By JULIUS DENNIS
“What I’d like to see from the mayoral candidates, and the aldermen candidates, is that if they put their hand up, they see out their term.
“Commit to the four year term. Therefore, you can commit to actually achieving something.”
Those are the words of Graeme Smith, CEO of Lhere Artepe, the town’s native title holder corporation. Words that reflect on the turbulent 13th council of Alice Springs which saw four of the nine elected members put their name in the ring for Legislative Assembly seats in last year’s NT election, and ends with both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor setting their sights on Federal politics.
In the midst of that scene, council, the NT government and Lhere Artepe joined forces to get no closer to a proposed national Aboriginal art gallery being built in Alice Springs.
Lhere Artepe has supported the Territory Labor Government to go ahead with the contested Anzac Precinct site for the gallery.
As has been reported extensively in this paper, the council, along with other key stakeholders, have not backed this option (as it did not have demonstrated support from key Arrernte custodians, as opposed to the native title holder corporation).
Whatever the politics of the site, Mr Smith believes that $17m has been “squandered” by council’s inability to get on board with the project, and that politics rather than logic played a role.
“To be honest, I think the previous council, given their backgrounds, weren’t really interested in working with the government of the day.
“The Town Council were offered $20m for the Anzac site. Twenty million dollars. Because the Town Council wanted to play political stunts and use it as a political football for their own advantages, the NT government decided to compulsorily acquire the land and offer $3m.
“That was all politics that the town council could have handled much better. $17m [more] to [ratepayers] would have been much sweeter.
“I think they’ve missed a big opportunity because of their political leanings.”
All four of the council members who ran for Territory seats in August last year were in opposition to Labor candidates and both Damien Ryan and Jacinta Price will be running for the CLP in the forthcoming federal election. Jamie De Brenni, another council member, is the current CLP Party President.
This criticism aside, Mr Smith (pictured) says that Lhere Artepe sees Alice Springs Town Council as one of their “main stakeholders”, and that their relationship has been “one of rebuilding and renewing” over the past several months.
He says that the corporation looks forward to working with the council “long term,” provided the council members are also committed.
Mr Smith says that together, Lhere Artepe and ASTC, on an executive level, are in constant talks over youth and crime as well as future plans for an expansion of the tip, cleaning up the Todd River and surrounds, and beautification of the town.
“There’s a lot in this town that we need to work closely on together.
“One thing that I would request is more of a close working relationship and meetings going forward with the elected members, and not just the executive arm.”
Mr Smith says Lhere Artepe would “support” any Arrernte people who would run for an elected position: “I wish we did have a few Arrernte people running.
“I think we’ve got to get more Arrernte people interested in the work of the town council, the work of aldermen.
“People haven’t put their hand up because it’s quite damaging space to get into personally if you do.”
With no Arrernte candidates to support, Mr Smith says that Lhere Artepe will not be endorsing any Mayoral or council candidates: “Let’s see where the pennies fall. We will work with the elected members of the day.”
PHOTOS a top: Football and netball receiving donations from the three IGA stores in Alice Springs owned by Lhere Artepe.