I’ve spent a lot of time in Darwin City over the last 18 months. After the sale of my Real estate business in the Northern Suburbs I moved into a new office in the Darwin CBD. Real estate is like many modern careers in sales, it’s not about spending time at your desk, it’s about spending your hours, days and nights, hunting, farming, counselling, negotiating and foraging for a result. In my opinion one’s ability to serve is based entirely on what they have to sell, themselves, a product, a service or an idea. Sale’s is one of the most honourable foundations of our society.
Our society is based on transactions, “time/skill for money”, this is the basis of our capitalist system. So when I started work in Darwin’s city again I was immediately faced with the greatest dilemma our City has….. What does Darwin City have to offer?
I love Darwin, I’m a born a bred Territorian, but let’s not sugar coat the real issues in Darwin and when I spoke and speak to many of the business owners, workers and the community everyone has a similar view.
"Darwin City Council has Eviscerated the Darwin economy through asset mismanagement and an addiction to revenue through fines and penalties."
The first issue I had to deal with when working for a new real estate company on Cavenagh Street was parking. The 100msq office provided no parking for the 4 employees or customers alike. Both are forced to either make a dash for a 15min free parking at the Australia Post or pay $5 plus for a full day of which in mine and many of the customer’s case was about 3-4 hours intermittently at different times of the day. Over 18 months I paid $500 odd dollars on parking fines. Great for the council coffers but a loss of revenue for businesses in Darwin’s economy. Subsequently I resigned from that company and have declined other positions offered in the CBD.
Consecutive politicians and council members constantly espouse the vibrancy of Darwin. I suggest these people walk the streets, talk to the people. “Please get out and do it, don’t be shy because there is hardly anyone out there”. Darwin is struggling on my most recent trip on there were two employees to every one customer I saw. You would think the service would be great, but the people serving try to look enthusiastic but share solemnly that “it doesn’t seem to be getting better this Dry-season. “ Darwin has not been booming for a bloody long time and it’s about time these people (council) get their heads out of the clouds.
I am not the only person to resign or to decline a job due to the parking costs in Darwin. Much of the Darwin Cities economy is based on tourism and hospitality. Tourism and Hospitality pay rates are low. For those working between the hours of 8-4.30, $35 or more for parking works out to about 7-11% of their income not including fuel or maintenance, they spend on average 35% of their income on shelter and 30% on food and that does not include other survival costs like power, phone etc that leaves very little if anything for living.
Past council members have then advised the public that they should consider Carpooling or catch public transport. I work for a contractor to the public transport system and I have traveled most of Australia and Asia extensively and used those systems. Our public transport system needs help, bus stops in the city fail to provide adequate access to amenities other than a supermarket and council headquarters. Bus’s do not adequately leave at constant intervals to coincide with other routes, our public transport system is not 24 hour and due to the vagrancy and anti-social behavior issues, a symptom of bad governance and planning we have security officers at the major interchanges and transit safety officers patrolling the routes. The cost works out to be about $6 a for the bus day in and out, that still works out to about 7-11% of their after tax income, worse it adds an extra 1-2 hours of travel time due to non-connecting routes and “Time is more than just Money”.
Darwin City is our first impression, for many tourists and new residents from all over the world.
We have stores, shops and a small variety of businesses in the mall but virtually no foot traffic. A water play area and playground has been placed in the mall and now on the esplanade with no reasonably accessible transportation (within 500m) to either and no free parking to either unless they come on the weekend when many of the shops can’t afford to open to gain benefit from the visits.
Most locals just can’t be bothered anymore, the want for "variety, quality and respectable prices" at one stage could be met in Darwin but would you risk a $40 dollar fine or a $70 fine if not paid in 14 days (the average payment ends up being almost $70 for most payers). No one is attracted to anything whereby they are confronted with a high chance of feeling pain, that's just human nature. Darwin now is just some café’s a shopping centre and some souvenir shops the variety is all but gone. Worse still, you will see some massive changes when Amazon starts in Australia.
I have been advised that car-parking fees are comparable to many capital cities, but that is just a joke, we have a population of a small country town, and any form of payment for access needs to reflect
"When a council imposes these regressive taxation methods on the community, the business’s lose income and in order to retain employee’s their costs go up. It’s a lose-lose situation. Local government has a fiduciary duty to be progressive and represent the ratepayer."
So what can be done to turn the cities current economic situation around?
Well the solutions are relatively easy –
Suspend dodgy deals - Place a moratorium on any and all negotiations with developers to reduce the car parks provided with any future developments. Ensure that all current developments whereby the development is redeveloped or the footprint altered, must meet the requirement for car parks provided under the planning act. (The council currently has negotiated on several occasions to take money (half the cost of a car park) then store that money until they have enough to build a car parking structure with additional rate payers funds and then charge the ratepayers and users for the parking again.)
Suspend ignorant economics - Any funds created using this moronic scheme of devaluing assets and vehicle access by reducing features, need to be redirected towards fixing the issues Darwin is currently dealing with.
Increase Access -Immediately reduce the paid parking facilities prices to about $2-$3 per day this will increase the ability for business’s to gain and retain staff. (China town and the West lane car park have consistently for the last 4 months run at 60% vacancy based on visual evidence so a drop in price will increase use)
Increase free parking -Increase by about 100% or more the amount of short term car parks and increase the time from 15 minutes to 30 Minutes unless in high traffic area’s like the post office.
Research and develop - Progressive idea’s like covering for walk ways (that actually cover people, Bennett st walk way is a joke), tropically designed security measures with tree's, community input into City designs, and as requested by several locals and tourists alike a free or $1 shuttle bus through-out the Darwin city area and catering for special events including the Greek Glenti, or future park attractions.
Consult with NT Government - start negotiations with Department of transport in reviewing and adjusting the bus timetables and bus availability based on community input. Provide adequate locations for them to service city amenities.
Most importantly go back and ask those several hundred business’s that have closed down, why? And how do they think council could have helped them keep their doors open? Darwin has a Chamber of Commerce that has consistently raised these matters for several years to no avail. It’s time to listen.
There is an election on the 26th August 2017. I’m a candidate for my Ward in Richardson, the only major car parking issues in my area are on Gsell street and Allwright street due to a failure to enforce adequate car parking at construction for the medical and commercial facilities on Gsell street and the requirement for adequate parking for the Mosque. I have several idea’s, I am willing to discuss.
If you live or know somebody who lives in the Richardson Ward - Alawa, Brinkin, Tiwi, Nakara, Lyons, Muirhead, Leanyer, Wanguri, Wagaman and Casuarina - and you agree that we need a progressive local Council that represents and listens to the people, make sure you tell people to Vote 1 for Sam Wilks this Council election on the 26th August 2017.
Written and Authorized by Sam Wilks. The views included may not be those of others mentioned in the article but are those of Sam Wilks. If you have other idea’s feel free to comment below. Idea’s and differing opinion is recognition of a free and just democratic society. A Society I am happy to live in. Please however try not to be abusive or discriminative, you may be. But if I feel that your opinion may be harmful or is reported as being harmful, I will delete it.
0402 152 929
PO Box 40441
Casuarina NT 0810