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Residents’ dreams in tatters as unfinished estate hits financial strife

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The pace of construction is evident in Mitchell Creek Green, where developed houses stand next to vacant land earmarked for sale and streets are lined with construction sites.

To Linda Hyland, buying into the estate seemed like a good investment.

She made a plan to make back some of the money she would spend on the land and building costs by renting out a spare room, which came with an ensuite and park views.

The new development, in the Palmerston suburb of Zuccoli, was sold as an affordable suburban housing option connected to nearby conservation corridors and the surrounding natural environment.

"I'm not snobbish or anything but it was advertised as being prestigious, with lovely lakes and parks," Ms Hyland said.

"It was very appealing and I thought the grandchildren can come up, that's fantastic.

"When I asked about the park when I purchased the land originally in June or July last year … they said, 'Oh, it's happening, it's happening in August'."

A view of abandoned playground equipment through a gap in a construction fence.

Ms Hyland paid more for the parkside land and moved in about three months ago, only to find the view from the spare room was different to what she was sold.

"When I look out all I can see is wire fences, bricks and things that have been dumped by builders and residents."

The Perth-based contractor appointed to carry out civil infrastructure work in the estate, Brierty, went into voluntary administration in September and was liquidated last month.

The developer given the government contract for the 500-lot estate, Bellamack Pty Ltd, confirmed Brierty's work in the suburb ceased at that time and only general maintenance and some contract work had been completed since.

Overgrown grass and disused fences within the Mitchell Creek Green park.

"I can't get anybody who is willing to move into the front building because this beautiful view is now of junk," Ms Hyland said.

"Then I also couldn't get some answers about other things when I rang council or I rang somewhere else, and then I started reading and hearing from other people about a few comments.

"That's when I started to think: What have I done?"

Difficulty getting information

Rumours and misinformation about the estate has spread among residents on various social media pages.

A homeowner who wished only to be known as Matt said a Facebook page setup for people who bought into the community was full of concerns.

The tone of the page, he said, was "very, very negative", with residents claiming they'd been sold a lie, until he noticed critical posts were being deleted.

His family lives on the other side of the park and paid more for land sharing a perimeter with the space.

A front-on view of a new house being built while a completed one stands behind it.

They were told it would eventually have a basketball court, green space and a playground for their young children.

But more than a year after they moved in, many of these elements appear to lay abandoned amid dense overgrowth.

Residents have also complained about a lack of mowing, including on verges.

"With the park, I understand it's a construction zone so it's going to take a while, but it was also the maintenance," Matt said.

"Everything was overgrown, dying, the lawns and all that.

"None of the sprinklers worked and everything was growing over the footpath and stuff like that."

Matt said it was difficult to get information about the future of the site and was concerned the value of the land he'd paid a premium for had started to drop.

A shot of a half-built house in Mitchell Creek Green.

"From a Mitchell Creek Green point of view, they've just kept on changing the point of contact that you speak to," he said.

"They keep on promising, 'In 30 days we'll start the park,' or, 'After this we'll start the park,' or, 'We're going to get maintenance done soon'."

Correspondence between a real estate agent and the NT Government from October showed concerned residents, new buyers and conveyancers were seeking written assurances the park would be completed.

Land gets discounted twice

According to Matt, it soon appeared that that land was being sold to new buyers at discounted rates.

"One of my mates was trying to buy a block of land in the new estate and it was about $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 cheaper than what we paid," he said.

A photo of a vacant lot of land in Mitchell Creek Green, with debris visible in the background.

The estate's residents learned Brierty was the parent company of Bellamack, which was still solvent, but that it was relying on land sales made through Bellamack to stay afloat.

"It's not disputed that the Bellamack project was a profitable project for Brierty, and indeed when sales of those lots were sold, the money was distributed up by way of loan account to the parent," KPMG administrator Matthew Woods said.

"Unfortunately, those lot sales stalled in the first half of the last calendar year and that certainly impacted the liquidity of Brierty."

To make up for the slump in the property market, the NT Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics (DIPL) agreed to let Bellamack discount land by 9 per cent to remain competitive.

"The resulting sales proceeds were transferred from Bellamack to Brierty for working capital," the administrator's report reads.

An aerial shot of construction debris in a vacant lot in Mitchell Creek Green.

Brierty owed about$14 million to Bellamack through the loan account by the time it entered administration, according to Mr Woods.

Then, after the administrators were appointed, a further 9 per cent discount was agreed to.

Seeking assurances

Land sales have continued despite Bellamack general manager Clement Williams being unable to provide new and existing buyers with a definite timeline for the completion of assets they were promised.

"When people do ask us we basically tell them, subsequent to the administrators being appointed, that we don't have an exact timeline for when these works will be done," Mr Williams said.

"The area, like any other land development area, has plateaued in the market and obviously as land gets sold the following stages get progressed."

Mr Williams said Bellamack was undertaking logistical work required to keep developing the park, which he said could only begin after the wet season.

DIPL declined to be interviewed about whether the contract awarded to Bellamack would be realised.

But the state of play is complicated by the fact Brierty needs to sell off its assets as part of the liquidation, including its subsidiary Bellamack.

A view of a red crane visible through the door of a half-built house.

It is unclear what the impact of the sale will be, although Mr Williams said he believed a new developer would be required to honour the approved plan.

"There is an approved plan of subdivision and development works for the Mitchell Creek Green estate," he said.

"To comply with the conditions of that approval, like any property development, you have to comply with the conditions and they relate to the plan that's been approved."

Mr Williams said he was unsure what would happen if no-one bought the development.

Last week City of Palmerston chief executive Luccio Cercarelli told ABC Radio Darwin's Adam Steer the council could use financial securities to complete the assets once the estate was handed over to the council, although it was unlikely to occur during the wet season.

Linda Hyland walking her dog next to a long row of fences.

It couldn't come soon enough for Ms Hyland, who said the ordeal had caused her mental health issues to resurface and significant financial stress.

"I think for me this has affected my health," she said.

"I'm living on my own, now with a dog, and I don't really have a lot of people to talk to about it.

"I try and put things in perspective, but I've had time off work and now I can only work part-time which means I'm not sure what my future holds financially, living here."

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