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‘Understatement of the year’: Singleton Station environmental referral underplays impacts to water, culture and environment

The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) has significant concerns that Fortune Agribusiness'
environmental approvals referral to the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NTEPA) completely underplays the significant impacts its development may pose to ecological, hydrological and cultural values.

GHD, which completed the report for Fortune Agribusiness, identified 38 risks, however concluded that all 38 risks can be mitigated and determined their residual risk rating is low or medium. The report states that there are no residual risks that were identified as high or extreme risk.

This is highly questionable considering this is one of the largest fruit and vegetable farms in Australia, and requires one of the nation’s largest water licences. It threatens up to 40 sacred sites, is expected to lower the groundwater table by up to 50 metre metres, use up to a trillion litres of water (2x the size of Sydney Harbour), may impact 8 threatened species including the greater bilby, may bring 40,000 tonnes of salt to the surface every year at full production and involves clearing over 4,000 hectares of native vegetation.

Comments from Adrian Tomlinson - CEO Arid Lands Environment Centre

“This is an enormous proposal with significant risks. ALEC is deeply concerned that the persistent downplaying of these risks shows the impacts to over 40 kilometres of vital groundwater dependent ecosystems are not being taken seriously.”

“Until now the public’s views on the Singleton proposal have largely been bypassed. The enormous groundwater extraction licence was issued under a relatively obscure process, resulting in the views of the 23,355 people who petitioned the Controller to refuse the licence, not even being acknowledged in the Controller’s Notice of Decision.”

“A Tier 3 environmental impact assessment is the chance for a full and frank discussion about whether this proposal is in the public interest. ALEC is of the firm view that it is not.”

Comments from Alex Vaughan - Policy Officer Arid Lands Environment Centre

“This development is attempting to bypass rigorous scrutiny for what is a project that poses significant risks to water, culture and environment. It is the understatement of the year to conclude that the huge array of risks and uncertainty can be ‘mitigated through the application of relatively standard environmental management measures’.”

“This project brings with it unique risks nationally. This tick a box exercise shows contempt for the values at risk.”

“This development is consumed in uncertainty, where it rattles the many risks and values. The proponent does not know how sacred sites and the large trees in the landscape that are groundwater dependent will be impacted.”

“They ignore salinity report conclusions for the region that ‘this predicted salinity risk has very significant implications for the long-term viability of irrigated agriculture’. The basic data around the groundwater resource, salinity, threatened species and groundwater dependent ecosystems is still being gathered.”

“ALEC’s position is that the most comprehensive form of assessment is required for one of the largest fruit and vegetable developments in the country, that is a Tier 3 Environment Impact Assessment”

Media Contact: For further comment, contact policy officer Alex Vaughan 0427 573 178 or chief executive officer Adrian Tomlinson 0456 701 951


Fortune Agribusiness is required to gain its environmental approvals in order for its development to proceed. An environmental approval is aimed to manage the potentially significant environmental impacts of an action. The NT EPA will decide whether and what level of assessment is required. The most rigorous form of scrutiny is a Tier 3 Environmental Impact Assessment and this is what ALEC is calling for.

Background information and links

Public submissions on the environmental impact statement can be made until 13 February 2023.

Arid Lands Environment Centre is calling for the proposal to be subject to the highest level of scrutiny, a
Tier 3 environmental impact assessment. See our sample letter here.

A guide to writing a submissions, prepared by the Environmental Defenders Office can be found here

The 2020 petition can be found here:


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