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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Citation address


Page content

32 occurring within the Darwin Harbour catchment that have significant potential to adversely impact the harbour environment, yet only the processing of hydrocarbons and landfill activities are required to be licensed. Legislation regulating waste and pollution in other jurisdictions has a considerably broader application to environmentally harmful activities (for example, the NSW Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997). The limited ability of the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport (NRETAS) to impose additional or new licence conditions upon a licence holder is also a concern for ESD, where continual improvement in environmental management is a desired outcome. The CEO can only impose new conditions where required to do so in accordance with the Act, such as under a declared EPO, or where there is risk of pollution. This prevents the imposition of additional licence conditions where new scientific evidence or technological advancement comes to light. Public and Environmental Health Recent events involving the outbreak of e-coli bacteria across Darwins beaches and waterways highlight the relevance of frameworks addressing public and environmental health issues. The use of the harbour and its beaches for fishing and other recreational pursuits demands consideration of ESD in the management of these resources. The key piece of legislation addressing public and environmental health is the Public Health Act. This Act was drafted in 1958 long before the concept of ESD came into use. The Act is in the process of being repealed and will be replaced with the Public and Environmental Health Bill once that is passed. This draft legislation is broader than its predecessor and addresses issues of environmental health where the public health is threatened. The precautionary principle is specifically referred to within the objects of the draft Act. As the PEHB is expected to be passed prior to the end of the year, it has been discussed here in place of the Public Health Act. ESD While the PEHB demands that in carrying out the objects of the Act, regard is had to the precautionary approach, there is no further mention of ESD and other associated principles. Integration The resolution of public health concerns resulting from an environmental issue necessarily requires the combined efforts of both the Department of Health and Families and NRETAS. While the Bill provides for situations where the Chief Health Officer can refer the issue to another agency, the Bill is unclear about the responsibilities of relevant environmental authorities where there is an environmental health issue that has implications for public health. This demonstrates poor integration between the roles of agencies responding to environmental and public health issues. Public Participation There is a lack of public participation in the Bill, particularly in regards to activities that require registration. There is also no mandatory review period for registrations and registration documents are not made public under the Bill. Considering the

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