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MEDIA RELEASE - Environment group condemns NT government cotton strategy

Northern Territory Government rolling out the red carpet for 100,000 hectares of cotton, fueling more destructive land clearing

Environmental groups have today expressed outrage at the Northern Territory Government’s plan to support and enable hundreds of thousands of hectares of native vegetation to be bulldozed for water-hungry crops.

The NT government today released their ‘Agribusiness Strategy’, which includes:

• A target of 100,000 hectares of “broadacre cropping” by 2030, principally cotton
• Proposed changes to existing pastoral land tenures to allow cropping, land-clearing
and large-scale farming practices
• Reducing timeframes for obtaining land clearing and water licencing approvals
• Changes to the Pastoral Land Act to circumvent the risk of future legal action against
land clearing and native vegetation destruction

The release of the strategy follows a 7.30 Report investigation highlighting repeated instances of alleged unlawful land clearing in the Northern Territory, an investigation by Minister Tanya Plibersek about the allegations, an increase of 300% in land clearing approvals in the NT, and a Supreme Court challenge to a pastoral land clearing permit by ECNT and the Northern Land Council, which argues that clearing land to grow cotton is not allowed under the Pastoral Land Act because it is not a “pastoral purposes”.
The Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction in the country with no specific native vegetation laws and no overarching biodiversity conservation strategy to protect ecosystems already collapsing.
The Environment Centre NT is calling on Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to intervene to stop rampant biodiversity destruction by the Northern Territory and ensure proper consultation with Traditional Owners. They are also calling for new NT-specific nature laws that protect, rather than destroy, our precious ecosystems.
The cotton target comes as representatives from the agricultural industry gather in Darwin for the 2023 Northern Australia Food Futures Conference.

Executive Director, Kirsty Howey:

“The NT Government have finally put in writing what we’ve long suspected – that they have a long-term plan to actively support a huge expansion of large-scale cotton production which will fuel the biodiversity crisis while our ecosystems are literally collapsing.”

“Australians should be alarmed about today’s announcement. For a long time, we’ve seen an ineffective, opaque, and ill-equipped system that has been only too happy to rubber stamp permits for bulldozing – all the while riding rough-shod over the views and rights of local communities and Traditional Owners.”

“Now they’ve gone one step further - pre-emptively enabling the cotton industry to expand with even less scrutiny, whilst preparing to shield themselves from future legal challenges.”

“Politicians should be standing up for our intact rivers and savannas, not facilitating their destruction.”

“The Northern Territory’s savanna is a national treasure and the world's largest remaining intact tropical woodland – but it's at risk of being bulldozed by cotton producers.”

“Big cotton devastated the Murray Darling Basin - we don't want to make the same mistakes here,” said Ms Howey.

ECNT - Dave Krantz [email protected]
Territory Rivers – Jasmine Burke [email protected]

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