News & updates

  • Apr, 2024

    CSIRO report spells out huge risk to Roper River from industry expansion

    Media Release

    18 April 2024

    Water extraction from one of Australia’s last remaining free-flowing rivers – the Roper River, could see a 66,000-fold increase from a massive expansion of irrigated agriculture, according to a new CSIRO report.

    The Roper River Water Resource Assessment outlines possible scenarios of 660 billion litres of surface water a year for crops such as cotton, and the requirement of 40,000ha of land cleared across the catchment.

    The technical reports examine the possibility of large-scale floodplain harvesting across the Roper Catchment, as well as the cumulative impacts of up to five in-stream dams, including a hydroelectric dam on the Wilton River near Ngukurr.

    “This report highlights the huge scale of development and the impacts on communities, people and ecosystems that could occur if the Roper River is not protected,” said Pew’s NT Manager Mitch Hart.

    The report highlights the importance of community values, stating that the ‘nature and scale of future development of irrigation would depend heavily upon community and government values and acceptance of potential impacts to water‑dependent ecosystems.’

    “Thousands of Territorians have already stood up in support of protection for the Roper – including demands that no more water be taken from the river, and no new dams be built.”

    “First Nations people along the river have demanded no more water be taken, and for communities to be properly consulted on how their Country and the Roper is protected.”

    “Communities want our rivers kept healthy and it’s crucial that the Government now acts to protect the Roper River before it is too late.

    “This report talks to the possibility of groundwater extraction from the river system of up to 125 GL, which could have devastating impacts on the future health of the river system. To put this in perspective, this is three times Darwin’s annual drinking water supply.”

    The Roper River catchment is under increasing pressure from a string of water allocations made by the NT Government in the past six months. The recently released Georgina Wiso Water Allocation Plan and Surface Water Take – Wet Season Flows Policy, plus the draft Mataranka Tindall Water Allocation Plan allow for more than 280 billion litres to be taken from the Roper River catchment each year.

    “Ultimately, this report points to the urgent need for the Roper to have long-term protections in place, avoiding a Murray-Darling style disaster before it’s too late. It’s imperative that governments listen to the voice of communities – particularly First Nations – when it comes to protecting the Roper,” said Mr Hart.

    Learn more

    , , , ,

  • Feb, 2024


    Media Release

    15 February 2024

    Today’s release of the Northern Territory Government’s Surface Water Intake – Wet Season Flows Policy will allow billions of litres of surface and floodplain water to be taken from rivers and risks the destruction of rivers like the Daly and Roper.

    Environment Centre NT Executive Director, Kirsty Howey:

    “Territorians are rightly alarmed about today’s announcement. The NT Government has opened the floodgates for huge amounts of water to be taken by large agribusinesses from our already stressed river systems,” she said.

    “It’s clear that the NT Government is backing big industry over the views and rights of local communities and Traditional Owners when it comes to our environment.

    “This policy will allow for more water to be sucked from river systems and stored in private dams for thirsty cotton crops, fracking and mining. This could have devastating impacts on our rivers and floodplains – impacting on endangered species, tourism businesses, and putting our multi-million dollar fishing industry at risk.

    “The NT Government are going in entirely the wrong direction with this policy. The NT community has no reason for confidence in the current NT water laws to be able to regulate industry’s water take.

    “Politicians should be protecting our intact rivers, not facilitating their destruction. This is the same approach which has contributed to the devastation of the Murray Darling Basin – Territorians don’t want to make the same mistakes here,” said Ms Howey.

    Pew Charitable Trusts Northern Territory Manager Mitch Hart:

    “With the release of this policy, the Northern Territory Government has failed the test of protecting the Territory’s precious rivers,” he said.  

    “The Territory’s intact tropical river systems are some of the last in the world. They are already under immense pressure. Taking more water from the NT’s rivers and floodplains will have disastrous impacts on the future health of these systems – science is very clear on this.

    “Top End river management needs to be approached in a completely different way to ensure that we don’t repeat the dire mistakes made in rivers elsewhere in Australia.

    “That means involving communities in developing management plans and mapping out new pathways for protection right across the Territory – using local Indigenous knowledge incorporating best science around water flows, native species’ requirements and climatic change impacts.”


    Territory Rivers: Keep ‘Em Flowing an alliance of non-government organisations, local communities and scientists working to safeguard the health of Top End rivers.

    Learn more

    , , ,

  • Jan, 2024
    Credit: Nick Gouldhurst

    Stories from the river: Mark

    I was born on the banks of this river, it’s our life blood. I’ve fought for this river in the past and I’m ready to fight for it again. This river has beautiful cold water for drinking, we must keep it that way.

    This river has got everything you need. It’s got what’s in the water and also what lives on the banks, the the fruit trees, berries and what you dig out of the ground. It’s got bamboo for making spears, along with all those different types of fish and sharks.

    This river is the beginning of the floodplains at Daly River. It’s important that when the river does flood, it not only cleans the billabongs out and the floodplains, it rejuvenates it. A lot of people just think water, water, water. But they don’t look at the whole picture. It flies, it hops, it crawls, it walks, it swims. Everything revolves around water.

    I want my kids and my grandkids to see this river like I’m seeing it. Well, better than what I’m seeing it. Something got to be put in place to protect it.

    Credit: Nick Gouldhurst

    Mark Casey is a Nauiyu Elder from the Daly River

    Learn more

  • Jan, 2024

    Video: Natural Values of Territory Rivers

    Witness what makes the treasures of the Northern Territory special! Our pristine rivers are a true natural wonder and are unique in this world.

    Unlike elsewhere in the world, Territory rivers like the Daly, Roper, Adelaide and Victoria remain in good shape – they haven’t been dammed, over-extracted and polluted like rivers down south.

    The health of these rivers is important for providing drinking water, food, jobs, and underpinning culture.

    They also support a wide range of unique species, some of which are not found anywhere else.

    Learn more

    , , , , , , , ,

  • Jan, 2024

    Video: Floodplain Harvesting in the Northern Territory

    “We’re looking down the barrel of a repeat of the Murray-Darling Basin here in the Top End and it’s something that the community is absolutely opposed to.”

    Kirsty Howey from Environment Centre NT explains the troubling process of ‘floodplain harvesting’ and why it risks our rivers.

    Learn more

    , , , , , , , ,

  • Jan, 2024

    ‘NT government-commissioned probe of report predicting cotton environmental impacts finds most claims supported’: ABC

    Read the story HERE, listen HERE, or watch it HERE.

    An independent assessment that the Northern Territory government commissioned to find out whether a green group’s report falsely claimed developing a major cotton industry could damage rivers and aquifers, has found most of its conclusions were correct.

    Story by Jane Bardon. (ABC 2 January, 2024).

    You can sign our action asking the NT Govt to act to protect our rivers, floodplains and surrounding savannas HERE.

    Learn more

    , , , , , , , , ,

  • Jan, 2024

    Cotton gin opening increases Northern development tussle: ABC PM

    Listen to the story HERE.

    The opening of the NT’s first cotton processing plant is being touted as an important step towards developing the North by the industry, but increasing community concerns over water use.


    Sue Brosnan, Katherine cotton gin project coordinator
    David Connolly, Tipperary Stations Group General Manager
    Rosina Farrell, Jilkminggan Mangarrayi community leader
    Kirsty Howey, NT Environment Centre 

    This report is from Jane Bardon. (ABC PM 15 Dec 2023 ).

    See updates and developments from this story HERE.

    You can sign our action asking the NT Govt to act to protect our rivers, floodplains and surrounding savannas HERE.

    Learn more

    , , , , , , , , ,

  • Dec, 2023

    Concerns raised over impact of industrial cotton gin on Northern Territory’s rivers

    Media Statement

    Key points:

    The following quotes can be attributed to Mitch Hart – Northern Territory Manager for the Pew Charitable Trusts:

    “Territorians remain gravely concerned at the prospect of a rapidly expanding cotton industry, fueled by the opening of an industrial cotton gin near Katherine this month.

    “Communities in the Murray Darling have already witnessed first-hand the impact that large-scale cotton crops have on river catchments, corroding public trust and destroying local communities.  The unlawful land clearing activities already documented in the Territory give little hope things will be different here.

    “The Fyles Government should rule out giving the cotton industry more water from our rivers and floodplains, which starts with no more water out of the systems.

    “It is time the Northern Territory Government listened to the concerns of our communities by protecting the fragile environment we depend on. “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 Roper and Daly at risk.”

    See ABC media coverage here.

    Learn more

    , ,

  • Nov, 2023

    Bringing the Roper River to Canberra

    We’re writing to you from the halls of Parliament in Canberra, where we’ve just delivered a powerful message to politicians from all sides.

    Our message is clear: water is life.

    If we don’t protect our water – our river – our country, we risk losing the very thing that sustains our communities and our culture.

    It was a long journey to get here. Northeast Arnhem Land, Katherine, Darwin, and then all the way down to Canberra.

    Our 13-metre-long map of the mighty Roper River, showing all the cultural sites and songlines of our Country, took 18 months for us to make. Our songlines follow the water, connecting us all. If our water is taken, our culture and people are at risk.

    And we talked to those people who need to listen. We met with Ministers, Senators and MPs from all sides of politics in this place.

    We told them that the Roper River – our lifeblood – is under threat from cotton, fracking and other industries. These thirsty industries all risk taking too much water and damaging the river. We used the map to show them our Country, and everything it sustains.

    You can read more about our time in Canberra on ABC News, or watch this video of our speeches in Parliament.

    Now, we’re starting the long journey back home. We’re tired, and we’re looking forward to getting back to our Country, our homes, and our families.

    But the fight to protect the Roper is not over.

    The future of our river, our people and our culture all rely on urgent action. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the Murray-Darling. It’s time to forge a new path that respects and includes the knowledge and rights of First Nations people.

    Thank you for your support – for the letters you sent to the people here in Parliament, and for showing us that thousands of Australians are behind us.

    We know that you’ll be there with us at the next stage. We are going to need to keep telling those in Canberra that they need to act. Together, we can and will protect the Roper.

    Thank you

    Linda Williams, Naomi Wilfred, Daphne Daniels, Rosina Farrell, Clive Nunggarrgalu, Roland Nundhirribala

    Learn more


  • Nov, 2023

    The Roper River cultural map

    Learn more