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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Page content

31 The Litter Act also has a limited application in relation to the harbour. This Act creates an offence where littering occurs, and refers specifically to littering from boats into NT waters. ESD While ESD is included within the objectives of the WMPC Act and is defined within the Act, there is no reference to any of specific ESD principles. Decisions made under the Act regarding licensing and the declaration of EPOs do not require consideration of ESD. Both these mechanisms have significant potential to achieve ESD outcomes, but this has not been realised. Only one EPO has been endorsed to date. The Litter Act does not refer to ESD. While the Act prohibits littering, there are no objects which define its intended outcomes. Integration In relation to pollution within the harbour, the WMPC Act exists alongside a number of other pieces of environmental protection legislation, including the Water Act, the Darwin Port Corporation Act and the Marine Pollution Act. The WMPC Act is the only one of these Acts that refers to ESD, yet three of four of these Acts rely upon the standard of environmental harm in establishing an offence. The administration of each piece of legislation is divided between a range of agencies, including those without an environmental focus, despite the fact they all address environmental protection issues to some extent. This demonstrates a lack of integration across these frameworks, where ESD could be established as a common objective. There is also no harmonisation or integration between the Litter Act and the WMPC Act. Public Participation The WMPC Act does not allow for public input on the granting of licences or opportunities to appeal the granting of licences. The Act demands that the Minister take into account certain factors in the granting of a licence, but there is no transparency within this decision-making and no requirement that the Minister provide evidence of the factors considered. There is also no provision allowing members of the community to seek reasons for a decision to grant a licence. Other Critical Issues for ESD Offences under the Act are based on levels of environmental harm which are difficult to prove, and strict liability offences are absent, even where companies are the offender. The way that these offences are currently handled fails to provide an effective incentive not to pollute. The lack of specific offences and strict liability offences, and the requirement to establish a causative link between the release of contaminants or pollution and identified environmental harm, fails to consider the cumulative impact of pollutants in the environment, and processes such as bioaccumulation, which can lead to later environmental harm. The number of activities which require licensing under the WMPC Act are very limited and do not include activities at ports. There are arguably a large range of activities