Princely clean-up needed for Charles’ Darwin visit
IN just a short month, the future King of England will touch down in the Northern Territory's capital city.
But is it fit for a prince? Darwin's hot city streets are strewn with rubbish and discarded bottles.
Much of the pavement is cracked, and many of the shopfronts are abandoned, left empty by proprietors unable to pay the bills without the promise of steady foot traffic.
In the CBD, a sinkhole opposite the cinemas is hidden behind a tall fence. It's not the only abandoned lot, with at least eight empty blocks around the city streets.
The vacant spaces are filled with graffiti, trash, overgrown weeds and waste. This is the sight that will greet Prince Charles and travelling UK journalists when they touch down in Darwin this April.
Chamber of Commerce NT chief executive Greg Bicknell said the visit would put the eyes of the world on Darwin and the NT for a few days.
"All that we need to benefit is to put our best foot forward," Mr Bicknell said. He said empty shops and blocks weren't visually appealing to travellers.
"It's a sign that economic times are very tough in the retail sector and it doesn't portray the CBD in a positive light," he said.
"Empty premises tend to attract itinerants, they tend to congregate outside buildings."
Mr Bicknell said work was currently underway with shopfront beautification, such as covering empty shops with posters.
"Something like that would be very useful," he said.
"The issue around itinerants and the humbugging, that needs to be addressed.
"Visitors feel uncomfortable with that, that impacts their own visit."
However, Darwin Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis is confident that Darwin will make a great impression on international travellers.
"Darwin is beautiful, and we want to - we will - make sure the streets are clean," he said.
Mr Vatskalis said the CBD would be cleaned ahead of the Royal visit, even if he needed to lick it clean to get it up to standard.
He's calling on business owners to help out where they can, keeping shopfronts and verges clean and tidy.
As for the empty stores and building sites? "We can't fill them overnight," Mr Vatskalis said. "We're also working with Larrakia Nation to help itinerants."
The mayor is confident Prince Charles will leave with a positive impression of the NT capital.
"This is publicity you can't buy, even if you have thousands of dollars," he said. "He will have an army with him, coming through Darwin, a small town. We'll be walking around with short sleeves, around all this beautiful greenery, while it's cold down south."
A Tourism Department spokeswoman said a visit from Prince Charles to the Top End would be a wonderful endorsement of the NT's appeal to international travellers.
"We have no doubt Prince Charles' visit to the NT would boost the profile of the NT within and outside Australia and attract global coverage which will translate to increased travel from the UK by holiday makers to the Territory," she said.
Prince Charles was expected to visit Darwin and Arnhem Land in the first two weeks of April after opening the Commonwealth Games.