Darwin downturn hurts
A growing number of Darwin ratepayers are falling into arrears, leaving councils struggling to find funds.
In April 2015, around 4 per cent of Darwin council rates were overdue, but this year the percentage is close to 8 per cent.
In Palmerston, overdue rates are up from $655,712 in May 2015 to almost $1.2 million in May this year.
There is a downturn in the Darwin economy in the aftermath of the Inpex gas boom. The number of vacant shopfronts and residential dwellings is growing, so property owners are missing out on the revenue often used to pay council rates.
But the issue is not limited to the city centre, with the rural Litchfield Council left millions of dollars short.
In 2015, the council calculated it would earn around $7.8 million in rates and annual charges, but ratepayer arrears hit $3 million - 37 per cent of expected revenue.
Litchfield Mayor Maree Bredhauer said council services are suffering as a result.
“We have 800 kilometres of roads over our municipality … they're the major piece that perhaps lose out when we're looking at what can we do with the money we have,” she said.
Darwin Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis says payments should rise if Darwin's economy turns around.
“I've been 26 years in Darwin, I've seen Darwin go up and down like a yo-yo,” Mr Vatskalis said.
“We're a very small economy and any change affects us immediately. If there are no jobs people will then decide to put their money somewhere … it happened before, it will happen again.”
Darwin councils say they want those with overdue rates to contact them, they will offer support and payment plans, and say court action would only be a last resort.