Australian Government – Office of Township Leasing

Long Term Township Leasing in the Northern Territory

This is to provide general information to those who:

·         are existing occupiers; or
·         wish to apply for a new sub-lease; or
·         are seeking to develop land in the Northern Territory where there is a Township Lease.

What is a Long Term Township Lease?

 A Township Lease is established under s19A of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. A township lease is negotiated between the Australian Government and the Aboriginal traditional owners, who are represented by their Aboriginal Land Council and Land Trust. The lease term can range from 40 to 99 years. The Executive Director of Township Leasing (EDTL) signs the lease on behalf of the Australian Government and then manages the lease in accordance with his/her statutory responsibilities and in accordance with the terms and conditions of the township lease. A township lease gives certainty of tenure to occupiers of land within the township.

Office of Township Leasing (OTL)

The Office of Township Leasing (OTL) is the administrative unit which works directly to the EDTL and assists in managing the leases which the EDTL holds on behalf of the Commonwealth.

 Once a lease is signed the OTL:
  • commissions a complete survey of the township down to individual lot level;
  • establishes a Consultative Forum of traditional owners with the EDTL to discuss issues of importance to the township;
  • negotiates subleasing arrangements with existing occupiers (business organisations, government bodies and community organisations);
  • works with the Land Council and the Land Trust to promote economic development, and
  • promotes access to home ownership for interested people within the community
OTL also provides advice to the EDTL on applications for new and/or changed uses of land and buildings within the township. Therefore all governments, individuals and organisations wishing to develop land, or change how the land or buildings in the township are used, must initially:
  • discuss the matter with the OTL, and seek approval from the EDTL
  • enter into an appropriate sublease agreement with the EDTL.

What is a Township sublease?

Under a Township Lease the EDTL works towards regularising land tenure arrangements within each community. This means that every occupier of land and/or building(s) in the township, apart from people living in community/public housing, needs to have an agreement in place with the EDTL covering their use of the particular land/building. This agreement is called a township sublease. By entering into a Township Sublease with the EDTL, organisations and individuals will have certainty that they can operate their business activity for the term of their Township sublease and under agreed terms and conditions. By having secure tenure businesses should be more willing to set up and operate their operations within the township and lending institutions will be more likely to provide loan facilities to these businesses. The long term lease also makes it easier for community members to purchase their own homes should they wish to.

If you wish to enquire about a sublease in order to buy your home you should contact the Assistant Director, Office of Township Leasing in the first instance on 1800152259.

Pre Existing Lease holders and Equitable Lease holders

The EDTL will recognise pre existing s19 Lease agreements (and other formal leasing arrangements) where these are held with the relevant Land Council. However, once a long term lease is in place all of these pre-existing arrangements become the responsibility of the EDTL who will recognise the arrangements, as appropriate and administrator the leases in accordance with the agreed terms and conditions.

Existing occupiers using land or buildings immediately before the commencement of the township lease, without a pre existing lease agreement, will need to seek a sublease from Office of Township Leasing and approval to continue using the building(s) for the same purpose.

Government agencies, individuals, organisations and community groups can obtain further information about their rights and responsibilities in relation to appropriate land tenure arrangements in their community by visiting

Seeking approval for a New Business (Development Application)

 Individuals or organisations can request approval to utilise land to establish a new business in the township by completing an application form available directly from the OTL or via the website. The inclusion of the following information with the development application will assist in facilitating the approval process:

  • background on the proposed land use/business and its objectives;
  • a description of the land required (i.e. lot number or type of land);
  • who will take responsibility for carrying out any initial works and maintaining the land/buildings;
  • the postal address for the party that will be responsible for maintaining the land/buildings;
  • the length of time that the land/buildings will be required;
  • any important timeframes or timing related issues; and
  • a copy of the proposed plans and certified drawings.

Development Application/Sub lease approval process

 The Development Application will be assessed by OTL and will normally need to demonstrate that:

  • the proposed business provides a real benefit to the community;
  • the proposed land use is consistent with the terms and conditions of the township head lease;
  • consultation has occurred with the Northern Territory Government’s Department of Planning and Infrastructure (if development and planning approval is required); and
  • any obligations under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act have been observed.
OTL will also seek the views of the community through the Consultative Forum and negotiate the terms and conditions of any sublease in accordance with standard commercial practices.