A Queensland-based architecture firm has been awarded $7.2million to design the controversial National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs, while a local firm will provide design assistance, the NT government has said, despite the gallery’s total budget is expected to be up to $30 million more than the government has requested.

BVN Architecture Pty Ltd was among dozens of bidders who bid on the project, some of which were NT-based. Meanwhile, territory-owned Susan Dugdale & Associates (SDA) will work with BVN to provide “local expertise” on Indigenous culture and design.

BVN will receive a lump sum of $7,175,896.91, according to details of the government tender.

The Government of the Northern Territories published the design consultancy tender for the National Gallery of Aboriginal Art in Alice Springs in April 2021, which closed last June.

“BVN Architecture has extensive experience in urban design and general planning, as well as commercial, residential and public projects; while Susan Dugdale and Associates have carried out a range of innovative projects for Aboriginal organizations in Alice Springs and across Central Australia and the Barklys,” the government said in a statement.

“In addition to the gallery, Kwatye’s highly anticipated water play area will be incorporated into the area surrounding the gallery.”

The government said the gallery would cost $150 million to build and would contribute $50 million to the project.

However, the government’s strategic business case says the cost is actually expected to be between $150 million and $180 million, “depending on factors such as site and design issues.”

The government has yet to determine who will cover the rest of the gallery’s costs.

“Now that the acquisition process is finalized, we will work with the Australian Government and the opposition to secure the remaining $100 million to make this truly iconic project a reality,” the statement said.

“If they don’t support the project, the territorial government will provide the additional funding in stages.”

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chansey Paech said the National Gallery of Indigenous Art will be an “iconic example of architectural excellence that will be the jewel in the crown of Mparntwe (Alice Springs)”.

“The gallery will celebrate Aboriginal art and showcase its cultural significance and beauty to national and international audiences. Much like the Uluru Experience, the Gallery Experience will be a must for all visitors to Central Australia.

‘It was time to step aside so the Northern Territories Government could get on with its business’: Mayor of Alice Springs

Alice Springs City Council recently dropped its five-year legal dispute over the forced acquisition of Anzac Oval for the National Aboriginal Art Gallery as the Gunner government announced a sealed deal worth $3.65 million of dollars.

Last Friday, Chief Minister Michael Gunner and some Cabinet members held a press conference at the Araluen Arts Quarter across town and not at Anzac Oval.

He boasted that the National Aboriginal Art Gallery would attract 53,000 visitors a year, 200 jobs and a $60 million boost to the Northern Territory’s economy.

He said construction would begin in late 2023 and should be completed by 2025.

“The neighborhood will include open, family-friendly community green spaces, Kwatye Water Play Park and a new purpose-built home for Tourism Central Australia,” the government said in a statement.

The precinct will also feature shaded walkways, lighting and landscaping to connect the various elements of the precinct to each other and to the CBD to maximize benefits for local businesses, the government said.

The National Aboriginal Art Gallery will be the centerpiece of the compound. The current site will be transformed into an open, family-friendly community green space and entrance to the compound, the government added.

The Council will effectively hand over the site despite the findings of the Northern Territories Civil and Administrative Tribunal in September 2021 that the Gunner government failed to exercise due diligence in consulting with traditional owners about its acquisition of the land.

The court recommended that the Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, Eva Lawler, conduct further negotiations with the Mparntwe caretakers before finalizing the acquisition of the Anzac Oval.

In January, Ms Lawler had met with board members and the chief executive of the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation and had “ongoing communications” with the traditional owners, the city council and Tourism Central Australia.

“I also continue to pursue meetings with Mparntwe guardians with whom I have not personally spoken about land acquisition,” she said two months ago.

Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson told the ABC in January that the council “would not be exploring other legal avenues to the Supreme Court that would be costly and time-consuming.”

“We’ve come to the end of the road,” Mr. Paterson said.

“I understand it’s such a controversial topic, it really is. It was probably done wrong from the start, but we need to move on now.

He said the council had represented the concerns of the community and it was time to “get out of the way for the NT government [could] get down to business”.

Mr Paterson told the NT Independent this week that he would ‘absolutely welcome any investment in our town’.

“The Council has also always championed the National Gallery of Aboriginal Art in Alice Springs, this is a project which the Council believes could be a game-changer in our town,” he said. “I certainly think this announcement is going to be very beneficial for Alice Springs.”

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