101 homes unaccounted for

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20672

By ERWIN CHLANDA

How much does it cost to build a three-bedroom home? No more than $195,000, according to service.com.au, a national firm founded in 2014 to link up tradies and businesses.

If the job’s out bush let’s add another 10% for transport. That makes it $214,500 per house, around $1500 a square meter.

So, when the NT Government forks out $30m of taxpayer’s money, awarding a three year period contract to a local company (Pedersen NT, in this case) then we can expect to get 139 homes, with a bit left over, right?

Wrong.

The number of this contract is 20 new homes and “upgrade and refurbishment of 18 homes” without giving any details of their extent.

A media handout by ministers Selena Uibo and Chansey Paech on October 24 leaves us largely in the dark.

We are told it’s all part of a “massive achievement … reducing overcrowding, improving health and social outcomes, and supporting local economies,” Ms Uibo tells us.

And Mr Paech is over the moon about his government’s great work: “It’s always exciting to see how happy families are to receive the keys to their new homes, and how much decent housing has improved the lives of people in the bush.”

But where are those 119 homes unaccounted for? Or 101 if we count the upgrades and refurbishments as total write-offs? The NT Government does not answer that question.

The housing land for the project across Luritja and Pintubi country, of course, doesn’t need to be bought. It’s owned by the Aboriginal people who live there, land they gained under the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act or on town leases in Alice Springs, adding up to roughly half the total land mass of the Territory.

Ministers usually don’t answer questions. They fob news media off to their departments which then continue in the role of giving no answers.

At the same time nothing much happens without hand-on-heart commitment to jobs, jobs and jobs. What are the project’s requirements for local employment and (apparently five) five apprentices?

MINISTERS: For specifics about local employment and Aboriginal employment targets that apply to all remote housing contracts please contact the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics DIPL media team.

NEWS: There is a minimum requirement in the contract for the number of apprentices and trainees. How many? For what periods? What trades?

DIPL: A contractor is required to employ and train or maintain [as] a contractual obligation and will be managed in accordance with standard NTG contract management principles.

NEWS: Are these principles online? If not please email them to me. (They didn’t.)

DIPL:  As part of their tender response, Contractors submit an Indigenous Development Plan which is monitored throughout the life of the contract, including employment.

NEWS: Please provide a copy of that plan.

DIPL: They didn’t.

NEWS: Will the progression of those apprenticeships be monitored, and if so, how? What will be the consequences if and when apprenticeships are terminated ahead of their terms (by the employer and/or the apprentice)?

DIPL: No reply.

NEWS: Please describe the new buildings – square metres, materials, numbers of bedrooms, toilets, bathrooms and provide a plan drawing of a typical dwelling.

MINISTERS: DIPL media should also be able to assist with a description of buildings.

DIPL: The new homes will be block work or steel frame depending on further consultation with the community.

NEWS: What does upgrade and refurbishment of 18 homes involve? Just a new bedroom window, perhaps, or a leaking tap? Please specify type of work and cost.

DIPL: No answer.

NEWS: There is going to be site servicing and yard works. Please specify type of work and cost.

DIPL: No answer.

Chimes in Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, in the handout: “The Albanese Government is … getting on with the job of delivering for Indigenous Australians and driving progress on closing the gap.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Your costings are a bit optimistic. As I understand it the cost of building a house in the bush is nearly double the cost of building in a town. Not only freight, but the extra costs of getting workers on site and possibly other problems that go with working in a remote community.
    That is still only about $400,000 per house. $30m should buy 75 houses, there is something that needs to be explained here.

  2. The questioning of quantity and quality of housing is a greatly appreciated topic. However, $195,000 does not get you much in the built environment any more, including $1500/sqm – where we should not be striving for cheaper sqm rates, but for good quality and appropriate design and construction.
    2014 is a very outdated resource for pricing in the construction industry, especially more so after unprecedented impacts from COVID-19.
    To be more precise, it would be more suitable to reference verified and up-to-date construction cost data from resources such as Rawlinsons Australian Construction Handbook 2023, however, in these unprecedented times, better yet, employ a Quantity Surveyor.
    With remote projects, it is not just transport (mobilisation of trades themself) which is a factor, it is also – accommodation, multiple trades mobilisation, material plant and production and material transport … 10% doesn’t begin to cut it. AHURI’s Sustainable Indigenous housing in regional and remote Australia will start to unlock the reality of some of this pricing for you.
    [ED – As stated in our report, 2014 was the year the service we’re quoting was founded. Its information we published is current.]

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