DHA Development Permit extension for Lee Point

Meeting notes by Friends of Lee Point – DCA meeting held 17 Nov 2023

The Lee Point Development Permit DP18/0409 (includes Stage 2) was due to lapse on the 30 November 2023. Defence Housing Australia (DHA) have been successful in getting the Development Consent Authority (DCA) to extend it for a further 2 years to 20 Oct 2025, read decision here.

Representatives from the Environment Centre of the NT (ECNT), Friends of Lee Point, PLan – the Planning Action Network, were permitted to speak at the DCA hearing. The hearing was based around the Kantor test.

Defence Housing Australia (in favour of the extension), represented by Mr Cunningham (of Cunnington Rosse Town Planning and Consulting), claimed that:

While the development permit had first been issued close to 5 years ago there had been no changes in planning policy to affect the development permit. The Lee Point Area Plan and Planning Principles remain largely unchanged.

Unforeseen circumstances, such as sightings of the Gouldian Finch and a cultural heritage application had meant the Lee Point works needed to be paused while these matters were considered by the federal government. Despite this considerable funding has been invested on the project.

If a fresh development permit application was made now it would be approved, as such, there was no reason for not extending the development permit.

Members of the Public (not in favour of the extension), represented by Jess Black (ECNT), Ian Redmond (Friends of Lee Point) and Nick Kirlew (PLan), claimed that:

  • there had been significant changes to planning policy since the development permit was first issued in 2018, being:

NT Planning Act – updated in 2020: new object added, (k) … paraphrased as: to assist the conservation and enhancement of areas that are of cultural value; refer next dot point.

NT Environmental Protection Act (2019) – new act. There is an offset being proposed for the (endangered) Black-footed Tree-rat. The new Act allowed the establishment of an NT Government Offset Framework (2020) with Offset Principles in 2020. The Offset Principles clearly state that:

“The use of an offset is only considered when avoidance and mitigation measures have been exhausted. The proponent must demonstrate that all reasonable avoidance and mitigation measures have been applied……”

In short, avoidance measures should include investigating other locations for housing defence personnel.

  • Intervening circumstances include the current cultural heritage consultations. It is inappropriate to be recommending an extension to the development permit while cultural heritage consultations are still being undertaken.
  • Almost 5 years have passed and there is no evidence that a migratory shorebird monitoring plan had been implemented.
  • DHA is wholly owned by the Australian taxpayer. The permit encourages housing development away from defence jobs and public transport which leads to an increased economic burden for the taxpayer and increased Green House Gas emissions.
  • We believe it is unlikely that a development permit would be issued (should a fresh application be made) based on the current information. Prior to 2020, less than 15% of Darwin’s northern suburbs residents were aware that thousands of people were to be housed at Lee Point. Today there is a much greater level of awareness and it is apparent that most people do not support the DHA development at Lee Point.


Readers are urged to read the DCA minutes of the 17 November 2023 meeting – read decision here.

The public is normally not permitted to speak at DCA meetings on development permits. It was allowed this time due to the considerable public interest shown in the Lee Point development. The last time it happened was in 2015 or before.