Council row over netball stadium that may shrink

p2310-netball-stadium-1By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The possible shrinking of a four-court netball stadium to a two-court one sent tempers flaring in last night’s town council meeting.

 

The project is part of the government’s “Developing The Centre” propaganda about new facilities for Alice Springs (photo at right).

 

Cr Steve Brown, deputy mayor, chairman of the technical services committee and CLP candidate for Araluen, traded verbal blows with Cr Chansey Paech , ALP candidate for Namatjira, with Cr Brown apologising to Cr Paech at one point.

 

The netball stadium issue was raised by Cr Jade Kudrenko who slammed Cr Brown for having kept the council in the dark about the proposed reduction in size.

 

Cr Brown had heard about the possible shrinking on the Wednesday before Christmas, as a member of the sports facility committee advising the government, works director Greg Buxton told the meeting.

 

Cr Brown said the stadium is still an issue for the Department of Infrastructure and the next step will come when the tenders – called for a two-court as well as for a four-court facility – close tomorrow.

 

Cr Kudrenko said the possible downgrading was a “massive concern”. The council had engaged with the community on the basis of a four-court facility, it will be on council land, the council would contribute $250,000, and it would become a council asset.

 

As such the council had every right to be informed about the proposed changes as soon as they became known to Cr Brown, she said.

 

Cr Melky said the council’s commitment was for a four-court stadium and if there are any changes the project would need to be taken back to the negotiating table.

 

Cr Melky at one point said Cr Brown should not be in the chair for this discussion in case he had a conflict of interest.

 

Mayor Damien Ryan suggested if the facility goes over budget – $5m was mentioned – perhaps there should be a building big enough for four courts but only two with sprung timber floors initially, with the view of finishing the job later.

 

Cr Melky said this wasn’t the deal.

 

Cr Brown said he would be “very unhappy” with the two court option “because it would basically destroy the complex as I can see it”.

 

Cr Melky said the government was “misleading” the public, touting the project in its advertising.

 

The issue is likely to be the subject of motions at the full meeting in a fortnight’s time.

 

PHOTO: “The realisation of a multi-court, state-of-the art netball facility for Alice Springs took another step forward this month.” This is how the project is coyly described in a pamphlet emailed out by the Department of the Chief Minister yesterday. Of course “multi-court” can mean both two or four courts, but it could well have been a step back.

 

UPDATE 9am Wed Feb 17:

 

Speaking outside council today Cr Brown says he and Mr Buxton had a “stop option” on the process that was going to be invoked if the project was for any less than four courts.

 

This had been made clear to the advisory committee on which he and Mr Buxton are sitting on behalf of the council. The netball association, too, has two representative on that committee.

 

Cr Brown says the decision to call tenders – closing today – for two as well as four courts had not been made by the council, but by the department. Only it could explain why it had done so.

 

Cr Brown says he’d missed two or three meetings of that committee before Christmas, but Mr Buxton had been there. He had no need to inform the council as the four-court project was not negotiable.

 

The matter was due to come before the council once the tender price was known, as it will be later today: Either it will be within the budget, “in which case there is no story,” says Cr Brown.

 

If not the council may decide to contribute more than the currently agreed $250,000.

 

He says it’s a pity this possibility has come to light prematurely as tenderers may now have upped their quotes.

 

Cr Brown denies that there were any political considerations.

 

“I’m sure the council would not let slip the opportunity of the government spending $4.5m which is nearly double their initial offer.

 

“It would be political suicide for any politician to stop that project,” he says.

 

About the heated exchanges at Monday’s meeting, which he was chairing, Cr Brown says: “I don’t normally get flustered. I did on that occasion. Such is life, as Ned said.”

 

 

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11 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. Jason
    Posted February 18, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Peter: Yes, I do have an issue with the Mayor and it is that he earns more from his second job working for the NT Government than he does from his position as Mayor.
    I would like to believe he has a strong commitment and loyalty to the council but his additional employment and readiness to make ratepayers cover the gap in funding after the NT Government reneged on the stadium deal causes me to question his loyalties.
    Our Mayor should have gone for the jugular of the Giles government for that treachery and certainly criticise Steve Brown for apparently hushing it up.
    He did neither.
    For salary details follow the link below:
    http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2014/07/02/ryan-making-more-money-from-govt-jobs-than-for-being-mayor/

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  2. Peter
    Posted February 18, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    @ Greg: You appear to have an issue with the mayor and I am sure you have a valid reason for that.
    I am unsure of what his NTG job is that you allude to but I do sit on a government board which he chairs and which he may or may not receive sitting fees for, I don’t know.
    I usually spend some time with him after those meetings because I like the man and enjoy his take on things.
    I am not one of his constituents but I have in the past discussed things before the Town Council with him. In my experience he rarely plays personalities and has always shown nothing but commitment and loyalty to the council.
    There has been much speculation over the years about Mr Ryan using ATC as a stepping stone to “bigger things”, probably because most have. I don’t know if he is indeed a member of a political party but I do know he takes great delight in each side thinking he is on the other side.
    He has told me in the past he has no interest in “bigger things” and that he is in the position he has always wanted to have, mayor of Alice Springs. I have no reason to doubt his credibility on that.
    I know he ardently loves Alice Springs and its people. I know he takes his position very seriously. I don’t know if he is planning to run in the next or any Territory election but I doubt it.
    From Erwin’s report, it appears the mayor was simply looking for a solution to a speed bump. That’s his job.
    Perhaps he does have an agenda through this but I am not seeing that he is doing anything other than making sure the project goes ahead and holding NTG to their promises.
    It’s a pity some of the others in the room are not showing any evidence of doing that.
    If there was any integrity involved, preselected candidates would resign from council rather than using their positions for political means.
    If there was any morality in any of our political parties, they would be paying for the [town council] by-election for the candidates they had preselected.
    Those planning to run as Independents or for minor parties would also declare their intentions at the same time and offer some level of compensation to the NTEC for that.
    Perhaps if they talked with each other rather than throwing rocks they would all do it at the same time so the punters would only have to disrupt one Saturday.
    We would have a situation where those seeking higher duties pay would be out of the room while important local business was discussed.
    The first candidate to show any level of ethics or moral fortitude in your current situation would, I am sure, win a whole bundle of votes.
    Sadly, it won’t happen. I am asking for a level of integrity that was declared extinct in Australia decades ago, possibly around the time of the demise of the marsupial lion.
    Poor bugger your country.

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  3. Greg
    Posted February 18, 2016 at 8:08 am

    @ Eli Melky: Have to agree with you.
    This is yet another example of councillors acting to support the CLP Government against the interests of ratepayers.
    In my view conflicted and compromised members of our town council are candidates Brown and Paech and Mayor Damien Ryan who is employed in a second job by the NT Government.
    Have these three demonstrated that they are willing to put ratepayers interests first?
    In my opinion they have not.

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  4. Eli Melky
    Posted February 18, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Further more following this story being updated: I will start by saying netball certainly deserves a stadium.
    However I grow increasingly alarmed at this candidate’s proximity to Council funds. Brown in the update says council could find the extra money needed from council funds to finish the stadium.
    Where exactly are you going to find the money Brown?
    For every $175,000 approximately needed that equates to a 1% rate rise. Are you planning to raise the rates this year so you can fund your mates’ political promise? After all as you say it would be political suicide for any politician to stop this project.
    Including your recent ABC radio interview, this is the second time you have publicly committed council to paying a shortfall of who knows how many hundreds of thousands of rate payers dollars. Are you planning on ram raiding council funds using the support of your CLP colleagues within council?
    There is DeBrenie (Vice Pres of CLP), Price, Douglas, Heenan, all CLP members, and you the CLP candidate, makes up the majority of five needed to pass the motion. But you have obviously worked that out.
    And you thought that last bit of exchange in council was heated. Mate you haven’t seen nothing yet.

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  5. Eli Melky
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    It has been highlighted by Brown that the term of Council has been extended by one and a half years, a decision made by the NT Government and forced upon us all, rate payers included.
    It must be also noted that when Council was asked by the NT Government whether we support this extention, the record will show that Brown voted in favour at that council meeting.
    To date only Brown and Paech have nominated for the upcoming NT elections.
    My personal view is good on those who step up, however there is a right way and the conflicted way.
    In his position, I would have stood down from the positions of Deputy Mayor, Chair of Technical services, Council rep on DCA, Water Advisory Committee and most certainly the sole Councillor rep on the Committee dealing with NT Government representatives on the development of the netball stadium. In my view Brown has chosen the conflicted way.

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  6. Greg
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    What a hopelessly conflicted Town Council we have.
    Running as candidates in the Territory elections.
    Working for the NT Government.
    These members of our Council cannot be fully trusted because they are not unambiguously working for the town, for ratepayers.
    Time for a clean out and we can do it.
    Let’s elect uncompromised candidates to the Town Council.

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  7. Greg
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Also interesting for Mayor Damien Ryan to suggest if the facility goes over budget – $5m was mentioned – it can be finished later.
    Finishing the job later is code for yet another expense for ratepayers.
    Sky high rates set to jump triple the CPI again?
    Just a coincidence that our Mayor has a part time job working for the NT Government?

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  8. Hal Duell
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 11:05 am

    This debate is a good example of why elected and appointed members of local government should resign, not just stand down for a month or so, if they choose to stand in a larger election.
    That way the questions of conflicting interests and misuse of positions would never arise.

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  9. The Barkly Magpie
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    @ Greg: It is indeed an interesting point you raise – is Cr Brown acting in his elected capacity or unelected one?
    Section 35 of the Local Government Act lays out the roles of members as:
    (a) to represent the interests of all residents and ratepayers of the council area; and
    (b) to provide leadership and guidance; and
    (c) to facilitate communication between the members of the council’s constituency and the council; and
    (d) to participate in the deliberations of the council and its community activities; and
    (e) to ensure, as far as practicable, that the council acts honestly, efficiently and appropriately in carrying out its statutory responsibilities.
    Section 35.3 notes: A member of the council has a duty to act, at all times, in what the member genuinely believes to be the best interests of the council’s constituency.
    I believe it is a fair question of other councillors and, of course, constituents to ask Cr Brown if he truly believes he has acted in the best interests of the council’s constituency on this matter.
    If he honestly believes that he has, perhaps Section 36.4 of the Act applies: A person can be disqualified from membership of a council if they are declared mentally unfit to hold the position.
    I am not a constituent of Alice Town Council. If I was, I would be camped on Cr Brown’s front lawn right now, draped in a white sheet and holding a flaming cross.
    Others may well ask about the fitness of Crs Paech and Melky to be involved in the debate or even the council itself, given they too plan to feature in the big dance in August.
    Short answer: They aren’t the de facto Member for Braitling who is apparently up to is ears in the business of the Government of the day.
    As an aside, given the tremendous interest Cr Brown and his good wife appear to have in renewable energy, may I ask why such a massive roof as depicted in the glossy brochure is not covered in solar panels?

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  10. Lou Hayes
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    They are elected members, why is Brown trying to kept his fellow councillors in the dark about the proposed reduction in size.
    What a waste of businesses time and money writing submissions for a tender proposal council didn’t want!

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  11. Greg
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    As a member of the sports facility committee advising the government Steve Brown knew about the Government going back on the deal it had with the council, thought downsizing would destroy the complex but kept quiet about it.
    Did political considerations come first for Steve Brown, CLP candidate?

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