First Nations leaders and communities have in recent years been joined by environment groups, fishermen, healthcare workers, unions and others to protect the Territory's waterways, plants and animals.
In 1959 the Commonwealth Government referred to the Territory as a challenging frontier, ripe for exploration and exploitation. That sentiment has only strengthened over time, with the Commonwealth's cyclical attempts to 'Develop the North' reaching every industry and individual in the Territory.
Once again, the Territory finds itself at a critical point in the cycle of 'development'. Our natural places are under threat on multiple fronts. Our biodiversity is in decline, feral weeds and animals have infested the landscape, and changed fire regimes have irreversibly altered biodiversity and critical habitats.
There is a renewed push for agriculture across the Territory, driven by 'Our North, Our Future', a commonwealth masterplan to capitalise on the North's geo-strategic location in relation to defence and national security. There is the imminent threat of industrialisation of the Northern Territory's landscapes through both mineral extraction and large scale agribusiness, including cotton. In July 2020, industry released a business case for a cotton gin in the NT and set out plans for over 160 000 hectares of agricultural development. This will involve bulldozing and burning our precious savanna and the extraction of water from already overallocated river and groundwater systems, without the free, prior and informed consent of Traditional Owners. ECNT is concerned that large scale industries such as cotton, agribusiness and gas will put our most precious resource at risk, threatening the viability of all life in the Territory.
Our environmental laws are inadequate at mitigating these threats to our environment. Of particular concern are laws that allow for:
What is the Environment Centre NT doing to protect the Territory's Nature in 2022?
Water security for all will be a core focus for ECNT in the year ahead.
The Environment Centre has been working to hold decision-makers to account and to galvanise public support across the country in opposition to destructive land clearing and the extraction of billions of litres of our precious water. We continue to support individuals and communities who are both impacted by poor environmental management and wish to take action to improve how we all interact with the Territory's nature.
ECNT will continue its campaign to protect our rivers from the threats of cotton, and will be advocating strongly for better water laws, including to require proponents to pay for water licences, and to ensure stronger compliance and enforcement of the laws that do exist. In support of other organisations, including the four Territory land councils, ECNT is also calling for safe drinking water legislation to ensure that minimum standards of supply and quality are maintained wherever people live in the Territory. ECNT will also be advocating for a new biodiversity and land management Act to ensure that bioregions and ecosystems are brought back from the precipice of collapse.
What can you do to support the campaign?
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Image Credit: Keiran Lusk (https://www.keiranlusk.com/)