Darwin Council eyes fee increases, borrowings for ‘record breaking’ spend, new civic centre

by | May 20, 2021 | News | 0 comments

Darwin Council has presented its budget and municipal masterplan for the year that will see a 2.5 per cent property rate increase and a “record breaking” capital works program that will be paid for in part by increased fees, including parking and pool fees.

Council will also look to borrow money for other big-spending initiatives, including $30 million for a proposed new civic centre.

It’s all part of Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis’s plan to deliver “economic stimulus” and “important community infrastructure”, he said.

“This significant redevelopment is central to City of Darwin’s focus on economic recovery, job creation, enhancement and revitalisation of Darwin’s City Centre,” Mr Vatskalis said.

The money for the new civic centre, that has been touted as offering a new “ceremonial” town hall for weddings, new offices and other spaces for community functions, will come from borrowings and council’s sale of land reserves and car parking reserves.

Despite Council saying it will now seek community feedback, the new civic centre is “anticipated to be completed in late 2024”.

The proposed new civic centre is separate from a major proposed capital works program this year that will also include the previously announced $55 million Casuarina pool upgrades, the $14 million Shoal Bay waste management works, the $3.3 million Lee Point Road upgrades, stormwater upgrades, tree program and $2.1 million for “better suburbs and enhancement projects”.

“The 2021/22 Municipal Plan aims to deliver a better city, better suburbs, with the budgeted capital expense spread across the community – it’s a budget for our suburbs,” Mr Vatskalis said.

“This budget is responsible, resilient and sustainable, funded through a mix of operational savings, loan borrowings and utilisation of reserves.”

But some fees will also increase, including parking fees in the city centre that will go up by an average of 5.5 per cent or roughly 10c/hour for on-street parking.

Public pool entrance fees will also increase by 50c for children and $1 for adults, council said.

Council will also look to pocket more money by lifting the moratorium on outdoor dining fees for restaurants enacted last year during the height of the COVID pandemic.

Council announced a $77.8 million capital works program last year, which it touted as being surpassed by this year’s “record breaking” $91.5 million program.

It’s unclear how much of last year’s budgeted money was actually spent.

Mr Vatskalis said this year’s spend will include “community infrastructure improvements, smart technology and environment initiatives already achieved over the past few years”.

The draft municipal plan is available for public display and submissions until 5pm Wednesday, 9 June 2021.

It can be viewed at https://engage.darwin.nt.gov.au/2021-22-municipal-plan.

Written submissions can be submitted via https://engage.darwin.nt.gov.au/2021-22-municipal-plan or email [email protected] or phone 8930 0300.

The 2021/22 Municipal Plan will also be debated at the June 29 council meeting.

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