Town camp review released

The report wants people to move to areas like Katherine where there are greater chances of obtaining training or a job.
The report wants people to move to areas like Katherine where there are greater chances of obtaining training or a job.

The NT Government will spend $25 million for people living in town camps.

An independent investigation today said almost  $78 million needs to be spent to bring the homes in the NT’s 43 “town”camps up to standard.

Today’s spending announcement will start with urgent repairs.

One of the core recommendations of the investigation is not to simply build more houses in the camps but “incentivising and enabling Town Camp residents over time to transition to economic centres that are expected to offer a greater diversity and sustainability of employment opportunities”, which has not been supported by the government.

Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy said: “We will support residents to stay in their homes and develop a sustainable future for town camps.”

“We believe that investment in additional housing should not be made in Town Camps. Instead investment should be made in sustainable social housing in the regions that have the economic fundamentals to offer both diversity of employment and a substantial number of opportunities,” the report said.

In regards to Katherine as a potential host centre, the report says: ”Katherine, Alice Springs and Borroloola present partially diversified economic platforms. In each region there is a greater dependency on specific industries in comparison to Darwin. Local services are sustainable. Local labour markets are largely contingent on local industries but the scale is unlikely to account for large influxes of Indigenous labour. Access to training institutions are somewhat restricted as the training infrastructure and services do not exist in large capacity.”

The report also recommends living areas should be built in Katherine to “provide for transient populations visiting these regions”.

Releasing the 16,000 page Town Camp Review today, Minister for Housing and Community Development, Gerry McCarthy, said every Territorian deserves to be safe, have access to high quality housing and services, and have the opportunity to create a better life through a decent job.

“We are improving peoples’ homes, creating jobs and supporting our most vulnerable to create a stronger, more inclusive Territory,” he said.

The report says housing within the town camps revealed the majority of housing stock is more than 20 years old.

“This age, in conjunction with neglect by the tenants and a lack of appropriate maintenance, has resulted in 18% of the housing stock being of a poor condition and below.”

The investigation found the cost to bring all Town Camp houses up to the standards of the Residential Tenancy Act is almost $78 million.

The review into NT town camps, identified opportunities to improve governance arrangements and address significant need in repairs, maintenance and upgrade works for housing and other infrastructure.

“It also identified and provided options for town camp residents and lease holders to be more actively engaged in the works on their own town living areas and in the broader Territory economy.”

The report said: “To be clear – we are not recommending no investment in Town Camps. For permanent residents dilapidated housing needs to be upgraded to the standards of the Residential Tenancy Act. Where permanent residents reside in temporary structures these need to be replaced with adequate housing. Finally infrastructure upgrades will be required to support either existing or replacement housing in Town Camps.”

Katherine region town camps were named in the report as Mataranka, Pine Creek, Miali Brumby (Kalano) and Warlpiri.

The report detailed problems with water supplies, roads, community centres.

The report says more than $11 million needs to spent at the four camps to bring houses up to standard.

“The current housing stock is aging with 40% over 20 years old and 52% between 10 and 20 years old. 8% of the housing stock is between 5 and 10 years old. The condition of the houses in Katherine covers a wide range. 42% of the houses was considered of average condition and 29% of the houses was considered to be in a very good condition. However, this rating does not take into account the cleanliness of the residences. The cleanliness of the residences is generally very poor.”

The Territory Government is calling for the Commonwealth Government to match it dollar-for-dollar for all investments into Town Camps.

The Northern Territory Government supports or supports in-principle the 22 summary recommendations in the report. 

“As an independent report, the Northern Territory Government does not support the report in its entirety, particularly comments relating to the transition of residents away from their homes for economic opportunities,” said Mr McCarthy.

“We encourage community members to provide feedback via the Department of Housing and Community Development website.”

The report.