Territory Stories

Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 November 1999



Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 November 1999

Other title

Parliamentary Record 20


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





Publisher name

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

Place of publication


File type



Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

DEBATES - Tuesday 23 November 1999 preamble or introduction which provides a clear statement of the purpose and the principles of the legislation. I believe that this is a commendable approach. Embedded within any introduction would be principles of consultation and accountability. The act would state clearly its intention to involve all stakeholders in the establishment of any planning scheme or in its amendment. The act would state a commitment to an open and accountable process within this legislation. It would provide a yardstick against which the actions of the government could be measured in both a community sense and a legal sense. It would also contain commitments made by government to national principles embedded in the COAG and head of government process, where they are relevant. The Northern Territory governments stated commitment to ecologically sustainable development is one example. Interestingly enough, a preamble such as this is something that your own consultant, Earl James, raised in his recommendations to government, which have largely been ignored - a preamble to the act. Looking at the interpretation which is in Part I of the act, the Earl James Report made it clear that a matter of grave concern with the current act is its deficiency in defining a lot of key descriptions in the act. He particularly referred to terms such as merit and amenity. He recommended that those terms be defined and, despite his recommendations, this government doesnt define those terms in this proposed act. It is hard not to agree with Earl James in this. I have seen at close hand the operations of the current act in respect of the non-definition of these matters and you would have to say that, looking at that, it has created great uncertainty with the act and is a source of constant disputes. Section 51 of the current act and the proposed act is an extremely important section for the community. It is the only avenue, in many cases, by which the community has any power to have a say on specific development proposals. It is current practice by the authority to read those provisions in a very narrow, and sometimes, inconsistent way and sometimes simply not at all. When placing arguments before the authority the community is given no guidance as to what the terms within section 51 actually mean; nor is it given any understanding by the authority on how they will be applied. When challenged on the way they have defined the section, individual members of the authority have expressed frustration at the lack of guidance they are given in making their decisions on these matters. They, too, clearly believe that definitions are required. If the government does not define that terminology in the act it will be defined in an ad hoc manner by the Development Consent Authority when its referring to them. Alternatively, at some point in the future, it will be defined in the courts. This seems a totally unnecessary way to proceed. There is ample planning law in other states which define terms such as merit and amenity and the task is not, despite the ministers total wimping out on this, a difficult one. The community groups in their submission laid out definitions for the government to apply. I therefore fail to understand why the government has failed to do so. I urge the government to define these matters and others such as social impact and public interest in this legislation and, even though weve just had the amendments thrown down in front of us, minister, its not there. Its very sad to see that despite all the submissions about defining amenity, merit, public interest... Mr Baldwin: So youve seen all of the submissions? Ms MARTIN: Youd be surprised - that there is no definition and this is in the interest of good planning. And yet in terms of recommendations that have been made to this minister, have been made to this government, that one is totally ignored. I will be interested to hear the minister in his response say why he is not even picking up on this basic requirement - that you define what youre talking about in an act. But we have other acts. A reading of the introduction to the act defines many aspects of what is referred to in the act - but not these important words. We have had minister after minister standing in here saying, Oh, the community should just be simply satisfied with section 51, it looks after the community interests and yet you try going into the Planning Authority - or what well know as the Development Consent Authority - arguing through these words. There are so many different definitions that it just ends up being totally confusing and in fact disempowers people, disempowers the community, disempowers Territorians. Looking at Part 2, which is the planning scheme, the proposed planning scheme laid out in this legislation does have merit. Labor supports the introduction of a scheme which consolidates, more effectively, land use objectives and the incorporated documents. We support the efforts to make the operations of the act consistent throughout the Territory. I am concerned that other incorporated documents will merely act as guidelines. These documents should have far greater status than they are allowed to have in this legislation. While they simply remain as guidelines that you can refer to if you feel like it, no-one can be certain of their 4798