Fixing the CBD has been about plan saturation and what often turns out to be wasted money on half baked ideas for years and years and years. The mall has been modified in a ‘tinsel and glitter’ sense by modification after modification … at least four times. The CBD situation has been about wasted money and the place is getting worse and worse.

We have lived in Darwin for 31 years and before that elsewhere around the NT. In that time, the city has turned into a place of atmospheric decrepidness. I would no more take our grandchildren into the CBD, other than for medical appointments, than fly in the air.

But don’t fret! The older suburbs have suffered similar demise. The integrated housing policy has played a part in this, along with the city council paying scant attention to the appearance of street verges, most parks and the majority of public spaces. Of course, the itinerant invasion has not helped when it comes to public spaces and parks, but government at both local and territory level is unable, unwilling ore not wanting to do anything about alleviation and fixing the issues.

The city, suburbs, shopping centres, schools, commercial, industrial, retail businesses or areas helped by being broken into nights on end.

THERE IS MORE to this issue and the NT News regularly calls the problems out. We have lived in the same house in the same street since arriving in Darwin and the issues of itinerancy, vagrancy, integrated housing policies, run down public housing (three houses within a radius of 400 metres from where we live) are alive, ‘well’ and growing all around us in the Northern Suburbs. These issues are not seen or understood by most of our politicans, many of our aldermen , the majority of our senior public servants, nor our lawmakers. These people move into the new suburbs, into city apartments, down to Cullen Bay, Bayview, upmarket Larrakeyah and scattered, gated pockets of exclusive residential living.

From a ‘living’ point of view, they have no clues about life and living in the older suburbs – which were once comfortable and decent with well kept yards and street frontage. They have ‘escaped’ and the matters of which I speak confront them only when it comes to election time. And then I am convinced they visit into their electorates and briefly as possible and often with closed eyes of mind and awareness.

The city centre, immediate surrounds and suburbs have issues that no amount of capital works injection will fix.

A sad misnomer is the belief that tou will fix the city. It can’t and it won’t. The city and suburbs have to be places that appeal to long term people in a ‘I WANT to be here’ sense. Tourists – and fewer and fewer of them – flit into and out of Darwin and the Territory, often with tales of being bailed up by itinerants or robbed and often with stories of being bemused by vacant shops, little shopping and so on. Long term territory residents are regarded as second class citizens. It is the atmosphere of this place that is all wrong. It is the look and the appearance of this place that has gone to pot.

Too often visions look beyond and overlook reality. Big picture stuff does not hide the present issues confronting this place. Those issues COULD AND SHOULD be addressed, but decision makers and law creators are not game. It’s time for them all to read a copy of Frederick Wirt’s (circa 1992) paper, or to reflect upon his writing (of) ‘will the centre hold’.

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