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

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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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53 The Marine Pollution Act is also limited due to its reliance on the standard of environmental harm for establishing an offence. The administration of the Act is also a factor in its ability to be used for environment protection purposes, being administered by the Marine Safety Division of the Department of Lands and Planning, which typically does not have an environment protection focus. Conditions of approval can be attached to a development consent issued under the Planning Act, but as the planning framework in the Northern Territory is largely sectoral, conditions relating to matters currently outside the scope of the Planning Act are at times not included or dependent upon the relevant agency. For example, the consent issued for the bulk handling facility at the wharf required the preparation of an environmental management plan to the satisfaction of the (then) Office of Environment and Heritage (the Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts). In respect to this example, any non-compliance or concern with the environmental management plan identified by the Office of Environment and Heritage would be reliant upon satisfying the Department of Lands and Planning of that concern as only it has the legislative regulatory authority to respond. 5. Cumulative Impacts. The lack of integration that currently exists between the key pieces of legislation applying to Darwin Harbour is reflected in the lack of integration that exists between strategic planning activities undertaken by the various agencies administering responsibilities under legislation applying to the region. For example, the Darwin Port Corporation has a Master Plan informing future growth and activity at East Arm Wharf, a land use strategy is currently being drafted within the Planning Framework by the Department of Lands and Planning, and the Land Development Corporation is also drafting a separate strategic plan for future development around East Arm. Overlying these sectoral strategies are the key high-level government policy documents such as Territory 2030, as well as the community driven Darwin Harbour Strategy. This situation results in the risk of having a suite of strategic plans, each operating independently of the other, all driving towards continued development in the region without accounting for the aggregate impacts of activities beyond of the jurisdiction of each plan. This lack of integration does not enable effective consideration of the cumulative effects of decision-making on the harbour Similarly, the lack of appropriate provisions for the consideration of cumulative impacts under key legislative instruments, in line with ESD, does not facilitate the consideration of cumulative impacts as part of decision-making under these frameworks. Significantly, in relation to the Darwin harbour region, the regulatory component of the Water Act operates on a site by site basis (licensing specific discharge points), the Environmental Assessment Act is currently only being applied at the project level and the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act is used on a site by site basis or where an incident or activity results in environmental harm. The Planning Act and Planning Scheme may have the potential to provide a suitable regulatory mechanism to integrate these competing interests, however current frameworks do not support this (for example, the ability of the Mining Act and Mining Management Act to effectively override the Planning Act). 6. Public Participation and Transparency. One of the major issues identified in the Darwin Harbour region is the lack of processes for formally assessing the ecological sustainability of strategic planning options for future development and land use. As a consequence, it is impossible to conceptualise, or involve the public in a rational assessment of, the overall