Roper Gulf Regional Council

Location: 29 Crawford Street, Katherine
Phone: 08 8972 9000
Fax: 08 8971 2429

On the 1st January 2014, following a review of Local Government, the Northern Territory Government announced that amongst other changes the name “Shire Council” would be changed to “Regional Council” in the eight large Northern Territory Shires.

Roper Gulf Shire Council at its December meeting agreed to introduce this change on the 1st January 2014. This marked the start of a new era for the Roper Gulf Regional Council.

The Northern Territory Government also flagged increasing the responsibility of Local Authorities, formerly known as Local Boards, in representing local communities and Towns. The name change and the change in Local Authorities reflected a growing sophistication and acknowledgment of the developing regional responsibility of the Roper Gulf Regional Council.

Much has been achieved in little more than five years.

Prior to 2008 there had been only rudimentary Local Government in the Northern Territory. In 1978 at the time of self government there were only four local governments in the Northern Territory being Darwin, Katherine, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek. Darwin was only incorporated in 1957. The Local Government areas are generally known as “Councils” and prior to 1st July 2008 included Municipalities (the five major towns), Community Government Councils, Incorporated Associations (under NT Associations Act), ORIC Corporations (incorporated under Australian Government Legislation) and Special Purpose Towns. Those “Councils” that were established under the Associations Act had reduced Compliance and reporting responsibilities compared to the those incorporated pursuant to the Local Government Act and those subsequently created pursuant to Local Government Act 2008. Many of these previous local Governments were only incorporated in the late 1970s and others as late as the 1990s. The amendments of the 1st July 2008 saw Local Government being reduced to two types of Local Government in the NT, Municipalities and Shires including the Roper


Roper Gulf Regional Council is located in the south east of the top end of the Northern Territory bounded by the southern Kakadu escarpments, the northern Barkly Tablelands, the Gulf of Carpentaria and Queensland Border and approx 50 km west of the Stuart Highway. The overall land mass is greater than Tasmania and 80 % of Victoria and is larger than many small nation states.

The Roper Gulf Region topography ranges from low Limestone and Sandstone escarpments and mesas, rich in iron ore, to seasonally dry savannah grasslands and open forest intersected by a number of large river systems. The Gulf coastline has over 700 km of beach, river deltas, islands, mangroves swamps and rocky headlands.

The Region has a wet season roughly between December and May when most of the region’s rain falls and a cooler dry season ending with a short build up of higher temperatures and humidity towards the end of the year. The coastal region has a high cyclone probability during the wet.

To travel by car along the Stuart highway which transects the Council Region from near Pine Creek to near Elliott in the south will take more than four hours. To travel from Borroloola near the Gulf coast to Daly Waters in the west will take about the same time and Numbulwar to Mataranka about seven hours depending on road conditions and whether it is open at all. You are still in the Roper Gulf Region more than half way from Katherine to Nhulumbuy.

Much of the road network is subject to seasonal closure due to flooding and is predominantly unsealed making travel often long and tenuous. Public transport is very limited and expensive. Private vehicle ownership levels are low.

It’s a huge area with a relatively small population of around 7100, roughly 1 person for every 26 sq km.

Most people live in the region’s eleven towns (61%) and nearly 80% are indigenous. Only 30% speak English at home with nearly 50% speaking Kriol and 15% local and other languages.

Key industries in the Region are pastoral, some agriculture, extractive industries, tourism and government services. The Council is one of the largest employers in the Region.

Unemployment rates are high compared to the NT and Australian averages.

Like all the Northern Territory, Roper Gulf is dependent on public sector grants and funding having only a low rates base.

The Region is very young demographically with a median age of 24 years with 31.5% of the total population under 15 years of age. Despite this young demographic, growth is only around 1.0% indicating migration out of the region is high.

Mortality rates are higher than the Australian average and life expectancy is much lower.

Personal average income is $279 per week less half of the NT average and half the Australian average.

Rates of unemployment are high.

Significant health issues affect the region especially amoungst indigenous residents. This reflects the relative poverty of the region and life style issues such as high alcohol consumption, high smoking rates, overcrowded social housing and poor nutrition. There is a high level of endemic diseases such as Diabetes, RHD, Chronic Heart and Kidney disease.

The key towns of the Roper Gulf Region are;











Robinson River


Daly Waters


There are 22 Outstations and 50 pastoral properties and a number of major roadhouses in the Roper Gulf Region.

Roper Gulf has five wards each being represented by elected Councillors.

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