Opinion divided over plan to shift public housing residents for $45m redevelopment
John Stokes Square resident Loro Pekaj said anti-social behaviour was a problem in the area. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
Residents of 75 public housing units at Nightcliff will be relocated to make way for a $45 million redevelopment, which will include the Labor Government’s long-promised 24-hour police station.
The news was broken to the residents of John Stoke Square, north of Darwin’s CBD, after the pre-budget announcement was made publicly on Tuesday.
Loro Pekaj, who has resided there for 20 years, said maintenance had deteriorated over the past six years and anti-social behaviour was on the rise.
“No, I don’t want to move, but if they want us to move they can move us, they can kick us on the road or whatever,” Mr Pekaj said.
One elderly man also said he believed he had no choice in the matter.
“I wouldn’t like to move,” the man said.
“[I] can’t say much, can’t make them change their mind. I’m disappointed, because it’s a big job to move and I’m happy to stay here.”
Others said they still had not been notified of the move, but welcomed the news.
Resident Maria Senge is among those who may soon have to move. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
“I’d like to move from here, but I’d not like to move too far from Nightcliff because [I can’t] drive, I’m sick,” said Maria Senge, a resident of 14 years.
Another said: “Oh yeah, anything to get out of here, it’s a hell hole.”
“It’s shocking,” the resident continued.
“We’ve been ringing up for four weeks now about one group that drinks here; they don’t even live here, they just turn up here for the fun of it.”
‘A hot bed of anti-social behaviour and crime’
Member for Nightcliff Natasha Fyles said the new redeveloped site would include at least 75 public housing properties and potentially private housing, pending expressions of interest.
The NT Government committed $45 million to the project, but said tenders and expressions of interest had not been put out, nor had community consultation started.
“The Government will now decant the site, clear the site and then we’ll work on expressions of interest to see if there’s any partnerships with the community around the housing and we’ll also work with the community around what the designs will look like,” Ms Fyles said.
The John Stokes Square housing block was described as a hotbed of anti-social behaviour and crime, which was a motivator for the government plan.
Member for Nightcliff Natasha Fyles said the redeveloped site could also include private housing. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
“This site is crowded, it is unfortunately the site of so much anti-social behaviour, crime and not necessarily from the residents who live here,” Ms Fyles said.
“There will be accommodation going forward for vulnerable Territorians, we’re not trying to push them out of our community, in fact the community welcomes people that might need support and public housing.”
Police station ‘will house 100 officers’
At the centre of the new development will be a 24-hour police station — a long-awaited Labor Government election promise.
“These figures are on the budget and we will spend the next few months working with police, as well as housing and community, preparing all the plans, putting things to tender and we will see the Nightcliff police station coming out of the ground from July 1 next year,” Ms Fyles said.
Acting Commander Craig Laider said it would be a multi-agency station, but would not have a watch house.
“It will have the capability to house 100 police officers, but we’ll determine closer to its creation exactly what the operational need will be for the Nightcliff (area) and surrounding communities,” he said.
But the announcement was met with scepticism and frustration by Nightcliff residents, who believed more police presence was needed immediately.
Public housing authorities speaking to residents at John Stokes Square (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
“We hear the same thing over and over again, but nothing is getting done — what about all the assaults over here?” Len Anderson asked police.
Acting Commander Laider responded by explaining that there would be a new police station with a 24-hour front desk.
“That’s wonderful in a couple of years’ time, but what are you doing now?” Mr Anderson responded.
The Police Association said it was not consulted about the plan and funding for police stations in remote areas had been neglected.
“Members in some remote areas are still working out of shipping containers, while a new 24-hour police station is promised for Nightcliff, when Casuarina station and a fully-functioning 24-hour police station in Darwin city are just down the road,” Police Association president Paul McCue in a statement.
A business case for the project, including details costing, was expected to be completed in the coming months, the Government said.