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First Council 1971-1974
The First Council: July 1971 - May 1974
On 1 July 1971 Alice Springs became a Municipality.
Despite some opposition from various identities within the town, the inauguration of the first local government in Alice Springs was greeted with a great deal of interest.
A large percentage of those eligible to vote turned out for the first election of the Alice Springs Town Council.
The election for the members of the first Council was held on 25 June 1971.
Popular identity, pastoralist and former Labor Federal Member for the Northern Territory, Jock Nelson, won the position of Mayor in a landslide victory from the five other candidates.
Marlene Brown, businesswoman
Brian Martin, barrister and solicitor
Paul Everingham, barrister and solicitor
Len Kittle, motor transport industry
Dave Baldock, timber merchant
Andrew McPhee, architect
Peter Leunig, businessman
Allan Dunstan, teacher
Changes within Council:
5 July, 1971: Council elected Brian Martin as Deputy Mayor
Resignation, 30 January, 1973: Alderman Allan Dunstan resigned from Council because of his being posted to Darwin
Resignation, February, 1973: Alderman Marlene Brown resigned because her husband, Don, was taking up an appointment outside the Northern Territory
By-election, 24 March, 1973: Aldermen Fred L. Lucas and Frances E. Smith
Resignation, 2 July, 1973: Paul Everingham’s resignation (because of his moving to Darwin) accepted by Council
9 July, 1973: Because the next ordinary Council election was less than twelve months away, the Council’s General Purpose Committee passed a resolution to recommend that Council make an approach to the Administrator to appoint Dennis Haddon who was the highest-polling unsuccessful candidate in the March, 1973, Council by-election. Haddon was duly appointed as an Alderman,
Resignation, 8 December, 1973: Mayor Jock Nelson stepped down to take up the position of Northern Territory Administrator in Darwin
8 December, 1973: Brian Martin, Nelson’s Deputy Mayor, immediately became Acting Mayor for the remaining part of the Council’s term (until 30 June, 1974). The Administrator approved his appointment on 17 December, 1973
26 January, 1974: The election of the new Deputy Mayor was somewhat sensational. The two nominations for the position were Aldermen Leunig and Kittle. With only six Aldermen attending the meeting, each candidate received three votes. The Mayor declined from using his casting vote and instead asked Works Manager Eric Johnston to determine the outcome by tossing a coin. Peter Leunig became Deputy Mayor.
26 January, 1974: Council recommended that Alan Gray fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Brian Martin as Mayor. After his appointment was approved, Alan Gray attended his first Council meeting on 20 March (and it is understood to have past away later in 1987).
May, 1974: Alderman Fred Lucas passed away. With an ordinary election due within a month, the vacancy was not filled
Aldermen Dave Baldock, Len Kittle, and Frances Smith did not seek re-election at the June, 1974, Council ordinary election
The first meeting of the new Council was held on 5 July, 1971, in the Board Room of the District Office. Aldermen agreed on an annual allowance to be provided for the Mayor and discussed the formation of three committees: Parks, Garden and Reserves, Finance, and Works and Traffic.
The first Council offices were located in the house at 35 Hartley Street that was rented from the Northern Territory Administration (NT Self Government was not granted until 1 July 1978).
Charles Ryan was the acting Town Clerk – he remained until the new Council appointed its first Town Clerk.
Trevor Jenkinson was appointed to the position of Town Clerk on 20 July, 1971, a position that he held for ten years. For the previous eighteen months he had been the Manager of the Alice Springs branch of the ANZ Bank.
Although he had no previous local government experience, he had passed two-thirds of his Local Government Clerk’s Certificate.
None of the newly elected Aldermen had had previous local government experience.
However, Jock Nelson’s parliamentary experience benefited Council when his former colleagues succeeded to government in Canberra in December, 1972, and overtures from Nelson resulted in the Federal Government doubling its subsidy for the town’s new Swimming Centre.
The business of the early Council meetings included establishing of the Council itself as well as the main Council obligations – repairs to the Council offices, employment of staff, settle on a form of agenda for meetings, arrange for garbage collection, purchase of equipment, nomination of a person on the Place Names Committee, and bylaws.
There were arguments with the Government regarding allotted funding and claims by the Council that Government grants were insufficient to build and repair roads in town after the Government cut its road works grant by more than three-quarters.
Council requested the NT Government Town Planner to investigate the site for a new cemetery.
Right from the start, Council had a strong voice on town affairs.
When the Northern Territory Reserves Board wanted to limit the size of public functions at the Old Telegraph Station, a deputation from Council met with the Northern Territory Reserves Board to discuss the Board’s proposed restrictions on functions at the Old Telegraph Station.
Alderman Paul Everingham stated that “The Old Telegraph Station fills the place of a botanical garden and the citizens of Alice Springs should not be locked out of it by a Board on which the Council had little representation.”
In September, 1971, Council made a donation towards The Alice Prize being conducted by the Alice Springs Art Foundation.
During early March, 1972, Alice Springs suffered from flooding when the Todd River broke its banks. More than 200 millimetres of rain fell in three days.
Although television in Australia had begun in Melbourne in time for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, it did not reach Alice Springs until Saturday, 16 December, 1972, when the ABC started broadcasting.
Because of the continuation of the airline strike, Council requested the Federal Government to use its VIP and RAAF aeroplanes to transport mail into and out of Alice Springs.
Council obtained the authority to be able to close roads immediately in an emergency. Previously Council had to give a week’s notice.
The scheme to personally invite five ratepayers, in writing, to attend a Council meeting was not working and was abolished.
Council conducted a major rubbish clean-up to remove rubbish from private premises.
The Council approached the National Trust for its opinion about the historical value of The Residency on the corner of Hartley and Parsons Streets.
It was planned to demolish the building to make way for a new Post Office and Government office complex.
Australia’s first aeroplane hijacking took place at the Alice Springs aerodrome in November, 1972.
In January, 1973, the Council called tenders for the construction of the new Olympic-size swimming pool.
Council decided to protest to the NT Administration over the shortage of blocks of land available at the forthcoming auction. Council wanted the number of restricted blocks decreased.
The NT Administration suggested three alternative sites for the new cemetery but Council insisted that they wanted the original site on the Stuart Highway near the MacDonnell siding. The original site was found to be sandy and this could cause problems with the digging of graves.
Council introduced a scheme whereby, if three adjoining households could agree to beautify their nature strips, Council would rotary-hoe the ground for them.
Council agreed to meet with the managers of TAA and Ansett airlines to try to find a solution to the parking problems outside their businesses on the corners of Todd and Parsons Streets.
The Mayor, Jock Nelson, was not too sympathetic towards the companies saying that the airlines were, in the main, responsible for their present problems.
Aldermen expressed their concern over the lack of any bylaws.
Council decided to postpone the possible development of Ross Park as a sporting complex until it was assessed if grass would grow on the salty areas.
The winner of the competition for a town emblem was Ian Janzow.
His design was a motif of the sun setting behind Mount Gillen.
The Council agreed to place a scoreboard at Larapinta Park and some other improvements requested by the Alice Springs Combined Sports Council.
A draft set of bylaws was completed covering traffic parking, stray dogs, hoardings, advertising signs, and hawkers.
In preparation for the time when the swimming complex was completed, Council heard from Mr Vic de Fontenay on the duties of a Pool Superintendent and the staff required to operate a pool correctly.
A Superannuation Scheme for Corporation staff was implemented.
In July, 1973, Council requested the Northern Territory Government to with-hold about six lots in the new racecourse subdivision from auction because they were part way up a rocky hill and it would be impossible to construct a cut-off drain behind the lots.
Meanwhile, a new subdivision of about four hundred lots was announced for the east side of Alice Springs.
The Central Australian Racing Club was given very short notice to vacate their racecourse site on the north side of town and re-establish themselves at a new site south of Heavitree Gap.
Their old site was to be developed as a residential subdivision.
Major capital expenditure for the year included budgeting for the Civic Centre, the parking area at Anzac Oval, Leichhardt Terrace parking area, and money allocated for the basketball courts at Traeger Park.
Council approached the Department of Aboriginal Affairs requesting further information concerning the Charles River Aboriginal camp sites, and asked if a speaker was available to address Council. Council was interested to find out when the camps would be put into use.
Council accepted the responsibility for closing the Wills Terrace causeway and the footbridge across the Todd River when the river was in flood. It was considered that the footbridge could be dangerous in large floods.
A Northern Territory Local Government Association was formed following discussions between the Darwin and Alice Springs Councils. It was expected that Tennant Creek and Katherine would join the Association when they received local government.
The Northern Territory Legislative Council proposed legislation to enable Councils to hold elections as early as April off the year when an election was due.
Previously, the election had to be held in May or June.
The new legislation would change the minimum age for becoming Mayor or an Alderman from 21 years to 18 years. Darwin and Alice Springs claimed that the earlier elections would allow more time for newly elected Aldermen to become familiar with the procedures of Council before the end of the financial year.
The Legislation also allowed a Council to fill an Aldermanic vacancy if it occurred after more than two years (of a three year term), rather than having that power retained by the Administrator as was the case.
While still in office, Alderman Fred Lucas passed away on 9 May, 1974.
Fred was born in England. He married Halycon, an artist. For a while he worked in Papua – New Guinea. During World War ll he saw service in the Middle East and Papua – New Guinea.
Fred worked in Melbourne before coming to the Northern Territory in March, 1962.
He came to Alice Springs in September, 1965, to take up the position of assistant Superintendent of stores for the Works Department.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs approved a large grant to enable Council to employ twenty-nine Aborigines for twelve months on special work projects such as developing new parks and playgrounds, to lay concrete footpaths, and training an Aboriginal woman as an office assistant in typing and shorthand.
Council Depot staff received a bouquet when a rate payer on the Eastside wrote to Council thanking the employees who had helped him to shift a tree that had blown down on to his house during a storm.
The rate payer congratulated the Council “on a job well done”.