29 May 2020

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory government has passed some legislation in response to COVID-19, however there have been no specific planning and environment legislative changes. Amendments have been made to the Northern Territory Planning Scheme by order of the Planning Minister:

  • For food and retail businesses, to lift all permit conditions that limit operating hours or delivery times
  • To allow temporary medical and health centres to be set up quickly (see Amendment 550 here)
  • To allow people to work from home
  • To suspend the need for a planning permit for certain building works for business, clubs and homeowners undertaken under the Business Improvement Grant, the Immediate Works Grant and the Home Improvement Scheme (see Amendment 551 here).

For more information on planning law changes, see here.

Stimulus initiatives and advisory bodies

The Northern Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission to advise the government on Operation Rebound, the government’s economic recovery strategy for post coronavirus (COVID-19). The Terms of Reference for this Commission are available. The focus of the Commission will be to:

  • provide specialist advice to the commission
  • ensure any recommendations of the commission are achievable and deliver real benefits to Territorians in the short, medium and long term of Operation Rebound
  • regularly meet with the chief executive officers on the Jobs Standing Committee of Coord and other relevant agency personnel to ensure accountability for recommendations being implemented
  • provide advice about how recommendations should be amended as circumstances change, where demonstrable outcomes for Territorians can be proven
  • champion the Territory through positive advocacy, and
  • provide six monthly reports on implementation of the final rebound strategy.

Non-COVID related environmental regulation reforms

The Environment Protection Regulations 2020 were made on 9 April 2020, under the new Environment Protection Act 2019 (NT) set to commence on 28 June 2020.

Courts: NT Courts and Tribunals are moving to ease restrictions that have been in place for several weeks as a result of the COVID-19 situation. See here for information.

Supreme Court jury trials are expected to resume on 22 June this year, after they were suspended on 25 March.

The Local Court will again hold proceedings from 1 July in the Circuit (Bush) Courts, subject to the cancellation of Biosecurity Act restrictions.

Courts continue to take a precautionary approach and information may change as the circumstances require.

In the interim period, Northern Territory Courts and Tribunals are continuing to operate, with hearings likely to be held online or by telephone.  There is limited information as to whether hearings are open to the public. The government passed the Courts Legislation Amendment Act 2020 (NT), to allow documents to be issued or transmitted electronically and to waive certain procedures requiring signatures or sealing of documents.

Meetings of the Development Consent Authority is proceeding by teleconference, although two meetings scheduled by the Darwin Development Consent Authority for April were cancelled.