Town council parks: back to the drawing board

p2282-park-playground-1 By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The town council has again deferred a decision on a $1.2m upgrade of its 90 parks.

 

Cr Steve Brown, chairman of the Technical Services Committee since March, says a new parks committee has been formed which will be an advisory committee to the council.

 

“We have not had a committee for parks before. It will follow up what has been put to us previously by the residents.”

 

Monday’s meeting of council committees referred to the new committee a 58-page internal report that goes back two years, saying “public consultation in 2013 and 2014 emphasized that park users believed their parks needed a range of equipment to enable them to be utilised to their full extent”.

 

Shade structures, bike paths and additional play and exercise equipment were the most frequently requested facilities.

 

Says Cr Brown: “We need to be more constructive than just adding a piece of equipment here and there.

 

“We need to ensure the money is spent to the best advantage, such as levelling ground, fencing where there are dangerous roads, putting in ramps, and getting rid of prickles.”

 

The report documents past consultation with the public and recommendations resulting from it, some of which are unclear.

 

For example, “table and bench seating” is a frequently mentioned item, but only as a budget allocation: Beefwood Park $5000, Davidson, Shanahan, Spicer, MacDonnell and Dixon parks $3000 each, Lyndavale $8000.

 

But the Alice Springs News Online was unable to ascertain what such “table and bench seating” costs, whether it could be sourced from local manufacturers, and possibly from the prison, at significant savings.

 

p2282-benches-tableMayor Damien Ryan referred us to illustrations (pictured) in the report but we could find only one, reprinted on several pages, of a table and two benches, apparently made from metal.

 

No price nor other information was given. So residents interested in Lyndavale Park, for example, would be quite at a loss to work out how many of these they would be getting for the $8000 budget allocated to them.

 

Unsurprisingly people didn’t exactly swamp the consultation meetings advertised by the council: According to the report “about 20” members of the public attended the Oleander Park meeting, four the Beefwood one, apparently none for Davidson and Lyndavale, three for Shanahan and four for Dixon.

 

Cr Brown says there were 15 to 20 people at the Lyndavale meeting.

 

Nine parks had a total of $60,000 allocated “pending public consultation”. Mayor Ryan says the consultation with respect to four parks will occur soon.

 

Another poorly explained budget post are six allocations of $5000 each for “sand” to be used in playgrounds. The News has been told the preferred sand is from Jesse Gap and is sold, including delivery, for $45 plus GST per cubic meter.

 

We understand the standard depth required in playgrounds is 300mm, that means each cubic meter will provide a little more than three square meters of ground cover. That means for $5000 you can get 333 square meters of sand cover. The average size of playgrounds is more like 100 square meters.

 

As Mayor Ryan explains, part of the $5000 budget is for removing or cleaning the old sand, and spreading the new sand, but we could not find out whether that is done by the council workforce as part of its ongoing maintenance (already budgeted for), or by a contractor, if so for how much, or perhaps by prison inmates or local volunteers.

 

A couple more brain snappers: “Change the name [from Gillen] back to Goyder Green signage $5000 public consultation $3,000.”

 

And: “Reduce speed limit around [Gillen] park to 40km per hour – Public consultation $3,000 signage $2,000.”

 

Isn’t public consultation what councillors do? And are these signs gold plated?

 

 

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12 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Hal Duell
    Posted October 22, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Thanks, Eli.

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  2. Eli Melky
    Posted October 21, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    @ Hal Duell: In answer to your question: “Will the new committee be an advisory committee with its meetings advertised and open to the public?”
    Yes it will be an advisory committee and as such will be open to the public, as are existing advisory committees like the Environment Advisory Committee (EAC) that I chair.

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  3. Hal Duell
    Posted October 21, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Eli and Chansey: Very good to learn that the new parks committee will eventually include members from the public. Thank you both for the clarification.
    One more question, please. Will the new committee be an advisory committee with its meetings advertised and open to the public?

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  4. Eli Melky
    Posted October 20, 2015 at 10:48 am

    @ Hal Duell “opportunity missed”: Personally I spend a lot of time in parks; I love being outdoors and at every opportunity enjoy our local park.
    While this particular committee starts out its life initially without community members, it won’t be long after that the community will be invited on it.
    However I understand where not everyone has time to get on a committee, but would still like to express their ideas or concerns about a local park, I would encourage you to call on any one of the elected members and meet with us to discuss any concerns.
    All our contact details can be found on the ASTC website, http://www.alicesprings.nt.gov.au – I don’t know of any elected member who would not agree to meet with the community. My contact details are 0427012699 or email at emelky@alicesprings.nt.gov.au
    This opportunity should not be missed.

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  5. Chansey Paech
    Posted October 19, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    As the Elected Member of the Alice S[rings Town Council who put forward the motion for a parks committee, I can advise that the committee will most defiantly be a consultative committee with the community.
    The executive as I understand it will commence developing a terms of reference to assist in describing the purpose and structure of the committee and membership. Once this is completed I anticipate that members of the community will be encouraged to apply to join this committee.
    A main role of this committee is to improve the lifestyle and usage for all parks and open space users.
    Community representation is integral to ensuring local residents have ownership and a voice in the future and utilisation of their parks.

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  6. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted October 17, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    I totally agree with Erin and Hall Duell. The parks belong to the community, and therefore the committee should be formed by members representatives of the community.
    Erin is a young mother and I am an elder. Both with the love of parks for different reasons. If councillors were elected by area, then it will be different. We have eight councillors, what are their interests in the parks, if any?

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  7. Hal Duell
    Posted October 17, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Why have a Parks Committee without including members of the public? It’s not as if the “executive” spend much time in the parks, as opposed to talking about them. Opportunity missed?

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  8. Erin
    Posted October 17, 2015 at 5:57 am

    That’s a shame Eli, as a mum of two small children who often uses the parks around town, I’d be interested in being a part of a parks committee.

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  9. Eli Melky
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Erin, sorry, I made an error, I can now confirm that the committee is an executive committee which means it does not have any members of the public on it.

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  10. Posted October 16, 2015 at 7:41 am

    For public consultation, I think the council needs to put in a bit more strategic effort.
    I couldn’t attend the Dixon Park meeting but would like to be part of a group consultation for my area.
    A recent letterbox drop about Rhonda Diano Oval brought a big number of people to a meeting – some of the elements were that it was held on the cool comfortable oval, a sausage sizzle was provided and it was at a family sociable time.
    Not everyone reads the local paper or listens to the local radio (I don’t!).
    We all physically open our mail, so maybe the way to go is to use that method. Also, phoning people or door knocking.
    Just because people don’t turn out to the style of meeting and time offered by council does not mean we are not interested. Public consultation needs strategy.
    Another point is that I think it’s time we had wards where you have two councillors responsible for your specific suburb.
    This would greatly help because councillors would be charged with the task of engaging with the area, and people could vote for someone who helps their area, rather than someone of their own political persuasion.
    This is a much better system which would be less polarising and would bring the focus truly to local issues.

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  11. Eli Melky
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 7:16 am

    Hi Erin, I understand that the committee will be made up of elected members, officers and the public.

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  12. Erin
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Erwin, do you know who forms this “parks committee”?
    E.g. is the committee made up of town council staff or members of the public?
    Ta.
    [Hi Erin, I’ll find out.]

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