The NT Government’s mandatory quarantine facilities are expected to cost Territorians $150 million by the end of this financial year – while the actual costs per person of running the facilities have not been disclosed at Budget Estimates hearings.
Health Minister Natasha Fyles said to the end of June, taxpayers forked out $41 million for quarantining facilities with an anticipated cost of $109 million by the end of the 2020-21 financial year.
Those costs do not include the international wing of the Howard Springs facility which is being paid for by the Commonwealth Government.
Ms Fyles said the government was trying to recoup some of the costs from people who had spent time in quarantine through the $2500 fee, which was previously explained as being a guess that is nowhere near the actual cost to taxpayers.
“We have to recoup some costs for taxpayers,” Ms Fyles told the Estimates hearing. “We’ll try and recoup every taxpayer dollar that we can.
“We’ve been quite clear around these charges that that charge was there to cover those costs but it’s not the full cost to the Northern Territory. But the costs of not having quarantining and letting COVID in to the Territory [would have been greater].”
But the Department of Health could not say with any certainty how much the actual per person cost was for quarantining.
Ms Fyles said she would have to take a question on notice by independent Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley who had asked for a breakdown of costs per person.
It was unclear why the Health Department wouldn’t have had those numbers available during Budget Estimates hearings.
Ms Fyles said that between April 4 and November 24, more than 6500 people had used the Territory’s quarantine facilities, including 5,878 at Howard Springs and 778 in Alice Springs.
The department’s deputy chief executive said as of November 30, a total of 5,558 invoices had been issued, worth $15.4 million. Some of the invoices were issued for families that incurred a $5,000 fee.
However, less than $8 million had been recouped to date, with 3,034 invoices paid in full, the department said.