Local government in the Northern Territory consists of five municipal councils centered on the major towns (Darwin, Palmerston, Litchfield, Katherine and Alice Springs) and eleven shire councils in regional and remote areas. Small areas of land in the Northern Territory (NT) are not yet included under council arrangements. The Darwin Waterfront precinct and several towns created for special purposes (such as for mining or tourism interests) have their own independent council's within shire boundaries (Alyangula and Nhulunbuy in East Arnhem Shire, and Yulara in MacDonnell Shire).
Two municipalities (Darwin and Litchfield) and nine shires are divided into wards. Three municipalities, Palmerston, Katherine and Alice Springs and two shires (Belyuen and Wagait) do not have a ward structure. The principal member in municipalities (generally called the mayor) is chosen by election; in shire councils, the principal member may be elected or chosen from within council.
The number of ordinary members varies from six to fourteen per council and one to five per ward.
Representation structures are reviewed between general elections by councils and are subject to Ministerial approval.
Elections for community representatives on local councils
The procedures for conducting council elections are outlined in the following Act and Regulations:
The regulations apply to both general elections (held every four years) and by-elections to fill casual vacancies. Voting is compulsory except when and election is uncontested and candidates are elected unopposed.
The NTEC (as from May 2012) conducts all council elections. For general elections, it may appoint Regional Coordinators (RCs) in major towns such as Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy.
The RC in each region oversees the election processes to make sure they run properly and smoothly. The RCs are responsible for managing early voting, mobile polling, and voting on election day at static polling places. They also conduct post-election duties based in the regional centres and in NTEC Darwin.
A vacancy may occur due to the dismissal or resignation or death of a member.
Under the Local Government (Electoral) Regulations
, a by-election must be held within three months of the Commissioner being notified of a vacancy. However, if a vacancy occurs within the eighteen months before general elections are scheduled, councils may appoint a person to a casual vacancy or leave the position vacant in accordance with its policy.