NT Policy and Advocacy Update

Planning legislation changes

Throughout 2019 the Northern Territory government sought detailed feedback on proposed planning reforms, set out in detail in the consultation draft of a Bill of Amendments to the Planning Act 1999.

Representatives from the Northern Territory Chapter have been active throughout the consultation process and have participated in relevant consultation working groups. Institute representatives have sought to ensure that the government will seek to implement the recommendations from the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report as a high priority.

The release of the consultation draft Bill was accompanied by a suite of supporting documents that provide context on how the changes to the Act will interact with the existing planning system and allow for reform. These documents, including the draft Bill, can be accessed here.

It is expected that a final draft of a Bill to amend the Planning Act 1999 will be tabled in parliament in early 2020.

Designing better project

The Designing Better Project is a suite of suggestions by the Northern Territory Planning Commission related to apartment and mix use buildings. The project seeks to encourage and enable residential apartment and mixed use buildings in the Northern Territory to:

  • respond to context and celebrate local and regional differences;
  • respond to climate and contribute to the Territory’s built form character;
  • embrace Innovation through flexible, best practice design solutions; and
  • make great places that provide meaningful, vibrant and liveable spaces for people.

Institute members have been active on the working groups convened to progress this work. The consultation process has been extensive and the Designing Better project will ultimately inform revised development requirements in the Northern Territory Planning Scheme. 

Room to Breathe program

The “Room to Breathe” program in the Northern Territory is developing housing in remote communities. The Chapter is heavily engaged with the Department of Housing on the project and has been pleased that the department has sought to amend the consultation phase of the program following advice from the Institute including reviewing unworkable timeframes and drawing turnaround expectations from the Architect as well as sign off timelines by the participant. The Chapter will continue to work with the government while strongly advocating for the best outcome for Territorians.

Building control zone

A key issue in the Room to Breathe Program and other government initiatives is that houses built “outside the building control zone” do not need to comply with the building code – this covers approximately 90% of the Northern Territory. The Institute is advocating to have the idea of a “building zone” removed. All construction in the Northern Territory should be compliant with the building code and without this requirement poor design outcomes and shortcuts will mean that people cannot continue to live in housing during extreme weather. In addition, along the north coast which is prone to cyclones the houses are not built to the wind code and with regular and increasing cyclones, liveability and survivability will be compromised.

Transforming public spaces challenge

Activate Darwin’s Advisory Board has called for ideas to create, activate or improve public spaces in Darwin City (from Cullen Bay to the Waterfront) with any individual, for-profit, not-for-profit, group or government agency being able to apply. Submissions closed at the end of September 2019, with projects currently being shortlisted for further public consultations.

There were three categories highlighted: walkability, greening and activating the city centre. Renewal of the CBD has been an issue and recurring topic in Darwin for at least the last 20 years. The Northern Territory Chapter has supported the “Challenge” and is keen to see shortlisted projects announced and underway as soon as possible. Further information can be found here.

Architecture education

Charles Darwin University will offer a Bachelor of Arts – Architectural Design from February 2020 and the Institute will support CDU to further develop a pathway for a Masters of Architecture, enabling students to complete the educational requirements to become an architect without leaving the Territory.

The course will focus on tropical and arid design, climate-orientated design and designing for disaster management, as well as a clear direction about addressing design and the impacts of Climate Change. Read the Institute’s media release for more information.

Creative industries strategy – Government Architect

The Chamber of Commerce Northern Territory and the Northern Territory government have been working to develop a Creative Industries Strategy. The Strategy is expected to make recommendations of interest to architects working in the territory including the appointment of a government architect. The Northern Territory Chapter continued to lobby the government for the appointment of a Government Architect throughout 2019. Other recommendations of note include:

  • Pathways – development and training: recommendations range from allocating resources to security accreditation for community members in Community Festival funding to support for a Masters in Architecture including Tropical Architecture and Design to establishing new residency models between commercial partners and Creatives.
  • Policy funding – industry codes, data collection, guidelines: recommendations in this area range from proposed amendments to Section J of the Construction code to reviewing organisational funding by territory governments to allow new organisations and commercial operators to apply for operational funding.