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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iv 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 Darwin Port Corporation is also exempt from the Corporations Act and does not have a duty to comply with any environmental reporting obligations under that Act. The effectiveness of the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act is compromised through the limited number of land-use and activity types that are identified to require licensing. Offences under the Act are also difficult to establish and rely upon levels of environmental harm as the standard of proof. Specific offences addressing water, air and land pollution are absent from the Act. Other important pieces of legislation, such as the Marine Pollution Act, are also limited due to their reliance on the standard of environmental harm for establishing an offence. 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 compliance activities of relevant agencies. 5. Address 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. 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 impacts of activities beyond of the jurisdiction of each plan. This lack of integration does not enable 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. 6. Provide for 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 sustainability of land use. The disparate nature of strategic planning for the Darwin Harbour region makes this even more difficult. Without formal processes that enable the public to assess strategic planning options for the Darwin Harbour region, it will be difficult for the community to ensure that ESD goals, such as those articulated in the Darwin Harbour Strategy, are effectively informing strategic planning in the region. The key pieces of legislation that apply to land allocation, use and management within the Darwin Harbour region vary substantially in the provisions they establish for public participation and transparency in decision-making. Similarly, various approaches have