Our Facebook page cover photo is of the colour-keyed zoning map for Darwin. Zoning is the very basis of professional planning. It is how our various land uses are arranged to work together in a compatible way. Each zone has its own NT Planning Scheme rules, and appropriate infrastructure. This includes, the several types of residential uses in zones with different characteristics.
The zoning initially set down provides an orderly pattern with which new developments must comply. Land values are to a large extent based on established zoning.
What then is Dual Occupancy?
Dual Occupancy is an idea, which if applied, allows existing residential zoning patterns to be disrupted. Dual Occupancy equals the effect of spot rezoning when occurring in built up areas. The zoning fabric and pattern is destroyed by one by one changes. This is the very 'spot rezoning' that is supposed to be avoided by the strategic planning using the Area Plans. These plans for future growth were imposed on Darwin by CLP Planning Minister-Dave Tollner, Commissioner Gary Nairn, and NT Planning Commission in the last few years.
In simple terms, ‘dual occupancy’ is permitting the building of two houses on lots zoned specifically for SD(Single dwelling/s), and 1000sm or over. This is a ridiculous duplication of density. It retrospectively undermines planning, by causing smaller house sites within established zones. It has a cumulative effect.
Dual Occupancy Amendment no.452 to the NT Planning Scheme
In the dying days of the CLP Government, Planning Minister Tollner rushed major planning changes and newly introduced NT Planning Commission planning processes through the NT Parliament. This included Amendment no.452 to the NT Planning Scheme, allowing Dual Occupancy. This was opposed by the public in submissions, and at a hearing before Denis Burke. About 50 attended, though held in office hours. The opposition was strong.
Strangely an approval decision followed by Minister David Tollner.
The approved no. 452 with new NT Planning Scheme clauses was signed by Minister Tollner on 27 July, 2016. It was published with other of his decisions on 29 July, 2016. The NT Government election was held on 27 August, 2016.
Review by Our Planning Minister Manison
ALP Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics - Nicole Manison on 19 October, 2016, established an Interim Order preventing Amendment 452 from being used for 12 months. Now she has implemented a review of the provisions of the decision, setting up a consultation process by the firm of Elton Consulting.
Contacts for Consultation by Elton Consulting
Elton Consulting has prepared a Consultation Paper, April. 2017, called Northern Territory Dual Occupancy to be available on their project website at www.elton.com.au/dualoccupancy. If that reference fails, as does now for me (Google search elton.com.au/dual occupancy-Dual Occupancy community consultation-Elton consulting).
There is discussion paper to download, a register for updates, a place to register for a workshop, a detailed on line survey of your details, and a brief space to comment on dual occupancy. There is a free workshop in Darwin on Saturday morning, 6 May, 2017 for which you can register. The telephone hotline is 1800 870 706, not responding at present.
We explained the short notice to Elton’s adding that we expected the community to be at the Seabreeze Festival - the focus on Saturday, 6 May, 2017 at Nightcliff. They are unwilling to change that date, as their programme is tight, and they have other ‘Stakeholders’. This, and the short window, is most unsatisfactory.
Community Opinion, and the Content of the Discussion Paper
We do not know who wrote this Discussion Paper, but in our view it is superficial, but at the same time strongly biased towards a tick for Dual Occupancy. The full story, and the true picture of its impact on our tropical living are not being told.
In 2012 there was strong opposition, including from Council, when Elton was involved in a move to introduce Dual Occupancy. This failed. Its introduction would benefit a few individuals, but could spread like a pox on our suburbs, and destroy suburban character, and ultimately the planning system. ‘Random’ exceptions to zoning through dual occupancy could be approved all over Darwin.
The strong objections given by home owners and suburban residents, as part of due process during the exhibition period, and at the hearing in 2016, should have been adequately sufficient to quash Planning Minister Tollner’s attempt to legalize dual occupancy for years to come.
WHAT CAN PEOPLE DO NOW TO STOP DUAL OCCUPANCY
- This proposal needs to be rejected. 500sm is not large enough to build a separate tropical home.
- Amendment 452 is unnecessary now. There are a serious overestimations of the rate of growth of the Darwin population in the coming years.
- Dual Occupancy would destroy our highly prized suburbs like Larrakeyah, Brinkin, Nightcliff, Northlakes, by randomly splitting land into small lots.
- Location, location, location is the catch cry of real estate agents. This would destroy certainty of suburban values.
- Good planning rests on informed zoning, with a proper mix. Dual Occupancy is random and can be cumulative.
- Dual Occupancy is not about overall housing need.
- Smaller homes on share lots are catered for by the MD (Multiple dwelling zoning, and by independent units.
- Rarely is existing utility infrastructure in older suburbs sufficient for dual occupancy, though the saving on infrastructure is often used as a poular argument.
- Roads, particularly in circuits, are narrower, leading to parking and traffic problems.
- Battle axe blocks, regarded by planners as undesirable, would multiply.
- Dual occupancy affects three sets of neighbours, reducing privacy affecting lights and noise.
- Most existing homes are placed centrally, and addressing the street, meaning demolition before a second house can share the lot.
- Dual occupancy would result in loss of tree cover for natural shade, and cumulative loss of valued gardens in older suburbs.
- Denser dwellings have a greater dependence on air conditioning as the breezes are lost. Clothes dryers are also needed.
- Overall, there is a cumulative loss of amenity in affected suburbs.
- The large figures for lots of 1000+ show that there is a huge potential for insecurity amongst the neighbours of such homes. With a big investment, and possibly a mortgage, waking to a development sign in a ‘safe’ zone, would cause severe uncertainty and stress followed by disruption by noise.
- Given that public opposition has centred on the concept of dual occupancy per se, the Amendment no.452 clauses have as yet not been properly assessed by residents. For instance , attached dwellings would lack acceptance in large lot suburbs.
- With subdivisioning left optional for dual occupancies, Councils face uncertainties about services, land values and rating.
- Our opinion is that the discussion paper is superficial, but biased towards dual occupancy. It lacks critical analysis. It is unbalanced and misleading when it uses Cairns with a different planning system as an example. Most of the pictures are of copious modern duplexes. Duplexes are already catered for in Darwin the MD zone.
I hope there is now greater understanding of planning and the negative implications of allowing Dual Occupancy and the clauses of NT Planning Amendment no.452.
Flagstaff Park (Lot 5180, Town of Darwin) is the public park (zoned PS- Public Open Space) on the top of the end of Myilly Point. It has l panoramic views of the Darwin Harbour, and is of history and heritage significance. The old 'gardens' are a remnant of Flagstaff House, which was a Vice Regal home, until destroyed by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
This park was publicly dedicated by Chief Minister Clare Martin to the people of Darwin in 2001.
The land behind McDonalds and fronting Dick Ward Drive (off Fitzer Drive) is in imminent danger and could be lost forever, we urgently need your support.
The NT Planning Commission expects that Darwin's population to double in 40-50 years. The NT Government intends to densify by infill developments in Darwin's Inner Suburbs, from Stuart Park to the Narrows. This is as well as the Darwin CBD doubling in size.
The government too readily believes developers' claims their development will be affordable & sustainable only on the basis they can have their own private set of rules for their development & can ignore the Planning Scheme. This is planning by the developers. They contradict the NT Planning Scheme and ignore community aspirations.
The Territory Government launched its Greater Darwin Region Land Use Plan Towards 2030 for public consultation on 10-2-11. Public information sessions have been held. Read the Media Release | More information
A Conference & Design Forum was held in September 2010 - ConferenceDesignForumSept10.pdf2.99 MB
The Conference & Design Forum Outcomes can be read here – ConferenceDesignForumOutcomes.pdf2.94 MB
See what others have said here – http://www.nt.gov.au/lands/growth/weddell/haveyoursay/conference.shtml
Have your say here - http://www.nt.gov.au/lands/growth/weddell/haveyoursay/index.shtml
Enter the Weddell Tropical Housing Design Competition here
Read the Greater Darwin Region Land use Plan - GreaterDarwinRegionLandUsePlan.pdf3.52 MB
Read the Weddell Overview - WeddellOverview-GrowingTheTerritory.pdf505.86 KB
Read about the Weddell Sustainability Directions - WeddellSustainabilitydirections-GrowingtheTerritory.pdf409.02 KB
The NT Government says it will invest $6m in the 2011 budget to seal the road to the new city of Weddell as part of its ‘Growing the Territory’ initiative. Read the Media Release
Developers are being encouraged by our government to use this rule to fast track development and overcome hurdles in the rules, when it was originally designed to enable a development which was exceptional (eg we hadn't planned to accommodate a horse & cart in the middle of the CBD in the 21st century)
See Mitchell Creek Catchment
Removing a few car parks enables the developer to claim they are building sustainably yet the community has to wear the outcomes into the future.
For some practical online information on how to create sustainable urban residential developments click here
Read about the NT Government's New energy Efficiency Requirements for the Building Industry here
Affordable housing is an issue right across Australia. Some progress is being made, after years of government neglect.
In the NT some new estates are including 15% affordable housing with Commonwealth Government incentive schemes available. Some firms specialise in this work. Unfortunately, some of these have unsatisfactory features, such as very small lots. In the CBD an application for affordable flats to be built in the CBD brought strong objections. However, providing city accommodation for low paid workers, such a cleaners, is a real problem.
In the suburbs, PLan generally favours cluster dwellings with shared common open space to minute 'houses', or flats in towers. This gives people at different stages in life, a choice of accommodation types which are variously affordable.
Throughout the NT, the organisation, NT Shelter, has very quickly, under the capable Ms Toni Vine-Bromley, established effective leadership in this important field. This is part of a national network. For further information: www.ntshelter.org
Read about the NT Government's affordable housing here
Read about the NT Government's affordable housing rental company here
Read about how the NT Government is making it easier for families to own their own homes here
Read about the NT Government's initiatives for Housing the Territory here
Read about the Australian Government's Social Housing Implementation Plan - NT here
Read NT Shelters Report Levers to Promote Affordable Housing in the NT here
Read an Article in the NT News 29-7-2011 here
Earlier in 2011, after a long gap in long term planning, the Strategic Branch of the Department of Lands and Planning issued 'Greater Darwin Region Land Use Plan, towards 2030. Consultation report.' in the Growing Territory series. PLan has reference copies of the report at Shop 23 at Rapid Creek business village.
This report overviews the present planning situation, then sets out ideas for accommodating residential and commercial growth until 2025 and 2010 through land use planning and changing urban design parameters (82 pages).
Greater Darwin Region Land Use Plan
Areas specified include Darwin City Centre (CBD), Darwin Inner Suburbs, Darwin City-Northern Suburbs, Winnellie/Berrimah, Palmerston, Weddell, Litchfield, Cox Peninsula. Darwin Industrial Options, and Darwin Port. In terms of residential issues, it anticipates a population increase of between 53,000-70,000 people, and up t0 28060 new dwellings, but other aspects are covered.
This is an NT Government policy document. There was a series of public meetings, and the time for official public comment is long past.
This report will have a big impact on the community planning, much of which we may not be able to easily anticipate. Residents should be alert to the possibilities.
In simple terms, apart from the new city of Weddell - the subject of a planning competition, after an initial local forum for ideas which produced about eight basic models; and Palmerston which continues its scheduled initial growth, including its CBD.
The main impact on the community is from 'infill' in existing residential areas. A surge of developer enthusiasm is already welcoming this approach, and moving to take take advantage of it. This marks an end to certainty for suburban and rural amenity, and major changes of local character.
In inner suburbs, it means more multi-storey apartments, and loss of green open space. In the Northern suburbs, it may mean the end to the community/school centred local planning provided in the 1970's by far sighted Commonwealth planners, and the swallowing up of green open spaces by developers.
In rural areas and their centres, residents have already reacted strongly to the additional populations planned through densification. Gerry Wood has already strong people support for an alternative plan with smaller increases.
Government Plan - www.nt.gov.au/lands/growth/gdr_2030/ruralvillages/index.shtml
Though there is obviously some logic in part of the densification approach, but there are serious dangers if it is not properly controlled, planned and managed. The rules of land use planning must be clear in advance, set with prior public consultation, and developments not dependent on random discretionary decisions.
There are dangers such as:
Smaller lots, more suburban high rises, sharing of single lots, uncertain tenure, loss of tropical architecture, loss of local character, poor interface, loss of green open spaces, increasing lack of public facilities, overburdening older infrastructures, destruction of informed existing urban design by economic imperatives, destruction of heritage and favourite places, lack of social sustainability, lack of legal clarity, loss of amenity, neglect of children's needs, social disruption, dependence on short term developers imperatives, increases in rates, loss of community ownership and identity, and even less open decision making.
Some of this has already happened. That is why the community must insist of being informed, call on their local members, stay informed and alert, speak up for their planning rights, demand well planned communities, and have the long term planning that we need. It is our right in a democracy.
An alternative lesser densification of rural centres than the Labor government proposes.
Read & have your say about The NT Government's proposal in regard to Rural Villages here
Read the NT News Article NT News Article
The CLP appears to favour retaining rural lifestyles in rural areas – read what they told the Property Council here
Read Gerry Wood's, Independent MLA, proposal in regard to Rural Centres:
Rural Centre Plans13.96 MB
Rural Village Development Discussion Paper2.78 MB
If you accord with Mr Wood's proposal please support him – print, complete and send the following letter to the Minister for Lands & Planning
There remain strong concerns about Little Mindil. The escarpment and the creek line have not been rehabilitated as required.
This was the responsibility of the Casino, as a condition of the crown lease term. All vegetation was mechanically torn off the
escarpment, and the fore dune, much loved for sunset viewing was excavated and taken away as fill. Other vegetation, including trees were destroyed near residences, with loss of bird life. Promises were made by Land Administration about supervision of rehabilitation work, although nothing seems to have happened.
PLan and local residents are concerned what will happen when the casino acquires freehold of Little Mindil when the lease finishes. Most concern is about the possibility of building on the escarpment, in front of the heritage precinct, or on the flat approaches to Little Mindil Beach. The Casino currently has fill on the motel side, away from Little Mindil. There is concern about storm surge and monsoon damage.
In order to understand the long term implications of the Casino's takeover, we have asked Minister Gerry McCarthy for a copy of the land agreement made between the NTG and the Casino, dated 26.6.2009. This is essential to interpreting the situation. There has been no reply from the Minister's Office. No Agreement about changed ownership of public land should be commercial and in confidence'.
Little Mindil Escarpment (from 2009 newsletter)
Letter to the Editor
The letter to the editor attached below follows an item in the NT News of 6 December, 2011 publicising the installation of a footbridge in their tourist development for 'high roller' gamblers. They are able to build these extensions to their accommodation because they can move their major outside entertainment venue to little Mindil.
Little Mindil (NT News)
One of the most neglected and overlooked aspects of planning is the provision of public open spaces of various kinds.
Think about this ! There is a whole range of different types. the public want them for conserving the environment, for active and passive recreation, and for breathing space. But how do they get created ? Applications do not come to the DCA to be assessed. How does the public achieve new parks ?
In the case of the Mitchell Creek Catchment, the NTG. is so far is failing to act in accord with community expectation through the Palmerston East Area Plans which are an essential park of the NTPS. The NTG favoured private ownership over the regularising the shape of the Casuarina Coastal Reserve at Lee Point. In the CBD there has been massive apartment multi-storey development for the past ten years without one new public park being created. Such lack was pointed out in the CBD Forum. Darwin City Council says it has no money for new parks, or the development of places like the old Stella Maris as a local public facility. Even a tiny park at O'Ferrals Rock in Bayview has not been accepted by the Darwin City Council after the DCA approved it, perhaps ten years ago.
Big park initiatives have been the Old Hospital Site and Myilly Point which attracted consultants fees when the community could easily have done appropriate layouts. Both are still 'promises' on hold as too costly for present budgets which gives no priority to public parks. Both parks are too far away from the CBD for young women walking there with prams, to enjoy. Even Flagstaff Park, a separate historical location at the end of Myilly Point, sincerely promised, and delivered to Darwin families by former Chief Minister Clare Martin in 2001, and appropriately rezoned by Kon Vatskalis, stands abandoned, except for grass cutting. Even it is threatened by a proposed restaurant. Yes, we have Waterparks, but they usually need to be driven to. We need simple pocket parks within walking distance of home. They can be linked by walkways and bicycle parks.
In the suburbs, the Commonwealth Government era planned in natural green open spaces; and schools, and other community spaces with public ovals. Many of these are now fenced off from the public, without consultation, and others are seen a targets for the new densification. So 'WATCH THIS SPACE', and speak up locally, or you, and all of us, may lose it. Little Mindil is a big example of a public recreation area actually being lost.
So we must keep in mind to remember that green open spaces are a collective community asset. We must cherish and protect them actively. They are our ancient public right to own perpetually, and 'ARE NOT FOR SALE, OR TRADING.
The illustration shows the closeness of the proposed new development to the existing well established area of one and two storey residences.
The problem here has occurred because long vacant lots, now approved for by the DCA for development, have till now laid empty opposite the Karama Shopping Centre.
The owner is now to build on them with a series of multi-storey (four and five storeys) flats in blocks, along Kalymnos Drive to Manunda. These blocks of flats will overlook the existing residents immediately behind them. The placement of these lots is consistent with the NT Governments present densification initiative. However, it must be stressed that the lots are zoned MR Medium Density allowing residential development up to four storeys.
There are conflicting clauses in the NTPS about this type of situation.
Some [clauses 7.1(4), and less - 7.4, and 8.3] ameliorate the impact of 'interface' between actual zones (where a development application consistent with a zone would impact on development in a different adjacent zone). This cannot be applied because the existing homes are ironically not in an SD zone.
The other [clause 5.3.3] states, 'The scale, character, and architectural style of infill development should be compatible with the streetscapes and surrounding development'.
Karama Residents Group appealed to the Lands and Mining Tribunal against the DCA's decision to approve the flats, except that, because of interface requirements, the block on the Manunda corner was restricted to three storeys. This lengthy process is just concluded. Magistrate Lowndes found against the residents. He declared that the character of the area was determined not by their one and two storey homes, with established gardens, but by the commercial centre, across Kalymnos Drive. (This is shopping centre is not multi storey and is not surrounded by gardens.) The transcript of decision is very derisive of the capacity of our communities to make accurate assessments in appeals against 'expert' planning decisions.
Read NT News Article
Thanks to the Karama residents for carrying the issue this far. Unfortunately community is almost always at a disadvantage in appealing against developers, because of financial considerations, eg. being unable to appeal a Tribunal decision to the Supreme Court. Commiserations to those whose privacy and amenity will be destroyed by the new development overlooking them.
As at 18.8.2012 there was no sign of any development on this site. Even the piles of construction earth having been taken away, to leave a clear vacant site. We are unsure why this is so, but it may be due to the NT Election being scheduled for 25.8.2012. We do hope it is a more permanent decision to restrict heights to two storeys to match the surrounding established area.
When we have the news about portfolios we will be asking for those, and MLA contacts to be updated.
Late in 2012, the proponents of the extensive Karama Unit s block development submitted new plans for the site at the corner of Kalimnos and Manunda. This was in the later part of the year, when the building site was standing clear of any evidence of construction.
The original plans, contested by local residents who would have been affected complied with the NT Government's lestablished land use zoning.
However, the proposed units, as designed, would have overlooked a large area of long established and pleasant one and two storey residences. This situation resulted objections from existing Karama residents. These appeals failed.
However, PLan is pleased to see that the new plans, though still for three and four storeys are less oriented to overlook the existing homes. these new plans have recently been approved by the Development Consent Authority(DCA).
This experience of this large residential densification, near commercial facilities and transport services in the northern suburbs, should provide valuable lessons for the Northern Territory Government, prospective developers and local residents in similar situations.