Conservation advocates are calling for federal intervention to protect native savanna and rivers in the Top End following national revelations that the Northern Territory’s existing environmental protection regime may be failing to provide proper oversight.
“The public is rightly shocked by the media coverage of satellite pictures showing what appears to be unpermitted clearing and regulatory inaction on land clearing, right next to iconic rivers such as the Daly River,” said Pew Charitable Trusts’ Northern Territory manager Mitch Hart.
“The activity – revealed on ABC TV’s 730 current affairs program this week – raises questions about the Northern Territory Government’s capacity to protect our environment, culture, fishing and the lifestyle which Territorians value highly.
“We welcome the strong concern raised by the Federal Labor Government Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, who calls for a stop to unauthorised land clearing, as well as the intervention by independent Senator David Pocock and the call for an Inquiry by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young of the Australian Greens.
“This is a key test of whether the Northern Territory Government can meet its responsibility to properly look after the Territory’s environment. We need properly enforced environmental standards that actually protect our rivers, floodplains and savannahs. First and foremost, the government must act to stop the rush to bulldoze Australian bush for cotton crops,” Mr Hart said
“We need to approach river management 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.
“Industrial cotton farming is not compatible with the sustainable management and protection of the Territory’s intact tropical river systems – some of the last in the world,” he said.
Note: The report – A Fork in the River – the consequences of a major new cotton industry in the Northern Territory, warns that the establishment of a major cotton industry in the Northern Territory could jeopardise Top End river systems, threatening their unique biodiversity and putting at risk the NT’s lucrative fishing and tourism industries.