By Kate Ashton
The $45 million redevelopment of a crime and drug hotspot in the centre of Darwin’s northern suburbs has left a cloud of uncertainty over those being kicked out of the public housing blocks pegged for demolition.
- The Government’s plan to replace an existing public housing estate with a 24-hour police station and midrise public housing is scheduled to begin in May
- Some residents still living at John Stokes Square said they have still not been told where or when they will be moved
- A spokesperson for Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy confirmed the 33 tenants still living at John Stokes Square would be relocated before works begin
Pensioner Peter Dinehardt agreed with the Government’s decision to knock down his Nightcliff block but said he still did not know where or when he would be moving.
“All they’re saying is ‘I don’t know’,” Mr Dinehardt said.
“Every time I ask them they say we don’t really know.”
The NT Labor Government announced the plan to redevelop John Stokes Square in April last year, which includes the construction of a new 24-hour police station, tower-style public housing units to replace the 75 existing homes and the creation of additional green spaces.
Some people had already moved out in preparation for the transition, Mr Dinehardt said.
“I’ve got my name down to live close to town, but I haven’t heard anything.”
Mr Dinehardt has lived at the John Stokes Square public housing block for five years, during which time he has seen some of the crime, alcohol and drug problems that have given the area a bad reputation.
“They need to close this place. It’s old, look at the place, it’s disgusting,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t want to leave, because they are so used to being here.
“Personally, I would like to leave.”
Facelift for a troubled area
Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said the plan would create 240 jobs and improve the amenity and safety of the area.
She said work had already begun on the police station design, and she expected demolition to start in May, with the tender for the demolition works to go out this week.
Currently there is no concrete timeline for the expected completion of the project or a definitive decision on what the housing will look like, although the local area plan allows development up to six storeys.
“It’s anticipated that the police station will be two storeys, and the housing four storeys, but we will work with the department around meeting their needs and also make sure that communities view is heard,” Ms Fyles said.
“Every resident must move out of the property to allow for that redevelopment.
“We are trying to take into account their individual needs in relocating them into other public housing properties.”
An artist’s concept for the new John Stokes Square shows a leafy, tree-lined hub for families. (Supplied)
Uncertainty for some remaining
One of Mr Dinehardt’s fellow residents said they also did not yet know when or where they would be going.
“I got a note to call Housing [Department], but I haven’t heard anything else,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ll hear something soon.”
Another said she had just found out she would be moving to housing in Palmerston.
“I don’t have a car, but there’s a bus stop there, so it should be OK, and I went and saw the unit and it’s OK,” she said.
“It does seem like a waste of accommodation to knock all this down.”
A spokesperson for Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy confirmed 33 tenants were still waiting for new accommodation but said they were on track to be transferred prior to works commencing.
Mr Dinehardt said he hoped he would be moved to a better place soon.
“They have to [find a new home for us], they can’t just throw us out on the street,” he said.
“They have to put us somewhere, but I don’t want to live in Palmerston or anything like that because of a lack of transport, it’s too far away.”