Media release

  • Mar, 2021

    No dams for cotton: Gunner needs to rule out floodplain extraction for cotton mates

    Environment Centre NT is calling on the Northern Territory Government to rule out a floodplain ‘dam rush’ to feed the proposed massive expansion of large scale agriculture driven by the proposed cotton gin at Tarwoo. 

    The NT Government is due to release a ‘Surface Water Harvesting Policy‘ regulating dams and water extraction that could pave the way for a rapid expansion of cotton in the Top End. 

    “Floodplain extraction means dams. Every dam that is built on the floodplain robs the rivers and aquifers of water,” said Kirsty Howey, Co-Director of ECNT.

    “Industry has been pushing to get its hands on 520 billion litres of water from the floodplains in the Douglas-Daly region, including the floodplains for the iconic Daly River. Our floodplains are vital parts of our unique Top End ecosystems.” 

    “It’s those big water flows on the floodplains that make our rivers work and flow healthily. Barra restocking relies on these big flushes every Wet season. Right now Territorians, visitors and local small businesses are gearing up for a huge run-off fishing season on the Daly.”

    “The large-scale cotton industry hopes that they can get their rush for Territory water approved as the innocuous-sounding ‘floodplain harvesting’, but it’s obvious – Big Cotton wants dams. That’s too big a risk to the Territory’s other growers, fishing guides and fishers.”

    “The cotton industry wanted free money to set up their cotton gin. When they didn’t get that, they stuck their hand out for free power lines and free roads, paid for by public money.”

    “The Gunner Government must rule out giving the cotton industry free water from dams on our precious floodplains, as well as rule out paying for their power lines and roads. The Territory’s rivers are too precious to lose,” concluded Dr Howey.

    Here are key questions that the Gunner Government’s floodplain extraction policy must answer:

    • What peer-reviewed studies and modelling has the Gunner Government obtained during the development of the draft policy, and will these be publicly released for scrutiny?
    • Who has the Gunner Government consulted about the floodplain harvesting policy so far? Any environmental groups or members of the public, or just their cotton mates?
    • How will the Government avoid double-dipping that would lead to over-extraction from our rivers? Surface water on our floodplains is what recharges our aquifers that many Territorians rely on for their drinking water and livelihoods, and that keep our environment healthy – especially in the Dry. If the cotton industry wants to take surface water from floodplains, then extract groundwater from the same system, how will the Government stop irreversible damage to these systems?
    • What measures will be put in place to ensure that any Surface Water Harvesting Policy that facilitates the extraction of water from floodplains will protect the health of rivers, fishing tourism businesses and biodiversity?
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  • Feb, 2021

    Cotton concerns for Top End water prominent for NT residents

    Recent polling has revealed that the threat posed by large-scale cotton operations remains a key concern for Northern Territory residents – particularly in relation to recreational fishing along iconic river systems.

    “Territorians have made it clear they have serious concerns about the threat posed by large-scale cotton projects in the Top End, which is shining through strongly in these new polling figures,” said Jason Fowler from the Environment Centre NT.

    • 69.4% of Territorians polled said that the cotton industry shouldn’t be allowed into the Territory until they fix up their mess in the Murray-Darling basin.
    • 60.8% of Territorians are opposed to the NT Government giving taxpayer funded subsidies to the cotton industry to establish operations in the NT.

    “It’s clear that Big Cotton industry plans are disconnected from community expectations of healthy rivers, fishing and lifestyle. We know that fishing is an important part of the Top End lifestyle, with 63% of respondents stating that they use rivers in the Top End for fishing, boating or other recreational activities.”

    “Territorians want a healthy future for our rivers, they care deeply about their health for water flows, fishing and are concerned about the industry push for large-scale cotton that would put iconic Territory rivers like the Daly at risk.”

    “The spectre of reduced water flows, large-scale devastation and mass fish kills along the Murray Darling is a very real concern for NT residents, with 69.4% of respondents concerned about large cotton companies being allowed into the Territory before they fix the problems they have caused in the Murray Darling,” said Mr Fowler.

    “We’re seeing continued industry calls for Territory residents to provide millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies to prop up large agriculture proposals driven by cotton. It’s deeply concerning to see big business push for more water from floodplains, more land clearing and a widespread disregard for maintaining healthy river systems.”

    “We can’t let our iconic rivers like the Daly and Roper be degraded and destroyed as has happened to other rivers in southern Australia. It’s time for big business and government to start listening to Territorians and do more to look after the health of our rivers, lifestyle and the jobs that rely on their health now and into the future,” concluded Mr Fowler.

    Polling commissioned by the Environment Centre NT and undertaken by uComms, who conducted a survey of 837 residents in the Northern Territory seats of Blain, Brennan, Casuarina, Daly, Drysdale, Fannie Bay, Fong Lim, Johnston, Karama, Katherine, Nightcliff, Port Darwin, Sanderson, Spillett, and Wanguri during the nights of the 10th & 11th February 2021.

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