfill should be started, well outside town, leaving only the new transfer facility in the present location.

Cr Brown is in favour of rehabilitating the present landfill “which is now in the middle of a growing town”.

 

• • •

 

Cr Paech (pictured at right) asked what’s happening with the new town plan for Alice Springs, as announced by Chief Minister Adam Giles, to the great surprise of the council, and reported exclusively by the Alice Springs News Online.

 

Mr Mooney said the chairman of the Northern Territory Planning Commission, Gary Nairn, had written to the council and this would be forwarded to the members.

 

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  1. Richard Bentley
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Cr Melky is to be commended for recognising that pouring a full unopened carton of beer etc. onto the ground, for all the good intentions of our bylaws, may offend basic concepts of fair play. Finding the balance between public order and individual rights is a constant battle.
    [ED – Our reports were about cartons that had been opened, and people were drinking from them in violation of public drinking bylaws. These open cartons contained cans which had not been opened.]

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