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‘Fix the Murray-Darling mess or get out of the Territory’

24 Jun 2024

Cotton concerns for Top End water prominent for NT residents

Media Release

11 June 2024

A prominent environmental campaign is urgently calling for better protections for major Top End river systems following new polling which shows the threat posed to Territory rivers by large-scale cotton operations remains a key concern for residents.

“It’s clear residents 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 Mitch Hart from Territory Rivers – Keep ‘em Flowing.

“The cotton industry’s social license is getting weaker over time, which is at odds with government plans to allocate more water to them. The message from Territorians is clear – this thirsty industry shouldn’t be allowed to expand operations in the Territory until they fix up their mess in the Murray-Darling basin,” Mr Hart said.

  • 72.5% of Territorians polled said that the cotton industry shouldn’t be allowed to expand operations the Territory until they fix up their mess in the Murray-Darling basin.
  • 59.3% oppose the establishment of a large-scale cotton industry in the Top End, including proposals to extract of 520 billion litres of water from the Douglas Daly as per the 2020 economic analysis by NT Farmers Association
  • More than 80% of Labor voters and 62% of CLP voters polled are opposed to cotton expansion in the Top End

    “It’s concerning to see big business push for more water from floodplains and more land clearing and the NT Government taking the same approach in the Territory which has contributed to the devastation of the Murray Darling Basin – Territorians don’t want to make the same mistakes here.”

    “This is why we are asking for government to commit to no more dams on our free-flowing rivers, no more water out of already overallocated systems and binding limits on water extraction.”

    “59.5% of respondents stated that they use rivers in the Top End for fishing, boating or other recreational activities, contributing to the $270 million dollars that recreational fishing brings to the NT economy each year.”

    “Territorians want a healthy future for our rivers. They care deeply about rivers, water flows for fishing and boating, and are concerned about the threats to our way of life. This industry push for
    large-scale cotton would put iconic rivers like the Daly and Roper, and our Territory lifestyle, at risk.”

    “The spectre of reduced water flows, pollution and mass fish kills along the Murray Darling is a very real concern for NT residents, with 72% of respondents concerned about large cotton companies being allowed to expand operations in the Territory before they fix the problems they have caused in the Murray Darling.”

    “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.”

Additional Facts:

  • 72.5% say large cotton companies shouldn’t be allowed to expand operations until they fix the problems they have caused in the Murray Darling.
  • There is broadly shared concern across the political spectrum regarding the polling question: the cotton industry shouldn’t be allowed to expand operations the Territory until they fix up their mess in the Murray-Darling basin.
    o 80.7% of Labor voters
    o 62.3% of CLP voters
    o 94.2% of Greens voters
    o 64.1% of Independent voters
    o 83.3% of those intending to vote for other parties
  • 59.3% are opposed including 47.5% who are strongly opposed to cotton industry plans to take 520 billion litres away from the Daly River each year.
  • 32.1% of people listed water extraction as their main concern
  • 21% of respondents were most concerned about water pollution

    Polling commissioned by the Territory Rivers – Keep ‘em Flowing Alliance undertaken by uComms, who conducted a survey of 1,107 members across Darwin and Palmerston on behalf of Environment Centre NT during the evening of 03rd March – 21st April 2024.

See more information on the polling here.

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