Mr GUYULA to CHIEF MINISTER
Chief Minister, your government over the last few days has spoken about lowering the cost of living for people in Darwin. Even though Nhulunbuy is a private town the people who live there are part of the Northern Territory and pay tax. Could you advise how the government is looking after this town as the mining operations wind down and, given the high prices in rent, high council rates that are more than double Darwin, high airfares, difficult road access and general remoteness?

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the question. First of all on the council rates I think as someone who pays council rates myself, we always argue that all council rates are too high but that is not something we set. When it comes to housing in Nhulunbuy township there has been established, and we are working with developing east Arnhem Land around this, a group of houses to essentially encourage business investment in Nhulunbuy as diversification away from the mine to reduce reliance on the mine and try to create a private sector investment. From that point of view Nhulunbuy township are looking at that.

What we are doing as a government is looking at how we can better support housing in the region. The Minister for Housing has been speaking in recent days around what we are doing in housing through the Territory but also near your country as well. We have an investment I widening the seal at Milingimbi airstrip and we also have at Galiwinku—I know the minister has been in consultation with local women—a safe house at Galiwinku.

We are also working on, and this perhaps goes back to the very start of your question around cost of living in remote areas of the Territory, reforming the pensioner concession scheme for seniors and we recognise in reforming this that people have gone to jail over this scheme. In tightening it up we can have an opportunity to look at the fairness of the scheme and people remotely were not getting the same level of access to it so how can we tighten the scheme up but also make it fairer in its distribution or access?

Money has been allocated in the budget for that and it will be worked on between now and 1 January but we are very much aware as a government that remote seniors have not been getting the same access to that scheme. They are some of the things we are working on when it comes to addressing cost of living; I think that is an important one.

We are very aware of the importance of Nhulunbuy to the Northern Territory and we are working with the mine and yourself, we will work with anybody to make sure we are addressing issues there. From the point of view of my department we have a very good person in place speaking with the private sector about investments there and there are some good ones there we are trying to nurture up and work with.

We are in their hands to a degree with what we can say on those projects when they are ready but there are some very good, positive projects happening in your region that we are more than happy to work with you on.

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