16 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.

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