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Our environment and Darwin Harbour

Industrial development is threatening  the environment in which we live. Without a 'best practice' transparent executive EPA, and minus  a strong and independent Darwin Harbour Management Committee, the  land and sea environment of Darwin will continue to be destroyed. We need to tell  governments, or all persuasions, that this approach is not sustainable.
Development needs to be independently managed, and a safe balance kept in our living environment.

PLan Membership Renewal

It is November now, with our AGM coming up again in early December.

Please review your membership now to carry through 2012. Our subscription fee is modest, but donations are always welcome.

A membership form is attached for printing off, completing and sending it with the money, to:

The Treasurer,
PLan: the Planning Action Network,
PO Box 2513,
Darwin, NT 0801


Specific Use Zones undermining our Planning Scheme

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.

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Convener's Message

Welcome, Members, Supporters and Visitors to our New Website

Worldwide planning for community is now essentially recognised.  It is makes for feelings of well-being, community spirit, and cohesion,        instead of alienation and despair. Time and again our health and policing costs are affected by poor community planning.

Planning is much more than approving single buildings, although this is important too. It requires provision and maintenance of parks, public facilities, effective transport, and strong effective infrastructure, as well as residential, commercial and industrial development; and  having a sustainable environment.

The recognition and appreciation of home and place,  and  the maintenance of local character,  are important to the human psyche.

Freedom to enjoy our own lifestyle in the Northern Territory is so dear to us, that it is an almost perpetual topic of conversation. However, the essence of our lifestyle cannot be bought and sold by marketers and spin doctors. Residents rights deserve real respect.

Each us has a strong link with the natural environment which surrounding us here.  We must honour its features and systems in the way we plan. We must not allow our environment, including the magnificent Darwin Harbour,  to be trashed by impulsive and excessive over exploitation. Our people must not be adversely affected by the crowding and pollution many came here to avoid.

World populations and agencies have a new focus on the earth's sustainability. Climate, renewable energy,  air quality, water resources, rising sea levels, world food and species conservation are topics of the day. They must all be considered in planning the human environment.

Consultation with the community is the key to successful planning.  Governments have got out of the way of timely, appropriate, consultation which allows the people to address the issues,  be heard, and responded. It takes more than a 'One Stop Shop ' geared to developers for good planning.

This new website will help us let you know quickly and independently what is going on in planning. We will be less dependent on  media opportunities to get news out. We are working hard to make the website interactive, but our first task is to provide basic information and contacts.

At present Shop 23 is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1-5pm.   It is a good idea to double check on 0466997023,  if you intend to visit.

We have no paid staff. Volunteers are urgently needed to extend the opening hours, and give key volunteers a break.  There are three rooms.  There are many current publications available for reference too. (Tea, coffee and biscuits always available to friends.)

If anyone could donate some pre-loved  ( or even new) suspension files it would help our work.

If you are thinking of joining, it is just $20 per year (Copy a Membership Form, and post it in.) Donations always welcome.

Best Wishes,

Convener -PLan: the Planning Action Network, Inc.


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 - pdfConferenceDesignForumSept10.pdf2.99 MB

The Conference & Design Forum Outcomes can be read here – pdfConferenceDesignForumOutcomes.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 - pdfGreaterDarwinRegionLandUsePlan.pdf3.52 MB

Read the Weddell Overview - pdfWeddellOverview-GrowingTheTerritory.pdf505.86 KB

Read about the Weddell Sustainability Directions - pdfWeddellSustainabilitydirections-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

The Expense of Sustainable Building

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

The Expense of Affordable Housing

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

Arafura Harbour

In a lull in CBD development a proposal was made by Even Lynn of Gwelo Investments and Hans Vos to develop a huge canal estate from East Point to Coconut Grove. There was a huge organised public reaction against this, until the Chief Minister Paul Henderson announced that because the land involved is crown land the development could not go ahead.

Looking at the tidal mouth of the Ludmilla Creek is seems an unlikely development, which was claimed to be ten times as large as Cullen Bay which has not been without its problems.

Canal estates are banned in NSW and Victoria, and strongly limited in Queensland and WA. They have had major and costly environmental impacts, some of which are not apparent until long after they are built.

They are particularly questionable in times of global warming, stormy weather, sea rise, flooding events, and increased storm surge risk. A recent special Commonwealth report has detailed these negative implications.

Old Hospital Site

Very disappointingly, in proposing the redeveloping of this site, the NT Government mandated that 20% of its area must be used up by residential blocks to pay for the cost of the park. In a compromise response to local consultation, the NT Government will move these proposed residential apartments away from the Lambell Terrace (Larrakeyah) side, where they would have overlooked houses. However, it will not reduce their height. Through public consultation on the draft design, the public opted for a more natural and less costly park, with an easier to maintain design, than the interstate consultants promoted. It was hoped this reduced cost would lower the height and mass of the apartment buildings ‘required’ to cover costs. There are some nice features in the park. The basic design was settled early in 2009, after a report from government appointed local cultural consultant Dr Mickey Dewar.

Flagstaff Park and the Sudden Appearance of the Mystery Restaurant

Historically Flagstaff Park is a distinct area beyond the fence at the end of Myilly Point. This is where the NT Army Commander, and later Mr Justice Blackburn, lived in Flagstaff House, before Cyclone Tracy blew it away in 1974. There remain relics of a large tropical garden with tennis courts and flagpole. It is a beautiful site, with high harbour views and natural breezes.

When the NT Government decided on parkland in the central section of Myilly Point, it threw in Flagstaff Park with the rest, as if it had no special historical significance. Local consultant GHD, provided a layout for on-line public comment. It had a list of numbered features on the plan with a key. Surprisingly, a site for restaurant was, without explanation, mysteriously superimposed. It took the prime landmark viewing site looking towards East Point, and was not included in the GHD numbering.

Flagstaff Park was zoned in the time of the previous government for Tourist Development (B5). Beginning in about 1999, a community group, familiar with the site, worked with PLan to have the area recognised and rezoned as a landmark headland park, for public recreation and picnics. When the ALP won government in 2001, Chief Minister Clare Martin fulfilled an ALP election promise, publicly announcing that the park was saved from tourist development. She announced the return of this park to the people. Flagstaff Park was then rezoned as public open space.

PLan waited patiently through years of delays between the government and Darwin City Council about who should pay for and manage this neglected park for the People.

It is outrageous, in the face of the ALP government’s election promise, that any attempt is made to superimpose a large restaurant site on the park, by business interests. A promise is a promise! This would change the prime usage of the park back to tourism, with traffic making it unsafe for children. The restaurant could easily be located, as we have suggested, with equally good views to East Point, in the middle section of the Myilly Point park.

So frequently PLan, now in its sixteenth year, finds previously made promises and public expectations are being ignored or eroded.

Down Disconsolate Streets

Our northern capital survived being bombed and blown away only to have its heart torn out by rapacious development. By Nicholas Rothwell

READER, come, and drive with me down the mean, degraded streets of the city I most love. Our journey will be brief, but full of memories, and pain, and sharp surprise. Let’s start at the very end of the road: the grassy, unemphatic little roundabout where the ribbon of the Stuart Highway, which has stretched northwards from the Port Augusta salt flats, through Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, and through tropical Katherine, finally, after 3000 straight kilometres, runs out.

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Densification of Darwin Suburbs, Rural Area Lands and Villages


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).

pdfGreater 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

Gerry Wood's Office - Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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.

Rural Villages as proposed by Mr G Wood MLA for Nelson

An alternative lesser densification of rural centres than the Labor government proposes.

rural-review-article rural-villages woods-village-plan

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 pdfhere

Read Gerry Wood's, Independent MLA, proposal in regard to Rural Centres:

pdfRural Centre Plans13.96 MB

pdfRural 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

Little Mindil gifted to the Casino?

little-mindil 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'.

pdfLittle 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.

pdfLittle Mindil (NT News)

Parks and Public Green Open Spaces

NTNews15-5-11OpenSpaceNTNews16-5-11OpenSpace 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 Karama Flats Community Episode

IMG 0027 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.

Update 18/08/2012

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.

Update 5.1.2013

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.

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