Old housing warnings
INDIGENOUS affairs envoy Tony Abbott has undertaken a stealth mission to get 12 second-hand RAAF base houses to the Borroloola community — some of which may already be over 40 years old.
The NT News understands that the houses may only be liveable for two to five years and the NT Government provided feedback that they were not a suitable option.
The secretive process that the federal indigenous affairs envoy and NT Senator Nigel Scullion undertook in plucking 12 houses from beside the Stuart Hwy has come under scrutiny and questions have been raised as to the suitability of the homes, most of which were built in the late 1970s and have been sitting roadside for over four years. It has also not been confirmed, despite numerous questions, as to how this is all being funded.
A spokeswoman for Territory Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy said neither the Department of Housing nor the Minister’s office was aware of plans by the Australian Government to provide houses to Borroloola.
Instead, they were made aware of the move on November 6, when a representative from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and an Australian Army representative met with the Territory Government to advise them of their plans to deliver 12 exRAAF houses to the remote community urgently.
The spokeswoman said the Federal Government had not yet released $14.6 million committed for housing at Borroloola ten years ago as part of the Strategic Indigenous Housing Infrastructure Project. “During his time as Treasurer, Prime Minister Scott Morrison approved $550 million over five years for remote housing as part of an agreement to match the NTG’s $1.1 billion investment over ten years,” she said.
“The question regarding why the funding hasn’t been signed off on will have to be referred to the Australian Government.”
NT Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, who grew up in Borroloola, said she had been made aware of discussion about Mr Abbott’s return to her home town and his aim to take 12 houses from Berrimah to Borroloola.
“If Mr Abbott went in on the first occasion and was quite humiliated by the people of Borroloola, because they didn’t know he was coming, then if they don’t know what he is doing now, is he going to have a repeat performance?” she said.
Ms McCarthy also challenged the suitability of the houses and the plan to move them from Berrimah to Borroloola.
A spokesman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion denied the homes had been purchased.
“It is completely untrue to say that any houses have been purchased by the Commonwealth, including former RAAF Houses,” he said.
“The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is working with the Northern Land Council and consulting with the community to determine an appropriate approach to address the urgent housing need in Borroloola.
“Some temporary demountable buildings will be used in Borroloola to provide interim accommodation during the wet season for people currently without a house.”
The Territory Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy’s spokeswoman said the NT Government already had plans to build 38 new houses across four town camps in Borroloola.
“Planning for the additional and replacement homes is underway with construction tenders expected to be released next month,” she said.
Mr Abbott’s office was contacted for comment.
It is understood initial site work for the 12 houses is expected to start today.