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Planning for Darwin's Long Term Growth

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (Northern Territory) strongly supports the planning focus which has been a feature of the current NT Government’s approach to guiding our city’s future growth.


Initiatives such as the establishment of a Planning Commission and the work of that body in formulating strategic, long-term plans are welcomed by the NT development industry.  The industry also welcomes current work being conducted by the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment on a compact urban growth policy, which recognises that a more compact city form is required, and helps to guide where such development will be concentrated.


UDIA (NT) recognises that as Darwin continues to grow, we will need a mixture of new green field areas for residential and commercial purposes, as well as increased densification in our current urban areas.  Getting this balance right will have long-term payoffs for our population and will also provide clarity for the development industry.


Higher urban densities can provide many benefits for Territorians, including:


  • Enhanced efficiency of our public transport systems (particularly important for older people and people on low incomes) by progressive modernisation of the fragmented design of our suburbs;
  • Reduced congestion on our roads and an associated decrease in greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Enhanced vibrancy of our neighbourhoods, districts and the city as a whole;
  • More efficient and cost-effective use of our transport, power and water infrastructure;
  • Reduced consumption of land resources which are important for biodiversity protection and other purposes such as aquifer recharge and agriculture;
  • Improved access to a greater diversity of housing in inner suburban areas, including affordable housing products; and
  • Enhancing the economic viability of retail outlets, social facilities and services in areas where higher population densities are required to enable minimum thresholds of customers to be reached.


Although high rise buildings are often associated with densification, higher population densities can also be achieved through smaller buildings (such as 3 to 5 storey apartment blocks), group housing schemes (such as groups of town houses), and low-rise densification through erecting two (or more) dwellings on an existing block.


Many of the dwellings produced by the infill process are appealing to first home buyers because their smaller overall footprint means these products can be delivered at a more affordable price.  There are also many “downsizers” who are seeking higher density living dwellings without responsibility for ongoing maintenance.  These buyers are often seeking easy access to transport, shopping and recreation to suit their needs.


Urban densification or urban renewal projects should provide some benefits to the area as well as to the site.  This can be achieved through high quality urban design, heritage protection (where relevant), improved access to amenities (such as shops, local restaurants and coffee shops), public art and culture, improved connectivity and social inclusion.


While UDIA (NT) supports the direction of current Northern Territory Government planning, we would also welcome a significantly longer planning horizon to enable the development industry to plan for the delivery of all the types of housing which a steadily growing Darwin will need.  The very long time frames required to acquire land suitable for development, achieve appropriate zoning of that land and plan for efficient access to future labour and equipment needs, as well as to design and deliver necessary infrastructure, mean that NT Government planning horizons need to be lengthened even further.


For example green field developers need to know where new green field sites will be located following delivery of Berrimah and Weddell, where on-ground work is yet to commence.  Unfortunately this information appears to be beyond the reach of current planning time frames.


The development industry can deliver land and housing more efficiently when it is able to schedule delivery of on-ground works and connections to infrastructure (such as roads, power, water, sewerage and telecommunications) to align with the progressive and systematic spread of those assets.  Hence the identification of clear, long-term plans for our development will be of significant assistance in achieving the delivery of more affordable housing.


UDIA (NT) supports long term planning based on sound principles which will provide ongoing benefits for all Territorians, as well as provide clarity and enhance the efficiency of the development industry.