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

52 4. Effective Enforcement and Regulatory Mechanisms. A number of current land uses and development activities have the potential for significant environmental impacts in the Darwin Harbour region. However, regulatory regimes governing the operation of land uses and subsequent activities in the region, vary substantially in their application, are inconsistent or in many cases simply do not exist. Significantly, these frameworks do not operate in an integrated manner to enable an understanding of the cumulative effects of decisions on land-use and development on the region. The East Arm Wharf is recognised and promoted as a key tool for the economic development of the Northern Territory. This is demonstrated in the aims of the East Arm Wharf Facilities Masterplan 2030 Land Use Strategy, which has the stated aims of guiding the future development of East Arm Wharf and providing direction and certainty to stakeholders, industry and the economic growth of the Territory.23 The wharf is pivotal in realising the Territorys vision of providing Australias northern gateway of choice for export. Accordingly, the wharf has been promoted as an export hub for mining activities based in and outside of the Territory, as well as other materials. Activities at East Arm Wharf have the greatest potential for environmental impact on the harbour and yet these activities do not require licensing and are not covered effectively by existing environmental protection legislation. The environmental impact assessment undertaken for the wharf dates back to the mid 1990s and advice provided in response to subsequent notices of intent submitted under the environmental assessment process have not been actively regulated by approval agencies. Subsequent environmental management plans and systems have been prepared by the Darwin Port Corporation, but responsibility for regulating and monitoring compliance of these plans and systems has fallen on agencies that are not responsible for the approval instruments. Despite the establishment of the Darwin Port Corporation as an independent private corporation, it is exempt from the Corporations Act, which means it does not have a duty to comply with any environmental reporting obligations under that Act. The Waste Management and Pollution Control Act is one of the key pieces of legislation responsible for regulating land uses to minimise impacts on the environment through pollution control. Its effectiveness is compromised through the limited number of land use types identified that require licensing. This limits the ability of the Act to serve as an instrument for the prevention of pollution. However, the Act has application where an incident or activity occurs causing environmental damage regardless of whether that activity is licensed under the Act. Offences under the Act are difficult to establish, relying upon levels of environmental harm as the standard of proof. Specific offences addressing water, air and land pollution are absent from the Act. Where a substance is leaked into the harbour, the burden of proof lies with the regulator to establish that environmental harm has been caused, rather than upon the offending company/individual to establish they did not leak the substance and/ or environmental harm did not occur. 23 DPC (2010) East Arm Wharf Facilities Masterplan 2030 Land Use Strategy. Available at: http://www.darwinport.nt.gov.au/sites/default/files/masterplan-brochure.pdf (Accessed 23 Nov 2010). http://www.darwinport.nt.gov.au/sites/default/files/masterplan-brochure.pdf