NORTHERN TERRITORY: New houses in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory are costing almost $600,000 on average to build as concerns resurface over value for money and whether the housing program will actually reduce overcrowding.
The auditor-general’s report tabled in the Senate on Thursday on the the National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing program said the average planned cost of a new house was about $590,000.
In 2007, the federal and territory governments began a decade-long $1.6 billion housing program, the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) – to address overcrowding and slum-like living conditions in remote Aboriginal communities in the NT.
Auditor-general Ian McPhee said in order to meet the average occupancy target of 9.3 people per dwelling more houses than the program actually delivers will be needed.
The program aims to build 1456 new homes and refurbish 2915 homes.
As of 2010-2011, 257 new houses have been completed and 1248 refurbishments finished, the report says.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said the number of completed dwellings was a “positive achievement.”
“The program is on track to deliver our targets,” Ms Macklin said in a statement.
Opposition Indigenous affairs spokesman Nigel Scullion said so much money had been spent yet the houses were being handed over empty and unfurnished.
“Many of the people don’t own furniture, they live on the floor, in the kitchen they sit on the floor to eat” he said.
Senator Scullion said he was concerned fly-in workers were being used to build houses and that the program would fail to leave a legacy of trained up local Aboriginal workers who could perform ongoing maintenance.
Australian Greens spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said it was not good enough that the amount of money required for associated infrastructure had been underestimated.
“We are building houses knowing full well that we we still have over-crowding in these communities,” she said.