Environmental groups and residents have renewed calls for the Gunner Government to undertake a full environmental assessment of the proposed Tarwoo cotton gin, following revelations the proponents have continued clearing before obtaining planning and environmental approvals.
Satellite imaging* has revealed that vegetation clearing started on the site in July 2021, the same month that proponents applied for planning approval to clear 197 hectares of native vegetation.
Despite residents raising concerns, it appears proponents have continued to clear more land beyond 1ha – the threshold for formal approval – while the application is still under review.
The Territory Rivers alliance has submitted a formal complaint to the Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security this week, asking for a full investigation of the clearing.
Co-director of the Environment Centre NT (ECNT) Kirsty Howey said the proponent’s actions demonstrate a clear need to examine the cumulative impacts of large-scale cotton expansion plans.
“We are calling on the Department to investigate and to issue an enforcement notice to prevent further clearing while the application is still under assessment.
“Addressing this issue immediately is critical to preventing a precedent in clearing native vegetation while public approval processes are ongoing. As the rush for cotton to feed this gin intensifies, this is not a precedent that we want in place.”
“A comprehensive environmental assessment of this facility by the NT EPA is more important than ever,” said Ms Howey.
Long-term Edith Farms resident Lori Martin lives next door to the cotton gin site and said the government needed to send a strong signal that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable.
“It appears there’s already been a significant amount of clearing. How can we trust the cotton industry in the future if they are steamrolling forward before they’ve been given any approvals for this gin? It shows a blatant disregard for communities who may be affected and the environment.”
“These rushed actions are a sign of things to come. I’m asking the NT Government to take responsibility and look into the full impacts of the gin, the clearing, and the associated cotton industry. Those of us who live with the direct consequences deserve to know what we’re being asked to live with, now and into the future,” said Ms Martin.
*Sentinel 2-L2A satellite data provided by Sinergise Laboratory for geographical information systems Ltd, EO Browser (showing clearing as of October 28).