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.

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Copyright owner

Environment Protection Agency



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20 Legislation applicable to port activities general fails to acknowledge the impact of these activities on the ecological integrity and sensitivity of the surrounding environment. As these are laws regulating activities with an undeniable and often adverse impact on the environment (e.g. activities involving the handling of hazardous substances), the failure to consider environmental values to any extent demonstrates that ESD is absent in legislation which has perhaps the greatest relevance for environmental damage in the harbour. Further information on the importance of this legislation is provided in section 2.4. East Arm Wharf Facilities Masterplan 2030 Land Use Strategy The Masterplan 2030 is a key document guiding development of the East Arm Wharf over the next 20 years. The Darwin Port Corporation Masterplan 2030 does not refer directly to ESD or any of the associated principles. However, it does address environmental considerations and states that all future works at the wharf area will require environmental impact assessment under NT and Commonwealth legislation. Options within the plan have been formulated on the basis of maximising trade and economic opportunities. The masterplan acknowledges that all future works will require environmental impact assessment under NT and Commonwealth legislation but these processes dont currently promote consideration of the cumulative impact of multiple uses of the port. The inclusion of the concept of ESD and its principles as a key issue informing the plan would ensure environmental issues are of equal value and aligned with maximising trade and economic opportunities Directly related to the failure to consider cumulative impacts is a failure to acknowledge the environmental values, including biological diversity and ecological integrity, present within the harbour, and a failure to consider the need for intergenerational equity in relation to development of East Arm. Intergenerational equity would demand that cumulative impacts are addressed and that there is consultation with both the general public and particularly with indigenous community members, who may seek protection of cultural values within the harbour. No public consultation has been carried out on the content of the masterplan and the document is not a public document. While Territory Government and agency stakeholders, port users and future users were consulted, the process did not include the general public. The recent pollution incidents at East Arm have highlighted the public interest concerns that exist in relation to the activity that is undertaken at the wharf area. As the key document that will direct development at East Arm over the next 20 years, public input would benefit this process. Special Purpose Legislation A key gap in the framework applying to the Darwin Harbour region is the lack of binding policy, protocol or other mechanism to ensure that special legislation is not used to extract major projects from normal ESD frameworks. The use of special purpose legislation to override existing environmental and approval regimes (that are based upon ESD principles) carries the risks of unnecessarily politicising the development process. Projects subject to special regimes often have the largest potential for significant social, economic and environmental implications. Accordingly these projects need to remain within an ESD framework.