Gunner's land management on back burner


p2427 industrial rural block
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.


  1. The planning authorities under whatever name you wish for them have consistently ignored the geographic realities of the town.
    They are that the town is north of the gap by reason of its history, not planning and that at some time in the future, hopefully soon, it will hit home that development will have to occur well south of the Gap.
    This is because that is where future industrialization will have to occur, and that is where the infrastructure is.
    The shortsightedness of future planning has been breathtaking. Having spent the last three weeks dissecting the draft land use plan it is obvious that it has been prepared by outsiders.
    The $15m proposed for the Gap overpass is ridiculous when a similar facility just south of Adelaide without the complications of water, sewerage and electricity has so far cost over $140m and the figure in the draft is is 2009 dollars.
    For that money we really need a brand new commercial centre near Brewer, not Kilgariff. There are, I understand, over 150 people employed at the jail alone. The latest traffic flow figures through the Gap are dated 2009 and well out of date.
    There is an urgent need for an integrated transport hub at Brewer, rail, road and air, and there are numerous successful models around the country to copy.
    A new industrial estate along the lines of Cameron St, where industrial businesses and residential premises are on the same land, has been so obvious a need for years and a bit of imaginative foresight could have prevented the current situation in the RL zone.
    That would never have been allowed to happen on Stevens Road.
    An integrated transport hub would solve the ludicrous situation which has developed in the RL zone with infiltration by industry.
    The true opportunity cost of Kilgarif is yet to be felt in lost chances to advertise what is possible here to attract investment, and subsequent jobs, and this is so evident in food production.
    Look at the Sundrop facility at Port Augusta. Imagine the traffic flows through the Gap as the outback way takes shape and Queensland to WA transport flows through the town and the Gap overpass or not.
    Again the obvious thing is to bring it in via Gemtree and Ross River to a new commercial hub at Brewer, leaving the current CBD to do what it does so well – tourism – and not a poor replica of anywhere else in the country.
    While the Onkaparinga council is planning a system of eco trails in the area around Willunga in SA and the Waroonga Council in Sydney, having done its market research, is planning the same, we are planning to turn Arumbera into an industrial estate? They must be kidding.
    Now add to that the mines at Jervois, Titjikala and others and the Brewer proposition is so obvious.
    Now we also have the possibility of the 1970s Rex Connor vision of a national gas grid to supply the Eastern States with gas. The shortest possible route between the gas fields off shore in WA and the eastern states is via Alice Springs – a distance of 1776 km from Brewer.
    Why are we not out there thumping the table and telling people out there where we are? Macquarie Bank saw this some time ago and bought into Central Petroleum. Where were we?


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