Last week in the confidential part of its executive development committee, the Alice Springs Town Council, secretly voted to reject a swap offered it by the NT Government of its current town centre offices for a new Town Hall and library on ANZAC Hill. This would have allowed the Government to site its proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery in the city centre, which it keeps insisting is the only commercially sensible site for such a Gallery.

This, of course, has been argued against by Arrernte Traditional Owners, who initially rejected ANZAC Hill as a site and have promoted a siting south of The Gap “ the traditional entry point to Alice Springs/Mparntwe, through the one gap in the MacDonnell Ranges, themselves the Yeperenye/Caterpillar Dreaming. Aboriginal protocols insisted that visitors waited south of The Gap to be welcomed on to Arrernte Country by its Custodians, and TO Doris Stuart has long stated her objection to mixing up everyone’s stories like eggs on the the country north of the Gap, which is dense with Arrernte sites. This reluctance also applies to the site that the original Advisory Committee picked on “ Alice Springs Desert Park “ where the successful Parrtjima lights festival already takes place.

As I have suggested before, there seems to be a remarkably successful art museum in the suburbs of Hobart called MONA, which would be the equivalent of siting NAAG south of The Gap.

But, the NT Labor Government fights on against reality. Revealing the Town Council rejection itself, and responding with its own fighting words:

The National Aboriginal Art Gallery project is one of the biggest investments into Alice Springs in decades and it will provide more local jobs, economic growth, and social benefits.

According to the comprehensive Business Case for the project, if constructed in the CBD, it will bring an additional 53,000 visitors to Alice Springs every year, injecting up to $64 million into the local economy and generating up to 245 local jobs. (But was the Business Case allowed to consider alternative sites??)

This week the Alice Springs Town Council voted to reject the Civic Centre site offer from the Territory Government. This comes after Council has spent almost two years rejecting every offer on the table, without providing any real solutions.

The Council under the leadership of a Country Liberal Party candidate has not provided a counteroffer to the proposed $20M land swap that will also see the creation of a new town library.

The Council needs to come clean and make clear to the people of Alice Springs what conflict of interests exists with their elected officials and how this may have impacted on their decision-making.    

The National Aboriginal Art Gallery project is too important for the people and future of Alice Springs to be stalled by deliberate inaction or political game playing.

The Territory Labor Government remains committed to building the National Aboriginal Art Gallery in the Alice Springs CBD “ with or without the Alice Springs Town Council.