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Planning Reform Submission Guide

Stage three Planning Reform has commenced. The Northern Territory Government are accepting submissions on changes to the Planning Act and the Planning Scheme to improve certainty, enforceability and public participation.

Planning regulation and policy includes land use policy, urban design and ecologically sustainable development (ESD) - and the current NT framework is regarded as outdated, difficult to use and largely unenforceable. 

One of the NT Government's key election commitments was to overhaul this framework. After review and consultation, the Department of Infrastructure Planning and Logistics have drafted potential changes to the Planning Scheme and amendments to the Planning Act to improve functioning. These changes include:


  • Stronger powers to stop illegal development.
  • Authority to gather evidence and enter premises if there is a breach of the law.
  • Introducing more tools to encourage compliance and discourage contravention.
  • Ability to review DCA decisions to not take enforcement action.


  • The changes will strengthen the role of area plans, regional plans and strategic land use policy.
  • This is intended to drive strategic planning and could be used to address regional issues such as climate change adaptation and compact urban growth.

Review of decisions

  • Third-party review rights that are available in the residential zone will be expanded to the rural zone R1 residents.
  • While there is still an imbalance between a developer’s ability to challenge a decision compared to a resident’s ability, this significant improvement will allow anyone in the rural zone to challenge an approval that they consider to be inappropriate.

Generally, we support the proposed changes as they will increase the enforceability of planning regulations, improve the role of policy in directing planning outcomes and make the planning process easier to engage with and participate in. However, there are two key weaknesses in the proposed changes. We need to see the following issues incorporated into the Planning Act and Planning Scheme to reduce the impacts of climate change and ensure the environment is protected from inappropriate development.

We recommend that there are:

  1. Clear responsibilities for decision-makers to consider climate change when amending strategic planning policies, area plans and undertaking development approval. Climate change factors need to be incorporated into the planning framework to ensure development is climate-appropriate and is energy and water-efficient.
  2. Stronger process to ensure environmental factors are incorporated into the planning framework, including greater environmental impact assessment through planning decisions. This could mean an explicit reference to the Environment Protection Act as key referral Act. Planning decisions often have environmental impacts that should be integrated with the environmental regulatory framework to ensure consistency in outcomes.

We encourage you to make a submission of your own, drawing from the above points for reference.

You can view the changes and make a submission here:

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