ALEC is increasingly focusing our policy priorities on climate change mitigation and adaptation, environmental regulatory reform and natural resource management.
Our work in these policy areas is built around collaboration with other groups in the NT, including the Environmental Defenders Office and the Environment Centre NT. This collaboration has been important in preparing presentations for the fracking inquiry as well as senate inquiries on the NAIF and pastoral land reform. Working with these groups has allowed us to focus our efforts on advocating for specific changes. We hope to see a draft bill of the new Environmental Protection Act this year that will streamline all development proposals to ensure all projects undergo adequate environmental assessment.
ALEC is in on-going discussions with the Government on developing a climate change framework. We will be continually advocating for an emissions reduction target while also providing research and information on adaptation strategies. The need to consider adaptation and mitigation strategies informs the majority of our submissions to Government inquiries. Climate awareness should be incorporated across Departments and policy spaces, including planning, water, mining and conservation land management. Reform of the pastoral estate is seriously needed to reduce carbon emissions and to increase the Territory’s own source revenue.
Industry is gearing up for strong mineral development through a five mines plan. Three mines, Chandler, Mt Peake and Nolans Bore have been given NT EPA approval and two have submitted Environment Impact Statements, Jervois and Ammaroo. These projects all pose significant environmental risks including; permanent hydrological changes that threaten groundwater dependent ecosystems, long term radioactive waste management and legacies of contamination through inadequate rehabilitation efforts. The current regulatory reforms are addressed at improved monitoring and compliance but they have not yet addressed the contamination legacy of closed mines. The NT needs chain of responsibility legislation, like QLD that ensures companies are not able to escape their environmental and financial responsibilities to rehabilitate mine sites post closure. Preventing a legacy of financial and environmental costs to the NT is a priority area of reform.
The NT is facing a shortfall in revenue from changes to GST distribution. In addressing this issue government has opened consultation in a revenue discussion paper to investigate ways of increasing own source revenue. We will advocate for increased royalties and mining rehabilitation levy’s, stock and mine water extraction fees and increased revenue from the Pastoral estate. The NT has considerable natural capital that could be managed far more sustainably and provide a more equitable distribution of benefits.
Groundwater dependent ecosystems are still relatively poorly understood in Central Australia, especially around the water control districts of arid NT. However, our understanding is improving through increased efforts by Government to study GDEs and the connection between GDE health and groundwater extraction. New research is being published that will help improve our understanding of the location and behavior of GDEs which will inform better management of groundwater systems by establishing sustainable extraction limits. This research will be important for the governance of the Alice Springs, Western Davenport and Ti-Tree Water Advisory Committees.
2018 is no doubt going to bring with it many challenges in environmental policy as we continue to learn about the increasing rate of extinction, warming and pollution. However, the year will also bring the opportunity to introduce solid reforms as the Government enters their second year and is able to move past the consultation stage and into the implementation of progressive sustainable policy and law. We will continue to hold Government and industry accountable to their social and environmental responsibilities.