Australian Government – Office of Township Leasing

Negotiating Whole-of-Township Leases in the Northern Territory

Negotiating township leases

Steps toward obtaining a whole-of-township lease

  • Traditional owners indicate interest in leasing
  • Land council confirms community interest
  • Government and land council nominate negotiators
  • Lease terms are negotiated
  • In principal agreement is reached on lease terms
  • Lease details are finalised and agreed
  • Land trust, land council, and the Australian Government sign lease
  • A consultative forum is established to oversee the lease

What is a whole-of-township lease?

A whole-of-township lease is a long term lease taken over an entire community by the Executive Director of Township Leasing (EDTL) on behalf of the Australian Government. *

What are the steps in negotiating a whole-of-township lease?


A community decides to take up an offer of a whole-of-township lease made by the Australian Government by talking to the relevant land council. In the Northern Territory, offers have been made to all Remote Service Delivery priority sites.

A community decides independently that it would like to investigate the possibility of entering into a township lease. In this case, the traditional owners would contact the relevant land council. Whole-of-township leases are intended for larger communities where there is the prospect of reasonable future growth and development.


Land council confirms community interest - The land council talks to traditional owners and the community about what a township lease involves and what it can do for the community. If the traditional owners decide they would like to negotiate a lease, the land council notifies the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) on behalf of the community.


Nomination of negotiating teams - The land council and the Australian Government each nominate the people who will be on their negotiating teams. This also includes nominating the traditional owners' legal representatives. The negotiating teams attend and participate in all the negotiation meetings.


Lease terms are negotiated - Negotiation meetings are arranged by the land council and generally held in the community. The purpose of the negotiations is to reach agreement about the proposed boundaries of the lease, the number of years the lease will cover, any amount of rent that may be payable by the Australian Government and all the other terms and conditions of the lease.


In principal agreement is reached - Traditional owners agree to the terms of the lease and sign a joint acknowledgement of the agreement with Government.


Lease details are finalised and agreed - Reaching agreement on the terms of the lease can be complex and time consuming. However, a township lease is designed to remain in place for a long time so that it creates maximum opportunities for the community.


Lease is signed - The lease is signed by the land trust, the land council and the EDTL on behalf of the Australian Government.


Consultative forum is established -
The EDTL meets with traditional owners and discusses the establishment of a consultative forum.

Please Note: Funding to cover the costs of engaging in whole-of-township lease negotiations is available to land councils by application to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. This funding can be used to cover the costs of independent consultants and legal advice if required.

*See fact sheet Whole-of-township leasing in the Northern Territory