Thank you to the hundreds of people who signed the petition calling on Environment Minister Eva Lawler to intervene in Fortune Agribusiness’ annual 40 billion litre water licence application. If granted, this would be the largest private water licence application in the Northern Territory.
In addition to the petition, ALEC sent a letter to Minister Lawler. Shortly after, we received a call from the Minister’s Chief of Staff and the Minister herself, a good indication that our advocacy is working.
We’ve been advised that a decision on the water licence application will not be made before Christmas. Here is the water licencing process as we understand it.
1. Water licence granted
In the Northern Territory, water licences are able to be granted before an environmental impact assessment is carried out, even if the licence is for a project that has the potential to cause significant and irreversible environmental damage. The decision to approve the water licence is made by the Water Controller’s office.
2. Review a water decision
Under section 30 of the Water Act, if the water licence is granted, we have 30 days to appeal to the Minister for Environment regarding the approved water licence.
3. Refer to the Environmental Protection Authority
If the proponent’s application for a water licence is approved, it will be referred to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
The EPA will determine whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is required to determine the potential environmental impacts of a development proposal, and make recommendations to the Minister about the acceptability, or otherwise, of those potential environmental impacts.
4. Minister grants or refuses Environmental Approval
Once the Environmental Approval assessment report is drafted and public comment has been sought, the Environment Minister makes a decision on whether to grant or refuse the Environmental Approval
What is the timeline for this process?
The Fortune Agribusiness water licence and development proposal could be ongoing for a period of up to eight years. During this time ALEC will continue to scrutinise the process to ensure compliance and the enforcement of the laws that do exist, and keep the public informed.
Water security is already an issue across central Australia yet our water laws are not up to scratch. ALEC is concerned about the irreversible impact that large-scale industries such agribusiness and gas will have on our water resources.
ALEC will continue to work with other groups to protect our groundwater from threats, and will be advocating strongly for better water laws.