Unsatisfactory public consultation for new Adelaide River dam plans

27 Jul 2021

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:

  • Insufficient public engagement timeframe: Less than two weeks for Territorians to participate in this survey. There is nothing more important to Territorians than water, these are complex matters that requires real active public engagement that goes beyond a limited tick-box survey.
  • No mention of drinking water: This survey does not provide an option for respondents to identify drinking water as a key reason for their engagement on this matter, instead focusing on large industrial/agricultural user needs.
  • No detailed maps of the proposal: It is difficult to obtain meaningful and well-informed responses from community members about these proposals without maps of the inundation areas being provided so Territorians can understand which landholders, businesses (such as tourism operators, fishing and aquaculture) and environmental values may be impacted.
  • No opportunity to respond to Detailed Business Case: Without this document being made publicly available Territorians are unable to see the case for these various water options being presented, ask questions and provide meaningful feedback.
  • No opportunity to provide broader feedback: This consultation limits respondents to two proposals and seeks to provide an illusion of choice. This is a false dichotomy – Territorians want safe drinking water, sustainable industries, and to safeguard the health of our rivers and floodplains for the future.

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.

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