Property speculators are elbowing each other out of the way in their frantic efforts to get in on the ground floor of Australia's newest boom town. Could Wudapuli be the new El Dorado?
In earnest emulation of our nation's Paramount Leader, I often begin my days with a tame stroll. It was full-moon recently and things got a bit strange, with the orb of green cheese still sitting high in the sky as the first rays of the new day began dancing on the rugged upper ridges of the MacDonnell Ranges. The sound-track to this David Lynch outing was provided by a couple of galahs that sat, perched on the powerlines, screeching like parliamentarians.
It turned out to be that sort of day. In the evening, I flicked on the telly to see that nice Mister Brough giving the keys of a brand-spanking new house to an Indigenous bloke living on the Wudapuli outstation, near Wadeye in the northwest of the Northern Territory.
Bless his cotton socks, I thought to myself. The minister is going to give every blackfella in every remote community a new house. No longer will 18 people have to share a single dwelling in Wadeye, or Maningrida, or Kalumburu. The federal government is actually going to spend its massive accumulated budget surplus by improving housing for Australia's most disadvantaged people. Happy days.
But later in the week a strange-looking bloke wearing a mackintosh, and speaking out the side of his mouth, pulled me into a dark corner at the Alice Springs Cup race meeting. He told me that the federal government had spent $3 million building four houses around Wadeye.
Pulling nervously on a roll-your-own through nicotine-stained fingers, he suggested that the feds had gone to inordinate expense to fly materials into Wadeye during the wet season, so that the castles could be constructed without delay.
As you would imagine, I sent him packing after admonishing him for suggesting that the federal government would even consider a cynical, manipulative ploy that shamelessly exploited Indigenous Australians for short-term political advantage. It just wouldn't happen, I told him, confidently.
Then I read the newspaper reports about the Wudapuli wonder and began to have some doubts. In actual fact, the “fine” print turns out to be decidedly dark and stormy.
The happy homebuyer in question, seems to have been offered only the opportunity to rent his new place for two years.
If he keeps his nose clean, he may then get the chance to “rent-to-buy” his new dwelling. No real drama so far - but this isn't what it said in the big letters on the front the packet.
It's a pretty standard real-estate contract. More or less. The punter has to pay the rent on time and look after the house. Oh, and he has to ensure that his children attend school regularly - surely a standard requirement of rental leases right across the country?
The man in the mackintosh told me that purchasers may also be required to tap-dance, juggle watermelons, and sing Christmas carols. Simultaneously.
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