Water is vitally important to all Territorians, and the nature we love. Territorians understand this, are willing to stand up for it, and want their Government to do much more to safeguard our water futures.
The Gunner Government was elected in 2016 on a promise to overhaul our shoddy water laws, which were vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. However, the NT’s water laws still fall far short of best practice, and do not comply with the National Water Initiative (which all states and territories signed up to nearly 20 years ago). While the Territory gives water away to irrigators for free, who can then trade it at a profit, Indigenous communities don’t have the most basic of protections for their drinking water. You can read more about how our water laws are failing Territorians here.
Instead of fixing our laws, the Gunner Government is rolling out the red carpet for water intensive industries such as fracking and industrial-scale agriculture, by rushing to weaken the Water Act in response to the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission report.
The first of these laws, the Statute Law Amendment (Territory Economic Reconstruction) Bill 2021 (TERC Bill) was introduced in May 2021. Two Environmental Laws Omnibus Bills (Omnibus Bills) are scheduled for introduction into the Legislative Assembly as early as August 2021.
The Gunner Government’s proposed changes will take the Territory’s water laws backwards. The changes wind back already weak protections and remove scrutiny over management of our most precious resource. Not only that, they’re being pushed through urgently without public consultation or the scrutiny of any parliamentary committee, and may be passed as early as August 2021. We know how deeply Territorians care about water and yet the Government is rushing through these attempts to weaken our water laws.
Territorians want their Government to strengthen our water laws, not weaken them. ECNT is calling for any amendments to the Water Act to be put on hold until the Gunner Government’s promised water security strategy is finalised after Territorians have been properly heard, and the Gunner Government has legislated for safe drinking water protections for all Territorians.
 The Omnibus Bills have not yet been introduced, so this summary has been prepared using this document: https://depws.nt.gov.au/water/legislation/water-act. It will be updated if and when the Omnibus Bills are introduced.