Timeline of our campaign


NT Farmers set sights on water extraction from Douglas-Daly

The NT Farmers Association release their Northern Territory Plant Industries Economic Impact Analysis report, which sets out an aspirational target of 520 Gigalitres being taken from rivers in the Douglas-Daly region, mostly for new cotton projects.

February 2021

Scientific study reveals NT ecosystems collapsing

A comprehensive scientific study evaluating the environmental state of play in Australia is published.  Of the 19 Australian ecosystems which met the criteria to be classified as “collapsing” are the Northern Territory’s tropical savannas, where large-scale agriculture could be expanded in the coming decades, particularly in the Daly, Katherine and Roper River catchments. 

March 2021

NT residents against new cotton gin

NT residents respond with alarm to an announcement of industry plans to build a massive cotton gin at Tarwoo Station.

A poll of Top End residents reveals that 69.4% of Territorians said the cotton industry shouldn’t be allowed into the Territory until they fix up their mess in the Murray-Darling basin.

March 2021

No public funding for Cotton Gin to be built near Katherine

Following significant public outcry, the NT Government commits no public funding towards construction of a cotton gin at Tarwoo Station, near Katherine.

June 2021

Territory Rivers: Keep ’em Flowing is launched.

Local recreational fishers, tour operators and communities come together with environmental organisations to launch a campaign to protect iconic free-flowing rivers in the Northern Territory.

August 2021

Credit: Nick Gouldhurst

Daly River tourism operators speak out

Tourism operators from the Daly River region write to the Northern Territory Government, outlining their concerns about proposed large-scale cotton operations further upstream.

September 2021

Daly by-election

All candidates in the Daly by-election sign on to the Territory Rivers – Keep ‘em Flowing pledge to stand up for our rivers.

November 2021

Unlawful clearing identified at Tarwoo Station

Local residents use satellite imaging to reveal unlawful vegetation clearing on Tarwoo Station in July 2021, the same month that proponents applied for planning approval to clear 197 hectares of native vegetation for construction of a cotton gin.

January 2022

NT prawn fisheries at risk

Austral Fisheries express concern about the impact of increased agriculture development on the future of Christmas prawns due to the NT government’s water allocation policy plans and the expansion of irrigated agriculture in the Northern Territory.

February 2022

Ilmenite mine water application threatens Roper River

An ilmenite mine on the banks of the Roper River applies for a water extraction license for 3.3 billion litres to be taken from the river system.

February 2022

NT Water Plan public consultation

The NT Government’s Strategic Water Plan opens for public consultation. This plan sets the agenda on water management through to 2050.

July 2022

State of Environment Report

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek releases the 2021 State of the Environment Report. It outlines that ‘the greatest threat to freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity is changes to river and stream flows due to surface water and groundwater extraction primarily for agriculture.

August 2022

A Fork in the River

A report by the Centre for Conservation Geography outlines that major aquifers in the Daly and Roper river regions are already ‘overallocated’ (the volumes of allocated water exceed the NT Government’s estimated sustainable yields), and there is insufficient water available to meet existing commitments for strategic Aboriginal water reserves. 

September 2022

FOI shows potential damage to Roper River

An FOI request by the Environment Centre NT reveals that the NT Government’s Director of Water Planning had warned in an internal memo that allowing 80 per cent of the Mataranka Tindall Limestone Aquifer in the region to be extracted, could “cause water [in the Roper River] to flow in the opposite direction”, and “potentially impacts on the environmental and cultural values” of the Roper River.

September 2022

Ilmenite mine water license rejected

In the wake of community outcry and 1,000 community petitions, the NT Water Controller rejects an application by mining company Australian Ilmenite Resources to take 3.3 billion litres of water from the Roper River.

November 2022

Arid vs Top End water rules

The NT Government flags possibility of changing the “contingent rules’ for water allocations, potentially allowing for substantially more water to be extracted by gas and other industries.

November 2022

Water experts raise concerns

Some of the most eminent water experts from across the country write to the NT Chief Minister to outline strong concerns around water management in the Northern Territory. These include Professor Sue Jackson, Professor Barry Hart, Professor Quentin Grafton, Professor Marcia Langton, Professor Richard Kingsford, Professor Anne Poelina and others. 

December 2022

NT Government ask for public comment on draft floodplain harvesting policy

The NT Government releases a new plan that would allow big business to take huge amounts of water for cotton, and mining through ‘floodplain harvesting’ – taking wet season flows from our rivers and floodplains.

January 2023

ABC 7:30 Report into land clearing in the NT

‘The Northern Territory is home to one of the world’s last untouched tropical savannas. That fragile landscape and its rivers are now the new frontier for the nation’s cotton industry.

But satellite images suggest land clearing is taking place without a permit, raising questions about the Territory government’s oversight.’

ABC’s 7:30 Report program investigates.

March 2023

NT Recreational Fishing Development Plan is released

The NT’s Recreational Fishing Development Plan is released, including reference to the uncertain future of NT rivers due to climate change, impacts to habitats and ecological processes associated with industry ‘such as water extraction or vegetation clearing’, and calling for better protections for the environment.

May 2023

Mirages in the North

Release of Mirages in the North: Ending the Northern Myth report, which outlined systemic problems with the Australian Government’s program of funding large-scale irrigation projects in the country’s north.

May 2023

Credit: Alamy

NT Agribusiness Strategy rolls out red carpet to destructive industries

The NT government release their ‘Agribusiness Strategy’, which includes a target of 100,000 hectares of “broadacre cropping” by 2030, principally cotton.

June 2023

Mapping the cultural importance of the Roper River

Territory Rivers starts working with Indigenous traditional owners along the Roper River, creating a massive cultural map of the region to raise concerns about the threats posed by cotton and gas developments.

September 2023

Tarwoo Station owners fined for unlawful clearing

The owners of Tarwoo Station near Katherine are fined after being found to have undertaken unlawful land clearing for the site of the proposed cotton gin.

November 2023

Roper River Traditional Owners travel to Canberra

Traditional Owners from across 20,000 square kilometres of the Northern Territory travel to Canberra to ask for protection of the Roper River from threats posed by new water intensive industries in the catchment and to be at the forefront of decision-making for the river.

January 2024

Roper River under threat from mining water license – again

Australian Ilmenite Resources again apply for a water license to take water from the Roper River – this time a total of 1.6 billion litres each year. More than 1,100 NT residents write to the Water Controller in one week.

February 2024

Floodplain harvesting policy is released

The Northern Territory Government release their Surface Water Intake – Wet Season Flows Policy, which allows billions of litres of surface and floodplain water to be taken from rivers and risks the destruction of rivers like the Daly and Roper.

March 2024

Draft Mataranka Tindall Water Plan released

The NT Government releases a draft of the Mataranka Tindall Limestone Aquifer Water Allocation Plan, which would allow 62 billion litres of water to be taken from the underground aquifer system which supports the Roper River and the iconic springs of Elsey National Park, Rainbow and Bitter Springs.