News & updates

  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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  • 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

    Tell Canberra to protect the Roper River 

    Traditional owners along Australia’s mighty Roper are calling for protection of the river as they prepare to meet with ministers, MPs and Senators in Canberra! 

    The Roper is one of our last free-flowing, tropical rivers but its future is under immediate threat – from cotton, fracking, land clearing, and mining. 

    Northern Territory Government plans to allow huge amounts of water to be pumped from the Roper and its floodplains threaten to destroy this river and create a Murray-Darling disaster.   

    This is our chance to protect one of our last free-flowing rivers.  

    The river supports the livelihoods of local communities, culture, tourism, fishing, and its flows are essential to the health of endangered turtles and dugongs, as well as barramundi, prawn and crabs in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Its flows rely on groundwater that feeds the famous Mataranka and Bitter Springs. 

    The Federal Government needs to act. Right now is a once in a generation chance to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the Murray Darling. 

    Traditional owner groups from across the Roper region have created a 13m long songlines map of their river and its floodplains. The map covers 20,000km2 of the Roper catchment, and has travelled hundreds of kilometres across the NT, from Numbulwar on the Gulf of Carpentaria, through Ngukurr, Urupanga, Minyerri, Jilkminggan and Katherine, collecting signatures in each Roper community along the way. On November 28th, they are travelling to Canberra to meet with members of Parliament to ask for help to protect the future of their freshwater.

    Stand with the Roper River and its communities by backing their statement calling for protection, and for Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to act to sustain our rivers for future generations. 

    Learn more


  • Jun, 2023

    The dangers of a large-scale cotton industry in the Northern Territory

    The Northern Territory is at a critical juncture. Its rivers and other aquatic ecosystems – with outstanding natural and cultural values that are central to the wellbeing and economy of many Territorians – are largely still in good condition. But a major new cotton industry could put much of this at risk.

    Australia’s cotton industry has major ambitions in the NT, projecting a future of hundreds of thousands of hectares of cropping (mainly on pastoral properties) watered by billions of litres of water extracted from aquifers, rivers and floodplains.

    In 2020, Australia’s cotton crop was the smallest in 40 years, down by almost 90% on the 2018 crop due to the impacts of drought. The climatic uncertainties and water constraints and costs in southern cotton growing areas are driving a strong push by growers to transform northern Australia into a major cotton growing province. But the industry is ignoring the numerous government and CSIRO studies on the environmental constraints to cropping in the north and downplaying the potential for major environmental, cultural and economic impacts.

    Previous proposals for large-scale cropping (focused mainly in the Daly River region) have also been
    constrained by public concerns about the impacts of land clearing and irrigation. These concerns remain. In a February 2021 poll of Territorians, 69% of respondents said the cotton industry shouldn’t
    be allowed into the NT until they ‘fix up their mess’ in the Murray-Darling Basin. Rivers are important to Territorians – 63% of respondents said they use Top End rivers for fishing, boating or other recreation – and this poll indicates that the cotton industry lacks a social license in the NT.

    The NT has an opportunity to learn from and avoid repeating the mistakes so evident in the Murray-
    Darling Basin. But to achieve this, there needs to be a much greater community focus on the potential
    consequences of a major cotton industry and a strengthening of the science, laws and policies needed to protect the environmental, cultural and economic values of NT rivers.

    Read more in our report ‘A Fork in the River’

    Learn more

  • May, 2023

    Video: ‘The Daly River is a sacred place.’

    “It’s important that we all look after and protect water … We want to keep this river still alive and flowing for all of us to enjoy.”

    Meet Malak Malak Traditional Owners Theresa Lemon and Sheila White, and Mark Casey from Nauiyu, who share why the Daly River is sacred to them and why it needs to be protected for future generations.

    Learn more