Territorians call for full environmental assessment of Tarwoo Cotton Gin

20 Sep 2021

Following recent media comments from cotton industry proponents about works starting on the Tarwoo Cotton Gin and approval of large-scale land clearing applications, environmental groups, local residents and fishing tourism operators have urged the Northern Territory Government not to let the cotton industry take hold in the Top End without proper scrutiny.

Territorians value our healthy rivers and savanna landscapes and the role they play in supporting our iconic fishing, tourism businesses and for our lifestyle. With a cotton gin on the horizon, these applications are a sign of things to come and highlight the importance of the NT Government taking active steps to get this right from the start.

Co-director of the Environment Centre NT (ECNT) Kirsty Howey
Co-director of the Environment Centre NT (ECNT) Kirsty Howey said the rush to feed the proposed gin is already well underway with several land clearing applications submitted.

“This is just the beginning. We’ve just seen the Gunner Government wave through its first “streamlined” pastoral land clearing approval to bulldoze nearly one thousand hectares of savanna bushland at Claravale Station, despite Territorians sounding the alarm about the impacts on important populations of threatened species such as the Gouldian Finch, ghost bat and partridge pigeon,” she said.

“Last week we welcomed the news that plans to clear thousands of hectares at Ucharonidge Station had been referred to the NT Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for environmental assessment, but there is a clear need to examine the cumulative impacts of large scale cotton expansion plans.”

NT Manager, Pew Charitable Trusts, Mitch Hart
NT Manager, Pew Charitable Trusts, Mitch Hart said big questions remained over plans for a cotton gin, which could lead to billions of litres of water being taken from our floodplains and rivers.

“Territorians have heard the warnings from communities in the Murray Darling who have witnessed first-hand the impact that large-scale cotton crops have on river catchments, corroding public trust and destroying local communities.”

“We remain concerned at the prospect of a rapidly expanding cotton industry, with proponents telling the media that construction of the cotton gin will start this month. It’s imperative that the NT EPA immediately investigate the gin proposal including a full environmental assessment of indirect and cumulative impacts.”

Edith Farms Road resident, Lori Martin
Long term Edith Farms resident Lori Martin lives adjacent to the Tarwoo site and says she has been left in the dark over the proponent’s efforts – if any – to minimise potential impacts on her health if the cotton gin goes ahead.

“The potential impacts on my health, air quality, pollution, water resources, local environment and my quality of life is causing me serious anxiety,” Ms Martin said.

“This application provides no clarity as to what concrete steps would be put in place to avoid, mitigate and manage any likely impacts on water consumption from aquifers that are shared by Edith Farm resident’s bores. That’s before we even get to the potential downstream water impacts.”

Daly River Tourism Operator, Adrian Koenen
Long term tourism operator and fisherman at Woolianna on Daly, Adrian Koenen, says there has been little consultation with tourism operators or fishing groups and scarce information from the NT Government.

“The Daly River is widely regarded as the premier Barramundi sports fishing location in Australia. Tourists from far and wide travel to the NT to try and catch one of the Daly’s legendary Barramundi and explore one of the most beautiful and healthy rivers in Northern Australia.”

“Any new plans for expanding an industry with risks like cotton needs to stack up economically, socially and environmentally. Without that we risk putting Territory jobs, businesses and lifestyle at risk.”

“There needs to be a proper assessment of the Tarwoo cotton gin proposal to firmly establish what building this gin will mean for the health of our rivers. We need to know how increased land clearing, water extraction and applications of agricultural chemicals will affect our rivers and the long standing tourism businesses that rely on them”.

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