By ERWIN CHLANDA
Almost a year after the Giles Government disenfranchised the regions on town planning matters, the issues remain up in the air under its Labor successor.
The CLP transferred vital decisions and recommendations about land use from a string of local groups to a single Darwin-heavy one. This seems to be just fine with the Gunner administration. Despite pre-election assurances to make planning more democratic, they still haven’t formalised the system.
Incendiary land use issues, such as the creeping, illegal use of rural residential land for industrial purposes, are now in the hands of an authority, the NT Planning Commission (NTPC) , operating on temporary arrangements.
Infrastructure Minister Nicole Manison called for expressions of interest from people who want to be members of the NTPC with a deadline of February 27.
Late April, and the commission is still operating with a temporary chairman, Brendan Dowd, the CEO of the City of Darwin, “the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia,” as the website helpfully explains.
Nominations for membership “are currently being considered”, it says, and successful applicants “will be advised of the outcome of their application in the near future”.
Ms Manison was not available for an interview we requested on Friday.
Just before its annihilation in the August election, the Giles Government made a decision significantly disenfranchising the regions: Planning Scheme Amendments and Exceptional Development Permit applications were taken from the Development Consent Authority (DCA) and given to the NTPC.
Behind this bit of bureaucratese lurks the grim reality that land use decisions, or recommendations to the Minister, that can make a mess of residents’ lives and their life investments, are now going to be made by a Darwin-heavy authority, not one that consists of locals (except for the chairman).
The DCA has seven divisions, Alice Springs, Batchelor, Darwin, Katherine, Litchfield, Palmerston and Tennant Creek.
The DCA division in Alice Springs copped much flak for failing to be representative, consisting of at times entirely and lately, after the appointment of Jade Kudrenko, mostly white middle-aged males with a business background and apparently voting CLP.
But at least they were local and included two town council nominees (of whom Cr Kudrenko is one).
Now the decision whether or not you will be living next to a plumbing business or a road train depot, in a part of the town into which you have sunk your savings because it is zoned residential, will be made by six people, four of whom are from Darwin.
Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan is opposed the new arrangement: “I prefer the way the DCA worked before,” he says.
In the new arrangements there will be only one representative on the NTPC from local government, nominated by the Local Government Association.
Given the population realities in the NT that person is likely to be from Darwin.
Meanwhile the misuse of residential land, especially in the rural residential areas, is continuing apace, with no apparent action from the department.
DECLARATION OF INTEREST: The writer lives in a rural residential area.