Building height limits around airports

Changes to planning laws

On 31 July 2020, planning laws changed in the Northern Territory (NT). Read about these changes.

The NT Planning Scheme 2020 also came into force on 31 July 2020. It replaces the 2007 scheme. Read the current planning scheme.

If you want to build around airports in the Northern Territory (NT), you must meet building height limits.

Under the NT Planning Scheme 2020, a range of controls apply, depending on the zone of the land.

There are also Australian laws around height limits that aim to keep civil and defence aircraft safe when flying in and out of airports.

These restrictions are particularly relevant to large, multi-storey buildings in central Darwin.

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Australian laws control building heights that may be hazardous for military aircraft within a 15km radius of an airfield.

This includes the RAAF Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal.

Read the 2018 declarations for RAAF Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal defence aviation areas.

Get the map of central Darwin height limits based on Defence Aviation Areas PDF (117.9 KB).

Structures taller than the maximum height

To build something higher than the maximum height specified, you will need approval from the Department of Defence.

For more information go to the Australian Government's Department of Defence website.

Contact the Department of Defence by emailing land.planning@defence.gov.au or calling 02 6266 8118.

Australian laws also control any development in an airport's protected airspace.

The protected airspace is made up of two sets of invisible surfaces above ground level around the airport.

These two surfaces mean there are two separate height limits over the Darwin city centre.

Obstacle limitation surfaces

Obstacle limitation surfaces, also known as OLS, control the height you are legally allowed to build at.

They protect aircraft flying in and out of Darwin when the pilot is flying by sight.

Procedures for air navigation services - aircraft operations surfaces

Procedures for air navigation surfaces - aircraft operations surfaces are also known as PANS-OPS.

They limit the height of buildings to protect aircraft that are being flown using instrument navigation.

Pilots may need to use instruments to navigate during flying conditions such as poor visibility.

Get approval for controlled activities

Any building or works within these two surfaces are a controlled activity.

You must get approval for them from Darwin International Airport.

Use the following maps to determine the surface heights for protected airspace around Darwin airport:

Unless you have met the requirements for both surfaces, you will not be approved to build in the city centre.

For more information, contact Darwin International Airport by emailing information.drw@ntairports.com.au or calling 08 8920 1811.

To read more about protected airspaces and getting approvals, go to the Australian Government's Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities website.

While the height of a proposed building may comply, cranes used during construction may breach these limits.

Cranes that breach height limits will need approval from the relevant authorities.

You should address this as early as possible in the building design phase.

You should also use hammerhead or flat-top cranes if possible.

Last updated: 01 August 2020

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