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Planning the Key to Managing Darwin's Growth

 

UDIA (NT) congratulates the NT Government on the release of the document ‘Towards a Darwin Regional Land Use Plan 2014‘(‘Towards Plan’).  The Towards Plan represents a positive first step in building a framework that will be a critical determinant in the sustainable growth of the Darwin Region.

 

We recognise that the Northern Territory Government has prepared a ‘first cut’ plan in the interests of gauging community and stakeholder opinion – and that a Darwin Regional Land Use Plan (‘Regional Plan’) will be developed and incorporated in the NT Planning Scheme.

 

A Regional Plan presents an opportunity to give strategic direction to the NT Planning Scheme that will serve to build investor confidence in the future of the Darwin Region and underpin systematic growth in property development sector. 

 

UDIA (NT) recognises that the NT Government has invested considerable strategic effort in the preparation of the Towards Plan; however, we see the Towards Plan as a leap into detail that appears unsupported by some other fundamental strategic “building blocks”.  UDIA (NT) believes that the Towards Plan and future Regional Plan must be underpinned by a solid foundation of documents which address issues such as:

 

  • Population growth projections and the establishment of a Regional Plan target (e.g. 2039 – 25 years from now) –;
  • Economic diversification and investment attraction;
  • Climate change and resilience to climate change;
  • Connectivity – how do we resolve transportation to the Darwin Regional Activity Centre prior to further urbanisation around;
  • Natural hazard and disaster resilience and management;
  • Infrastructure provision (cost and staging); and
  • Protection of the natural environment - protection;

 

UDIA (NT) also believes the critical focus of future planning should be identification of urban expansion areas, rural expansion areas (including rural villages), transport, and other infrastructure (for example water supply, sewerage).  We believe these expansion areas should be identified as ‘investigation areas’ (or similar) where further detailed land use planning is required to be undertaken to determine the actual carrying capacity of the land.

 

A housing strategy should be included in the Regional Plan to establish the basis for stimulating new house construction starts and to address affordability issues.

 

UDIA (NT) appreciates that the Regional Plan has been developed in conjunction with Darwin CBD Masterplan.  However, the future aspirations for the Darwin CBD and other centres are not addressed in the Regional Plan; we believe there is a need to identify future directions, for example, for Casuarina (currently a rapidly growing retail centre), Palmerston (which has scope to enhance office accommodation), and the Darwin CBD.

 

The aspirations for growth of these centres need to be underpinned by detailed resource analysis and other studies.  For example recent media has drawn attention to the declining demand for office space in the CBD – without a clear direction for the future character of the centre, it is unclear whether this is a successful outcome of policy, or a trend which needs to be responded to. 

 

The existing and proposed water-based public transport routes indicated on the plan suggest a visionary new approach to public transport within the region, making use of Darwin’s excellent harbour.  Yet there has not been any delineation of land-based transport corridors, for example for potential future use for a light rail system.

 

While a light rail system would not be likely to be viable given our current and projected population levels, the identification of public transport corridors would be a sensible planning initiative and corridors could initially be developed as dedicated bus routes to enhance the efficiency of our existing public transport system.

 

Ferry services between Darwin and Mandorah and Darwin and the new centre of Murrumujuk provide more efficient options for commuting than is possible using the current road networks.  But some of the other identified routes (such as from Nightcliff to the CBD) are not as likely to be viable or cost-effective.  Further detailed research is required on the cost-effectiveness and viability of all public transport options, including examination of more innovative road transport systems ((such as the use of the use of smaller commuter buses).

 

The draft regional plan has already stimulated much discussion and debate, and various views will be aired during discussions on the draft.  This is a healthy situation and UDIA (NT) supports the NT Government’s decision to initiate these discussions through the release of an over-arching planning document.