MEDIA – Transcript – ABC Radio Darwin – Defence Housing development at Lee Point going ahead
DARWIN – 7 June, 2021
JOLENE LAVERTY, HOST: you’ve seen the handmade signs everywhere. You’ve probably read the letters to the editor, and you may have even been to the community meetings. The Save Lee Point campaign organization is in full swing.
AUDIO – COMMUNITY MEMBER: “We feel Lee Point is part of what makes Darwin special. You know, there are very few cities in the world that have a reserve like Lee Point on their doorstep. Maybe going to explain why it’s special now and people are worried they’re going to lose their enjoyment of Lee Point.”
LAVERTY? Is it all too little, too late? I asked Chief Minister Michael Gunner and this was his response:
AUDIO – CHIEF MINISTER MICHAEL GUNNER: “This has gone through. Independent EPA has gone through that. The federal Department of Environment is adding a quarter of the site to the coastal reserve. A third of it’s going to be open space, and blocks are actually for sale.
AUDIO – LAVERTY: “So it’s too late?”
AUDIO – GUNNER: “It’s too late.”
AUDIO – LAVERTY: “It’s going ahead.”
AUDIO – GUNNER: “It’s happened.”
LAVERTY: Of course, it’s not actually a Territory development. It’s a Defence Housing Australia development, who owned the land. And they’ve been making big plans for Lee Point. So, is Defence hearing the protests and do they care? Federal Member for Solomon Luke Gosling has had a chat with Darren Chester, who’s the Minister for Defence Personnel. And whilst we couldn’t be a fly on the wall, we’ve got the next best thing. And we have Luke Gosling in here himself. Good morning, Mr Gosling.
LUKE GOSLING, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Morning, Jo.
LAVERTY: What did the Minister say?
GOSLING: No, I should clarify that it was the Minister’s staff that came along, he wasn’t available at the last minute, but I did meet with Defence Housing Australia people, in fact, the managing director, to answer any questions we had about the development. DHA bought the land off Defence some time ago. So it’s no longer Defence land, it’s owned by DHA. And they’ve broken it up into a number of stages. And as the Chief Minister said, yeah, it’s going ahead. Blocks are for sale. The groups locally that have been fighting against it obviously want to conserve as much of the Lee Point Reserve as possible. What I spoke to DHA about is my concerns about particularly Defence people being in the best possible locations close to their places of work. And they’re happy to look at other locations for some of the Defence housing, which may bring down the overall number of housing required at Lee Point, which may be a way to try and restrict the size. But blocks are definitely being sold at the moment. And they believe that by the end of this year, some of that construction will be happening in that, I think it’s stage 1a and b.
LAVERTY: And so if they if they do reduce how many homes and families they plan to put in that particular area, does it almost cancel out the ability to put those first few people there? Because there’s a whole new infrastructure that has to be built, I think there’s powerlines and there’s roads and there’s water and sewerage and all of that sort of stuff. So by making it smaller, does it make it more difficult for the first tranche?
GOSLING: Yeah, they didn’t commit to making it smaller, they just said that less Defence families may be in those houses if there’s other opportunities for DHA in other locations closer to their workplaces and closer to amenity. So with all these developments, it’s not all Defence families in the properties. It’s a mixture of just everyday people and Defence.
LAVERTY: So not smaller, just fewer Defence families.
GOSLING: So I’m just clarifying that that’s not clear about whether fewer Defence families potentially there will mean that there’s overall less housing built. Because at this stage, it’s obviously an opportunity in the future for decisions to be made about how much housing goes down there at Lee Point.
ADAM STEER, HOST: You’re on ABC Radio Darwin, Adam Steer and Jo Laverty with you. Luke Gosling is the ALP member for Solomon. Mr Gosling, is there – why would we have an appetite for more Defence houses? Are we looking at expanding the number of Defence in the Top End? Is that what’s going on?
GOSLING: Yeah, that’s right. Adam, in fact, is going to be a number of new ships based here in the Top End. And just Navy itself is looking at an extra 800 personnel up here. But that could be a combination of living on boats at Larrakeyah, on HMAS Coonawarra, it could be living at new DHA housing at somewhere like North Crest. It could be any number, it could be some FIFO, but we don’t really want FIFO naval personnel. We’d rather have them living in the community. They’re such a great part of the community, but up to 800 and that’s just Navy. But that’s over a number of years. And in the short term, they don’t see that the stages of Lee Point are going to happen that quickly because there’s only 100 or so extra Defence personnel needing housing in the next little while.
LAVERTY: Are you satisfied that the all the environmental analysis and the discovery of a juvenile Gouldian finch, all of these things have been taken into consideration before any changes are made to that area?
GOSLING: Well, you know, I listen to everyone when it comes to issues like this. And obviously the Friends of Lee Point don’t believe there’s been extensive enough consideration of the impact on the environment. I quizzed Defence Housing Australia about this. It’s their development and they are confident. They’ve been through all the – as has the Chief Minister – confident they’ve been through all the environmental checks and balances in order to get the Development Consent Authority’s approval to go ahead. The project is going ahead. The question about the size of the project in the future, though, I think, is something that will be considered in due course.