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Darwin Airport did not offer to pay us full rates, says council

written by Jake Nelson | May 2, 2024

A file image of Darwin Airport from above. (Image: Darwin Airport)

The City of Darwin has denied claims by Darwin International Airport (DIA) that it offered to pay full rates to the council but was rebuffed.

Darwin City Council, which is embroiled in a dispute with the airport over what it says is more than $1 million owed in rate equivalent payments, said that despite DIA owner Airport Development Group’s (ADG) assertion earlier this week, no such offer has yet been forthcoming.

“What DIA has suggested is that they may pay a discounted amount that they would determine based on their own calculations,” the spokesperson said.

“Despite indications in November 2023 that DIA would provide a formal proposal regarding their rates equivalent amount, to date nothing has been received by City of Darwin.”

According to the spokesperson, the council provides “the same level of service to DIA as we do to all other ratepayers”, such as maintaining publicly-owned land surrounding its private property.


“This includes provision and maintenance of road networks across the city; removing stormwater that runs off private land onto public land; operation of the Shoal Bay Waste Management Facility; and promoting and activating Darwin to attract visitors and residents,” they said.

“City of Darwin is not responsible for maintaining assets and infrastructure on private land, whether that be for large corporations – such as shopping centres – or individual residents.

“An amount of $1,070,784.22, including interest (as at 23 April 2024), is still owing. Recouping the debt would be the equivalent of a 1.4 per cent rate rise, which is unfair to residents and businesses who do pay rates.

“City of Darwin has engaged with the DIA for over three years on this matter and we will continue to seek a fair resolution on behalf of all ratepayers.”

While airports on leased Commonwealth land, such as Darwin, are not required to pay council rates, different rules for “rates equivalent” are meant to ensure non-aviation activities on airport land are not given an unfair commercial advantage over other businesses.

ADG this week said the council “does not provide the same services to the Darwin Airport precinct as it does to other ratepayers”, and that it had offered to pay “the full rates to the City of Darwin, exactly as per council schedules, with council providing the same services consistent with what is provided elsewhere within the city” but was rejected.

“None of roads and road maintenance, street lighting, curbing, footpaths, waste removal, gardening maintenance and landscaping are provided by the City of Darwin. This is done through contracts DIA award to local companies,” ADG said in a statement.

“All of these costs are borne by the various businesses in the DIA precinct and, when combined with City of Darwin’s claim for full rates, results in these businesses being materially worse off than other businesses within the City of Darwin.”

According to ADG, the airport has been in discussions with council for several years and “seeks the same outcome as contained within the Act – commercial neutrality (i.e. a level playing field independent of whether businesses are on or off airport)”.

“DIA has been making contributions towards the equivalent of rates, but not to the value the council has calculated for rate payers who receive full council services. DIA has written to precinct tenants to keep them informed. DIA does not receive any financial benefit irrespective of outcome,” it said.

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