First Council 1971-1974

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 Fed­er­al Mem­ber for the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry, Jock Nel­son, won the posi­tion of May­or in a land­slide vic­to­ry from the five oth­er candidates.

Alder­men Elected:

  • 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 passed 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

1971 – 1972

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.

1972 – 1973

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.

1973 – 1974

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”.