There are nine regional councils, three shire councils and five municipal councils in the Northern Territory (see Tables below). While the differences under legislation between the two council types are not significant, councils are largely classified according to their degree of urbanisation, geographical area, population and legislation.

Up until 2008 about 80 percent of the Northern Territory land mass was not in a local government area. Following the 2008 shire reforms, approximately 95 percent is now within a local government area.

Since the Northern Territory was granted self-government in 1978, development of infrastructure tended to occur more in the major centres than in rural and remote areas because of demands brought about by a larger population base. However statistics dating back to 2006 indicate high population growth in a number of remote Northern Territory centres.

The challenge for all local government councils across the Northern Territory is to provide infrastructure and human services that keep pace with growth. To address some of the issues, the NT Grants Commission has introduced a Regional Centre Recognition expenditure category in its methodology ‘to acknowledge the financial drains on municipal councils caused by (this) urban drift’.

The major characteristics of these councils include:

  • servicing the bulk of the Northern Territory’s population
  • headquarters in their local government area and operating largely in single, relatively small urbanised environments
  • accommodating staff within these environments, usually through individual home ownership or the private housing rental market
  • a large number of rateable properties
  • receiving a large portion of their revenue from rates and service charges (generally above 60 percent of total revenue) which are linked to growth and hence these councils are less reliant on government grants
  • providing core local government services, facilities and infrastructure
  • a greater capacity to partner with the private sector in the delivery of services
  • rarely acting as an agent of the Territory or Commonwealth governments in the delivery of services

The major characteristics of these councils include:

  • servicing a smaller portion of the Northern Territory’s population over a large land mass
  • nearly all have their headquarters located in a municipal council area
  • are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in regional and remote areas with between 60 and 80 percent of total workforces made up of Aboriginal people
  • small numbers of rateable properties with a fair proportion of those (pastoral properties and mining tenements) subject to conditional rating
  • receiving a large proportion – often in excess of 90 percent – of revenues from government grants
  • provide core local government services, facilities and infrastructure
  • provide many services on behave of, or as an agent of, the Territory and Commonwealth governments.



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