The Fyles Government’s plan to allow big business to take more water through the controversial practice of extracting life giving flood waters could be devastating for Top End river systems
NT residents and conservationists have issued a warning to the Fyles Government that a new draft government policy to allow surface and flood water to be taken from rivers puts at risk the health of the Territory’s rivers and the people and nature that depend upon them.
The NT Government on Tuesday released the Draft Surface Water Take – Wet Season Flow Policy for public consultation.
This policy opens up the floodgates to dams and sanctions industry taking more water from our rivers and floodplains, according to Territory Rivers: Keep ‘Em Flowing – an alliance of non-government organisations, local communities and scientists working to safeguard the health of Top End rivers.
“Building dams on floodplains to take water in a practice called ‘surface water harvesting’ has been plagued by regulatory failures and has had devastating effects on rivers in the Murray Darling Basin. Why would we want to repeat these mistakes on our Territory rivers?” said Sasha Pavey from Territory Rivers: Keep ‘em Flowing.
“Taking any additional amount of water from the NT’s rivers and floodplains, whether it’s 5%, 20% or any other amount, risks the health of these systems. The science is very clear on this.”
Adelaide River floodplains (above).
Mark Casey, Nauiyu elder who lives on the banks of the Daly River, said:
“Those of us who live alongside these rivers know that healthy floods equal healthy rivers. Wet season river flows and floodplains power the natural cycle of our river systems.
I’m very concerned about the future of our rivers and their floodplains – especially if we see the government allow big business, like cotton, to take billions of litres of extra water that flows in the Wet season.
We can’t allow this ‘surface water take – wet season flows’ to go ahead – whatever they want to call it, it allows for more water to be taken from our river systems. We need to look after our rivers to make sure they’re here for everyone to enjoy in the future. Territorians want our government to get this right from the start.”
Sasha Pavey, from Territory Rivers: Keep ‘em Flowing, said:
“Our rivers are already under pressure. Taking any additional amount of water from the NT’s rivers and floodplains will have disastrous impacts on the future health of these systems – the science is very clear on this. This policy does nothing more than sanction the extraction of more water from our rivers and floodplains. The cotton industry wants more water.
If dams or other diversions are built that stop billions of litres of water from flowing in our rivers and aquifers we put endangered species, tourism businesses, and a multi-million dollar fishing industry at risk.
We’ve seen the disastrous impacts when the promises of ‘floodplain harvesting’ go wrong on the Murray-Darling River. It would be a huge mistake to repeat them in the Territory.
Communities are calling for governments to reset their thinking on rivers – to look at these systems as a whole, to listen to communities on the ground and do more to protect rivers for the long-term.
This starts by ensuring that no extra water is allowed to be taken from our river systems, a commitment to work with communities to build resilient protections and a guarantee to Territorians that our rivers and floodplains will remain healthy into the future.”
Rob McBride, a grazier from NSW, also expressed his concerns:
“There is no doubt that the same cotton industry that has wreaked havoc on the Murray-Darling is spreading north and will push for plans that destroy Territory rivers, floodplains and financial future.
Our family has been sustainably farming for 160 plus years – we respect the river and try to work in partnership with nature. But we’ve also seen the cotton industry explode further upstream, in the process snuffing out livelihoods and communities who act with integrity.
I’d urge anyone in the Northern Territory to look at the total destruction of the Darling River here in NSW, and act early to stop the cotton industry from killing your rivers. If not for yourself, for future generations who may want to walk in your footsteps.”
Last week, Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek released the 2021 State of the Environment Report – detailing the poor and deteriorating health of Australia’s natural environment.
If we’ve learned anything from this report, it’s that Territorians like yourself have a unique opportunity to ensure our rivers and environment prosper into the future. But it’s going to take all of us working together to do more.
Nature in Australia is under more pressure than ever – and our rivers, heritage and native species are seriously suffering. It’s also a dire warning that the greatest threat facing rivers is the extraction of surface water and groundwater.
|Here are some key findings from the report:|
|These results are shocking and make it very clear that we need to protect our Territory rivers such as the Daly, Roper, Adelaide and Victoria from big irrigation projects.|
We’re expecting very soon to see the NT Government release details of a dangerous plan that would open up our rivers and floodplains to the same cotton industry players from the dying Murray Darling – putting our Territory fishing, tourism and lifestyle at risk. If this plan goes ahead, it will lead to a rush of new dams on creeks and more water being taken from our rivers.
This report is the wake up call that those in power in Darwin need to listen to – it’s a clear message from experts that it’s now or never.
Tell the NT Government to protect our rivers and floodplains.
The Northern Territory is home to special, healthy, free-flowing rivers. We’ve seen the damage done to the Murray Darling, but it’s not too late to protect our Territory rivers.
Let’s keep our rivers flowing.
As a member of the Territory Rivers: Keep ’em Flowing alliance, the Environment Centre NT wishes to raise a number of significant concerns relating to the lack of meaningful consultation opportunity available for Territorians in the Darwin Future Water Supply – Have Your Say that began on Tuesday 13 July.
Territorians value our unique natural environment and the lifestyle that it sustains. The Adelaide River is iconic for Territorians of all backgrounds, for fishing, for culture, for tourism, for jobs and for its wildlife and wetlands. Adelaide River is a town – a community, but more importantly it’s the iconic, winding river that really makes the Top End tick. Its fishing, tourism, wildlife and hidden waterholes make it a hidden gem for Territorians in the know.
Territorians have consistently shown their strong commitment to protect the health of iconic rivers and therefore opposed plans for large dams (or whatever else they may be referred to as) that would negatively impact these river flows and the communities that rely on them.
We have the following concerns about this current process:
It is for these reasons that the Environment Centre NT is not responding to this particular Have Your Say survey with less than a two-week timeframe for input. We welcome any opportunity for meaningful engagement in water decision-making, in securing drinking water for Territorians, water for our environment and for all of us for the long-term. This current process for the Adelaide River does not meet those criteria.
The Environment Centre NT calls upon the Northern Territory Government to continue to fulfil its election commitment to restore trust in water decision-making with open, transparent and fair processes that allow for real public engagement at all levels, not a short survey provided limited options and even less details.