Alice Springs Transformation Plan
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GEORGIA STYNES: Well, it looks like an agreement on Alice Springs town camps transformation has finally been reached.
Tangentyere Council and 16 of the town camps in Alice Springs have written to the Federal Government saying they will sign the 40 year lease – breaking a two year stalemate.
Just before I came on air I spoke to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and I started by asking her what finally broke this stalemate.
JENNY MACKLIN: I think what we’ve seen is that everybody has recognised how important it is that we’re able to get on with upgrading houses, building new houses, really providing improvements to the living conditions for people who live in the town camps in Alice Springs. That’s really what it’s been about all along, and now we can get on with the job.
GEORGIA STYNES: What was the clincher, do you think, that finally got it through in the end?
JENNY MACKLIN: I think we’ve been negotiating for some time, and there has been a recognition that all along the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory Government need some security. That’s why we’ve insisted on the 40 year leases. I think there’s been recognition that we need to improve tenancy management. So it’s been agreed that the Northern Territory Housing Authority will be responsible for tenancy management. I think there’s been a recognition that if we all work together, we can make the improvements that the town camp residents really want.
GEORGIA STYNES: You’ve received a letter from Tangentyere. What exactly does it say?
JENNY MACKLIN: I’ve received letters from Tangentyere and also from 16 of the housing associations covering the town camps. They’re all formal, legal letters, indicating their willingness to sign up. So, at this point they’re just very direct. We’re going through the legal process now, and the leases will be signed very shortly.
GEORGIA STYNES: How long is very shortly?
JENNY MACKLIN: I hope within the week.
GEORGIA STYNES: Okay. How soon can we expect the improvements to be made at these camps?
JENNY MACKLIN: Once again, very quickly. So we are of course, first and foremost, wanting to start with clean ups and urgent repairs. So, those urgent repairs to really make safe some of the homes that people are living in are just not even, don’t even have some of the basic safety any of the rest of us would expect. So, they will be the early works.
We’re going to need some demountables put into the town camps so that for those people who have been sleeping outside they’ll have somewhere to stay.
And I expect that within two months we’ll start the construction of new homes and major upgrades.
GEORGIA STYNES: The camps are also overcrowded despite the, you know, what we’ve talked about there. Is there any capacity or is there any plan to I guess build more houses or house more people on these existing sites?
JENNY MACKLIN: We certainly will be building new homes. There’s no doubt that some of the $100 million will be spent on building new homes. We’ve said at least 20 new homes. And of course some of the existing houses are in such appalling condition that they’ll need to be almost completely rebuilt.
So, we’re just in the process of finalising the actual number of new homes, major rebuilds, upgrades, all of that will be finalised shortly.
GEORGIA STYNES: Now two camps decided to break away. What’s going to happen to those camps?
JENNY MACKLIN: We’re still discussing this with Lhere Artepe who represent the residents in these two camps. They have indicated to me that they would like me to proceed with compulsory acquisition to allow a different process of development. They want to have opportunities for commercial development, for home ownership, so they want to go down a different path.
As you know, these people represent the traditional owners in these areas, and we respect that, and so we’re continuing discussion with them.
GEORGIA STYNES: And will they be compensated?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, we’re in the process of discussions. So, let’s just keep those discussions going, and once we’ve finalised them I’ll let you know all the details.
GEORGIA STYNES: Okay, Minister, also, in regards to the, there was a legal court action taken by one camp resident – Barbara Shaw – what happens to that action now?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I’m still seeking legal advice about that, but I do hope that she will recognise that now that the housing associations, 16 of them have indicated that they want these leases signed and the, two Lhere Artepe camps are indicating that they’d like the Commonwealth [indistinct] compulsory acquisition, I hope she’ll recognise that everybody wants to get on with making sure that we’re working for the town camp residents and upgrading and building new homes.
GEORGIA STYNES: There has been a fair amount of controversy over the last week over the SIHIP funding, and houses not being built yet. How do, what sort of guarantees can you give that these renovations to the town camps will happen quickly and efficiently?
JENNY MACKLIN: I think it’s, you would have seen I’ve been determined to make sure that we get these houses built. We’ve been in negotiations now for more than a year with Tangentyere Council and with the housing associations. We are determined to get this moving as quickly as we possibly can. And I’ve indicated to you that within two months I expect us to see some serious building activity.
GEORGIA STYNES: I’m talking to Jenny Macklin, Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
I imagine that you might have been keeping one eye on what’s been happening in politics here over the last week. We’ve got a situation where Alison Anderson is threatening to walk away from the Labor Party, which could disturb the balance of power. What do you make of what’s happening here at the moment?
JENNY MACKLIN: I think the important thing is, both the Australian Government and the Northern Territory Government are determined to make sure that we do deliver the housing program that we’ve agreed on.
I’ve sent senior officials to Darwin to make sure that we get the results that we need out of this housing program. I expect to see 750 new homes built, major rebuilds, refurbishments achieved over the next five years. And I want it implemented quickly.
So, I can assure you, like everybody else, I’m concerned that we get this done.
GEORGIA STYNES: Have you spoken to her in the last week?
JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve tried to, but obviously I’m, I’ve been on the road, so, we’ve left messages. So, I’ll continue to do that.
GEORGIA STYNES: Are you, are you disappointed that she’s threatening to walk away from Labor?
JENNY MACKLIN: I’m determined like her, and like the Chief Minister, to get these houses built and that’s exactly what I intend to do.
GEORGIA STYNES: Jenny Macklin, thanks for your time this morning.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you.