In Darwin, the Malak Caravan Park's rezoning could see pensioners evicted

© Provided by ABC NEWS Caravan park resident Glenda Brown says if she was evicted, she’d have to pack up her car and move interstate. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

For years, the KOA and Malak Caravan Park in Darwin has welcomed tourists along with more than 50 permanent residents who found affordable housing there as the city’s rental prices increased.

But those residents now fear they could soon become homeless as the park takes another step towards a major redevelopment.

The park’s new owner lodged a rezoning application earlier this year “to facilitate the development of a new residential estate comprising approximately 158 individual dwelling sites”, according to a report from a Planning Commission hearing.

Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics Minister Eva Lawler approved the application this month.

But a spokesman for Ms Lawler said it was not an approval for development and “a subsequent application for subdivision is required” for the Development Consent Authority.

Rhonda Simpson, 71, who has lived in the park for 13 years with her partner Warwick, is among the residents anxiously waiting to hear if they will be evicted.

They both enjoy living in the park and even decided to stay in 2018 when their home was hit by Cyclone Marcus and they had to rebuild.

“[We] all watch out for one another and are pretty good friends … it’s a different lifestyle living here,” Ms Simpson said.

She said she and Warwick would be unable to afford to stay in Darwin if they were evicted.

“The only other option is government housing and look at the waiting list for that … you’re probably looking at four or five years,” she said.

Glenda Brown, another resident pensioner, was living at the park when her partner was killed in a crash, which also left her with long-term injuries.

“When you lose someone like that so suddenly you don’t really know where to go, so I just stayed put,” she said.

Ms Brown, who has lived at the park for about 20 years, said she had grown to love it because, among many things, it was a place to call hers.

She believes the sunsets from her home are “spectacular” and she enjoys watching the planes from the nearby airport.

Lynn Archibald, 77, and her husband Brian agree the park is a great home, where they have made many friends.

She said the owner had told residents they would be given three months’ notice if the park was to close, but aside from that “nobody knows anything”. 

“People are terrified that they’re going to be kicked out,” Ms Archibald said.

“We will have to go back to New Zealand because we can’t afford to stay here.”

“There’s no rental accommodation that we could possibly afford.”

The caravan park rezoning application states the development would be staged if it went ahead, allowing residents to remain in part of the park for at least two years.

But the park’s long-term residents told the ABC that would not help them because their caravans are permanent and it could cost thousands to dismantle and set them up again.

Ms Brown said the park owner had not offered any compensation.

A spokesman for Ms Lawler said any compensation was a private matter.

The NT’s Territory Families, Housing and Communities Department is encouraging park residents to apply for public housing.

“We can also assist with connecting those affected with support services, such as transitioning to private rentals through bond assistance as well as short-term accommodation options,” the department said in a statement. 

Ms Lawler’s office said the housing proposal was “within close proximity of established residential, retail, recreational areas and on a public transport route”.

And it would be “unlikely to compromise or impact the land, its ecological processes or the quality of life for future generations”.

The KOA and Malak Caravan Park owner was contacted for comment.

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