By Carl Pfeiffer
Alice Springs Town Council has voted to fight the Gunner Government over its decision to compulsory acquire Anzac Oval to build the National Aboriginal Art Gallery.
Council passed a motion in a special meeting today, following comments made by Families Minister Dale Wakefield earlier this week that the government was planning to compulsory acquire the Anzac Oval precinct within weeks.
“We’ve sent a letter to the council, myself and (Tourism Minister) Lauren Moss, in an absolutely last ditch attempt for us to work together, we haven’t heard back yet,” Ms Wakefield told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“We will absolutely pull the trigger in the next few weeks.
“The valuer general has looked at what the price would be and when you can compulsory acquire.
“We need it done, we need certainty and we need to be making sure that tourism businesses can plan for their future knowing that the Aboriginal art gallery is going to be a part of it.”
But council, who owns the land, is refusing to budge and the NT Independent understands it is willing to go to court if the government forces council to sell the land to them.
Councillor Eli Melky said the outcome of the meeting was straight forward.
“I moved a motion that says Alice Springs Town Council will challenge any attempt from the NT Government to compulsory acquire Anzac Oval,” he said.
“The motion received unanimous support.”
The development is the latest twist in years of fraught negotiations over the location of the proposed gallery.
The NT Government initially went against the advice of a steering committee, which said the facility should be built in the Desert Park precinct.
What followed was a tumultuous consultation period with the community over its preferred site, the Anzac Oval precinct on the edge of the town’s CBD.
The Government then backed away from that site, after key traditional owners withdrew their support, before again pushing ahead with it only to be blocked by council.
Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley said the government’s decision to compulsory acquire the land “within weeks” was motivated by the upcoming election in August.
“We’ve been waiting for this for years and it’s the first time they have ever put a timeline on it,” she said.
The government wants to build the gallery across the Anzac Precinct, which includes the Anzac High School site and Anzac Oval.
In a letter sent to council, Ms Wakefield said the government’s plans indicated that the gallery may extend onto the existing oval, but there were plans “to acknowledge the military and sporting heritage” of the precinct.
It’s unknown if a new grandstand, build on Anzac Oval in 2014, would have to be demolished if the gallery is built on the site.