Territory Stories

Ecologically sustainable development in the Darwin Harbour Region : review of governance frameworks



Ecologically sustainable development in the Darwin Harbour Region : review of governance frameworks

Other title

Environment Protection Agency.


Environment Protection Agency (Northern Territory); Northern Territory. Department Of Lands, Planning And Environment


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT





Table of contents

Executive summary -- Introduction -- 1. Background -- 1.1 Terms of reference -- 1.2 Scope and structure of the review -- 1.3 Ecologically sustainable development and governance -- 1.4 Ecologically sustainable development, principles and criteria -- 1.5 The Darwin Harbour Region -- 2. Ecologically sustainable development in legislation, policies and plans -- 2.1 Strategic development and management -- 2.2 Land use -- 2.3 Minerals, extractive materials and petroleum -- 2.4 Ports -- 2.5 Pollution, waste and public health -- 2.6 Water -- 2.7 Fisheries and marine areas -- 2.8 Biodiversity, heritage and natural resource management -- 2.9 Environmental assessment -- 3. Discussion and findings -- 4. Advice.




Darwin Harbour -- Environmental aspects; Environmental management -- Northern Territory -- Darwin Harbour

Publisher name

Environment Protection Agency

Place of publication



vii, 59 p. : col. ills. ; 30 cm.

File type




Copyright owner

Environment Protection Agency



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17 development to provide protection of the natural environment, including by sustainable use of land and water resources. The Act establishes the sustainable use of resources and protection of the environment as supporting objects of the Act. However, neither ESD nor the principles of ESD are defined within the Act to support these objectives and the principles of ESD are not linked in an operational way to decision-making processes under the Act. The current framework is formulated by the Planning Act and the NT Planning Scheme. Land Use Structure Plans and Objectives inform the creation of Planning Schemes. The principal means of managing urban land is through the Planning Act and Planning Schemes. However this framework is largely based upon managing socio-economic issues between land uses rather than managing urban land use on natural resources or biological integrity of the environment. Few restrictions in the NT Planning Scheme relate to environmental values, except for dredging in Darwin Harbour and the requirement to obtain approval for clearing vegetation in some circumstances. Most provisions appear to relate to amenity issues, for example building heights and density criteria relate to the purpose of protecting scenic views of the Darwin Harbour rather than consolidating urban development, encouraging sustainable transport or reducing the use of natural resources. Integration The Planning Act attempts to integrate other sectoral considerations that arise from a use of land when a decision about an application is made. The consent authority has to take into consideration Beneficial Use Declarations under the Water Act and environmental objectives under the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act. Again, the framework is set up for these considerations to operate on individual projects rather than requiring a planning scheme to accord with Environmental Objectives under the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act and Water Allocation Planning. However there are no principles or ESD guidelines for how this weighting exercise should be applied and ultimately a decision may be made which conflicts with these other considerations. Planning in the Northern Territory is heavily sectoral (i.e. it is a separate department from those concerned with environment or natural resource protection) and accordingly there is not the process in the Planning framework to ascertain the environmental values of areas covered by the Planning Regime and place limits or thresholds on degradation of those values. Public Participation Objects of the Planning Act include ensuring that, as far as possible, planning reflects the wishes and needs of the community through appropriate public consultation and input in both the formulation and implementation of planning schemes and also ensuring fair and open decision-making and appeals processes. However, the provisions for public participation are limited in relation to the operational provisions of the Act. While the Planning Act prevents an approval which is in conflict with the Planning Scheme being issued, this is subverted by the exceptional development permits