July 2, 1997
Alice Deputy Mayor Geoff Miers and Greatorex MLA Richard Lim have clashed over the role for local government in town planning.
Dr Lim claims the Alice town council can dominate any issueî put before the NT Planning Authority (PA), while Ald Miers says Dr Lim should wake up to himself and get real.
Ald Miers says: "Richard Lim was an alderman and a member of the PA.
"He knows very well that it is illegal for the members of the authority who are also aldermen to vote en bloc as representatives of the Alice Springs town council."
"It's been made repeatedly clear that people appointed to the authority are appointed as individuals - not as representatives of the council."
Ald Miers says the council regards as being still in force "operational guidelines" issued by former planning Minister Steve Hatton, who presided over the most recent review of the Planning Act.
In the 1995 document - clearly in conflict with Dr Lim's assertions - Mr Hatton says aldermen serving on the PA are "unlikely" to be allowed to take part in decisions on which their council has a position.
The debate was fuelled by Territory Labor's recent attacks on the government over planning procedures and policies, and persistent demands by the NT Local Government Association for councils to get a meaningful role in town planning.
Both the Alice Mayor, Andy McNeil, and his Darwin counterpart, George Brown, have resigned from the Planning Authority. Dr Lim said in a statement to the Alice News: "With three of the five [members] on the PA being aldermen, the Alice Springs Town Council is in the majority and can dominate any issue that comes before the PA.
"The council has a Planning and Development Committee which usually meets a few days prior to the PA meeting to discuss items on the PA's agenda."
"The three aldermen then carry the committee's resolutions into the PA meeting," Dr Lim says.
"How can you blame the Minister for Lands [now Mike Reed] if the aldermen chose not to support council's resolutions?"
"You would have to assume that the aldermen must have considered the council's opinion to be incorrect for them to go against it."
Mr Hatton's guidelines put an entirely different slant on the role of aldermen serving on the PA.
Mr Hatton says a PA member who is also an alderman must "declare an interest" under the following circumstances:- ´ When a local government authority passes a resolution, formally or otherwise, supporting or objecting to an application to the PA, prior to the hearing of that application. ´
When the member states publicly his or her support for, or opposition to, an application. ´
When a local government authority is the applicant in the application to the PA. Mr Hatton says: "In these circumstances it is unlikely that a local member would be permitted to take part in determining a planning application."
Most planning applications would fall into at least one of these categories: town councils and their members take a keen interest in planning matters, as part of their efforts to represent the ratepayers, and often lodge objections to the PA.
The regional PAs have five members - three appointed by the Minister from nominations made by the local council; a chairman with Territory-wide responsibilities; and a "core member" appointed by the Minister for each region.
The council nominees need not be aldermen, but in the case of Alice Springs, they all are.
Mr Reed and the Alice Town Council were recently at loggerheads over his failure to fill a long vacancy.
The Local Government Association of the NT (LGANT) last Thursday passed motions put forward by Ald Miers attacking the Lands Minister for being "unwilling or tardy" in making appointments to the PA from council nominations, and resolved to raise this issue with Chief Minister Shane Stone.
Ald Miers says Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs PAs have not had an "alternate member" for the past 12 months.
In Alice Springs, one of the three normal positions remained unfilled for several months.
"This is limiting the community from having full input into the planning process," says Ald Miers.
LGANT also wants to know from Mr Stone whether the government is proposing any changes to the Planning Act before the next election.
The association will continue to push for a full transfer of town planning powers to local government, in line with most other states, according to Ald Miers. He says everything Dr Lim has previously supported when he was an alderman - including devolution of planning powers to local government - "has now gone out the window".

Massive fee hikes, restrictions on Austudy and Abstudy, and the decline in direct funding for the NT University has led to reduced numbers, closing of courses and the winding back of the university' growth.
This is being claimed by Stuart MLA Peter Toyne.
The NTU's financial cut-backs have prompted him to complain to Federal Education Minister, Amanda Vandstone.
He also outlined NTU's problems to a national hook-up of Labor Party Education Ministers and Shadow Ministers last Friday.
Federal Shadow Education Minister Mark Latham undertook to pursue NTU's case in the federal domain.
Spokesperson for the Centralian College, Helen King says: "Certainly, some courses are affected in Darwin, but the two courses we run, business studies and fine arts, will continue as before."
Mr Toyne disagrees: "This is not strictly true. My daughter is doing the second year of the fine arts course in Alice Sprigs. NOT ISOLATED "She intended to do ceramics and sculpture in Darwin for her final year but, because of the proposed cuts, she won't be able to.
"She's not an isolated case. A significant number of Alice- based students want to go to Darwin for their final years to gain a wider choice of subjects."
"It is true that many existing courses won't be affected for the time being, but the cuts are scheduled."
"We haven't seen the end of it yet."
Mr Toyne says the NTU is a developing institution in its first decade of growth.
It is also in a regional centre with the capacity to push the NT and Australian economic and social development into higher gear.
"It is vital that the NTU is not lumped in with the situation in other States where numerous universities exist and compete with each other."
"We have one institution and one alone, offering a broad range of courses in higher education."
"It is also the major player in vocational education and training in the NT. As such, Territorians rely more heavily on our university than people in other States rely on theirs."
"It is unique in this regard. To ignore these factors and to wind back this university's growth ignores that uniqueness."
Writing to Senator Vandstone, Mr Toyne said: "Over recent days the NTU has announced the closure of courses in English Literature, Mathematics and Fine Arts."
"The course closures come on top of the restructuring of the university that has occurred earlier this year where 50 staff positions were targeted for reduction." The NTU will not have an English Department as a result of these reductions, Mr Toyne says.
"Currently, there are 200 students below last year's level and on internal calculations there will be some 300 students below their business plan by March, 1998.
"These shortfalls will strip $7.5 million from the annual operating revenue of the university."

In the 1940's and 50's it was illegal for an Aboriginal to be supplied with alcohol.
This was overcome by renegade whites accepting a 10 shilling or one pound note from an Aboriginal, and then purchasing cheap bottles of port for about 4 shillings, and dropping the bottle in a prearranged bush and the change in his pocket.
Native Affairs, as the department was then called, was well aware of this problem.
Its Alice Springs head was Ted Evens who was well respected by both whites and Aborigines.
Ted claimed that the best way to overcome the rotgut wine problem was to install wet canteens on all settlements and dispense a low alcohol beer and so teach the people how to cope with alcohol correctly.
He made a public statement to that effect and was strongly criticised from all over Australia, most people demanding his resignation for daring to suggest that the evils of the white man be thrust upon the black man.
From then on, tougher laws were introduced, until the minimum offence for supplying liquor to an Aborigine was six months in prison.
During this period great artist and Centralian Albert Namatjira went South to meet the Queen.
Old time journalist Alan Wauchope made a statement which received wide publicity: "What happens if the Queen hands Albert a cocktail, would she do six months like the rest of us?"
Public opinion did a turnabout: no longer were the evils being thrust upon the black man but the pleasures of the white man were being denied him and it was not long before the laws were changed.
The first Aborigine to be given equal rights was Albert Namatjira.
This put him in an impossible position for under white man's law he could not supply alcohol his friends but under Aboriginal law he must share with his people and of course, the alcohol he purchased was shared.
This resulted in drunken fight at Albert's camp causing the death of a young woman.
The magistrate explained to Albert that if he accepted equal rights then he must obey white man's law and if he broke this law he would have to accept the white man's punishment.
Albert could not stop supplying alcohol, of course, and later another fight erupted resulting in serious injury to another person.
Albert was brought before the magistrate and sentenced to six months in prison which was then reduced to three months.
However, contrary to claims by author Frank Hardy and others that we locked Albert up for six months in the Alice Springs gaol, Albert did not spend time in prison.
He was officially admitted to the gaol then some time later put in a vehicle and taken out to Papunya where he spent the next few months painting.
He was then brought back to Alice with just an overnight in gaol before being officially discharged to confront a barrage of reporters and photographers.
Then he went back to Papunya to complete his paintings.
Frank Clune was another author who constantly criticised Alice Springs for its racist attitude and exploitation of the Aborigines.
He arrived in town and took Albert for a trip out bush and, according to Rex Battarbee, Albert's friend and teacher, Frank arrived back in Alice with an original Namatjira and Albert with a bottle of Scotch.
Not a bad payment for a bottle.
Albert was taken to Sydney on a so called promotion but as Bill Harney said "the only way they didn't exploit him was to charge two bob a look".
He was blatantly used to promote all types of products.
He was on various radio shows and in one of them, was presented with a utility by Ampol.
Both doors had the inscription "Albert Namatjira artist Hermannsburg" then under this in bright letters "this vehicle donated by Ampol" so the thousands of photos taken by tourists of the vehicle would advertise Ampol.
Vehicles were often given away or won at radio quizzes but no white person would have had his prize labelled with the donor's name in large letters.
Albert could not control his intake of alcohol and in one drunken fight he had one of his fingers bitten off; many thought this would be the end of his painting, but not so.
He also realised that paintings with his signature brought more money than others by his sons and friends.
It was also alleged that in many of so called Albert Namatjira originals the only part genuine was his signature.
Another aspect of Albert obtaining equal rights was he no longer had to sell his paintings through the Alice Springs Arts Council, a non profit organisation, headed by artist Rex Battarbee, to sell Aboriginal paintings at their proper value.
It was an offence to purchase a painting that did not have the council's stamp on the reverse.
With Albert's equal rights he no longer had to conform with this policy.
The Arts Council were marketing original Alberts for around 150 pounds but they might take a month to sell.
Now that Albert could sell to whom he pleased for cash he very seldom received more than 10 pounds each.
The Opal Queen, Mrs Jenkins had 13 of his best.
Fred Woods, of the Rendezvous Cafe, had at least twenty, John Cummings, proprietor of a local art gallery, between 40 and 50.
Albert died almost penniless mainly from problems brought on by alcohol.
The law which prevented Aborigines from drinking was discovered to have a major loophole in that if the person was as little as one eighth European then he had every right to Australian citizenship status.
Thus began an era when many "part" Aborigines denied black ancestry and claimed to be a white Australian.
It was the responsibility of the police to prove whether a drinker was a full blood or only part Aborigine; this, of course, was impossible.
Soon after an Australian-wide referendum was held to determine if the Aborigines should be awarded equal rights.
Territorians were the only Australians were the only Australians not permitted to vote at this referendum.
The yes vote won by a large majority bringing with it many more problems.
To many Aborigines the implementation of this law meant that at last they could go to a hotel and drink legally.
Some hotels attempted to provide special facilities for Aboriginal drinkers and received much criticism for exploitation.
However, history shows that hotels in Alice which tried to provide this service usually lost money and sometimes went bankrupt.
Several case histories tend to support this: Continued next week.

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