Obtaining information and documents held by government is often important in determining your legal rights and options. Information and documents may provide evidence, which is useful when preparing a legal case.
In the Northern Territory, some government information and documents are publicly available. This means that they can be viewed or obtained by members of the public. Some information is freely available, for example, it is displayed on websites of government departments without any charge.
Information and documents that are not freely available may still be subject to a legal right for members of the public to access them. To obtain information and documents held by government which is not freely available, there are two options:
- you can write to the government organisation, which you think holds the information and ask it to provide it to you voluntarily; or
- you can make a formal request for information under the Northern Territory Information Act. If the information or documents you seek are held by a Commonwealth government organization, you can make a request for information under the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act 1982. Requests under the Information Act and Freedom of Information Act 1982 are processed under a legal procedure.
In some situations it can be cheaper and quicker to try to obtain documents without using the formal legal procedure. However, if you wish to make sure that your legal rights are protected and that information is properly searched for and provided to you within the legal timescale, it may be appropriate to request information under the relevant Act.
What information is freely available?
There are several types of planning documents that are available online.
- Development consent applications and exceptional development permit applications are available to view online at Development Applications Online. This website has information about current development consent applications that are exhibited for the public to comment on and also information about old (called archived) development consent applications. Documents relating to individual development consent applications, such as plans can be downloaded from the website, by clicking “view proposal”. Development consent applications can also be viewed during the exhibition period at Development Assessment Services offices in Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs.
- Development permits and approved development plans are available for inspection from the Development Consent Authority during normal office hours. The Development Consent Authority must retain a register of approved permits and plans and make them available to the public under s138 of the Planning Act. It is free to inspect the register, approved permits and approved plans (also called stamped plans). However, there are charges for photocopying permits and plans. In order to find a development permit, it is necessary to know the address of the land for which the permit was granted. It is also possible to obtain certified copies of permits issued under the Planning Act, and any other document issued under the Planning Act, by applying to the Minister for Planning 1.
- The Northern Territory Planning Scheme is the document that sets out the laws for the use and development of land in the Northern Territory. It is a large document. It is available to download as a single document or by specific sections. The Northern Territory Planning Scheme has zoning maps, which show how land is permitted to be used and developed in different areas of the Northern Territory. It also has provisions that permit, prohibit or impose conditions on a use or development of land.
- Planning Scheme Amendments are changes to the Northern Territory Planning Scheme. Members of the public can make comments on proposed Planning Scheme Amendments. There are two ways to view proposed Planning Scheme Amendments: from the Northern Territory Lands Group website or from the Development Applications Online website. You can also see Notices about finalized Planning Scheme Amendments in the Northern Territory Government Gazette.
- Copies of recent decisions of the Lands, Planning and Mining Tribunal are available from the Department of Justice website. In cases where a dispute was settled by the parties, the Lands, Planning and Mining Tribunal does not publish a decision. However, orders made by the Tribunal in these situations are available to the public on request to the Registrar.
- Notices under the Northern Territory Mining Act are published each week on the Department of Mines and Energy website.
- Mining Titles under the Northern Territory Mining Act are available to inspect from the Titles Information System. This system provides map coded plans for the current status of land subject to petroleum applications and titles. General access is limited, but comprehensive title details are available to registered users of the website. A list of major producing mines is also available from the Department of Mines and Energy website.
- Notices of grant or revocation of exploration licences under the Mining Act are published in the Northern Territory Government Gazette. Copies of the Government Gazette from 2009 onwards are available online from the Northern Territory Government website.
- Current petroleum exploration and production titles within the Northern Territory including Territory waters under the Northern Territory Petroleum Act are available from the Titles Information System. Comprehensive title details are available to registered users of the website.
Environmental Impact Assessment
- Current draft guidelines and final guidelines for the preparation of Public Environment Reports and Environmental Impact Statements are available online from the Environmental Impacts Assessment Register.
- Current Public Environment Reports and Environmental Impact Statements are also available online from the Environmental Impacts Assessment Register.
- Information on projects which have been assessed under the Environmental Assessment Act can be found on the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport website.
- Aerial photographs of the Northern Territory are available to purchase from Land Information Centres. The Northern Territory Aerial Photography Archive has images from 1940 onwards. Digital aerial photographs taken from 2008 onwards are available to purchase online from the Aerial photography index.