Top End Uni Could Spur Covid Recovery


Charles Darwin University has unveiled plans for a world-class $250 million education precinct that could help bolster the Top End's economy post-Covid-19.

The eight-storey, ARM-designed precinct will incorporate the Northern Territory government library as well as a university library and art galleries, and forms a key component of the $200 million Darwin City Deal.

The university has lodged a development application for the CDU campus, which will replace a carpark at the corner of Cavanagh Street and Garramilla Boulevard that was operated by the council until the university bought it for $14.6 million in April.

The Morrison government is providing $97.3 million to support the establishment of the precinct, with further support from a conditional $150 million loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

Federal minister Alan Tudge said the project offered a tangible vision for boosting Darwin’s economy, creating jobs and supporting local small business.

“Through the Darwin City Deal we are building a world-class university campus in the city to attract and retain more students,” Tudge said.

“We want Darwin to thrive, and this new precinct will see an influx of students and visitors, boosting demand for cafes, restaurants, bars and retail stores. Getting the construction underway in the short-term will also support the city’s economic recovery from Covid-19.”

A Deloitte economic impact study found the Darwin campus could increase net economic output in the region by more than $250 million during the next 15 years and sustain, on average, an additional 54 jobs a year in the Darwin economy.

NT chief minister Michael Gunner said building the new precinct is critical to the university’s future success.

“We’ve grown the number of international students over the last few years, supported them through the coronavirus crisis in the last few months, and we are ready to welcome more.”

Launching the project in April soon after the sale of the site, the minister said it would ensure the Territory bounces back strong after the coronavirus crisis.

“Getting major projects started as fast as possible allows for jobs to be created now, and for local businesses to be supported now—this is about getting our tradies out on the tools working on worthwhile, quality infrastructure.”

Artist's render of Charles Darwin University's ARM Architecture-designed Education and Community Precinct, in Darwin, which will feature interiors such as the one pictured by Geyer, along with landscape architecture by TCL.
▲Charles Darwin University's ARM Architecture-designed Education and Community Precinct will feature interiors by Geyer and landscape architecture by TCL.

The announcement bucks an emerging trend across the country, as tertiary institutions elsewhere grapple with a severe loss of income from international student fees as a result of Covid-19, with Universities Australia releasing new modelling that predicts the sector could lose $16 billion in revenue between now and 2023.

In the Territory the forecast is more forward-looking, with the new precinct set to cater to a significant proportion of the 10,000 international students anticipated to be studying by 2025.

“The increase in workers and students will generate more business activity and bolster the local economy," Gunner said.

“Construction of the new precinct will start this year and is expected to be complete in time for the 2024 academic year," Gunner said.

CDU vice-chancellor, professor Simon Maddocks said precinct would be an important hub for the community.

“Each year 8 per cent of NT residents aged over 15 years enrol in a course at CDU, and we have every expectation the precinct will be a place where the NT community can come together to share ideas,” Maddocks said.

“The Education and Community Precinct will include the NT Library and will be a facility for learning, research and to engage with industry, business and government.”

Plans for the precinct, which features a main building with a dramatic raking facade facing a civic space based around a heritage-listed Boab tree, are on public display until 30 June.

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