URGENT- DUAL OCCUPANCY-THE SCOURGE OF GOOD PLANNING', 'SUBMISSIONS CLOSE 17 MAY, 2017

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

If you share the view already expressed by many suburban residents that Dual Occupancy should not be introduced, here are some reasons you might choose from for mention in your own words, in your comments to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. email address. It is always a good idea to keep a copy of your submission.  

  • 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.

Conclusion

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.

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