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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25 resources to be accessed, extracted, transported and used to generate electricity or fuel or exported from both onshore and offshore areas. Beyond three nautical miles from the Northern Territory coast, petroleum and gas operators are required to implement an environmental management plan under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Management of Environment) Regulations. The Petroleum Act covers energy sources from hydrocarbons such as natural gas and petroleum on land, and under water up to three nautical miles out to sea. The framework provides for granting of petroleum exploration and production tenures in a similar fashion to the Mining Act. However, the Petroleum Act deals exclusively with environmental obligations. ESD None of these frameworks include ESD as an objective or relevant consideration in decision-making. Integration The transportation of hydrocarbons has inherent environmental risks. Despite this, key decision-making regarding these resources is not integrated within existing environmental protection frameworks and as such does not require assessment under the Environmental Assessment Act. While the Minister must consider whether the application would conflict with the Planning Scheme, the lack of environmental considerations within this scheme means that such values are unlikely to be reflected in decisions made under the energy resources legislative framework. This is a significant obstacle to the achievement of ESD. Public Participation Due to their commercially intensive nature, energy resources are largely managed without reference to public participation. The Energy Pipelines Act enables a person to apply for a permit to enter land to conduct surveys for the route of a pipeline and a licence to enter land to construct a pipeline. Notification of such applications is only required to be made to the local council, landowner and relevant indigenous bodies. In granting the licence, the Minister must consider whether the pipeline will unnecessarily interfere with flora, fauna, fish or fisheries or scenic attractions on or in the vicinity of the land specific in the application.13 Many environmental values (such as water, soil, habitat, and vegetation communities, for example) are not captured by this requirement. Other Critical Issues for ESD The construction of pipelines for the production of petroleum is currently approved under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. This Act allows for a licence to construct a submerged pipeline to be granted to the proponent without reference to environmental impacts of what that construction may involve, particularly dredging operations. Under normal circumstances, dredging activity must be licensed under the Water Act but this Act specifically exempts interference with waterways from its operation where that interference occurs in the course of mining or petroleum activities. 13 Energy Pipelines Act Section 15(2)(d)(ii)