Skip to main content

Councils in uproar as jobs go

03 March 2014

Councillor Matthew Ryan talks of the impact that NT Housing job losses are having on his community of Maningrida. Councillor Matthew Ryan talks of the impact that NT Housing job losses are having on his community of Maningrida.

INDIGENOUS jobs will go and Territory Housing customers will be left in the lurch following a decision by the NT Government to ditch regional councils as maintenance providers.

West Arnhem Regional Council (WARC) is joining a chorus of complaints from six of eight local government regional councils being forced to lay off Indigenous staff. The Northern Territory government is rejecting regional government tenders in favour of the private sector.

WARC Chief Executive Brian Hylands said repair, maintenance and tenancy contracts would finish Friday 28 February 2014.

“As of Monday, we don’t know how anything will be fixed, whether it is repairs, or a blocked toilet – we have been left completely in the dark,” he said.

Mayor Lothar Siebert said the NT Government had done nothing to advertise the fact that Council was no longer responsible for Territory Housing work.

“This smacks of arrogance from the government,” Mayor Siebert said. “Our mob will believe WARC bears responsibility for this, and we will still have customers coming to us for housing repairs – but there is nothing we can do. The government are saying this is about creating local jobs, but all we’ve seen so far are job losses. The NT Government has a responsibility to Indigenous people under the Closing the Gap policy. Instead, Indigenous people have lost their jobs, and they can’t just pack up and go somewhere else.”

Mr Hylands said the NT Government had taken jobs and revenue away from West Arnhem communities.

“The new contract has fly-in-fly-out contractors, which does nothing to build capacity within our communities,” Mr Hylands said. “By comparison, the Regional Council employs local Indigenous labour as trade assistants.”

Under its previous contract, WARC had 25 positions, 16 of which are for Indigenous staff, he said.

“As a result of the government decision, 15 staff will be made redundant or redeployed. “Instead of supporting local skills and communities, the Territory Government has gone for the lowest-cost option," Mr Hylands said.

“We are concerned the new contractors won’t be able to fulfil their obligations at this price. The contractors have no staff on the ground – no offices, no workshop, no machinery, and no accommodation. In what capacity will they be able to employ and train Indigenous staff?”

Territory Housing responded to the WARC tender for housing tenancy, repair and maintenance services by asking for it to be done at around half the price, he said.

MacDonnell Regional Council Jeff MacLeod told ABC News the changes could affect 13 tenancy officers and 10 out of 15 staff in their works team.

“One of the great things about our shire, we do have over 80 per cent Indigenous employment and all these positions that we’re talking about are directly Indigenous positions,” Mr MacLeod said.

Tiwi Islands Regional Council Mayor Lynnette De Santis said she expected that in many houses repairs would just not be carried out.

“And as a result of it, I see a lot of people walking around very unhappy with the Government, with the decision they’ve made and I just feel sorry for my people,” Ms De Santis said.