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Australia’s weakest water laws weakened further

The Northern Territory Government is trying to rush changes to the Water Act behind closed doors which threaten to make the Territory’s woefully inadequate water laws even worse. 

These amendments, which could come into effect as early as August 10, are being fast-tracked without public consultation or scrutiny. 

In an open letter, the Arid Lands Environment Centre’s (ALEC) General Manager Jade Kudrenko said we are witnessing the spiralling mismanagement of water resources and a pattern of improper decision-making.  

“The Northern Territory has the weakest water laws in the country and they are failing to protect environmental and cultural values.”

“It’s scandalous that the Government is attempting to roll back regulations even further. We’ve published an open letter to the Minister because Territorians deserve to know what the Government is doing to our water - and ways our water laws should be improved.”

Alex Vaughan, ALEC’s Policy Officer, says the amendments seek to hand even more discretionary powers over to the Water Controller. This would make the approval of large-scale water allocations, such as the Singleton Station water licence, much more likely. 

“Who benefits from weak water laws? It’s corporations and big businesses who will profit from billions of litres of water for free while there are few protections for Territorians that guarantee a future drinking water supply,” says Alex.

“Water is intrinsic to protecting Central Australia’s diverse landscapes. These changes will further endanger the Northern Territory’s unique environment and ecosystems.” 

On May 10, ALEC formally challenged the Singleton Station water licence on the grounds it poses an unacceptable risk to the environment.  This week, ALEC was told that the application had been referred to the Water Resources Review Panel. The proposed amendments suggest that the Water Resources Review Panel will be abolished. 

“Dismantling our water laws makes it more likely that developments which have received widespread public opposition, such as Singleton Station and Larrimah, will go ahead,” says Alex.

“We’ve waited almost three months for a decision on Singleton Station. We’re concerned that the decision to refer the licence to the Review Panel will be meaningless if the changes are passed.”

“By giving billions of litres of water to developers for free, the NT Government is flushing away a vital revenue source that should be used to monitor and protect our most precious resource.”

“Our water laws are failing all Territorians. We’re calling on the NT Government to legislate for a Safe Drinking Water Act that ensures safe and adequate drinking water and laws which safeguard water resources for the benefit of the environment.” 

Media comment: Alex Vaughan, Arid Lands Environment Centre, 0427 573 178

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