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Media Release - Hands off our Water Act! Passing laws to favour specific developers still won’t fly with Territorians

The Environment Centre NT (ECNT) has welcomed the decision by the Gunner Government to withdraw plans to introduce laws that would significantly weaken the Water Act. The Gunner Government has announced it will not proceed with its two proposed Environmental Laws Omnibus Bills (Omnibus Bills) this year following sustained pressure by Territorians, environmental groups and the Central Land Council.

This is a win for every Territorian who has stood up for our water.

However, ECNT is concerned that the Gunner Government is still trying to push through its ill-advised Statute Law Amendment (Territory Economic Reconstruction) Bill 2021 without genuine public consultation or proper scrutiny. This move will weaken the Territory’s already shoddy water laws. Not only that, ECNT believes that the laws have been designed to benefit a particular developer which owns vast tracts of land across the Territory – the NT Land Corporation.

ECNT’s Co-Director Kirsty Howey said, “We’re happy that the Gunner Government appears to have seen sense and withdrawn plans to introduce the Environmental Laws Omnibus Bills. It’s great to see that they’ve listened to Territorians on this issue. But we’re still concerned that the Government is desperately trying to push through its ill-advised Statute Law Amendment (Territory Economic Reconstruction) Bill 2021, which will seriously undermine the Territory’s water protections.”

“Just a few weeks ago Territorians were celebrating a huge win for our water, when Minister Fyles overturned a decision to gift a licence to NT Land Corporation to take 10 billion litres per year from the Tindall aquifer for an agricultural development at Larrimah. We argued that the grant of the licence was unlawful, in addition to pointing out that there was simply not enough water in the aquifer to supply this development sustainably. The Water Resources Review Panel, and ultimately Minister Fyles, agreed with us, highlighting a laundry list of problems with the original decision.”

“Now, the Gunner Government seems to be changing the law so that NT Land Corporation can get its water whenever it wants. The Gunner Government is creating a new category of licence that will enable speculative water development – where developers get water for free without any intention of developing the land themselves, then can onsell it to other developers with barely any regulatory scrutiny. This is precisely what the Water Resources Review Panel found to be unlawful and could have significant impacts on our water resources.”

“Serious questions need to be asked about all of NT Land Corporation’s developments, including why the Gunner Government is willing to change such important legislation as the Water Act for the benefit of a private company.”

“And that’s not all. Hidden among the seemingly harmless amendments to different pieces of legislation, are some major worrying changes to the Territory’s Water Act that transfer significant discretionary power to the Water Controller, allow water speculation by developers, and pave the way for new dams with reduced public scrutiny.”

“These laws are being rushed through without any proper consultation or parliamentary scrutiny.”

“What’s the big rush? Who will benefit? We’re calling on the Gunner Government to shelve these amendments to the Water Act until they’ve done their homework, which includes broad consultation with Territorians, the development and finalisation of the Territory’s Water Security Strategy, and legislated protection for drinking water for all Territorians.”

Please see attachment for an explanation of the TERC Bill amendments.

Media contact Kirsty Howey: 0488 928 811

Download the media release. 

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