Heritage properties: building works and development

Any construction work or proposed development on a heritage-listed property in the Northern Territory (NT) is regulated and controlled under the Heritage Act 2011.

All approved works must also follow the procedures and principles set out in the Burra Charter.

For more information, go to the Australia International Council on Monuments and Sites website.

Some temporary work or routine maintenance on a heritage property don't need approval.

To find out more, contact Heritage NT.

How to identify a heritage place

You can find out if a property is protected under the Act by searching the NT Heritage Register.

All Aboriginal and Macassan archaeological places and sites are automatically protected under the Act whether they are recorded or not.

Read more about Aboriginal heritage.

If you're unsure about the status of your property, contact Heritage NT.

Making changes to a heritage property

Any work carried out to a heritage property must follow the Heritage Act 2011.

There are three categories of work:

  • exempt work which does not need formal approval
  • minor works which the Heritage Council makes decisions about
  • major works which the Minister for Arts and Culture and Heritage makes decisions about.

Exempt work

Work considered to be 'exempt' is set out in the Heritage Regulations 2012.

Exempt work may include activities like:

  • routine cleaning
  • temporary fencing for safety reasons or
  • installing new services such as:
    • phone lines
    • water pipes
    • electrical wiring or
    • fire extinguishers.

You may need to have qualified people carrying out the work.

To check if your proposed work is exempt, contact Heritage NT.

Major and minor works

Heritage NT will decide if your proposed work is major or minor. There is no strict definition of what major or minor works are.

If works are likely to cause concerns for the property owner, other legitimate stakeholders or the public, your application will be:

  • considered major work and
  • will be dealt with by the minister.

Before you start any works

If you want to do any work to a heritage-listed property, you must contact Heritage NT and discuss what you want to do.

You may also qualify for free professional advice from a conservation expert.

Heritage NT can give you details on any grants you may qualify for to help pay for the proposed works.

Read more about grants and other information for heritage property owners.

How to apply for approval

After you have discussed your proposed works with Heritage NT, you must apply for permission to start work.

To apply, you must fill in an application to carry out works on a heritage place or object and submit it to Heritage NT:

Application to carry out work on heritage place or object DOCX (62.4 KB)

Application to carry out work on heritage place or object PDF (571.0 KB).

After you apply

Heritage NT will decide if your proposed work is exempt, minor or major work. You will be informed in writing of the decision.

Adaptive reuse

Adaptive reuse is about changing the way a heritage place is used. It's encouraged by Heritage NT.

Sometimes nothing changes but the use of the place. In other situations, physical changes have to be made to accommodate the new use.

You must talk to Heritage NT staff to make sure your proposed changes are not inappropriate or irreversible.

There are many examples of adaptive reuse of heritage buildings in the NT including:

  • the former Reserve Bank in Darwin is now used as a visitor information centre
  • Admiralty House on The Esplanade in Darwin was once the residence for senior naval officers - it's now a restaurant
  • Lyon’s Cottage in Darwin was once a residence - it's now a retail outlet
  • Hunter House in Katherine was built as a World War II officers' mess - it's now used by a children’s playgroup
  • the old Alice Springs jail now houses the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame
  • the old courthouse in Alice Springs is now a government office space.


Heritage NT
Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities 
Level 1 JHV2 Jape Homemaker Village
356-366 Bagot Road
Millner NT 0810

GPO Box 1448
Darwin NT 0801

Phone: 08 8999 5039

Last updated: 25 March 2021

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