Housing trouble signals a change

At first viewing the 7.30 Report story is about builders and the construction process. Local builders and suppliers have been excluded or badly treated by fly in fly out building companies.

With Olga Havnen, the Northern Territory Coordinator-General for Remote Service Delivery, wading into the story – the focus expanded to issues beyond just the building process.

Issues of value for money and housing quality quickly emerge.

But the construction part of the housing program will come and go relatively quickly compared to the long, hard slog of managing and maintaining the same houses. Without this management and maintenance, the houses will fail to function and not provide tenants with essential health benefits.

Under  The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing, management and maintenance is the responsibility of the state and territory governments. Under varying length lease agreements this responsibility will be for the long haul – 40 + 40 years. Previous performance by any Australian government (federal, state or local) in this area has rarely been encouraging so how will remote Indigenous housing management and maintenance be handled?

The idea of using local Indigenous maintenance teams were suggested in the 7.30 Report story – HH strongly agrees, and has spent a lot of time and money proving this can be effective.  But this approach flies directly in the face of current Federal Government public housing policy for Indigenous people.

By the time it is ‘proven’ by reports, assessments and TV programs that the states and territories are unable to ensure effective maintenance and management on thousands of new and upgraded remote houses, it may be too late to save the assets.

The time to act is now, and local Indigenous people simply have to be part of the maintenance and management solution.