MEDIA – Transcript – ABC Radio Darwin – Defence Housing at Lee Point
CANBERRA – 2 June, 2021
JOELENE LAVERTY, HOST: There has been a great amount of community uproar in recent months about the Lee Point defence housing developments, but…
AUDIO – NT CHIEF MINISTER MICHAEL GUNNER: “The planning processes have been gone through. The independent EPA signed off on this. A quarter of the proposed development is actually going into the reserve to add to the reserve, and around a third of the sites are going to be open space. So I hear the concerns coming in. But this got approved back in 2019. There’s actually blocks for sale now. So, it’s happened.”
LAVERTY: So is this a case of too little, too late? And where to from here for community members concerned about the development?
AUDIO – COMMUNITY MEMBER: “There was a political decision in 2015 to put it into the planning scheme. And, of course, it’ll take a political decision to change it.”
LAVERTY: So, a political decision to change it. And we’ve heard from the Chief Minister that the feeling is it’s going ahead, that’s it. But maybe there’s another avenue. Luke Gosling is the federal Member for Solomon and joins us now. Hello, Mr Gosling.
LUKE GOSLING, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Morning, Jo.
LAVERTY: First of all, what do you make of the Lee Point development?
GOSLING: The Friends of Lee Point took me on a tour down there the other day. And it’s some beautiful country and beautiful forests, woodland. It’s quite variable all the way down to the Casuarina Reserve where we’ve got all those magnificent migrating birds and other wildlife that use the reserve. And most of the Casuarina Coastal Reserve is around the fringes of the coastline, obviously. But this is a big development. And what I saw on the ground is that we’ve got an opportunity, I think, to secure a bit more forest land there for the reserve. And what my aim down here in Canberra is, is to get a brief, which hopefully I’ll get by the end of this week into what Defence Housing Australia’s plans are for housing in Darwin and Palmerston in the future, because as others have mentioned, there’s some already cleared land, places like North Crest and other locations that are actually closer to the defence bases where people will be working.
So whilst the Lee Point development has started and, as you say, blocks of land are up for sale, the whole development is broken up into a number of sites. So I think as time goes on and the approvals are sought for the next part of the development, perhaps there can be a bit of a look to what is going to be best for our city into the future in terms of securing the forested areas, particularly adjacent to the reserve.
LAVERTY: So will you be recommending that they go elsewhere, go somewhere other than Lee Point?
GOSLING: Well, there will be some development at Lee Point, obviously, with blocks already for sale. But I think there are better locations from a social amenity point of view. And for a lifestyle point of view, being closer to work is a big thing for working parents in particular, particularly if there’s double drop-offs. If they’re closer to their place of work and closer to amenities, then that’s a good thing. But that’s a conversation I’ll have with Defence Housing Australia and the minister’s office this week and see what other locations they’ve got in mind. Because with 800 more defence personnel coming to the Northern Territory, I don’t think it makes sense to put all of them so far away from their place of work and with the associated congestion issues that might happen down along Lee Point Road, for example.
LAVERTY: This has been in the making for a long time. So, it was initially signed off in 2015. And the point that the Chief Minister was making was that all of this ruckus by the Save Lee Point movement, it’s a case of a little bit too little too late. Is that the case for perhaps your involvement as well, Luke Gosling? That maybe a few years ago would have been a bit of time, before they started selling blocks, before it got this far?
GOSLING: I attended a meeting that they put on. And in their defense, Jo, they’ve been they’ve been asking for people to look at this for some time. I forget when the event that I went to was, but it was up at the Lyons Community Centre, and they held an event there that was well attended where some of these concerns were aired. And I went along to that because I think whenever you’ve got a lot of passionate people with an argument to make, they want decision-makers to come along and have a listen. I have in the meantime been, I must admit, pretty unsuccessful in getting some answers from Defence Housing, which is why the escalation to the minister’s office at the moment is probably the next opportunity that I’ve seen to try and elevate the issue.
Because with so many people coming in, I think it’s obviously time that we look at some other locations as well so that we can not have all the defence people living together and have them spread around Darwin and Palmerston closer to the places that they work, because we know that when they’re integrated with the community, they’re are a lot happier.
LAVERTY: Yeah. Luke Gosling, thank you for your time, and well done on going on that tour, by the way, because I spoke to the Friends of Lee Point and they said they had also invited members of the local government and they had [yet] to receive somebody accepting that invitation. And we have put a request into Defence Housing Australia for a response from them on ABC Radio Darwin. And we’re yet to receive that.