Bush cooking workshop at Desert Park promoting links between young people and traditional know-how. Photo of draft plan, courtesy of City Council.
By ERWIN CHLANDA
Mayor Matt Paterson wants the CBD to become “a vibrant, bustling place” led by a council “committed to being vibrant and active,” as CEO Robert Jennings puts it.
But once you get past that already-heard part, you’ll find that the draft 2022/23 municipal plan, open for public comment until June 20, is an interesting mirror of the city and where its nine elected members of government local want it to go.
About 130 “goals” are listed in the draft plan, with a focus on young people, including a youth forum this year, with the library being “a place for the whole community and “a big focus on upgrading” the swimming pool and parks” to give families the best possible facilities”.
However, apart $40,000 for air conditioner upgrades there are no fees mentioned except “modernize, refurbish and renovate the internal and external infrastructure of the library”. The construction of a new library, envisaged by the previous council, was abandoned.
“We are developing our asset management plan to ensure we bring additional benefits to the region,” the project says. This means looking for opportunities to make money other than rates.
After having increased them by 2% two years ago and not at all last year, the tariffs and charges will increase by 4.7% if the plan is adopted.
The proposed budget of $38 million is balanced, not including the $9.6 million in amortization cost.
Top spend is on governance, risk, advisors, management, finance, organizational development, and information technology (23%).
Maintenance of roads, paths, drains and council infrastructure, corrections, street and operational lighting comes next (22%), followed by emaintenance of the environment, parks, ovals and playgrounds and trees (21%).
Some of the “goals” are clear and likely to be met with approval by the public.
But some are vague, some are in the future and may not happen, while others of them are obvious.
The proposed plan is careful not to make commitments on a lot of “objectives” that it needs to “identify … drive [an] impact assessment … review … encourage … Ddevelop” or who will have to undergo a “high-level risk assessment”.
Samples of “exciting projects” as the draft puts it:-
• “Working with” the NT government on [yet another] revitalization of Alice CBD.
• “Start planning” for [the long-awaited] large water park.
• “Plan” (not build) a new regional skate park. The project is estimated at $4 million and is expected to be received as a government grant.
• Completion of mall refurbishment ($75,000).
Empty business premises in the mall. Making CBD “a vibrant and lively place” is once again on the board’s agenda.
• Resurfacing of netball courts with a $1.5 million grant.
The plan is to spend $3.9 million on infrastructure including:-
• At the swimming pool, a proposed expenditure of $735,000, including an outdoor gym (1:1 joint funding with the Government of the Northern Territories, total expenditure of $300,000).
• Closing of municipal roads ($650,000).
Other proposed tasks: –
• Continue to provide security CCTV monitoring activity and work closely with the police.
• Support local community events.
• Organize a weekly Heart Foundation walk.
• Continue to facilitate community use of sports facilities, including shared use.
• Maintain council assets (washrooms, playgrounds, sports fields, parks and green spaces, cemeteries, other public places) at a level of safety consistent with community expectations.
• Install shade structures in Alice Springs parks.
• Ensure a high visibility patrol presence in the CBD by rangers.
• Ensure solar technology is operating as needed – backed by a reliable maintenance program.
• Achieve a tree planting target of 750 trees per year.
• Increase recycled waste by an additional 5%.
• Support the goals of the Mountain Bike Master Plan.
• Monitor solar technology operates as needed, backed by a reliable maintenance program.
• Encourage the Government of the Northern Territories and local businesses to adopt sustainable initiatives.
• Update local Alice Springs bylaws.
• Work with key stakeholders to develop a strategy to mitigate illegal dumping at the regional waste management facility.
The latter – a pressing issue – is one of many tasks that raise the question: when? How? At what price ?
The council has 223 employee positions that cost him an average of $94,000.
Elected officials can claim for basic, election, meeting and development allowances, $114,455 (mayor), $41,926 (deputy mayor) and $35,791 (councillor).
The mayor’s office also includes a car, cell phone, and credit card.
The 26,476 inhabitants of the city (4,360 – 16% – of them Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander) live or use 10,493 mostly taxable properties on 328 square kilometers of municipal domain. They have a median age of 35 and 23% are foreign born and speak 19 different languages at home.
There are 13,506 jobs, 2,050 businesses, 2,896 households with a mortgage, and 7,008 people with an internet connection.
Domestic visitors spent over a million nights at The Alice in 2019/20.
Municipal library: After considering replacing it, which took a lot of energy during the last council, it disappeared.
We use 700,000 kL of water per year. That’s 700 million liters or 25,500 liters per capita.
As the board seeks “to improve efficiency…and reduce operational costs”, it proposes to spend considerable sums to examine how this could be done: $120,000 is proposed to study asset management, $100,000 for business units, $100,000 on workplace and community safety, $200,000 on a master plan and $40,000 on an economic development policy.
Yet another question arises: don’t we have a mayor, CEO and councillors, a “dedicated group of individuals” as Mayor Paterson describes it, “working to achieve meaningful results for the community” as well as their support staff who could surely perform these examinations as part of their job.