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Protection for our water should be paramount: challenge to 10 billion litre water extraction licence upheld

Media Release: Protection for our water should be paramount: challenge to 10 billion lit re water extraction licence upheld

10 billion litre per annum water extraction licence overturned in unprecedented Ministerial intervention, but questions remain about the Northern Territory Government’s water management system

The Northern Territory’s peak environment body, the Environment Centre NT (ECNT) has praised Minister Natasha Fyles for overturning a 10 billion litre per year licence, whilst also outlining concerns about the Northern Territory Government’s water management process as a whole.

ECNT’s Co-Director Kirsty Howey, said today “The Minister’s decision to overturn this 10 billion litre per year licence is a huge win for the environment. Sanity has prevailed. This is a timely reminder of the risk of rushing to give away our water. It’s good that the Government has listened - we need more of it.”

ECNT and the Northern Land Council successfully challenged the decision by the Acting Water Controller to grant a 10GL groundwater extraction licence to the Northern Territory Land Corporation in the Larrimah Zone of the Katherine-Tindall aquifer. A Review Panel recommended to the Minister that the water licence be overturned, and Minister Fyles has now accepted that advice.

“The water resource in question is highly valued by Territorians, discharging into Bitter Springs near Mataranka and into the magnificent Roper River, a prime recreational fishing river. It is absolutely vital that any licensing that affects the flows of the Roper is treated with caution,” said Ms Howey.

“The fact is that it should never have come to this. The Government’s own Review Panel outlined that the decision did not take a precautionary approach, did not take into account climate change, used the wrong allocation rules, and used a Technical Report with significant shortcomings.”

“Whilst this decision is welcome, questions remain over the Northern Territory Government’s ability to regulate water resources. This is evident in the recent actions of the Water Controller – including the granting of a 40 billion litre licence for free to Fortune Agribusiness south of Tennant Creek, with significant risk to groundwater dependent ecosystems.”

“This has shone a light on to what is clearly a broken water regulatory system – one that is failing and in need of urgent reform. The decision also raises real questions about the feasibility of plans for large-scale irrigated agriculture trumpeted by the Northern Territory Government, including the huge release of NT Land Corporation land announced last year. It’s far from clear that this scale of development can be done sustainably, and without irreversibly damaging our precious water.”

“We cannot have a regime in which grant licences are approved when it is clear they will irreversibly damage our precious water. Whilst the Minister’s intervention has fallen on the side of logic this time around, we need to overhaul what is clearly broken a fundamentally broken system,” concluded Ms Howey.

Background and full media release can be downloaded here. 

Media contact: Kirsty Howey: 0488 928 811

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