Darwin Comes of Age as Investment Tops $50bn
With a pub crawl by helicopter listed among its top 10 things to do, you could be forgiven for thinking that Darwin is in no hurry to shake off its frontier-town identity.
Of course, welcoming a bemused then-US President Barack Obama with a gift of “crocodile attack insurance” on his whistle-stop visit in 2011 probably left little doubt about that.
But a decade on, Darwin—a city twice destroyed, first by bombs and then a cyclone—is on the cusp of city-shaping transformation.
Public and private investment nudging $50 billion and counting is propelling a game-changing pipeline of infrastructure projects and urban development that will redefine Australia’s northernmost capital city—not just socially and economically but also in the global psyche.
That mind shift has already begun with Prime Minister Scott Morrison dubbing Darwin “one of the world’s great tropical cities”.
“Darwin has been coming of age for a long time now,” Darwin Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis says.
“When I came here in 1993 the tallest building was nine storeys. Today I live in a building that has 32 storeys … it’s no longer a parochial little outpost for public servants. It’s got an international airport and one of Australia’s busiest deep water ports.”
With a tender out for a feasibility study into relocating the Darwin Passenger Railway Terminal, home to The Ghan train that services the route to Adelaide, there is even talk of the city getting its first transit system.
Meanwhile, works have commenced on what Vatskalis has described as “the deal that will change Darwin”.
The Darwin City Deal, an historic agreement between three levels of government, is a major CBD revitalisation project. Its centrepiece is the relocation of Charles Darwin University from the northern suburbs to a $250-million “vertical campus” in the city centre.
“Bringing the university and more than 1000 students into town, it’s really going to activate the city centre,” he says.
“Because they will need 1000 coffees, 1000 meals, 1000 places to sleep so it actually creates this chain reaction of services required by the students.”