Doctors In Threat To Leave

17/4/2024 Northern Territory News


A group of clinicians previously employed in the Top End are using the Territory’s well-documented shortage of medical staff as leverage in a bid to torpedo the proposed Lee Point precinct development, saying its progression would make their future return unlikely.

The group of nine clinicians, led by Dr Amy Reid, an intensive care registrar who worked at the Royal Darwin Hospital in 2020, penned a letter to federal Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite on April 2, and shared it with the NT News.

In the letter, Dr Reid wrote that their possible return to Darwin “is in question now with the progression of the development of Lee Point for defence housing”.

“Your decision has profound negative effects on social, cultural, biodiversity and tourism aspects of the Northern Territory,” Dr Reid wrote.

She accused decision-makers of imperilling the endangered Gouldian finch, riding roughshod over the wishes of Larrakia people, and sounding the death knell for “old growth bushland and unique forestry found nowhere else in the world” by rubberstamping the decision .

“Frankly my husband [cosignatory Dr Matthew Elliott, a maxillofacial surgery registrar] and I, alongside my colleagues, are less likely to return our services to Darwin if this project continues, which is a loss for the local community as there is already a shortage of health professionals and high levels of chronic disease in the Northern Territory,” Dr Reid wrote.

“Frankly, we don’t want to see the destruction of beautiful old-growth forests for defence housing, creating a gateway for urban sprawl, when there are many surrounding areas of less cultural and environmental significance to build on.

“This is not the Darwin we want to live and work in.”

Other signatories of the letter include Dr Victoria Cox, Dr Dana Mooney, Dr Caitlin Robson-Hamond, Dr Ania Nguyen, Dr Hannah Bills, Dr Ella Heggan, and Dr Jazmin Fischer.

The 132ha Lee Point precinct, led by Defence Housing Australia, encompasses a proposed 800 dwellings, a ‘Main Street’ featuring restaurants, cafes, hotels, self-contained apartments and retail shops, and a community hub at Muirhead North containing a primary school, childcare facility and sports facilities.

A July 2018 report by Ecology & Heritage Partners submitted in support of the project found it would generate an expected $35om worth of economic  activity for the Territory.

The precinct would support 964 construction jobs initially and more than 150 ongoing jobs in the hospitality, retail and education sectors, according to the report.

Further, Defence Housing Australia “has shown to be an environmentally responsible organisation by complying with environmental approval and regulatory conditions for all their projects,” including at the organisation’s nearby Breezes Muirhead development.

The development has been a magnet for conservationist ire, with groups including Friends of Lee Point, Environmental Centre NT and Larrakia Nation uniting under the banner of Save Lee Point.

They say other sites are more suitable for the development and claim widespread Gouldian finch habitation at Lee Point was only discovered in 2022, before environmental plans were laid out.

All avenues of appeal have now been exhausted.

Planning Minister Joel Bowden said he respected the decision of the independent Development Consent Authority to grant approval.